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Foliage & Living Fossils: Summer Breezeway Display

July 5, 2022

As the heat warms the gardens outside, indoors the Breezeway transitions from bright spring bulbs to a lush landscape of foliage and subtle flowers. This “Summer Sizzle” display puts the focus on interesting leaf shapes, patterns and colours, and features one very special plant that hasn’t been on display at RBG in over a decade.

  • fragipani plants in large raised beds with other tropicals
  • Breezeway display with central raised bed featuring green gazebo structure, leafy annuals, and a prehistoric-looking, fern-like cycad plant. Surrounded by raised beds with more leafy annuals and large tropical plants
  • A border raised bed in a greenhouse, featuring small tropical trees and many leafy, low-laying tropical plants with red hues
  • A group of grass and crawling annual plants planted along a bricked edge

Cycads; Living Fossils

Meet the Mombasa Cycad (Encephalartos hildebrandtii), a woody evergreen native in Tropical Africa. Though often mistaken for Palms, Cycads are unrelated to any other group of living plants. The family Zamiaceae is the most diverse of the Cycads, with fossil records dating back to the Triassic period, while evidence of other Cycads have been found as early as the Permian period.

Why have these plants survived for so long? One theory points to their roots and the plethora of bacteria that live within them; Cycads form coralloid roots structures that host cyanobacteria, microorganisms with the ability to perform photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation.

Still much is unknown about these “prehistoric” plants; you can find this individual in RBG Centre this summer, and other living fossils like Metasequoia (Dawn Redwood), Ginkgo (Ginkgo) and Sciadopitys (Japanese Umbrella-pine) in Prehistoric Grove within Hendrie Park.

  • Mombasa Cycad, a fern-like, prehistoric looking plant in a large pot in the centre of an indoor plant display
  • Botanical nameplate: Mombasa Cycad, Encephalartos hildebrandtii, e. Tropical Africa, Family: Zamiaceae, 20130032A
  • Mombasa Cycad, a fern-like, prehistoric looking plant in a large pot in the centre of an indoor plant display

More Featured Plants

Like the understory of an ancient forest, this season’s Breezeway display showcases the diversity and texture that can come from plants, even with few flowers in sight! Here are a few of the plants you’ll find featured in the display:

Caladium leaves, heart shaped with a marbled, light pink centre, and green variegation on the edges


Caladium plants are known for their heart-shaped, colourful leaves, coming in a variety of shades and sizes. Popular house plants, they are also known as elephant ear, heart of Jesus, and angel wings.

Coleus plants in dark red, and a bright pink, planted among light green caladium


Coleus plants (also known as painted nettle or poor man’s croton) provide pops of colour with their bright foliage, in combinations of green, maroon, pink, red, and more.


Plumeria (or fragipani) are a genus of plants whose 5-petaled flowers may be most recognizable for their use in Hawaiian leis.

Bleeding heart vine blooms, flat flowers have inflated, balloon-like white calyxes from which emerge brilliant crimson or dark red corollas with prominent stamens

Bleeding Heart Vine

Bleeding Heart Vine (Clerodendrum thomsoniae) is an evergreen from tropical West Africa. It is also known as glory bower, or bag flower.

A group of grass and crawling annual plants planted along a bricked edge

Assorted Annuals

Our talented horticultural team is constantly refreshing the display throughout the season; check back as new annuals are swapped out!

About the Breezeway

The Breezeway is located in RBG Centre, as a welcoming display as you enter the Mediterranean Garden. This display will be available for viewing until mid-September, when a new seasonal display will take its place.

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