04 November 2010

The Amazing race?

Centrally situated in the Biodiversity Garden is a large dome covered with mesh. The plan is that it will be grown with climbers, so that it becomes a fuzzy green dome peeping out above the thicket. It will provide shade for visitors and serves as a focal point for the demonstration gardens.

A variety of hardy climbers have been planted on both sides where the mesh reaches the ground. Four different species, planted at the same time. Which will get to the top first?

Well... the current leader is Dipogon lignosus, the Bosklimop. It has pretty pink flowers, typical of the Pea family (Fabaceae), with trifoliate leaves. It is fast-growing indeed: once it has its tendrils on the mesh it can grow a few centimeters per day!

Next up the mesh is Thunbergia alata, the Black-eyed Susan. A pretty thing.

But looking long term I would place my bet on these two coastal species:
The Wild Grape (Rhoicissus digitata, below left) is a woody climber with glossy green leathery leaves. The tiny flowers are followed by black berries which attract birds. I've noticed Rhoicissus usually takes some time to get established - but once it gets going, it's a winner.

Cynanchum obtusifolium (below right) has smaller leaves, and produces dull white flowers which have a wonderful sweet scent. It has white sap typical of the family to which it belongs - the Apocynaceae.

Although slower-growing, my guess is that these two species will be longer-lived and handle the extreme conditions here in the Park.

When you come to visit, don't forget to see for yourself who is winning in the amazing race!

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