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This is a nice place to go if your peccadilloes tend to the herbaceous. Situated some seven kilometres west of Brisbane's city centre1 at the foot of Mount Coot-tha is one of two parts comprising the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Brisbane's premier subtropical botanic gardens.
The other part, the original Brisbane Botanic Gardens established in 1855 on the site of the Government Gardens, is situated in the city occupying a 20-hectare site bounded by George, Alice and Edward Streets and the Brisbane River. It was a series of damaging floods to these city centre gardens that occurred between 1870 and 1974 that precipitated the site of the gardens to be shifted to the inundation-immune eastern slopes of Mount Coot-tha.
Detailed planning work for development of the 52-hectare Mt Coot-tha site began in 1970, culminating in these gardens being opened to the public in 1976. Today 25 hectares of exotic plants in themed and geographic communities and 272 hectares of Australian native plants, including the world's largest collection3 of native rainforest trees, comprise the Mt. Coot-tha Botanic Gardens.
Plant collections featuring more than 20,000 plants, representing around 5,000 species, are now 'well established'; the collections are combined with educational and research programs, a reference and lending library, and the on-site Queensland State Herbarium, ensuring the casual visitor, the amateur gardener and the professional horticulturalist should not leave unrewarded.
Getting Around and About
The gardens themselves are reticulated with metalled walkways. However, 52 hectares is a fair old area to cover, so it's a good idea to collect your map at the starting gate and decide what turns your crank. As well as the themed gardens there are highlight features:
The Tropical Dome - For those with an architectural bent who've been to visit the Eden Project in Cornwall, England, the Tropical Display Dome might be a bit of a disappointment. Otherwise though, basically, it's an aluminium-framed glass-panelled dome inside which there is a raised central pond with water plants surrounded by a range of shrubs, climbers, epiphytes, herbs and small trees that but for the shelter wouldn't survive in Brisbane.
Fern House - Opened in July, 2002, the Fern House contains more than 80 different species and varieties of ferns as well as some 'feature' pieces of art. Special arrangements include; 'Secret Life of Ferns', 'Aquatic Ferns', 'Tree Ferns' and 'Lithophytic Ferns'. Yes indeed, something for everyone.
Japanese Garden and Bonsai House - The Bonsai House is constructed in rammed earth walls4 and provides the backdrop for a display of about 100 plants including figs, conifers, camellias, azaleas and maples. Some specimens are more than 80 years old. Immediately outside is the Japanese themed garden.
The Freedom Wall - A war memorial commemorating the Second World War 'Victory in the Pacific', the 50th anniversary of which was celebrated on 15 August, 1995.
Lookout Point - Splendid views over the city of Brisbane can be enjoyed from the lookout point, which is set picturesquely amongst the bougainvilleas. You might well encounter an art group up here dabbing away with oils and water colours.
The Lakeside Restaurant - Enjoy a focaccia or something less racy on the terrace overlooking the lake. But do not feed the ibis, known locally as a 'dump bird'.
You can even arrange to get married in this place. There are three locations available. If that seems a bit drastic, you can simply take a guided walk.
You can of course drive. There's a car park near the main entrance on Mt Coot-tha Road. Alternatively there's the bus. Better still, walk or cycle, especially if you live locally.