2013 Natural Lands Highlights

2013 was a memorable year in the history of RBGs nature sanctuaries. The most heralded accomplishment was the first successful nesting of Bald eagles in many decades, reflecting years of work to both eliminate pesticide effects by the international community, as well as the local recovery work occurring in the our aquatic ecosystem of Cootes Paradise Marsh. However, the most notable change was the dramatic improvement in the health of Cootes Paradise Marsh as it moves further down the road to recovery. At the same time, the forested habitat is continues to decline. To complement the intensive restoration work ongoing in the wetlands, efforts to remove invasive shrubs in the forested areas of the north shore of Cootes Paradise entered their second year, with just over 15 hectares of invasive shrubs removed. To keep tabs on the environmental integrity of the property a variety of inventory work is ongoing, covering topics ranging from plant communities to birds, to fish populations. Some of the upland habitat plant community changes will be highlighted with the imminent release of a revised and updated addition of the Spontaneous flora of the RBG Nature Sanctuaries.

Cootes Paradise Hickory Valley Forest Revitalized

November 16th removal event with volunteers. Photo: Dan Bechard

While hiking or cross country skiing along Pinetum Trail near the RBG Arboretum, one can see removed shrubs which depict the aftermath of hard work and dedication. Every Saturday starting from October 19th to November 16th (except October 26th, cancelled due to high winds), enthusiastic public and staff volunteers participated in non-native invasive tree and shrub removal events in the Hickory Valley forest area on the north shore of Cootes Paradise. These volunteer events took place in an effort to reverse the advancement of non-native trees and shrubs into the forest habitat, assisting in the protection and recovery of rare species such as the endangered Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens). During the four event days a total of 52 volunteers removed over 4,000 non-native trees and shrubs in 1.7 hectares of forest. The most common non-native species removed was European Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) followed by Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.). A big thank you goes out to those who participated in these events. Without your help, we would not have accomplished as much as we did this year! These activities complemented the 16 hectares cleared by RBG staff. Take pride in what has been accomplished and know that you have made a positive difference for native and at risk species. We hope to see you again next fall!

RBG Internships, cultivating a greener future

Gaining practical experience in the environmental field is a challenging undertaking for any new graduate. Through internship programs, Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) provides such an opportunity, allowing young professionals to hone their skills while making it possible for RBG to complete important environmental projects. This year, with the support of the ArcelorMittal Corporate Community Investment Fund, two 1-year internships are allowing RBG’s Natural Lands department and RBG’s Science department to conduct valuable environmental and botanical work through a variety of projects in the Gardens’ vast nature sanctuaries.

RBG, with its extensive mandate and 1,000 hectares of property, is an ideal training ground for recent graduates. The interns will be involved in a broad cross-section of duties ranging from monitoring and reporting, to environmental restoration and management projects.

The Terrestrial intern will assist RBG ecologists in Tallgrass prairie management and restoration, breeding bird and Species at Risk monitoring, Ecological Land Classification, public programs, volunteer coordination and invasive plant species removal. The Botany intern will work with RBG’s herbarium curator and field botanist in conducting botanical inventories and recording changes in plant species diversity within RBG’s nature sanctuaries. The intern will assist in collecting specimens and in managing the herbarium collection, as well as providing plant identification services to RBG’s staff and clients.

Both interns will also be challenged to complete a project and report that will contribute to the future management of the property and plant collections. Projects chosen this year include surveying and profiling soils throughout RBGs nature sanctuaries in conjunction with vegetation mapping through Ecological Lands Classification, and a complete botanical inventory of RBG’s Rock Chapel nature sanctuary, a part of the Niagara Escarpment and a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. These projects provide an opportunity for the interns to develop independence and leadership in the workplace. RBG’s Interns leave with something tangible - products that they can provide to prospective employers as an example of their skills and abilities.

Want to help local Species at Risk?

Photo taken by Peter Thoem

We’re inviting our neighbours and nearby landowners to a hands-on workshop!

RBG's natural lands provide habitat for dozens of Species at Risk - plants and animals whose population is ‘at risk’ of disappearing either provincially or nationally. Species at Risk are safeguarded by strict provincial and federal legislation that protects them and reduces threats to their habitat. RBG is helping local Species at Risk through conservation, habitat restoration, education, and research. We’re inviting you to participate in a hands-on workshop where you will learn about what you can do as an RBG neighbour and/or nearby landowner to help rare and endangered species.

On Saturday, November 2nd join us from 9:30 am to 2:00 pm at the RBG Arboretum in front of the Nature Interpretive Centre (NIC) and help our ecologists protect important interior forest habitat for at-risk birds by removing and destroying invasive shrubs. Learn how to identify non-native invasive species that pose a threat to local habitats, and gain experience with the tools used to remove them. After working up an appetite in the field, we’ll provide you with lunch and a series of short presentations on what you can do at home or in your community to help at-risk turtles, snakes, salamanders, trees and birds. There will be time during the presentations for discussion, questions and answers.

You must register for this event; please sign up with Lindsay Barr, Terrestrial Ecologist at or 905-527-1158 ext. 257. Gloves and equipment will be provided, but please wear closed-toed shoes and bring a water bottle. Dress for the weather as we will run light rain or shine. If in doubt, check for a weather cancellation notice on RBG’s Facebook page and Twitter (@RBGCanada), and our weather update line at 905-527-1158 ext.404.

Can’t make it on November 2nd? There are other volunteer opportunities where you can help battle invasive species at RBG. Every Saturday from October 19th to November 16th we will be hosting invasive species pulls. Visit our event’s calendar (www.rbg.ca/events) on our website for more details.

This project is undertaken with the financial support of:

Nov. 5th Ecosystem Recovery Forum @ RBG: Monitoring Ecological Change Across the Carolinian Life Zone

Carolinian Canada and Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) are partnering to bring you the 2013 Ecosystem Recovery Forum, with the theme of monitoring ecological change across the Carolinian life zone. The forum brings together conservation practitioners from across the Carolinian zone and beyond to share monitoring successes and challenges, and gain knowledge and inspiration from each other's accomplishments. The Forum will explore the rapid advances in remote sensing tools, the flowering of citizen science initiatives, the monitoring of rare species populations and habitats, and many other related topics, in a concurrent session format. We will ask where do all the data go, and how are they best used to rebuild healthy ecosystems? The Forum will be followed by a public event on the evening of November 5th with forum keynote speaker John Riley (Senior Science Advisor, the Nature Conservancy of Canada) who will present on his new book, "The Once and Future Great Lakes Country: An Ecological History" in the RBG auditorium. To register for the Forum go the Carolinian Canada website, to register for the evening speaker event visit the RBG registration webpage. Plan to join us for this great event.

Phragmites Control Underway at RBG

Royal Botanical Gardens’ meadow marsh habitat is under attack by a very aggressive subspecies of the perennial grass Phragmites australis. If you’re hiking along our trails in Hendrie Valley, you may come across our Natural Lands staff, hard at work removing it.

Also known as Common Reed, Phragmites (pronounced frag-mightees) is hard to miss, growing in dense stands of plants that can reach four to six metres in height, with conspicuous large, feathery seedheads. One of the most widespread plant species on our planet, it is found in temperate wetlands right around the world. Genetic research has revealed two subspecies of Phragmites, nearly identical in appearance but different in their behaviour - one is native to North America and the other to Europe. The native subspecies is a stable part of the habitats where it grows, but at some point in the last two centuries, the European subspecies, found its way to the New World and its numbers are exploding. Initial assessment of Phragmites stands on RBG property indicated they have doubled in size over the last five years. These stands now cover nearly 3 hectares and have continued to spread in 2013, invading some of the more high quality areas in our wetlands.

The European subspecies can quickly overtake wetlands, initially invading areas that are open or disturbed particularly at urban storm drain outlets, then sending out underground rhizomes that can spread up to five metres per year and produce plants 4m tall. This helps it to form extensive stands and crowd out native plants but chemical warfare is also part of its success: the rhizomes emit a toxin that kills the roots of nearby plant species.

Control has been initiated by numerous organizations all around the Great Lakes including the City of Hamilton. RBG has been awarded funds by the US National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to assist in the management of this aggressive invasive plant. Initial work includes mapping and experimental trials to determine the best and safest approach to control the spread of the grass on our property. Management options for Phragmites in other areas on the Great Lakes have included cutting, smashing, raking, herbicide applications, flooding, and prescribed burns. Management trials on RBG property will test which of these methods will best help us to reduce the degree of infestation to a more manageable level.

The Fungi Imposter: New Species Discovered at RBG

A new native plant species has been found in the forests around Cootes Paradise! The discovery of Monotropa hypopitys, Pinesap, by Catherine Shimmel, is truly an exciting find. Shimmel, a volunteer Trail Watcher for RBG, discovered a cluster of plants along the Captain Cootes Trail in July, 2013.

Pinesap belongs to the family Ericaceae which includes plants like Vaccinium (blueberry) and Calluna (heather). At first sight people might misidentify Pinesap as a mushroom due to its color and growth form, when in fact it is a vascular plant which lacks chlorophyll and, therefore, does not photosynthesize. But how can a plant survive without making food from the sun? It parasitizes. Pinesap roots latch onto the mycelium of a certain fungi that forms mycorrhizal associations with trees like Pinus strobus, White Pine. Whereas mycorrhizal fungi and trees form mutually beneficial relationships in gathering nutrients, Pinesap simply feeds on the tree through the fungi, making it a specific type of parasite called a myco-heterotroph.

Although never before seen at RBG, Pinesap does occur locally. It is uncommon in Hamilton and rare in the Halton regions compared to its look alike relative Monotropa uniflora, Indian-pipe. Pinesap can be identified by its uniformly pale yellow, orange, or red color and its multiple flower heads. Indian-pipe will have a uniformly white or pale pink color but as its species epithet suggests, will only have one flowering head on each stalk.

Be sure to look out for Pinesap and Indian-pipe on your wildflower walks and fungal forays this summer!

A Closer Look at Goldenrod

Goldenrod is a common name applied to species in the genera Solidago and Euthamia belonging to the Asteraceae family. Goldenrods are late-blooming wildflowers and difficult to identify, with 33 species native to Ontario and 16 species found on Royal Botanical Gardens property. Rare goldenrods on RBG property include Solidago arguta (Rough-leaved Goldenrod), and Solidago rigida (Stiff-leaved Goldenrod). The most common species we observe in southern Ontario is Solidago Canadensis (Canada Goldenrod). The colonization of European settlers and deforestation associated with this has led to this species’ spread and proliferation in fields, roadsides and meadows. Goldenrod plays an important role in ecosystems by providing a valuable food source for native pollinators such as bees and butterflies and shelter for spiders and the praying mantis.

Canada Goldenrod is deemed as a pest due to the mistaken belief that it causes severe allergic reactions. This is a myth as goldenrod pollen is transported by insects, not the wind. Ambrosia artemisifolia (Common Ragweed), is a wind-pollinated plant that blooms at the same time and is the cause of late-summer “hayfever”. Goldenrod’s importance as a pollen and nectar source for insects is evident in the many kinds of bugs you’ll find visiting the flowers, including the Monarch butterfly.

Canada Goldenrod is a helpful herb, as opposed to a nuisance one. Historically the flowers have been used for the treatment of a variety of medical conditions. The flowers have been chewed to help in the relief of sore throats and fevers, and taken in a tea to relieve urinary system issues as well as muscle pain. Goldenrod also has astringent (constriction) properties that have assisted in healing wounds and reducing bleeding.

There are goldenrods that are blooming now including Solidago juncea (Early Goldenrod) and many more will be blooming later in the month. Take a walk on our trails over the coming weeks and you’ll find a variety of species of these beautiful wildflowers!

Bird surveys compiled for 2013

Each year RBG conducts breeding bird monitoring programs to help assess the ecological status of our natural lands. Different bird species are highly variable in terms of habitat and diet and having a wide variety of birds is likely an indication of a diverse ecosystem. On top of this, birds are noisy and/or readily visible, allowing them to be recorded relatively easily during monitoring surveys and making them ideal as ecosystem indicator species.

The end of June signals the end of breeding bird monitoring and with it the exciting results of another year of bird surveys! This year we recorded 74 separate bird species (up from the 69 recorded in 2012) including four new species not previously recorded. The most abundant species overall was Red-wing Blackbird followed by Yellow Warbler, Cedar Waxwing, American Goldfinch and Song Sparrow. These results are very similar to monitoring results from 2012 where Red-winged Blackbird was most abundant followed by American Goldfinch, Cedar Waxwing, and Yellow Warbler.

Some of the many highlights of this year’s survey included recording the provincially and nationally endangered Acadian Flycatcher, a Black-billed Cuckoo overheard at Princess Point, an American Woodcock and a Mourning Warbler calling near Hopkins Loop, and a Green Heron spotted in Hendrie Valley. If you are planning to get out and spot any birds during what is left of this breeding season, the best time to do so is early in the morning. Some birds, like American Goldfinch, are just nesting now, while others, like American Robin, are fledging their second brood. Shorebirds are already done with breeding and some are into their migration southwards: watch for them feeding on mudflats near the Marsh Boardwalk in Cootes Paradise.

Burlington Heights Management Plan

Burlington ON, June 20, 2013 — In keeping with the ongoing commemoration of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, Burlington Heights is the first location within the Cootes to Escarpment Ecopark System to undergo a joint management planning process. This long strip of land separates Cootes Paradise and Hamilton Harbour, connects Hamilton and Burlington, and is both a National Historic Site and part of an Environmentally Sensitive Area. The goal for the Burlington Heights Management Plan process is a plan for the area that articulates sustainable use, captures the cultural significance of the site, and is approved by all affected parties and supported by community members and stakeholders. Visit the Ecopark website to learn more. The first public consultation meeting will be held on June 25th from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Old Coach House at Dundurn Castle and all are invited to learn more and share their thoughts on the future management of the area.

To mark the two-hundred year anniversary of the Battle of Stoney Creek, Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) has once again planted a Peace Garden filled with red geraniums on its lands on Burlington Heights, part of the area used as a military post by British troops from 1813 until the end of the war. One of many gardens along the Binational Heritage Peace Garden Trail, the display consists of 1,812 red geraniums in front of the T.B. McQuesten Lookout on York Boulevard. Along with interpretive signage, the site includes two benches and a spotting scope for viewing the City of Hamilton, Hamilton Harbour, Carroll’s Bay and, on clear days, the Stoney Creek Battlefield Tower. On either side of the monument, turf has been allowed to naturalize, returning the area to the prairie habitat which likely prevailed on this sand and gravel ridge in the early 1800s.

Eaglets Fly

After 11 weeks in the nest, the two eaglets hatched in March on the shores of Cootes Paradise Marsh have taken to the air. Eaglets can fledge as early as nine weeks after hatching, or as late as 12 weeks. Early in the morning of Wednesday, June 5, no eaglets were seen in the nest, indicating that they had taken to the air. After a number of hours of monitoring both eaglets were observed in flight for a short time, one returning from the south side of the marsh and the other circling from near the nest area. Each was accompanied by a parent, and both landed in a tree hidden from view behind the nest tree. The birds are now adult size, but easily differentiated from the parents by their brown plumage and mottled underwings. They will not develop the trademark white head and tail feathers until they reach maturity at four to five years of age.

If you haven’t had a chance to see them yet, don’t worry: these young birds are expected to remain around the marsh and Hamilton Harbour for much of the remainder of 2013, and will continue to look to their parents for food for much of the summer. The eaglets are expected to spend most of the next month perched in large trees and taking flights where they work to build up their strength for soaring, and by early fall they will be wandering further afield. If they reach breeding age (mortality is high for young predators like these), eaglets often return to their original home to breed. The RBG Arboretum remains the best access from which to view the birds, open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Good views of the marsh can be found along Captain Cootes Trail and Marshwalk Trail, as well as from Princess Point and Chegwin Trail on the south shore.

Work in Progress – Take a Look!

Photo on left: Iris in their holding beds on May 27 beginning to bloom…
Photo on right: Laking Iris and Paeonia collection preparation

We’re usually pretty good at keeping our dirty work from public view. Garden improvements seem to crop up from nowhere, despite the fact that our crack gardening staff are working hard behind the scenes to make things better for you. Large projects usually happen in areas that have been closed. This makes it safer for guests and creates a more productive atmosphere for employees.

As luck would have it, visible comets are not the only celestial event occurring this year. The stars have aligned to create an exceptional opportunity, as this summer you will be able to visit the Laking Garden and enjoy a rare chance to see a large project as it is being put together!

Nature has conspired to create a confluence of final garden preparation and Iris bloom. Our late winter and wet spring means that staff are now working feverishly to grade and sod pathways, top off planting beds, move memorials stones and benches into place and, ultimately, move plants into their collections. The plants are so excited that they can’t contain themselves and are bursting into bloom in their holding beds on the middle terrace and near the gazebo.

Come see the men and women behind the curtain as the Laking Garden takes shape. We’re excited about the improved access to the displays and hope you will continue to visit long after the project is complete to enjoy the spectacular displays that are sure to come.

Magnolia Stellata

After a seemingly never ending winter, the Arboretum is bursting into life. Early flowering Magnolia stellata (Star Magnolia) are in full flower filling the pure azure blue spring sky with the most incredible fragrance. If you plan a trip to the auxiliary plant sale this weekend, then a trip to the Magnolia Collection west in the arboretum is an absolute must. The straight species is originally native to Japan and bears large white or pink star shaped fragrant flowers. It is a great addition to any garden as it requires little maintenance or water and will thrive in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. It’s also versatile too! It can be grown as a specimen plant for a lawn or shrub border, is effectively used in foundation planting, can be utilised in woodland gardens or can even be grown as a hedge. Look out for the spectacular cultivar M. stellata ‘Pink Star’ which as the name suggests stands out in the crowd with its eye catching pink flowers. A trip to the Magnolia Collection west is a spectacularly perfect way to finally shake off those winter blues.

Adding up the Bucks (and Does) at RBG

White-tailed fawn/yearling. Photo Credit: Kathryn Harrison

On Tuesday, February 5th, a mix of volunteers and staff members conducted our first winter deer count on the north and south shores of Cootes Paradise Marsh. The event was a huge success with 15 enthusiastic counters traversing the property from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In total, 162 deer were tallied comprising 55 does, 51 fawns/yearlings, 7 bucks, and 54 of unknown gender and age. The number of bucks might appear to be significantly lower than that of females but this because some males had already shed their antlers and were harder to distinguish. The south shore yielded 52 deer, while the larger north shore resulted in 110 sightings. Also, three deer carcasses were found; one near the Arboretum, one in Spencer Creek floodplain, and one around Bull’s Point.

It is important to note that this number of deer is only an estimate; it is not absolute as there are seasonal variations and movements in and out of our lands that result in changes in numbers from year to year. The main goal of the count was to estimate the number of White-tailed Deer, and get an idea of the size and structure of the population; we can build on this knowledge in future counts.

We would like to thank all of those who participated and volunteered their time during the deer count; without your help and support, the count would not have been possible. We hope to see everyone again, and anyone else who would be interested, at future deer counts for another exciting and memorable experience!

Spring Brings Two Baby Bald Eagles

Photo by David Galbraith

After several years of nesting attempts, the Bald Eagles of Cootes Paradise Nature Sanctuary have finally managed to hatch young. The first eaglet was noted during monitoring of the nest site on March 22, 2013, with a second observed on March 23.

The nest has been monitored weekly from the nearby trail since the eagles were first spotted on the nest in mid-February. Given the egg incubation time of about 35 days, it is entirely possible the eggs were laid on Valentine’s Day. At present, it is unknown if there are more eggs in the nest.

Located in the Hopkins Woods Special Protection Area on the north shore of Cootes Paradise Marsh, the nest can be viewed at a safe distance from the Marshwalk Boardwalk, accessed on trails from the RBG Arboretum. These are the first Bald Eagles to be hatched on the Canadian shore of Lake Ontario since Bald Eagle populations throughout North America collapsed decades ago.

The hatching of the eaglets not only coincides with spring but also a fresh supply of migrating fish to eat in Cootes Paradise Marsh. And, fish migration means it’s time to open the Cootes Paradise Fishway. The Fishway allows native fish into Cootes Paradise Marsh while preventing invasive carp from entering. It is open to the public during scheduled operating times. Come see our ecologists at work during a fish lift; just follow the Waterfront Trail 700m from RBG’s Princess Point parking lot.

To help RBG continue its efforts in restoring and protecting these natural areas, please consider a gift to our Growing Up Green Campaign by donating today.

More about Bald Eagles at RBG.

A Rare Winter Resident

Take a hike on our trails in spring and summer, and you’re likely to hear the raspy “fee-bee” call of one of our more common flycatchers, the Eastern Phoebe. Come fall, however, they migrate south to overwinter in the southeastern United States. So, why has one taken up winter residence in Hendrie Valley this year?

Warmer temperatures are likely the answer. A study by the Audubon Society has found that more than half of the migratory bird species in North America are spending winters at least 55 kilometres farther north than they did 40 years ago. While there were some intense cold spells this winter, we have also had several warm periods which may have prompted this bird to stay. Although they are insectivores, Eastern Phoebes can subsist on berries in cold weather. Insects also emerge earlier than you may think: our phoebe was seen “flycatching” over Grindstone Creek in late February.

Phoebes are among the first flycatchers to arrive in spring, so keep an eye out for more of these inconspicuous songbirds in late-April and May. They are most easily recognized when perched as they bob their tail up and down (and don’t forget that their call advertises their name). Come June, they’ll be nesting on the rock ledges of the Niagara Escarpment, so visit RBG’s Rock Chapel Nature Sanctuary and you’re guaranteed to find one.

A note on Aerial Insectivores:
Flycatchers are part of the Aerial Insectivore bird group – birds that catch insects in flight. The State of Canada’s Birds (2012) indicates that populations of Aerial Insectivores are declining more steeply than any other group of birds. These declines are likely cause by a combination of factors both in Canada in in their wintering areas, including reductions in insect numbers, habitat loss, pesticide use and climate change. At RBG, we monitor our breeding bird populations every year and we are keeping a close watch on the local trends for this group.

Australian Flare in the Mediterranean Garden

Although the majority of plants outdoors are still inactive, one of the many species that is just beginning to bloom in the Mediterranean Garden is the Weeping Bottlebrush, Callistemon viminalis. This small tree is a native of Western Australia where it grows along creeks and waterways in sheltered valleys with deep rich soils. C. viminalis is a member of the Myrtaceae, a plant family that also includes Eucalyptus trees; another Australian speciality. The foliage is narrow and sharp-tipped, hanging gracefully from drooping branches on mature trees.

The blooms of C. viminalis are small, but are produced abundantly in congested cylindrical clusters along the slender twigs and may be produced more than once in a growing season if conditions are favorable. The striking, bright red colored stamens (male portions of the flower which produce pollen) burst from the blooms and dangle freely, just like the bristles of a bottlebrush.

Due to the extraordinary color and frequent production of these glorious blooms, C. viminalis is grown as an ornamental species outdoors in warm climates throughout the world, as well as cultivated indoors in cooler regions. In southern Florida, the species is listed as locally invasive and this same story is repeated in other regions which are free of hard frosts the whole year round.

Interestingly, a medical study published early this year has confirmed that the leaves of this species have potent antioxidant properties, therefore having the potential to be used therapeutically as a natural remedy for a wide range of medicinal conditions. Come drop by the Mediterranean Garden this week or the next to ensure you don’t miss the brilliant and colorful display of this exceptional exotic species!

Phew! What stinks?

Dropping by to see the dinosaurs? If you’re here in the next few days, you might detect a not-so-pleasant odour on your way into the exhibit. Follow your nose and you’ll be led to a very exotic-looking plant that is currently blooming in Stedman Hall.

Amorphophallus konjac is a perennial species in the Arum family (Araceae). A native of warm temperate and tropical regions of east Asia from southern China and Japan to Indonesia, its common names, Devil’s Tongue and Voodoo Lily, pay tribute to the unique appearance of its flowers. The fragrance which wafts from this magnificent bloom has been affectionately described as resembling carrion or rotting fish - certainly not the stuff of great perfumes!

The intent behind the production of this powerful odour is not to offend us, but instead to facilitate reproduction. Carrion flies are irresistibly attracted to such a potent smell and as they investigate the inside of the flowering structure, they become covered in pollen produced by the plant’s tiny flowers, which are hidden deep inside the inflorescence. The wrinkled, dark-coloured interior and mottled exterior of the bloom physically resembles a rotting corpse, accentuating the effectiveness of the stench produced.

This species is just one of the many examples of how intimately plants have crafted relationships with animals; even if that means disguising yourself as carrion and smelling like it too. See it soon though as the flower won’t last long!

Winter Blooms in the Mediterranean Garden

Royal Botanical Garden’s Mediterranean Garden is almost always boasting spectacular floral displays of one kind or another; even when garden plants outdoors are dormant. The Jade Plant, Crassula ovata, also known as the Friendship Tree or Lucky Plant, is a very common houseplant and many specimens are currently in full bloom throughout the Mediterranean Garden.

The species is native to South Africa, where it grows on exposed rocky foothills surrounding the Cape Town region. Conditions there during the summer are very hot and dry and modest rainfall does not accumulate except during the mild winters. It is at this time that C. ovata flowers, producing stubby clusters of white 5-petaled flowers which have a fragrance likened by many to scented soap.

It is often rare for this species to bloom when cultivated because it requires certain environmental stimuli in order to bring about flower production. By watering your plant less often and placing it outside for a few weeks during autumn to expose it to single digit temperatures (but never freezing) followed by increased watering and moving your plant back indoors, one can encourage blooms sometime around the winter solstice. Make sure to come by the Mediterranean Garden this week to see our impressive C. ovata specimens in flower accompanied by many other species also flaunting their beauty!