Plant of the Week

Pinus strobus - White Pine

As the last drops of snow make their way through town and the garden areas continue to wake, now is the perfect moment to highlight the gorgeously majestic Pinus strobus, or Eastern White Pine.

Found from western Ontario to the Atlantic Provinces and throughout most of north central and the northeastern United States, Pinus strobus is known as the ‘Tree of Great Peace’ by the Haudenosaunee First Nations of Southern Ontario. In 1984, the Government of Canada proclaimed P. strobus as the official tree of the province of Ontario, Canada, for its many uses and because the tree was a great source of income and trade during the provinces early days.

Pinus strobus has the distinction of being the tallest northeastern conifer, reaching as tall as 100 feet or 30 metres high. Specimens found at RBG Centre reach 15-20 feet or four to six metres with trunks growing straight, supporting a tapering crown of whorled branches. This form becomes irregular in maturity, with a number of stout horizontal branches. The bark of P. strobus is initially a smooth grey-green, becoming dark grey-brown and deeply fissured into thick vertical narrow (to broad) rough ridges. Blue-green needles of 5 to 15cm are fine-toothed and found in bundles of five. These are soft, fine and flexible. Long, narrow cones of 8 to 10cm mark the conifer and surround the ground around where they have dropped.

Often seen as an attractive evergreen hedge in large areas, P. strobus is a horticultural standard in botanical gardens and arboretums. Explore Royal Botanical Gardens over the coming months to discover ornamental varieties that are available in RBG’s garden areas, some of which highlight compact growth patterns and intricate needle shape. One such variety, Pinus strobus ‘Mini-Twists’ is located in the White Garden at Hendrie Park.

Until then, stop by the main entrance of RBG Centre for several stunning specimens of Pinus strobus as we welcome in spring.

Callistemon viminalis - Weeping Bottlebrush

Effortlessly identified by its striking red blooms when in flower, Callistemon viminalis, or Weeping Bottlebrush, occurs naturally on the east coast of Australia from the tip of Cape York down to New South Wales. The word Callistemon comes from the Greek, ‘kellistos’, meaning most beautiful, and ‘stema’ meaning stamen or pollen producer. Species name viminalis is from the Latin word ‘vimen’ meaning pliant twig, which refers to the weeping habit of the branches.

Sottish botanist and paleobotanist Robert Brown formally described Callistemon in 1914, while making important contributions to botany through early use of the microscope. Due to recent discoveries made in plant nomenclature however, Callistemon viminalis is currently regarded as a synonym of Melaleuca viminalis.

This flashy, weeping tree has a somewhat bushy appearance where its trunk splits into several branches. Pendulous tendrils of light green-grey foliage that ends in light red leaves covers the tree, while brilliant red flowers that give the impression of spikes hang in between the leaves. New growth may also be found emerging from the ends of these striking inflorescences. Blooming begins in spring and continues sporadically throughout the year. Fruit of C. viminalis are actually small, woody capsules that can be noticed following the flowering period.

On your next excursion to Royal Botanical Gardens, explore the entire collection of bottlebrush or crimson trees and shrubs, now beginning to bloom. Two specimens of Callistemon viminalis are found on the upper level of the Mediterranean Garden in RBG Centre

Jasminum mesnyi - Primrose Jasmine

Fragrant yellow blooms of Jasminum mesnyi greet you in late winter and early spring. Ernest Wilson introduced J. mesnyi for the James Veitch Nursery in 1900; however, this species of flowering plant is native to Vietnam and southern China and carries a long history of cultivation. As such, the plant is naturalized today in parts of Mexico, Honduras, portions of the southern United States as well as many areas with moderate climates around the world.

Part of the family Oleaceae (the olive family), Jasminum mesnyi has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. Often used as hedging or screening, it is known primarily for its cheerful blooms and glossy foliage.

A rambling evergreen shrub, Jasminum mesnyi grows in a fountain-like mound of five to ten feet (1.5 to 3.1 metres) high, presenting long, slender, arching stems from root to tip and becoming woody near the soil with age. Glossy, dark green leaves are divided into three leaflets covering each stem and are intermixed with yellow, semi-double flowers throughout the peak bloom period. J. Mesnyi continues to flower sporadically into the summer months.

Enjoy the graceful beauty of Jasminum mesnyi on your next visit to Royal Botanical Gardens, located to the right of the main entrance to the Mediterranean Garden at RBG Centre.

Sansevieria trifasciata 'Black Coral' – Snake Plant

Upright, striking, and unforgettable, Sansevieria trifasciata, known commonly as snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue, is native to tropical western Africa. Similarly titled common names come from the sharp, pointed margins of its leaves. Viper’s Bowstring Hemp is another name for this species, as the fibrous leaves are one of the sources for plant fibres used to make musical bowstrings.

Through the crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM photosynthesis) process, Sansevieria trifasciata absorbs carbon dioxide at night, and then releases oxygen during the day. Two separate clean air studies (one conducted in Europe, and one in the United States) completed over the last ten years note that plants, including S. trifasciata are capable of purifying air by removing some toxics during nighttime hours. In addition to the visually stunning beauty of S. trifasciata, this popular ornamental can provide an important role for visitors to Royal Botanical Gardens.

Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Black Coral’ is a stemless evergreen perennial with upright, pointed, sword-shaped leaves reaching up to three feet in height. When stands emerge from the soil, dark green leaves uncurl, extending vertically with grey-green cross-banding that appears over a dark background. Small, greenish-grey and lightly fragrant flowers rise from slim shoots and bloom each spring.

Enjoy the remainder of the winter exhibit, Frogs! and take a few moments to appreciate Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Black Coral’ currently blooming in the Camilla and Peter Dalglish Atrium - on the main floor of RBG Centre.

Zantedeschia aethiopica – Florist’s Calla Lily

Zantedeschia aethiopica, commonly called Florist’s Calla Lily, is not a true lily, but an arum in the family Araceae. This herbaceous, perennial, flowering plant is native to southern Africa in Lesotho, South Africa as well as Swaziland, though today the plant is naturalized throughout much of the world in locations close to streams, ponds and swamps, or in marshes.

Known to European horticulture since at least the 1660’s, Zantedeschia is named in honour of physician Giovanni Zantedeschi by the physician and botanist Kurt Sprengel. Species name aethiopica refers to the fact that it is native to Africa. Outside of horticulture, Zantedeschia aethiopica is widely known and extremely popular.

A stunning white spathe (floral bract) surrounds the central pale yellow spadix (floral spike) bearing tiny flowers. Zantedeschia aethiopica provides a breathtaking display wherever they appear above clumps of dark green arrow-shaped leaves of varying sizes.

Enjoy Zantedeschia aethiopica on your next trip to RBG Centre. This gorgeous flower is located on the second level of the Mediterranean Garden.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Primarvera' – Witch Hazel

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Primarvera', commonly known as Witch Hazel, is a deciduous shrub native to Asia in the family Hamamelidaceae. This flowering hybrid is a cross between Japanese witch hazel H. japonica and Chinese witch hazel H. mollis. Genus name Hamamelis comes from the Greek word ‘hama', which means at the same time, and ‘melon’, meaning apple or fruit in reference to the occurrence of both fruit and flowers at the same time. Hybrid name intermedia denotes that the plant is intermediate in colour, form, or habit.

Four species found in North America are H. mexicana, H. vernalis, H. virginiana, and H. ovalis. The name Witch hazel has its origins in the Middle English word ‘wiche’, taken from the Old English word ‘wice’, meaning pliant or bendable. Notably recognized in Europe, witch hazel was previously known for the use of its Y-shaped twigs as divining rods for water finding or water witching.

Hamamelis × intermedia 'Primarvera' is an upright, vase-shaped shrub with ascending branches and a spreading habit, typically growing up to 15 feet or 4.5 metres tall with an equal width. A popular ornamental plant, Hamamelis × intermedia 'Primarvera' is grown for its clusters of bright yellow, spider-like flowers with narrow petals up to 8 inches long, blooming from February to March. Broad oval, light green leaves decorate the shrub and turn an attractive yellow to orange in autumn. This variety is noted for its sweetly fragrant flowers and later bloom than most of the other intermedia cultivars that bloom close to the end of winter.

On your next trip to the Arboretum, discover the fantastic specimen shrub Hamamelis × intermedia 'Primarvera' – currently in bloom within the Synoptic Shrub Collection.

Justicia brandegeeana – Mexican Shrimp Plant

Colourful Justicia brandegeeana, commonly called Mexican Shrimp Plant, is a flowering evergreen shrub in the family Acanthaceae.

Hailing from Mexico and naturalized in Florida, this plant was used by the indigenous Haustec people of Mexico for traditional medicine. Notable uses were for a variety of ailments, including treating wounds, dysentery and other gastrointestinal disorders.

Justicia brandegeeana is an outstanding ornamental specimen, with its main appeal being an extended flowering season. It continues to bloom for months, halts for a short period, then begins to bloom again – totalling up to 10 months of flowering a year in a heated indoor environment.

J. brandegeeana grows rarely more than one metre or three feet in height. White flowers that are long and thin with speckled maroon throats emerge beneath an overlapping chain of bracts that form off the stems. These drooping, arching bracts are red-bronze to pink with a few modified leaves of lime green or yellow before the flower. On your next visit to the Mediterranean Garden, find the exciting Justicia brandegeeana at the top of the stairs on the upper level.

Roldana petasitis – California Geranium

Roldana petasitis, also known as California Geranium or Velvet Groundsel, is a large herbaceous shrub native to the mountainous areas of Mexico in the family Asteraceae. Roldana was first described by Mexican priest and naturalist Dr. Pablo de La Llave in honour of Eugenio Montaña y Roldan Otumbensi, a hero in a battle on the plains of Apam, near Mexico City.

Roldana petasitis grows to a height of 10 feet (3 metres) with an equal width. This sprawling perennial shrub displays large, velvety pea green leaves. During winter to early spring, branched inflorescences of greenish-purple flower buds appear above the leaves, opening to reveal hundreds of bright yellow flowers. These blooms are followed later in the year by numerous white fluffy seeds, which are dispersed by wind in the wild.

The rounded form and enormous leaves of Roldana petasitis give a tropical feel to the area where it is planted. Discover this exciting perennial on your next visit to RBG Centre, where it can be found on the main level of Mediterranean Garden.

Rhaphiolepis umbellata – Yedda-hawthorn

Rhaphiolepis umbellata, also known as Yedda-Hawthorn or Yeddo-Hawthorn, is an evergreen shrub native to Japan, Korea, and northern Taiwan in the family Rosaceae. Common name Yeddo (sometimes written Yedo) is the capital and largest city in Japan, which is now called Tokyo. Rhaphiolepis comes from the Greek words ‘rhaphis’ meaning needle and ‘lepis’ meaning scale. This is thought to describe the uniquely beautiful flower bract architecture.

Japanese Botanist Tomitarô Makino, who worked extensively on classifying plants in Japan (using the taxonomic system developed by Carl Linnaeus) authored texts and journals on botany in which he describes thousands of species, including R. umbellata. In North America, Richard Fox is noted as having introduced R. umbellata into cultivation at his Santa Clara nursery in 1884.

In Japan, the bark of this plant is used as a dyeing agent, while the seeds have been used as flour.

Rhaphiolepis umbellata is a slow growing, multi-stemmed evergreen shrub with a dense, rounded habit reaching four to six feet (one to two metres) in height with an equal width. Alternate, simple, glossy leaves emerge grey-green and mature to a dark green. Showy clusters of fragrant white flowers sprout from terminal panicles at the ends of the branches, and small, fleshy blue-black fruits hide amongst the leaves. On your next visit to Royal Botanical Gardens, catch the fragrant blooms of Rhaphioleps umbellata on the main level of the Mediterranean Garden at RBG Centre.

Cupressus nootkatensis 'Pendula' – Weeping Nootka False Cypress

Cupressus nootkatensis 'Pendula', also known as Weeping Nootka False Cypress, Yellow Cypress and Alaska Cypress, is a tree in the family Cupressaceae (Cypress family). In the early 1880’s, C. nootkatensis ‘Pendula’ was first introduced into the nursery trade by A. van Leeuwen Nursery in Naarden, The Netherlands.

In 1841, this cultivar was transferred into the genus Chamaecyparis because of its flattened sprays of foliage, however, 2010 findings in molecular genetics place the plant back in the Cupressus genus. Today, the ongoing debate about this change continues between botanists and taxonomists.

Species name nootkatensis refers to the former Nootka tribe, or to the First Nations Nuu-chah-nulth people of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, on whose lands the trees were first discovered. The native range of Cupressus nootkatensis includes the west coast of North America, from the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, south to the Klamath Mountains in northernmost California.

Cupressus nootkatensis 'Pendula' is a weeping evergreen reaching up to 25 feet (7.6 metres) in height by 12 feet (3.6 metres) wide. Gracefully drooping, upward curving branches display flattened sprays of bluish green to dark green foliage. Small, greenish-brown cones can be found sprinkled near to the ends of each spray of needles.

This spectacular specimen tree can be found on the west side of the Pinetum Trail at the Arboretum. On your next visit to Royal Botanical Gardens, take some time to explore the extensive trail system and discover Cupressus nootkatensis 'Pendula'!

Fortunella japonica ‘Sun Stripe’ – Variegated Marumi Kumquat

Fortunella japonica ‘Sun Stripe’, also known as Variegated Marumi Kumquat, is a small fruit tree in the family Rutaceae, shared with six other Asiatic species. F. japonica is also known as Citrus japonica, while Kumquat or cumquat, means ‘gold orange’ in Cantonese.

Indigenous to south Asia and to the Asia-Pacific region, the species was first described in 1178 A.D. Chinese literature. Robert Fortune, collector for the London Horticultural Society, introduced F. japonica into European horticulture in 1846. The species made its way into North America shortly thereafter.

Fortunella japonica ‘Sun Stripe’ is highly ornamental, often being immediately identified by its beautiful green and white edged foliage and extraordinarily striped fruit, which matures to orange as it ripens in late winter. F. japonica can grow to a height of 7 to 10 feet (2 to 3 metres) with an upright habit of growth. The tree holds small, fragrant white flowers interspersed with round fruit throughout the branches, often for months at a time, while the attractive bark further adds to this appealing accent tree.

Experience the beauty of Fortunella japonica ‘Sun Stripe’ today! It can be viewed on the second level of the Mediterranean Garden at RBG Centre.

Pittosporum tobira 'Variegata' - Japanese Pittosporum

Pittosporum tobira ‘Variegata,’ commonly known as Japanese Pittosporum, is a rounded, broadleaved evergreen shrub native to Japan, Korea, and China.

Pittosporum tobira and the cultivar ‘Variegatum’ have both received the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit, which illuminates its long horticultural history, where it has been popularized ornamentally both indoors and outdoors as accents, living privacy screens, and in floral arrangements.

Pittosporum tobira ‘Variegata’ is a compact broadleaved evergreen, reaching a height of 5 feet (1.5 metres) to 10 feet (3 metres) with varying widths depending on its habit of growth. On its own, this stunning ornamental provides a treat for the eyes, displaying leathery, obovate leaves in whorl-like patterns along each stem. The grey-green foliage is variegated, with irregular creamy white margins. Visit the Mediterranean Garden during spring and summer months to enjoy small white flowers, which appear in umbel-like clusters at the centre of each whorl of leaves.

Experience the elegant beauty of Pittosporum tobira ‘Variegata’ on the upper level of Mediterranean Garden at RBG Centre today!

Aloe arborescens - Candelabra Plant

Aloe arborescens, commonly known as Candelabra Plant, is a large, multi-headed succulent with a sprawling habit of growth and a native range that includes South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe in the eastern part of Southern Africa. In its natural habitat, A. arborescens is often found growing on exposed ridges and rocky outcrops.

Aloe comes from the Greek ‘alsos’ meaning bitter, which refers to its bitter juice. Species arborescens means ‘tree-like.’ Traditionally planted as a living fence or security hedge, Aloe arborescens is persistent in a natural environment, displaying large blooms of vibrant red-orange flowers that are arranged in a type of inflorescence called a raceme. As such, A. arborescens has a long history of cultivation and has adapted to different habitats around the world.

Aloe arborescens is an attractive perennial succulent, growing in a sprawling pattern of rosettes situated at the end of branches. Thick, elongated, and fleshy, the leaves of A. arborescens are blue-green with small spikes along the edges. Their natural patterns beautifully decorate the area where planted.

When stopping into RBG Centre, drop by Mediterranean Garden to discover Aloe arborescens.

Euphorbia pulcherrima - Poinsettia

Euphorbia pulcherrima, commonly known as Poinsettia, is the most widely grown of all shrubby plants in the genus Euphorbia, belonging to the family Euphorbiaceae (Spurge family). The common English name ‘poinsettia’ was chosen by Historian and Gardener William H. Prescott in the mid-nineteenth century to recognize Joel Roberts Poinsett, botanist, physician and the first United States Ambassador to Mexico.

Species pulcherrima is known to grow wild in mountainous areas of the Pacific slope of Mexico, however, the native range extends from tropical and sub-tropical Southern Mexico to Central America. Euphorbia pulcherrima is displayed in numerous celebrations during the holiday season – including Dia de le Virgen (Virgin’s Day) in Mexico, and National Poinsettia Day in the United States.

The brightly coloured portions of Euphorbia pulcherrima are known as bracts, or modified leaves surrounding the tiny yellow flowers, or cyathia that are in the centre of the bracts. Cultivated varieties offer a wide range of colours and shapes, including pink, creamy white, yellow, burgundy, and include marbled, mottled or even wavy bracts.

Ilex opaca 'Nancy Nelson' - American Holly

Ilex opaca, commonly known as American Holly, originates in eastern North America. Duke of Argyle Archibald introduced the species to England in 1744 at Inverary Castle in Scotland.

All of the great ancient nations, including the Assyrian, Egyptian, Persian, Greek, and Roman empires were known to decorate their altars, homes (and inhabitants to decorate their bodies) with parts of the Ilex plant. Flowers, leaves, berries, and blossoms were combined to create the first decorative wreaths and garlands.

Holiday associations with holly began, as the plant had long been symbolic of Christmas. The earliest English writer on plants, William Turner, called the tree ‘Holy’ and ‘Holytree’ in 1568. Meanwhile in Italy, sprigs of holly were used to decorate mangers in commemoration of the infant saviour. Finally, in Germany, holly is called ‘Christdorn’ – the thorn woven into the crown crucifixion.

Ilex opaca ‘Nancy Nelson’ is a medium to large sized broadleaf evergreen tree with a columnar growth habit, reaching up to 30 feet high (9.1 metres) with a spread of 15 feet (4.5 metres) wide. Oblong leaves cover the tree, varying in size and presented both flat and wavy, with 7-8 spines per leaf. Foliage colour is deep green with a glossy shine, with bright red berries covering the tree.

Find Ilex opaca ‘Nancy Nelson’ on the lower level of Rock Garden, along the northwest pathway leading away from the Robert Stipe Garden House.

Hoya carnosa 'Compacta' - Wax Plant

Hoya carnosa ‘Compacta’, is a succulent vine commonly known as Wax Plant or Porcelain Flower.

The genus Hoya contains almost 300 species of tropical plants in the family Apocynaceae (the Dogbane family). Most are native to Asia, including India, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia. During the late eighteenth century, Botanist Robert Brown named Hoya in honour of his gardener Thomas Hoy. As such, Hoya carnosa has been cultivated for more than 200 years and has brought many plants of varying forms and colours into horticultural use as ornamentals.

In tropical climates, species carnosa produces light pink, porcelain-like blooms in pendant umbels (each containing 30 to 50 flowers that contain tiny dark pink embellishments near the centre). These fragrant blooms attract pollinators and birds. Additionally, a 2015 study completed through the University of Georgia shows the benefits of some plants (including H. carnosa) for removing pollutants from indoor environments.

Hoya carnosa ‘Compacta’ has tightly curled leaves that are densely packed on 12 to 18 inch elongated stems. These long-ovate leaves are dark green, fleshy, and waxy.

Find a shining specimen of Hoya carnosa ‘Compata’ in the Cacti and Succulent collection at Mediterranean Garden in RBG Centre.

Buxus 'Green Gem' – Boxwood

Buxus, common name Boxwood, is a genus of evergreen shrubs and trees of unknown origin. Early written accounts come from places in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Central America.

In North America, the heritage of Buxus is the result of the blending global influences. Early English settlers brought many specimens; Dutch immigrants carried roots of the plant; and Spanish settlers brought specimens to the Southeast. As such, the plants held a variety of names including English, Dutch, French, and Spanish Box. The common name is likely in reference to the prior use of its wood to make boxes.

Buxus wood is very popular throughout history for its combination of fine texture, density, hardness, and uniform consistency. The wood yields to carving and shaping, while its pale colour has made it valuable for a variety of functions, from furniture to accessories. Ancient Egyptians utilized the wood for the making of combs. This remains a common practice in Middle Eastern countries to this day. Ancient Greeks made small chests and boxes called ‘pyxos’, including carved and polished boxes that held fragrant ointments, similar to the essential oil containers of the current age. Other objects made from Buxus included pill boxes, fine furniture, musical instruments and engravings. Today, Buxus is a staple ornamental specimen plant in horticulture and is often seen as hedges, accents, or specimen plants.

Buxus ‘Green Gem’ is a hybrid cultivar of Buxus microphylla var. koreana (Korean Littleleaf Boxwood) × Buxus sempervirens (European Boxwood), which is admired for its globular shape and winter hardiness. This broadleaf evergreen shrub typically grows in a dense globe to 4 feet (1.2 metres) high by 4 feet (1.2 metres) wide. Shiny green foliage covers the shrub with small leaves that hold their colour, bronzing slightly in the winter cold.

Find several shining examples of Buxus ‘Green Gem’ on the lower level of Rock Garden and plan a visit to Royal Botanical Gardens to enjoy many beautiful styles of this plant in each of the garden areas.

Arbutus unedo – Strawberry Tree

Arbutus unedo, commonly known as Strawberry Tree, is a species of small evergreen trees or shrubs native to the Mediterranean basin and to parts of Western Europe. Several Arbutus species were introduced into northern European gardens including 16th century England, later being brought to the warmer climates of Western North America, greenhouses, and indoor habitats around the world.

In Latin, species name unedo means ‘I eat one (only)’ possibly referring to the edibility of the fruit. In Europe, the berries of Arbutus unedo are used most notably for jams, marmalades, yogurt and alcoholic beverages such as ‘medronho’ a type of Portuguese brandy. On the other end of the usability spectrum, A. unedo has also been utilized for restoration efforts for degraded ecosystems and for the prevention of desertification. As a pioneer species, these trees can regrow after a fire, making them a great candidate for reforestation in Mediterranean areas with altered habitats due to temperature changes over time.

Arbutus unedo is a small, multi-stemmed broadleaf evergreen tree or shrub reaching 8 to 15 feet (2.5 to 4.5 metres) in height with an equal spread. This attractive ornamental specimen plant has four-season interest, making it a popular choice for a variety of environments. A. unedo takes on a somewhat twisted appearance over time, exhibiting dark brown, flaking bark that is accompanied by lush and shiny, dark green, leathery leaves, presenting bell-shaped blossoms that appear in cream-white panicles throughout summer and autumn, interspersed with fruit when supported by a suitable habitat.

Be sure to visit the main level of the Mediterranean Garden in RBG Centre to discover two specimens of Arbutus unedo, which are currently in bloom.

Crassula ovata – Jade Plant

Crassula ovata, commonly known as the Jade Plant, is a branched succulent shrub native to Mozambique and to the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces of South Africa. Genus name Crassula comes from the Latin word ‘crassus,’ meaning thick, referring to its thick leaves; while species name ovata refers to the shape and form being egg-shaped.

Crassula ovata is a popular ornamental plant known for its use in bonsai, because it is durable and easily handles the pruning process. Durability and ease of care are two main reasons for the sustained popularity of this cactus around the world today in botanical gardens, businesses and homes.

In warmer habitats, Crassula ovata reduces water loss from its leaves by utilizing the Crassulacean Acid Metabolism or CAM, where the stomata, or pores, are closed during the day to prevent water from evaporating. Stomata open at night to collect carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is then stored overnight in the form of crassulacean acids that are broken down during the day. This releases CO2 for the photosynthesis process during the day. This routine allows the plant to survive the lack of water by using very little of it during this time. In greenhouses, businesses and homes, where C. ovata is often housed, a more suitable environment needs to be created for this plant to thrive in colder, less humid climates.

C. ovata may reach up to 6 feet (1.8 metres) in height over the course of many decades. The oblong, fleshy, and shiny leaves of this broadleaf evergreen cover the upper branches, while tiny white flowers bloom periodically in a terminal cluster sprouting from the leaves. This delicately beautiful ornamental is found in the Cacti and Succulent Collection, as well as inside the Mediterranean House at RBG Centre.

Acer × freemanii ‘Jeffersred’ sold as AUTUMN BLAZE – Freeman Maple

Acer × freemanii, commonly known as Freeman Maple, is a hybrid of Acer rubrum (red maple) and Acer saccharinum (silver maple); two species that are native to eastern North America.

Botanist Oliver M. Freeman first crossed the two species in 1933 at the National Arboretum in Washington D.C., combining some of the best features of both parents. In 1969, assistant Edward Murray named the hybrid cross in Freeman’s name.

Acer × freemanii ‘Jeffersred’ sold as ‘AUTUMN BLAZE’ is a fast-growing deciduous tree or multi-stemmed shrub with an upright habit that grows to a height of 50 feet (15 metres), by a spread of 40 feet (12 metres) wide. These plants have a large oval crown and ascending branching pattern. Some striking ornamental features include red veining of the deeply-lobed, palmate leaves and bark that is smooth and dark greyish-brown. Acer × freemanii ‘Jeffersred’ has rich dark green foliage throughout the summer and is easily recognized for its brilliant orange-red autumn colour. This is the perfect time to plan a trip to Royal Botanical Gardens!

Find two beautiful specimens of Acer × freemanii ‘Jeffersred’ in their fall splendor near the entrance to the David Braley and Nancy Gordon Rock Garden.

Tsuga canadensis - Eastern Hemlock

Tsuga canadensis or Eastern Hemlock, is a coniferous tree native to eastern North America that is generally found in areas with cool and humid climates. Tsuga is a genus of conifers in the pine family, Pinaceae.

Historically, Tsuga canadensis has been used within Indigenous communities in North America as well as for pulp and paper manufacturing. T. canadensis is known for being a relatively slow growing and long-lived tree. Along with Pinus strobus, or Eastern White Pine, they are the most common evergreen trees growing in the forests of eastern North America. Over the years, more than 300 cultivars have been selected and introduced, many of which are dwarf forms.

At Royal Botanical Gardens, Tsuga canadensis is a medium-sized evergreen conifer with dense, fine branches, an upright habit, and a graceful pyramidal form. With a low canopy, it will grow to a height of 60 feet (18 metres) by a spread of 30 feet (9 metres). T. canadensis has small, dark green needles on top and light green underneath. Tiny, ovoid cones are light brown and reach ¾ inch in size, maturing in fall. One of the greatest benefits of T. canadensis is that it grows well in conditions from full sun to full shade, making this an ideal specimen plant for ornamental gardens.

Find Tsuga canadensis in the David Braley and Nancy Gordon Rock Garden, located on the lower level heading away from the Garden House. This fantastic native tree is not to be missed!

Fagus sylvatica ‘Purple Fountain’ – Weeping European Beech

Fagus sylvatica, commonly known as European Beech, is a deciduous tree native to Europe and Eurasia. They are some of the most widely-known species of trees, cultivated for their historical economic importance.

Fagus sylvatica ‘Purple Fountain’, or Weeping European Beech, is a fine example of a specimen plant used for ornamental purposes. Specimen plants serve as focal points within a landscape. Often one might single this plant out in a collection because of its unique features or characteristics. Its overall shape and its sweeping, pendulous branches characterize the weeping beech as they often display spectacular shape and form. Lastly, the trunk of these trees may not be seen from a distance due to a covering of “weeping” branches with thick foliage. In North America, the European varieties of beech trees are often favoured for their tolerance of warmer temperatures and climates as well as for their slower growth.

F. sylvatica ‘Purple Fountain’ is a dense, deciduous tree with an upright and columnar growth habit that reaches to a height of approximately 30 feet (9 metres) high by 15 feet (4.5 metres) wide. This tree has a dominant central leader, with branches that cascade down. Serrated, pointy leaves are characteristic of beech trees, although they are wider and flat, not lobed in F. sylvatica. More than anything else, the defining feature of F. sylvatica ‘Purple Fountain’ is its glossy burgundy leaves and smooth silver-grey bark. In autumn, beechnuts can be found throughout the tree and are popular with neighbouring wildlife such as birds and squirrels.

One your next visit to Royal Botanical Gardens, visit the collection of weeping trees, found just northwest of the main parking circle in the Arboretum. Fagus sylvatica ‘Purple Fountain’ can be found at the head of this grouping of trees.

Acer palmatum 'Beni-otake' – Japanese Maple

Acer palmatum, commonly known as Japanese Maple, Palmate Maple or Smooth Japanese Maple, is a woody plant native to Japan, Korea, and China. After travelling to Japan during the eighteenth century, Swedish botanist-doctor Carl Peter Thunberg named the species palmatum for the hand-like shape of the plants leaves. Cultivar name ‘Beni-otake’ means “big red bamboo,” referring to the bamboo-like appearance and shape.

Japanese Maples have been around for more than 300 years and have been bred, selected, and propagated in and around Japan during that period. These trees and shrubs have become incredibly popular throughout temperate areas of the world, prized for their variations in form and colour as well as their overall beauty. Often used as specimen or companion plants, it is highly utilized in horticulture.

With a vigorous, upright habit of growth, Acer palmatum ‘Beni-otake’ will reach approximately 10 feet (three metres) high and eight feet (2.4 metres) wide, with a multi-stemmed trunk that joins together before reaching the ground. This decorative ornamental tree features attractive, deep purple-red foliage, which emerges in spring. Small, deeply cut palmate leaves (with five to seven lobes) maintain their red colour throughout the summer, turning an outstanding crimson in autumn.

Acer palmatum 'Beni-otake' is a must-see on your next visit to Royal Botanical Gardens and is located close to the water features of the lower garden area at the David Braley and Nancy Gordon Rock Garden.

Sedum morganianum – Burrow's Tail

Sedum morganianum, commonly known as burro’s tail (Cola de Burro), is a species of flowering plant that is native to southern Mexico and Honduras. Introduced into cultivation in 1935, S. morganianum was discovered in plant nurseries in Coatepec and Veracruz, Mexico by Eric Walther, a botanist at Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. Walther was searching for other succulent plants in the in the family Crassulaceae at that time, when he stumbled upon S. morganianum.

S. morganianum is a drought-tolerant species that has become a popular houseplant choice for its ease of care and maintenance. It has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit and is well-liked for its decorative presentation, with thick, fleshy leaves that overlap each other along the stems to give a rope-like or braided effect.

Sedum morganianum is a succulent annual, herbaceous, or evergreen perennial producing long, overlapping, trailing stems that are up to 24 inches (60 cm) in length, with fleshy, lance-shaped, glaucous blue-green leaves and clusters of small, star-shaped reddish purple flowers in summer or autumn. With its pendant habit of growth, the consistent method of growth used is often hanging vertically to allow the pendants to cascade. In Canada, where it is mainly seen in greenhouses and indoor habitats, one is unlikely to catch the blooms. Find Sedum morganianum in the Cacti and Succulent collection at the Mediterranean Garden at RBG Centre.

Cotoneaster horizontalis – Rock Cotoneaster

Cotoneaster horizontalis, commonly known as Rock Cotoneaster or Rockspray Cotoneaster, is a deciduous arching or prostrate shrub in the Rosaceae family. The genus Cotoneaster is native to the temperate regions of Asia, Europe, and North Africa, with a strong concentration of diversity (within the genus) in the mountainous areas of southwestern China and the Himalayas. C. horizontalis was introduced into cultivation around 1879 and is a popular feature in botanical gardens. The species horizontalis was first recorded in the wild in 1940, when it was found in Great Britain.

C. horizontalis is a spreading dwarf deciduous shrub with distinctive, flat, regularly branched sprays of glossy dark green foliage that turns red in autumn. Growing three feet (one metre) by seven feet (two metres), the spreading habit of C. horizontalis is one source of its popularity in gardens, where it is often found as hedging or groundcover. In spring, C. horizontalis features fragrant, bright white flowers that are reasonably showy. Against their glossy dark green leaves, the flowers contrast beautifully. Scarlet-red berries adorn the shrub in late summer, maturing by late fall.

Find Cotoneaster horizontalis on your next visit to Rock Garden, where it is located in several spaces in both the upper and lower garden areas.

Malus sargentii 'Rosea' – Sargent’s Crabapple

Malus is a genus of more than 50 species of small deciduous apple trees or shrubs in the family Rosaceae. The genus name comes from the Latin word for apple. Some species, such as sargentii are known as crabapples or wild apples. These trees are native to the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere.

Malus sargentii ‘Rosea’ is a mounding, wide-spreading dwarf-sized tree. One of the greatest features of crabapples are bunches of fragrant, showy white flowers which appear in spring. Pale pink buds open white amid dark green foliage. M. sargentii ‘Rosea’ will grow to be about 10 feet (three metres) by a spread of 12 feet (four metres), featuring attractive, and horizontally-tiered branches. In fall, M. sargentii‘Rosea’ is covered in small red berries that persist into winter. This fruit is dark red and showy, attracting birds to the landscape.

Crabapple trees blossom longer than any other fruit trees, giving approximately three to four weeks of flowering. This is a time when pollinators will arrive for a reliable food source. Because of their long flowering period and abundant pollen, some types of crabapples are used in commercial apple orchards as pollen providers for the main cultivar.

On your next visit to Royal Botanical Gardens, stop by the lower garden area of the Rock Garden, where you can few three fine specimens of Malus sargentii ‘Rosea’.

Heptacodium miconiodes – Seven-Son Flower

Heptacodium miconiodes, commonly known as Seven-Son Flower, is the sole member of the genus Heptacodium, which is derived from the Greek word ‘epta’, meaning ‘seven’. Species name miconiodes refers to the plants similarity to the genus of flowering plants Miconia. Closely related to the Honeysuckle, H. miconiodes is a member of the Caprifoliaceae family.

H. miconiodes was discovered in 1907 by plant collector Ernst Wilson in the Hubei province of central China, where it was collected on behalf of the Arnold Arboretum. Since then, the shrub has become highly popular as a late-blooming ornamental plant, becoming widely available throughout North America and Europe.

Heptacodium miconiodes is a large, fountain-shaped, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub that typically grows 15 to 20 feet (five to six metres) with a spread of 10 feet (three metres). H. miconiodes boasts forest green foliage that emerges lime green in spring. This shrub is known for its extremely long bloom period, with panicles of fragrant creamy white flowers appearing at the ends of its branches from summer to mid fall. These flowers are followed by showy red fruit and caylx. Finally, tan bark exfoliates to reveal brown inner bark, providing great winter interest.

Heptacodium miconiodes is a wonderful specimen plant in a pollinator garden as it attracts bees and butterflies. This spectacular shrub can be found on your next visit to Royal Botanical Gardens, where it is located at the Arboretum in the Synoptic Shrub Collection. It can also be found at Rock Garden, close to the Visitor Centre, and in Morrison Woodland Garden at Hendrie Park.

Nymphaea – Hardy Waterlily

Hardy Nymphaea are aquatic perennials with rounded floating leaves and showy, cup-shaped flowers that sit on or above the water, with numerous narrow petals and conspicuous stamens, in white and shades of red and pink. The genus name Nymphaea comes from the Latin word ‘nympha’ or Greek ‘nymphe’, referring to the word ‘water lily’ and to the goddesses of mountains, meadows, and forests found in Greek mythology.

Nymphaeais an important genus of ornamental plants, with numerous cultivars grown in water gardens. Hardy waterlily species differ from Tropical waterlily species in their ability to overwinter naturally, as long as the plant rhizomes do not freeze. In shallow ponds, waterlilies are frequently moved to a greenhouse environment (or indoors where they can be kept submerged in water) over the winter months.

Nymphaea sp. first blooms in mid to late spring when the temperature rises above 16C (60F) and will continue to flower until September. Bloom size ranges from eight to 10 inches (20cm) across and each lasts four to five days, occurring on the surface of the water. Emerald green floating leaves that surround the blooms are eight to 10 inches (20 to 25cm) and are a favourite of visiting dragonflies and frogs.

Currently, the pink variety Nymphaea ‘Pink Sensation’ is blooming at the Rock Garden, contained in the water features of the lower garden area.

Tetradium daniellii – Korean Evodia

Tetradium daniellii is a species of flowering tree from the Rutaceae family, commonly known as Korean Evodia, Bee-bee tree, or Tetradium. The species name daniellii honours British army surgeon and botanist William Freeman Daniell. T. daniellii is native to Korea and southwestern China, which are temperate to tropical regions.

Tetradium daniellii is a deciduous tree with a rounded, spreading, umbrella-shaped habit. The tree boasts smooth grey bark, which resembles that of a beech tree, as well as glossy pinnate leaves. T. daniellii typically grows 25 to 30 feet (eight to nine metres) with a spread of a similar distance. Masses of small, aromatic, cup-shaped flowers bloom in flattened corymbs (four to six inches wide) in late July and August. Flowers give way to reddish-purple seedpods that split open when ripened. These blooms are predominantly loved by honey bees, while birds are attracted to the seed. Foliage resembles that of an ash tree and is a glossy dark green in summer. In autumn, there is little colour change and the leaves tend to drop green to yellow-green.

Tetradium daniellii is particularly valued when few other flowering trees are in bloom. Come to Royal Botanical Gardens to discover this wonderful tree in the main parking area of RBG Centre and in the middle terrace at Laking Garden.

Hibiscus 'Peppermint Schnapps' - Sold as: CORDIAL Series

The genus name Hibiscus (Rose Mallow) is derived from the Greek word hibiskos, which Dioscorides, a Greek physician of the first century, used for the plant commonly known as marsh-mallow (now genus Althea). In the early 1700’s, Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus chose the name Althea for marsh-mallow and Hibiscus for the close relative.

Hibiscus contains plants that vary from small annual or perennial herbs, under-shrubs and shrubs to small trees. This genus is in the cotton family, Malvaceae, which contains many useful species such as food crops, vegetables, ornamentals, fibres, medicine, and timber. Hundreds of varieties of Hibiscus are bred with variations in forms, colours, and shapes.

The CORDIAL Series contains a small group of compact hybrid Hibiscus plants that have enormous blooms on well-branched plants. Hibiscus ‘Peppermint Schnapps’ is a vigorous, shrubby perennial that has a growing habit shorter and fuller than most industry standards, boasting 8 to 10 inch (20 to 25cm) blooms with unique maple-leaf shaped foliage in green or bronze/purple. Flowers are pink with a prominent red eye and deep pink veining - these stunning blooms flower from July to September.

On your next visit to Royal Botanical Gardens, head to the Rock Garden to discover Hibiscus ‘Peppermint Schnapps’ sold as CORDIAL Series along the central north pathway of the lower garden area.

Saucer Magnolia - Magnolia ×soulangeana 'Lennei'

Commonly known as Saucer Magnolia, Magnolia ×soulangeana ‘Lennei’ honors Chevalier Étienne Soulange-Bodin, Director of the French Royal Institute, who created this hybrid (Magnolia denudata × Magnolia liliiflora) in the early 1800’s. Genus name Magnolia honors French Botanist Pierre Magnol.

Magnolia ×soulangeana is now one of the most commonly used magnolias in horticulture, being widely planted in the British Isles, parts of Europe, and throughout North America as a stunning garden specimen.

Magnolia ×soulangeana ‘Lennei’ is a large, vigorously spreading deciduous shrub, typically reaching heights of 20 to 25 feet (six to eight meters), with a spread that can reach 15 to 25 feet (five to eight meters) wide. Noted for its ovate, dark green leaves which are larger than most and appear after the blooms emerge on a bare tree in early spring. Large, goblet-shaped flowers are magenta-purple with near-white interiors, creating a bicolor effect. M. soulangeana ‘Lennei’ is known for having blooms that appear sporadically throughout the summer.

On your next visit to Royal Botanical Gardens, head to the Barbara Laking Memorial Garden to catch Magnolia ×soulangeana ‘Lennei’ in the midst of a sporadic summer bloom.

Natal Plum - Carissa macrocarpa 'Tuttlei'

Carissa macrocarpa is an ornamental shrub native to South Africa, commonly referred to as Tuttle Natal Plum or Big Num-Num. Found in the coastal areas in South Africa, this dense shrub is often located on sand dunes and on the edges of coastal forests in Eastern Cape Province northwards from Kwazulu-Natal to Mozambique.

Horticulturist Theodore L. Meade introduced C. macrocarpa into the United States in 1886. The genus Carissa is derived from the Sanskrit corissa. Species name macrocarpa is derived from the Greek word marco, meaning large, and carpus, meaning fruit.

Today, the plant grows commonly in southern Florida, is cultivated in southern California, and is used widely as an ornamental in Central America and the Caribbean. C. macrocarpa belongs to the dogbane family, Apocynaceae, which includes annuals, perennial herbs, stem succulents, woody shrubs, trees, or vines and many exude a milky sap with latex, if injured.

C. macrocarpa ‘Tuttlei’ is a fast growing, fire resistant upright evergreen broadleaf shrub that produces shiny, deep green foliage that is beautifully decorated with showy, star-shaped white flowers. Y-shaped thorns are displayed throughout. C. macrocarpa grows two to three feet tall (one metre) and spreads three to five feet (one to two metres) wide. Large, red-crimson, oval fruit appears throughout the summer at the same time as orange blossom scented pure white flowers, which bloom year-round. This edible fruit is rich in Vitamin C, magnesium and phosphorus.

Discover the attractive Carissa macrocarpa ‘Tuttlei’ on your next visit to Royal Botanical Gardens. It is located on the second level of RBG Centre’s Mediterranean Garden.

Castor Bean - Ricinus communis ‘Carmencita Bright Red’

Ricinus communis is commonly known as the castor-bean or castor-oil-plant. This species of flowering perennial plant is from Euphorbiaceae, the spurge family. R. communis is native to the southeastern Mediterranean Basin, Eastern Africa, and India and is widely grown as an ornamental plant throughout the world.

Despite its name, castor bean is not a true bean. Though the entire plant is poisonous, the toxins can be extracted and separated from the beneficial oil in the plant. Its seed is the source of castor oil, which has had a variety of uses. It contains oil that is rich in triglycerides, which throughout history have been used as a laxative, to treat fungal infections on the skin, to soothe the eyes, and to relieve joint pain.

Historically, castor oil was an effective motor lubricant that was used in internal combustion engines, including those of World War I airplanes, some racing cars, and some model airplanes. This oil was a popular choice for lubricating two-stroke engines due to its high heat resistance when compared to petroleum-based oils.

R. communis is a fast-growing herbaceous flowering perennial, which can reach heights of six to 10 feet (two to three metres) in a single season, with a spread of three to six feet (one to two metres). The variety 'Carmencita Bright Red' has large maroon leaves, red stems, and spiky, 1″ red seedpods. Ornamentally, it is valued for its large palmate lobed, glossy green leaves and round, spiny, reddish-brown seedpods. The foliage turns from green to burgundy by mid-summer and small, cup-shaped flowers without petals decorate the stems between the seedpods. This stunning burgundy foliage persists into autumn.

On your next trip to Royal Botanical Gardens, find Ricinus communis ‘Carmencita Bright Red’ at Medicinal Garden in Hendrie Park.

Japanese Stewartia - Stewartia pseudocamellia

Stewartia pseudocamellia, common name Japanese Stewartia, was introduced into western cultivation in 1874, honouring 16th century Scottish botanist John Stuart, though it is native to parts of Japan and Korea.

Stewartia is a member of the Theaceae (tea family), and the numerous creamy white flowers easily identify plants of this genus. Historically, S. pseudocamellia and S. koreana were considered two separate species; however, due to the minimal differences between them and a revision of thinking, they are now classified as the same species. The species name pseudocamellia means false camellia.

S. pseudocamellia is a slow-growing, small to medium-sized, deciduous tree with a pyramidal or rounded habit. This excellent specimen tree can reach 40 feet (12 metres) in height, and can reach as wide as 30 feet (9 metres). Cup-shaped, camellia-like white flowers with orange-yellow anthers embellish this beautifully formed tree in late June and July.

S. pseudocamellia is also loved for its gorgeous fall colour. The dark green foliage decorating this tree throughout the year turns attractive shades of reddish-orange and burgundy in autumn. Notably stunning bark is smooth in texture, exfoliating as the plant ages and providing year-round interest. This sensational bark is eye-catching throughout the winter months, providing interest and colour that is a mottled cream, brown and tan.

When you visit Royal Botanical Gardens this week, head to the Rock Garden to catch the final blooms of Stewartia pseudocamellia, which is located in the upper garden area. Simply turn left of the Visitor Centre and follow the path, which slopes down to the lower garden area.

Bottlebrush Buckeye - Aesculus parviflora

Aesculus parviflora is commonly called bottlebrush buckeye in recognition of the resemblance it has to its more famous relative horse chestnut, this shrub often goes by the common name “dwarf horse chestnut”. A. parviflora is a species native to the open woodlands of the southeastern United States.

A. parviflora is a dense, mounded, suckering, deciduous, multi-stemmed shrub, which typically grows 6 to 12 feet or 1.8 to 3.6 metres tall, featuring palmate dark green leaves of five to seven leaflets and erect, showy, cylindrical panicles of tubular white flowers with noticeable red anthers and pinkish filaments. Early to mid-summer blooms can be spectacular as the flowers give way to glossy, inedible pear-shaped nuts (buckeyes). Also of note, hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators embrace the blooms. In autumn the foliage of A. parviflora turns attractive shades of yellow.

A. parviflora is the recipient of the prestigious Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society, as well as numerous awards and medals from horticultural societies within North America. This particular shrub was a favourite of Dr. Leslie Laking, a Director at Royal Botanical Gardens from 1947 to 1981, and was relocated with special care and attention after the redesign of the Rock Garden in 2014.

On your next visit to Royal Botanical Gardens, discover Aesculus parviflora in the Rock Garden’s lower garden area.

Maidenhair Tree – Ginkgo biloba - ‘Barabits Nana’

Ginkgo is now the most widely recognized of all botanical “living fossils.” Paleobotanists have determined that the genus first appeared during the Jurassic period about 180 million years ago, while the Order to which it belongs, Ginkgoales, has been traced back nearly 250 million years.

The species biloba had its name derived from the Latin bis, meaning two and loba, meaning lobed, referring to the shape of its leaves. The common name Maidenhair Tree comes from the leaf’s resemblance to the maidenhair fern (Adiantum spp.).

G. biloba is native to China and has had a long history of cultivation, usage and reverence in several cultures, though it has only been known to western botanical science and horticulture since the late 1600’s.

Maidenhair Tree – Ginkgo biloba ‘Barabits Nana’ is a male dwarf deciduous conifer with a very compact habit. The fan-shaped, green leaves are slightly larger than other cultivars. Fall colour is notably golden yellow or bronze before the shrub completely loses its foliage. Find Ginkgo biloba ‘Barabits Nana’ on your next visit to Royal Botanical Gardens - at the Rock Garden, where it is located in the Lower Bowl garden area by the water features.

Mountain Hydrangea - Hydrangea serrata ‘Acuminata’

Hydrangea serrata ‘Acuminata’ is a flowering shrub native to the mountainous regions of Korea and Japan, commonly known as Mountain Hydrangea or Tea of Heaven. The genus name Hydrangea comes from the Latin Hydr., meaning water, and the Greek angeion meaning vessel, referring to the cup-shaped seed capsule. Botanist Carl Linnaeus gave this the genus name Hydrangea in Species Plantarum, published in 1753.

Hydrangeas have been used in traditional folk medicine for hundreds of years. The root contains several alkaloids, used to treat everything from colds and indigestion to bladder and kidney ailments. As well, Western studies have recently identified autoimmune treatment properties in the dried root, rhizome, and leaves. In addition to these findings, the leaves of mountain hydrangea contain phyllodulcin, a natural sweetener used to make regionally popular herbal teas in Korea and Japan.

With the many changes that occur in plant nomenclature, Hydrangea serrata ‘Acuminata’ may see its taxonomic group further developing over the coming years. As a result of the complicated taxonomic relationships within this genus the name of this plant may be changed in coming years.

This compact flowering shrub has a rounded habit that features dark green, serrated ovate leaves and clusters of long-blooming pink lacy florets. These showy sterile florets form clusters, while less showy white fertile blossoms appear around the outside of each bunch. Blooms are displayed throughout the summer, with good foliage colour in fall.

Discover Hydrangea serrata ‘Acuminata’ during your next visit to Royal Botanical Gardens, where it is located at the Rock Garden, as you walk left of the Visitor Centre, before travel down the sloped pathway to the lower garden.

Chinese Dogwood - Cornus kousa var. chinensis ‘Southern Cross’

Cornus kousa var. chinensis ‘Southern Cross’ is a variety of Chinese Dogwood originating from New Zealand. The genus name comes from the Latin word ‘cornu’ meaning horn, in probable reference to the strength and density of the wood and belonging to the dogwood family Cornaceae.

‘Southern Cross’ dogwoods are small deciduous flowering trees or multi-stemmed shrubs with opposite, simple leaves. Their shiny dark green foliage remains throughout the summer, turning to vivid red in fall. Each bloom, appearing to be a single flower, in fact consists of a mass of ornamentally insignificant small flowers - arranged at the centre of a whorl of four white bracts. These bracts, the visual equivalent of petals, are initially white in colour, but eventually develop brilliant scarlet markings toward their tips, before withering and falling away. During the summer months, bunches of bright red berries decorate the tree. Chinese dogwoods will grow between 15 feet or four metres and 30 feet or nine metres and are a favourite for both butterflies and birds.

A species cultivated in Southern Europe (Cornus mas) is known for its edible berries, which can be turned into jam, fermented into a wine, or eaten raw after slight softening. Dense, fine-grained dogwood timber is an excellent choice for making tool handles, roller skates, walking canes, and other small items requiring very hard and strong wood.

During your next visit to Royal Botanical Gardens, view the ‘Southern Cross’ in Laking Garden, where you will find one on the right side, just past the perennial borders of the middle terrace.

Tulip Tree - Liriodendron tulipifera

Liriodendron tulipifera or Tulip Tree, also known as Tulip Magnolia, Yellow Poplar, and Whitewood, is member of the family Magnoliaceae, the Magnolia family.

Liriodendron is a small genus, which includes the Tulip Tree. Its naming comes from the Greek leiron ‘lily’ and dendron ‘tree’. This pioneer species in North America originally had its inner bark used medicinally as a worming medicine, anti-arthritic, cough syrup and cholera remedy. Its wood is fine grained and stable, making it useful for the construction of canoes, cabinet making, and furniture framing.

This is one of the tallest native trees in North America and features interestingly shaped leaves and large tulip-shaped flowers that are hard to see because of their height and placement. At maturity, this deciduous tree will grow to be 90 feet or 27 metres tall with a spread of 50 feet or 15 metres. Tulip Tree flowers bloom from mid to late spring and are buttery yellow cup-shaped, with yellow eyes and orange centres held atop its branches. Foliage is emerald green throughout the season and its square leaves turn gold in fall. Its showy grey bark is furrowed.

Find Tulip Trees throughout Royal Botanical Gardens during your next visit. They are currently flowering in several spots within Hendrie Park. Walk through today and you can find one adjacent to the entrance of the Morrison Woodland Garden.

Beauty Bush - Linnaea amabilis

While travelling through western Hubei province in China, Ernest H. Wilson discovered Linnaea amabilis (formerly known as Kolkwitzia amabilis), or Beauty Bush, in between the headwaters of the Yangtse and Han rivers. His concern over the disappearing forest and flora in Central China led to its cultivation in 1901. Wilson later introduced the shrub into horticulture for the famous Veitch nursery in the UK, where it flowered for the first time in cultivation in 1910.

A member of the Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle) family, this enchanting shrub is closely related to Weigela. This plant used to be the only species in the genus Kolkwitzia but due to new knowledge about plant relationships it has now been merged with the expanded genus Linnaea, which speaks to the exciting evolution of plant naming and classification! The stunning Beauty Bush features showy pink trumpet-shaped flowers with yellow throats along its branches, which bloom in late spring. Green foliage displays throughout the spring and summer seasons, while its noticeably pointed leaves turn yellow in fall. This multi-stemmed deciduous shrub has an upright spreading habit of growth and can be expected to reach 8 feet or 2 metres tall at maturity with a spread of 6 feet or 2 metres. Ultimately, this is a wonderful choice for attracting bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and as an added benefit is not particularly attractive to deer.

Discover Beauty Bush as you meander through the upper level in the Rock Garden.

Fringetree - Chionanthus virginicus

Chionanthus virginicus, commonly known as Fringe Tree, is a small deciduous tree native to the savannas and lowlands of the southeastern United States. Its botanical name means snow flower and refers to the trees large, fringe-like clusters of snow-white flowers.

Chionanthus virginicus belongs to the Oleaceae family of woody plants, consisting of trees and shrubs. The tree boasts spectacular, slightly fragrant white flowers that hang in long panicles, which appear to cover the tree with cotton for several weeks in spring. Emerald green foliage lasts throughout the season, turning yellow in fall.

This low maintenance tree prefers full sun to partial shade, growing 15 feet or four metres and reaches the same distance, with a spreading, round habit that creates a low canopy and makes an outstanding addition to many landscapes. Chionanthus virginicus is a great addition on your next trip to Royal Botanical Gardens.

Golden chain tree - Laburnum watereri 'Vossii'

With its pendulous blooms of yellow, wisteria-like flowers, Laburnum watereri ‘Vossii’, commonly called Golden Chain Tree is a stunning addition to any flowering tree collection. A member of the Fabaceae or pea family, this tree is native to Southern Europe from France to the Balkans. This tree prefers well-drained soil, a sheltered location and part sun in order to hit maximum size and produce spectacular blooms year after year. This is a mid-sized tree reaching peak height at 30ft or 9m and is of equal spread.

Laburnum watereri ‘Vossii’ has pendulous blooms and flowers in mid to late spring after most cherries, apples, and magnolias have finished, which makes it an excellent transitional plant to summer displays. The flowers of this cultivar are striking yellow and have a subtle sweet fragrance which is loved by pollinators like honey bees.

Lamurnum watereri ‘Vossii’ is currently blooming in RBG Main Centre’s Hinton Court and is a “must-see” during your next visit to Royal Botanical Gardens..

Eastern Redbud - Cercis canadensis

Cercis canadensis (eastern redbud) is native to eastern and central north America including southern Ontario. It is particularly admired for its stunning pea-like rose-purple flowers which bloom profusely in May. Flowers are followed by pods that mature in summer and remain on the tree into winter. If planted in in well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade it can attain a height of 9 meters and spread of 11 meters. C. Canadensis makes a stunning impact when planted in mass groups and is beneficial for butterflies and resistant to deer.

Eastern Redbud is blooming now at the Arboretum.

Bokor Rose - Bulla bokorii

The Bromeliaceae are a family of flowering plants native to the tropical and subtropical Americas. The species seen here, Bulla bokurii, is endemic to the cloud forests of Haiti occurring at 4200 meters above sea level. Culturally bromeliads are venerated by the priests, shamen and bokor of Haiti (referenced in their common and scientific name). Scientifically however, very little is understood about these mysterious plants due to difficulties of access to their natural habitat and lack of long term observation. For this reason RBG maintains these cloud forest inhabitants within its living collections to study these charismatic plants and learn more about their secretive lifecycle.

B. bokurii reproduces via spore production every 75 years, normally around the first day of April of the given year. Reproduction via this mechanism is especially helpful for this plant given its habitat and altitude challenges as the spores are able survive for extended periods of time in unfavourable conditions. The structure of the spores is widely considered to be the most beautiful and architecturally unique produced by any known plant species. It is particularly exciting for RBG staff as this is the first time the production of spores has ever been captured on film.

According to historical Haitian literature B. bokurii has an interesting relationship with our own species. The spores whilst beautiful appear to be extremely aggressive and virulent in their search of a living host. On the rare occasion bromeliad spores come into contact with human DNA an almost zombie like state is induced. Medical indicators include flu like symptoms, infection of the blood, and in later stages rapid onset of cellular necrosis resulting in the total collapse of cognitive, muscular and nervous system functions. Basic locomotive functions of infected individuals may, however, be maintained including walking, repeated biting, grabbing, crawling and biting again. In extreme cases a sharp blow administered to the cranium of infected individuals should permanently rectify all symptoms forthwith.

Interestingly the humble pineapple is the best known member of the Bromeliaceae and so great care should be taken in the preparation of this fruit during periods of spore production to avoid contracting viral like symptoms and permanent infection.


Weeping Bottlebrush - Callistemon viminalis

The name Callistemon is derived from Greek, and means beautiful stamens. When flowering, there is no question that Callistemon fits the bill! It is the colorful filaments of its stamens (the pollen producing part of the flower), which create the beautiful display of showy puffballs that resemble the bristles of a bottlebrush. A notable characteristic of the bottlebrush inflorescence (the puffballs!) is that even when they have finished flowering, leafy growth continues at the tip of the shoots. In other words after it flowers, the shoot will continue to grow and so will carry within it a successive history of all its previous flowering. You can see this in the older specimen above on the left, where shoots continue to grow out of the tip of the aging inflorescence.

Weeping bottlebrush occurs naturally on the east coast of Australia. Not surprisingly, it is used commonly there as an attractive landscape plant, and is now grown in many warmer climates around the world. It also exhibits a fair degree of smog tolerance, which makes it great for growing in cities. In addition, weeping bottlebrush is known for its value in conservation for filtering wastewater and minimising erosion with its extensive root system.

Weeping bottlebrush also has a long and diverse history of use in traditional healing and medicine. It has generally been used to treat skin infections, stomach and respiratory conditions. In more recent studies this has been attributed to antibacterial, antifungal, insecticidal and antioxidant activity of Callistemon viminalis extracts (as well as in some other species). This is not surprising given its relation to other more widely known plants with these properties like tea tree!

At least one bottlebrush can be found in full bloom in the Mediterranean Garden and more are sure to flower soon.


Aloe spp.

Next week is world water day, a day for “focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources” (UN). In honour of world water day this week’s plant (or rather plants) of the week is an example of drought tolerance. You are probably familiar with Aloe vera which is known for the skin healing properties of the gel and juice found within its leaves, but the genus Aloe contains over 500 species of flowering, succulent plants. Aloes are native to subtropical regions in South Africa, Madagascar and the Middle East in semi-desert, grassland and scrub areas. A variety of aloe species can be found in the Mediterranean Garden at Royal Botanical Gardens, some of which are currently in bloom.

Aloes are what are known as xerophytes, or plants naturally adapted to dry conditions. In fact, many Mediterranean plant species exemplify drought tolerance, making the Mediterranean Garden a great place to look out for examples of drought tolerant plants. But what are some ways you can tell if a plant is drought tolerant? Many plants that can withstand low water conditions display distinct characteristics that include:

Silver or grey leaves – the colour allowing the plant to reflects heat away
Furry leaves – the tiny hairs reduce moisture loss by providing shade and reflecting heat and light
Waxed leaves – that help retain moisture and keep plants cool
Small or narrow leaves – that minimize leaf surface exposure
Thick leaves – that minimize water loss
Large fibrous roots and tap roots – that allow the plant to reach deep into the soil to collect and store moisture

It is aloe’s thick and fleshy leaves that minimize water loss and allow them to store water inside, slowly feeding off the stored water supply during periods without rainfall.

A really good way to see how some of these physical characteristics have developed in response to growing conditions, is to compare aloe to another very similar looking genus of plants found in the Mediterranean Garden, agave. While aloes are native to Africa and the Middle East, agaves developed across the ocean in Mexico and the Southern US. Yet, aloe and agave are often mistaken for one another because they share similar symmetrically arranged, spiny and succulent leaves. Though the two genera are not actually closely related, they are an example of a phenomenon known as ʽconvergent evolutionʼ, organisms that have independently evolved to develop similar traits as the result of adaptations to similar environments.

Though both agave and aloe are plants you would need to grow indoors in our climate, there are many drought tolerant plants that do grow well here. Perhaps, in honour of world water day you might consider growing some in your garden this year!

Winter aconite

Literally translated to mean ʽspring flowerʼ (Eranthis) ʽof the winterʼ (hyemalis), winter aconite is one of those early flowers that blooms in a point of the year that is not quite winter and not yet spring. It is native to southern Europe and grows well slightly protected under deciduous shrubs, in woodlands or grasslands. Flowering early before other larger plants completely shade it out allows the winter aconite to benefit from the direct light that is able to reach the woodland floor only this early in spring.

The egg yolk-yellow flowers are just starting to poke out of the ground in Spicer Court with their ruffles of leaf-like bracts cupped below them like a frilly collar. Not only are these little leaf-like structures not the actual leaves (which are dark green and emerge once the flower fades), but what appear as petals are actually the plants sepals (leaf like flower part at the outermost whorl of a flower) and the actual petals are bucket-like structures found tucked inside. The showy sepals and tiny nectaries created by the petals attract the few pollinators that are around so early in the year.

The aconite in the name winter aconite comes from perceived similarities in leaf shape and fruit to that of the fall flowering, and infamously poisonous true aconite (Aconitum spp.). Though they have no actual relation, winter aconite is a member of the Ranunculaceae family, which are a notoriously poisonous bunch, and they do contain some toxic constituents.


Though the flowers of this woody shrub are not particularly showy, the seeds it produces possess a wide range of industrial and household uses. The seeds can yield up to 50% oil, a product that is known as the only natural alternative to spermaceti oil (obtained from the threatened sperm whale) and which has long been a valuable ingredient used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry. Jojoba also exhibits several interesting characteristics that make it particularly adapted to surviving in difficult environments with little water, making it a potentially important plant for desertification control.

You may be familiar with, jojoba oil as it is often used in cosmetics for its smoothing and moisturising properties for the skin and hair. This is in part due to its similar chemical structure to the sebum produced by our own skin, which makes the oil readily absorbable. The oil derived from jojoba seeds, which is liquid at room temperature is actually a liquid wax. It is highly resistant to oxidation and rancidity and remains stable at high temperatures. These qualities make it equally sought after for industrial applications as a lubricant and potentially as an energy dense biodiesel fuel.

Though it’s scientific name, Simmondsia chinensis, would indicate that Jojoba is of Chinese origin, it is in fact native to Mexico and the southwestern United States. It was given the species name chinensis when the botanist who originally named the plant misread the hand written collection label. It read ‘Calif’ but he thought it said ‘China’. Jojoba is an important forage for many animals in its native range and has been used in traditional medicines in many of these areas, often as a salve made from the crushed jojoba nuts (or seeds).

Jojoba also has some interesting adaptive characteristics that make it well suited to the tough arid conditions in which it grows. Its thick, leathery leaves help reduce moisture loss and they are jointed at the base so that they can shift position at different times of day, minimising sun exposure. It also has a relatively high tolerance for salt in the soil. These characteristics have uncovered jojoba as a plant of interest for use in combatting desertification and as a potential crop for areas where desertification is an issue. Though it is still proving challenging to cultivate commercially on a wide scale, attempts at breeding for beans with higher wax content and easier harvesting are being made.

Natal Plum

Natal plum is a spiny shrub native to the coastal regions of South Africa (including the southernmost tip, an area called Natal). It is drought tolerant and can withstand salty winds, making it well situated along the seaside of the cape. Known for its sour and sweet fruits high in vitamin C (they contain more than oranges!), and jasmine scented flowers, the prolific Natal plum can bloom continuously for months, and at one time retain both the fruits and flowers on the same shrub. Natal plum is an attractive, colorful shrub with its glossy bottle-green leaves dotted with waxy white flowers. Its glowing egg-shaped fruits ripen from lime green to red to deep purple. It is often planted as a barrier hedge in warmer climates for its clean shape and spiny thorns that make it nearly impenetrable.

Known as amatungulu in Zulu, the fruits are used in traditional medicine in parts of Africa to boost the immune system, protect against cold and flu and to balance blood sugar. The roots, twigs and leaves have also been used in traditional medicine for destroying parasites, as a remedy for toothaches and for a variety of other conditions.

The plum-like, though stone free fruits of the Natal plum can be eaten fresh or cooked up into pies and jams that become vibrant red when boiled down. They are said to taste somewhat like a mix of cranberry, raspberry and apple with the flavour improving with cooking. Natal plums, like figs contain edible latex that reduces as they ripen but which is released when heated. Latex, the milky substance that can be found oozing from an injured plant, is produced in the sap of roughly 10% of all flowering plants. Latex is being studied in plants for its role in transporting defense substances to damaged areas to deter insects and mammals alike and for its ability to help them heal. This sticky substance is one of the things that hinders the fruits of the Natal plum from becoming more widely available as they do not last long once picked before this milky sap congeals. Breeders however have been experimenting with producing cultivars with fruits that have a longer shelf life as well as different ornamental varieties, including ground covers.

Natal plum can be found in the upper level of the Mediterranean Garden.

Echinacea spp.

We are deep into cold season and one of the best cold remedies can be made from the roots and flowers of a beautiful native wildflower that grows all over RBG’s gardens! Echinacea is native to North America and is an important First Nations medicine used externally to heal wounds, burns and bites and internally for coughs colds and headaches. Over the past number of years, it has gained recognition not only in western herbal medicine, but also by the mainstream medical system as one of the most important immune modulator remedies for its ability to improve resistance to and recovery from infection. In fact it is one of the most popular commercial herbal medicines.

As a garden plant, its popularity is also on the rise with many cultivated varieties of Echinacea now available on the market. These cultivars that are available in a diversity of colours (from white to pink, orange, red and green!), forms, sizes and growth habits, are bred from nine species all of which are native to eastern and central North America. Three of these species, E. angustifolia, E. pallida and E. purpurea however, are the ones that have been shown to have medicinal properties.

Echinacea’s ability to stimulate the immune system and the production and function of its cells is what makes it so effective at both preventing, and recovering from infection. However, studies have shown that it is must be taken in sufficient dosages and at the first sign of illness for best results.

Though Echinacea is most widely known as an immune medicine, it is also antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and supports the lymphatic system. It can be used externally as a wash for wounds, infections, including as a gargle for the gums and throat. Its flavour is sweet, turning to bitter, followed by a curious tingly sensation on the tongue.

Echinacea a beautiful plant, with a long flowering period and great for attracting pollinators and birds.


It’s the New Year, and while many people spend this time making resolutions, it’s also a time to give thanks, gather, and spend time with loved ones. While plants may not be a part of today’s mainstream celebrations, historically, plants have been included in many New Year’s customs and festivities.

Wassailing, an old English practice, likened today to caroling, is a New Year’s tradition that consists of going from house to house singing and sharing drinks from what’s called a “wassail bowl” in exchange for gifts. However, traditionally wassailing also included a visit to orchards to quite literally celebrate with the trees! The tradition included thanking the apple trees, bestowing upon them the gifts of song and cider (poured onto the roots and soaked in bread that was hung in the branches), that the trees might be moved to bestow a good harvest in return.

Wassailing the orchards began in cider-producing regions of England that relied heavily upon the apple orchards. Not to mention that cider drinking was also a large part of what kept the celebrations festive out in the orchard in the middle of winter! It was celebrated somewhere in between Christmas day and Twelfth Night (around January 17).

Apples seem a fitting recipient of this honour, as they have long been associated with abundance, health and love. They are packed with nutrition and in our dark cold winters, they are one of the only local fruits that are still juicy and delicious this time of year. Most of the apples we eat today are descendants of Malus pumila, believed to have originated in the mountainous area between the Black and Caspian Seas and to have travelled along with the people of that region as they migrated to different areas.

Wassailing the orchards began in cider-producing regions of England that relied heavily upon the apple orchards. Not to mention that cider drinking was also a large part of what kept the celebrations festive out in the orchard in the middle of winter! It was celebrated somewhere in between Christmas day and Twelfth Night (around January 17).

Apples seem a fitting recipient of this honour, as they have long been associated with abundance, health and love. They are packed with nutrition and in our dark cold winters, they are one of the only local fruits that are still juicy and delicious this time of year. Most of the apples we eat today are descendants of Malus pumila, believed to have originated in the mountainous area between the Black and Caspian Seas and to have travelled along with the people of that region as they migrated to different areas.

The genus, Malus, also includes crabapples of which there are a number of native North American cultivated varieties. Crabapples are often used for cider making, as well as for making jams and jellies. They are an important source of food for wildlife also, particularly birds, and for insect pollinators, so much so that they are often inter-planted in orchards to encourage apple pollination.

All in all, there are many reasons to give thanks for the apples! Even though the trees are bare and the ground is covered in ice, if you want to pay your own respects, the Crabapple Collection in the Arboretum is a great place to wander around any time of year.

Bougainvillea spp.

Lush cascades of bougainvillea in the Mediterranean Garden conjure up tropical scenes and warmer climates, a welcome sight this time of year! Though these plants are now common throughout most areas with a warm climate, they originated in South America. Bougainvillea has since spread widely around the world thanks to its drought and salt tolerance and masses of brilliantly coloured papery bracts. It also has the ability to grow to great size either standing alone, or trailing luxuriously over fences, walls and doorways. The bright colors associated with bougainvillea is actually not from their flowers but rather colorful bracts (modified leaf structures that surround the flowers), while the small, generally cream-coloured blooms inside are fairly modest.

Bougainvillea stands out in Western botanical history as a woman named Jeanne Baret first brought a specimen back to Europe during a botanizing expedition in the 1760’s. At the time, women were not permitted to travel on military ships so there were very few who did. Those who managed to, like Baret, had to do so in disguise. Baret joined the team as the assistant to Philibert Commerson. The two had already worked together for a number of years, during which time they were believed to have had a child together. Commerson was a well-known botanist of the time who had been asked to join the expedition to collect plant specimens. On this journey, Baret, a botanist herself (though poor and informally educated), became the first woman to circumnavigate the world. Because of Commerson’s ill health, Baret took over much of the labour of collecting the over 6,000 plant specimens that were amassed during the expedition, including the specimen of bougainvillea that was collected while in Brazil.

The name ‘Hamamelis’ comes from the Greek ‘hama’ (at the same time) and ‘melon’ (apple or fruit) because the fruits and flowers can be found on the plant at the same time. This is because there is a delay between witch hazels pollination and fertilization, which can last up to 7 months. So, the fruits that occur at flowering were actually ones pollinated the previous fall. Another interesting aspect of witch hazel seeds is that they are dispersed in a process called ‘ballistic seed dispersal’. They quite literally explode out of their casing when they are ready, the little black kernels catapulting up to 30 feet away!

The name ‘bougainvillea’ is a tribute to the captain of the ship that carried Baret and Commerson on this expedition, Louis Antoine de Bougainville. Bougainville was, for most of the journey, completely unaware that the botanist’s assistant was a woman. It is said that he was honoured with having the genus named after him as a way to placate him once Baret’s gender was discovered. Though Commerson has also been remembered by having his name associated with 70 species of plants, it wasn’t until recently that Baret finally received recognition for her contribution when a new species of solanum, Solanum baretiae, was named in her honour.

Witch Hazel

Hamamelis virginiana

“ . . .the flowers are a ragged affair: five long petals, each like a scrap of fading yellow cloth that snagged on the branch, torn strips that wave in the breeze.” – Robin Wall Kimmerer speaking of witch hazel in her book ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’

Other descriptions liken witch hazel flowers to ‘crimped streamers’ or describe their ‘spidery arm-like appendages’. However, you describe them though, the remarkable sunny flowers of Hamamelis virginiana, when they appear in the late fall are certainly a welcome brightness as other flowers fade and disappear. There are four species of Hamamelis (witch hazel). Two of them are native to eastern North America and two are native to Asia, however Hamamelis virginiana is the only species that flowers in fall. The others flower in late winter or early spring. It is generally thought that this characteristic reduces competition for pollinators, and indeed Hamamelis virginiana is an important pollinator for some species of flies, bees and moths at a time of year when all other pollen sources have been exhausted.

The name ‘Hamamelis’ comes from the Greek ‘hama’ (at the same time) and ‘melon’ (apple or fruit) because the fruits and flowers can be found on the plant at the same time. This is because there is a delay between witch hazels pollination and fertilization, which can last up to 7 months. So, the fruits that occur at flowering were actually ones pollinated the previous fall. Another interesting aspect of witch hazel seeds is that they are dispersed in a process called ‘ballistic seed dispersal’. They quite literally explode out of their casing when they are ready, the little black kernels catapulting up to 30 feet away!

Witch hazel is perhaps one of the most common examples of an herbal remedy you might have in your medicine cabinet without even knowing it! Witch hazel extracts were popularised by the Pond’s company, sold originally in 1846 as ‘Golden Treasure’ and then later as ‘Pond’s Extract’. This and other varieties are used commonly today as a toner for the skin, as well as to treat pain, bleeding and inflammation such as in hemorrhoids, varicose veins, bruising and after childbirth. This is mainly due to its anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and astringent properties. The leaves and bark have long been used in Indigenous medicine in North America to treat swellings, aches, inflammations and tumours. They were traditionally prepared as a decoction (a boiled tea), producing a much more potent formula than the distilled product common today.

You can find witch hazel blooming in the Rock Garden.

Mountain Mint

Pycnanthemum virginianum

When walking around the gardens this time of year, it may take your eyes some time to adjust from the vibrant colours and lush greenery of summer and begin to see the beauty that exists in the colours, silhouettes, contrasts, patterns and shapes of the winter garden. Once you do, you will surely be delighted with countless surprises and curiosities. Keep your eyes open for the beautiful contrasts in colour of thorns, berries and exfoliating barks that are visible now that the layers of foliage have diminished. Notice the subtle (and not so subtle!) variation in evergreen colours from dark green to chartreuse, and enjoy the shapes and textures of perennials in winter, such as in a tangle of curling wild indigo leaves, a papery puff of hydrangea tops, or cottony seed heads of anemone and aster.

One example of a plant that stands out more this time of year is mountain mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum) that grows towards the back of the Helen M. Kippax Garden in Hendrie Park. Its blackened stems jump out against the softer tones of pewter seed heads and still dusty green leaves. As a group, the mountain mint provides a swath of muted colour, a cool blue against brighter straw-coloured grasses.

Mountain mint is, as the name suggests, a member of the mint family. Its narrow pointy leaves, when crushed, produce a strong minty fragrance in summer. This prolific pollinator magnet is native to Eastern North America and attracts a number of bees, wasps and butterflies and has long been recognized by Indigenous people in North America as a medicine and food plant. The buds and leaves can be used as minty flavouring in food and tea. Medicinally, the plant has been used to treat headaches, indigestion, coughs and fevers.


Tagetes spp.

Marigolds are a common garden annual, well-loved for centuries for their ability to deter pests (namely protecting root vegetables against nematodes), as a dye plant, for medicinal use, and for ceremonial purposes. With over 50 species of marigold as well as many more modern cultivars, their flowers range in colour from pale yellow and white, to bright orange and deep red.

Marigolds are Native to the Americas, with a great many of them originating in Mexico. There, they have been harvested from the wild for many thousands of years and were first brought into cultivation by the Aztecs, as an important medicine, ceremonial offering and for their beauty. However, these bright little flowers are now commonplace all around the world. They have been taken up, perhaps most ardently, in India where they were brought in the 16th century. Marigolds are now one of India`s most cultivated flowers and a major part of wedding ceremonies and religious offerings.

For such a common, unassuming plant, the lore surrounding marigolds is seemingly endless. Whatever his reasons for naming this plant, it seems fitting that Linnaeus gave them the botanical name Tagetes, a reference to the Greek god Tages who, according to Greek mythology bestowed upon the Etruscans the skill of divination.

Marigolds have a particular significance at this time of the year in Mexico. There, they are commonly known as ‘Flower of the Dead’ or as cempazuchitl in the Nahuatl language. They are an important part of the celebration of Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. This celebration happens every year on November 1st and 2nd. As in many traditions, this time of year is seen as a time when the world of the living and of the dead is bridged, a time when the dead return to the earth and the living can honour and give thanks to their ancestors. In Mexico, the Day of the Dead is a joyous celebration where families traditionally pay respects by visiting gravesites, laying offerings of flowers and other gifts at gravestones and even having picnics beside them. The tradition of creating ofrendas or alters to lost loved ones commonly includes the addition of marigold flowers. As well, the colourful marigold petals and strong scent are sometimes used to create pathways guiding the dead through the house, that the spirits might find their way home to enjoy the offerings there.


Cucurbita pepo

The pumpkin, in cultivation for over 10 000 years, and long a symbol of natural abundance has only relatively recently come to be associated with the October holiday, Halloween. The holiday we now know as Halloween has its roots in the pagan festival, Samhain. This festival marks the passage of the summer harvest season and the beginning of the transition into the dark winter months. It is seen as a time in between, when the veil that separates life and death grows thin and the shift from abundance to scarcity is acknowledged. In the past, it was a time when people would light bonfires in the fields and pay homage to the dead, and in Irish tradition, it was believed that during this time the Aos Si (spirits or fairies) were able to enter more easily between their world and ours.

Traditionally, people carved faces into turnips and potatoes at this time of year and lit them from inside with coals or a candle in order to ward off the less friendly of the spirits. These ‘Jack-‘o-lanterns’ as they were known, were often set along roadways and next to gates, to light the way and give protection. It was not until Irish and Scottish colonists came to America, however that they began to use pumpkins (a plant indigenous to the Americas), instead of turnips.

The term Jack-‘o-lantern itself is quite interesting and otherworldly. It was originally used to describe a phenomenon, ignis fatuus, that occurs in peat bogs and marshlands, wherein an atmospheric light can sometimes be seen flickering above a bog at night. This occurrence, also called will-o’-the-wisp, is said to resemble a flickering lamp that recedes when approached, drawing travellers from the safe path.

As the legend goes, this light is purportedly all that is left of a man named ‘Stingy Jack’. He was a trickster and on several occasions he managed to fool the devil, and eventually they made a deal that the devil wouldn’t take Jack’s soul. However, when Jack eventually died, God would not allow him into heaven for his trickery and the devil, as promised would not take him into hell, leaving him stuck to roam the earth. The devil did however give him a burning coal to guide his way, and so sometimes travellers can see Jack and his lantern as they pass through bogs at night. If you hope to catch sight of Jack and his lamp (other than in pumpkin form), you might be out of luck however, as ignis fatuus sightings are rarely reported anymore. Sadly, this is largely believed to be due to draining and development of so much of our swamplands.

Enjoy your Jack-‘o-lanterns and have a happy Halloween!


Aconitum carmichaelii

Throughout history there have always been plants that humans have associated with magic and mystery. Used in potions, as poisons and revered for their sinister capabilities and characteristics, these spooky plants have touched people’s imaginations through ritual, legend, literature and folk wisdom. It seems appropriate then that monkshood, one of the most talked about plants in this category, begins to bloom just as Halloween approaches!

It is sometimes called ‘Queen of Poisons’ and is a plant steeped in a long history of associations with werewolves, witches, vicious three-headed dogs and spine-chilling murder plots. In Greek mythology, monkshood is said to have been born from the enraged froth of Cerberus’ spittle, when Hercules attempted to extricate him (Hecate’s multi-headed watchdog) from Hades during his twelfth labor. It is also said to have been the poison used by Medea in her attempt to kill Theseus.

Monkshood has long been associated with witches in Europe and North America and is said to be one of the herbs included in recipes for flying ointments. It is purported that this is because of its ability to cause irregular heartbeat and, when combined with the hallucinogenic belladonna and applied to the skin, it might cause something similar to the feeling of flying.

References to monkshood may also be familiar to you under yet another name, wolfsbane. Its place in the magical, mysterious and frightening realms of literature has long associated this plant with werewolves. Some say this is because the early symptoms of poisoning mimic that of rabies. You may recall that wolfsbane was referenced even very recently, in Harry Potter, as part of the formula to relieve the fictitious disease ‘lycanthopy’ that causes one to become a werewolf.

While these mythological capabilities are quite creepy, monkshood in real life is almost as unsettling. This genus of over 100 species of poisonous plants that grow across the northern hemisphere, contain varying amounts of cardiac depressant alkaloids. When consumed these alkaloids are said to cause tingling and numbness in the mouth that transitions to a sensation of ants crawling over the body! The alkaloids have the ability to cross the blood brain barrier affecting nervous system function and can lead to slowed breathing and heart failure within an hour of ingestion. Indeed, it can even cause rashes upon coming in contact with skin. So make sure to wear gloves when working with it in your garden! And make sure to pay due respect to this mysterious and magical flower.

Seven-son flower

Heptacodium miconioides

Virtually unknown in the West before the 1980s, seven-son flower has become a very popular garden plant in North America and Europe in a relatively short period. It can be grown as either a tree or a shrub, depending on how it is pruned. It is popular in the horticultural industry for its versatility, hardiness and all season interest; however in the wild it remains extremely rare. Seven-son flower is native to China, where it is now only known to exist in nine small, physically and genetically isolated populations and remains under threat from human encroachment.

Seven-son flower was first documented in the West in 1907 when E.H. Wilson collected wild specimens on the cliffs at Hsing-shan Hsien during an expedition to China. He was unable to propagate from the specimens, so it wasn’t until 73 years later when specimens were brought back to the United States that Western horticulture took notice. This expedition, a collaboration between American and Chinese hortico-botanists, was significant as the first trip by American botanists following the Chinese Revolution.

The seeds collected from Hangzhou Botanical Garden in China were distributed for propagation by the Arnold Arboretum and the US National Arboretum. Some of the first plants to flower were seen in Vancouver in 1985. Since then, seven-son flower has gained considerable popularity for its impressive displays of fragrant white blooms in autumn. It transforms into a show of reddish flower-like sepals as the blooms drop off in late fall. In the winter, seven-son flower continues to add interest in the garden as it begins to exfoliate its bark, revealing a range of colour and texture. With all these qualities, it’s no wonder that this remarkable plant has taken off in gardens across North America. In fact, now nearly 40 years after being brought to here, there are more plants in cultivation in North America than in all of China.

Its lilac-scented flowers are blooming in the Arboretum, Rock Garden and Hendrie Valley.


Phytolacca americana

While considered a weed in name and growth habit, pokeweed is one of the most striking plants in RBG’s Medicinal Garden. This plant stands over six feet tall with branching magenta tinted stems that pop against clusters of plump berries, ranging in colour from vibrant green when immature to a nearly black, deep purple colour. The tiny pink-white flowers that are now almost entirely finished blooming are a waxy texture and grow in little clusters called racemes at the ends of stems. The flowers mature into berries that cause the stems to droop invitingly under their weight.

Don’t be fooled into plucking one of these tempting fruits, as this is a very powerful plant, not to be taken lightly. In fact, it is a potent medicinal that must be used in minute doses and should be done so under the direction of a trained herbalist. Otherwise, the seeds, mature leaves, and particularly the roots are poisonous. High doses of the plant can cause vomiting and purging, prostration, convulsions and possibly death.

On the other hand, proteins in its leaves have been studied for their efficacy against viruses like herpes, the flu and HIV. While its roots have long been used medicinally for their effectiveness in chronic rheumatism and arthritis and for the powerful stimulatory effect they have on the immune and lymphatic system. The roots are described as having the ability to ‘poke’ the immune system and lymphatic drainage into action.

Pokeweed is not a plant to be trifled with, but that hasn’t stopped people throughout history from finding ways to use this fascinating plant. For example, its berries are said to make an excellent dye and can be processed and fermented to create lasting inks. Perhaps even more surprising, the otherwise poisonous leaves of pokeweed have actually been an important source of early spring greens in the Southern U.S. for several hundred years. In order to eat them safely however, people have developed ways to properly gather and prepare them including boiling them in three different baths of water! In fact, they were so popular at one time there were even several companies in the US that produced and sold canned pokeweed greens.

If you get the chance to visit the Medicinal Garden you won’t be able to miss the pokeweed. It is a plant that commands your attention, and so it should, for all the powerful properties it possesses.

Autumn Crocus

Colchicum autumnal

Although its common name would suggest otherwise, autumn crocus or colchicum, is not in fact related to the spring blooming crocus (Crocus spp.). This unique fall blooming beauty pushes itself up out of the ground as many other plants begin to fade. It has a particularly unique growing cycle, the naked flowers popping up from subterranean corms (swollen underground stems with similar function but different structure to bulbs) in autumn, followed by foliage devoid of flowers, in the spring. The leaves in turn feed nutrients back into the corm and the cycle starts again. Be careful not to cut the leaves back too early or the plant will not flower.

While another fall blooming flower similar in appearance to colchicum, Crocus sativus is prized for its production of the world’s costliest spice, saffron, colchicum also has a history of human use. Colchicum contains compounds that can cause poisoning symptoms similar to cholera. However, like many poisonous plants, its properties have been utilised skillfully by herbalists throughout history for a number of different medical complaints. It contains an alkaloid called colchicine which is used mainly in the treatment of gout. It is this fact that has caused over harvesting of the plant in Europe making it much less common in the wild than it once was. More recently, a synthetic chemical compound, called ICT2588, similar to that which comes from colchicum, is in the early stages of drug development for the treatment of some types of cancer.

If you are up for a little experiment, colchicum flowers can be grown indoors by simply placing them on a windowsill and watching them grow! They do not need soil or water, however as soon as they’re finished their display they should be planted out into the ground as this way of growing them can weaken the corms. Also, after growing this way, it may take another season for them to build up to flowering strength again.

The first colchicums of the season can be seen popping up around the outer edges of Spicer Court, however in the next few weeks you should begin to see more coming up. In particular keep an eye out in Laking Garden along the Hosta Walk for the thousands that are planted there.

Quilled Sweet Coneflower

Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’

Quilled sweet coneflower was introduced to the horticultural world by Larry Lowman in 2003. A native to parts of North America, it was named by horticulturalist and nurseryman Henry Eilers, after coming across it on a stream bank in Illinois. The distinct vanilla scent of its leaves and abundant starbursts of narrow rolled yellow petals surrounding a brown button centre makes it a favorite in the garden as well as for flower bouquets.

The ‘Henry Eilers’ coneflower is a member of the genus Rudbeckia which are commonly known as black-eyed-susan’s. The unique quill shape of the ‘Henry Eilers’ petals differentiates it from the others, however it sharesmany other common characteristics. Rudbeckia’s are native to North America and possess daisy-like flower heads in various shades of gold and yellow with black or purple centres. They are generally drought tolerant and long flowering.

The genus, Rudbeckia, was named by Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist who developed the modern system of naming organisms, called binomial nomenclature. Linnaeus named the genus after his teacher and mentor Olof Rudbeck, saying of his mentor:

“I have chosen a noble plant in order to recall your merits and the services you have rendered, a tall one to give an idea of your stature; and I wanted it to be one which branched and which flowered and fruited freely, to show that you cultivated not only the sciences but also the humanities”

Castor Bean

Ricinus communis

Castor bean is indigenous to parts of the Mediterranean Basin, Eastern Africa, and India. It also grows in many tropical areas around the world. Though it does not tolerate cold, it can be grown here as an annual. Castor bean is an extremely fast growing plant, in Laking Garden on the way to the Hosta Walk it’s now over six feet tall. Under the right growing conditions it can grow to the size of a tree. Howewer, there are smaller varieties, like that in Hendrie Park’s Medicinal Garden which are much more compact.

It’s a beautiful and impressive plant, but beware of its beans. Ricinus communis harbours a toxin, ricin, which is highly poisonous. After castor oil has been extracted, the leftover residue can be heated and safely used as nutritious livestock feed. Though ricin is one of the deadliest toxins known, the oil, which is sold commercially as a health product, has also been made in such a way as to avoid extracting the deadly constituents. This oil has no ricin but instead has another ingredient: ricinolein which is what makes it a powerful laxative. Even one milligram of ricin is lethal for an adult. For this reason it is recommended that caution should be taken with this plant around young children. Interestingly, if a seed is simply swallowed without its coat being broken, it likely will be expelled innocuously.

Castor bean has a long history of use by humans. This plant was so prized in ancient Egypt that some of the seeds have even been found in 4000 year old tombs, alongside gems and precious metals. The oil was used to fuel lamps and for its medicinal benefits. To this day, castor oil is used by midwives to induce labour, among other things such as a compress for aches and pains, and to break up fibroids. In addition, the oil has many other commercial uses in hydraulic break fluids and, because of its very low freezing point, it has been used as lubrication for airplane engines, and even as an ingredient in fake leather.

Obedient Plant

Physostegia virginiana

Obedient plant is a perennial, native to North America from Quebec to Manitoba and south to Florida and New Mexico. Its natural habitat is seasonally flooded well-drained soils and often, when found in the wild it grows in prolific clumps. It has tubular, two-lipped flowers often likened to snap dragons, though it is actually in the mint family. The flowers can range from a rosy tinted white to pink or purple in colour, though the horticultural varieties tend to be more deeply hued than the native wild populations.

Contrary to what its name suggests, in cultivated gardens obedient plant can be rather unruly, taking over large areas. In actuality, the name is derived from the tendency of the flowers, when pushed to one side, to remain in that position. Arranging flowers into patterns is not only fun, but one of the reasons this plant is a favorite in the floristry industry. The mechanism that allows for this phenomenon, called ‘catalepsy’, is at least somewhat due to friction between its stiff bracts (the small modified leaf at the base of the flowers) and the calyx (the little green part at the bottom of the flower that encloses and protects the petals). It is believed that this friction formed at the base of the flower is what partially prevents it from springing back to its original position. Like little weather vanes swivelling around its stem, this fascinating and unique characteristic is still somewhat of a mystery as to why it has evolved this way.

Anemone tomentosa

The name anemone comes from anemos, Greek for breath, and was given to the god of the wind. It seems fitting that these ethereal plants with flowers that float delicately above their foliage should have such a poetic name. It is also fitting that they be associated with the winds, though not for any straightforward reasons.

Some say their connection with the wind is because they love growing in windy conditions (reportedly, Roman naturalist Pliny noted that the morning wind opens the blossoms which close up each evening). However, anemones actually prefer growing in protected areas of the garden. Other than keeping them protected and well-watered, many anemones (such as Anemone tomentosa) flourish once established, tolerating both full sun and partial shade. The main problem might be keeping up with their prolific rhizomes!

It is perhaps more likely that their connection to anemos stems from their ability to usher in the changing seasons. Spring anemones are some of the first to pop up as the snows melt, while fall anemones like Anemone tomentosa are one of the first signs that fall is around the corner. They are the wind of change that blows in at late summer and stays in the garden until fall begins to fade. These fall-blooming anemone are just starting to open in Laking Garden and should continue to bloom until October.

Either way, anemones are richly steeped in folklore and tradition. Depending where you are in the world, they can mean many different things. According to Greek mythology, when Adonis was killed by a boar, Aphrodite wept in grief. When her tears touched the earth they sprung up as anemones. In fact, some traditions used anemone to commemorate the dead and as a symbol of unfading love. On the other hand, anemone has also been associated with death, ill omens and dying hope. In other traditions it is more representative of anticipation. An interesting perspective connects all these themes, suggesting that the wind that blows the petal open will also eventually blow the dead petals away.

Rose Mallow Hibiscus

Hibiscus moscheutos and Hibiscus coccineus

If you’ve walked around the gardens this week you’ve likely noticed the rose mallow hibiscus, as their giant saucer like flowers are hard to miss. Hibiscus moscheutos ‘Southern Belle’ which can be found outside Hendrie Park kiosk is a cultivated variety of a North American native plant. In Canada, it is found only in southern Ontario. While the ‘Peppermint Schnapps’ variety that is growing in the Rock Garden is more closely related to Hibiscus coccineus, a native of the more southern regions of the United States. Rose mallows like moisture and their preferred habitat is open, sunny wetlands and riverbanks. In fact, their seed capsules have adapted to be able to float on water in order to facilitate seed dispersal.

Rose mallow flowers range in color from white to deep red. These incredible flowers can reach up to a foot in diameter and are some of the largest produced by a winter hardy perennial. For such an impressive display, each individual bloom lasts only one to two days! However, a large plant at the peak of its bloom can produce up to 20 of these show stopping flowers in a day, with new ones blooming successively from midsummer into the fall.

It might be interesting to notice the similarities between these flowers and the tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa sinensis). You can find some of these blooming in the Scented Garden in Hendrie Park.



This summer has been a record for dry conditions and the drought we’re experiencing doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon. As you walk around the Gardens, you might take note that there are certain plants that continue to thrive even in these harsh conditions. Yarrow is one of these plants. The perennial is native to temperate areas of the Northern hemisphere in Asia, Europe and North America. It’s hardy and tenacious and has long been admired as a medicine, in gardens and for its “protective powers”.

The name yarrow is derived from hieros, which means sacred, because of the plant’s association with ceremonial magic. It is known in many traditions around the world as a plant of protection. Its botanic name, Achillea, is in honour of the famous warrior of ancient Greece, Achilles. It is said that in order to give him protection on the battlefield, his mother took him by the ankle and dipped him into a bath of yarrow tea. Every part of him that was bathed in the tea was covered in a layer of protection. However she didn`t take into account the area that was covered by her thumb and forefinger as she dipped him in. This small area on his ankle, where she had held him, became famously known as the Achilles heel and eventually led to his downfall.

Achilles was also said to have carried yarrow on the battlefield to heal the wounded soldiers. In fact, yarrow is a terrific first aid treatment for wounds. It acts in several ways; as an antiseptic, an astringent, a styptic (it stops bleeding) and by promoting tissue repair. It is also an excellent herb for colds and flu as it helps ease congestion, and reduce fevers. Yarrow also belongs to an interesting group of herbs called ‘amphoteric’; these are medicines which can have two opposite effects depending on what is needed in the body. For example, yarrow is known to tone blood vessels that are weak and relax those that are constricted.

Achillea millefolium grows wild around Ontario is the species best known for its medicinal properties. However, it can tend to spread aggressively when planted in a garden. Unless you want a medicine chest full of yarrow (you might now that you know all of its medicinal benefits), consider others like the robust yellow Achillea filipendulina or the low growing Achillea siberica. There are many types of yarrow cultivars which you can find in colours ranging from white to pink, yellow and red.

Perovskia atriplicifolia

Russian sage

Russian sage has become so common in gardens in recent years it is easy to overlook. If you wander into the bottom bowl of the Rock Garden one of these hot summer days and you might change your mind. From a distance, the clumped plantings clinging to the banks of the water feature are like a secondary stream, meandering alongside. As you stroll down the steps and into the bottom of the bowl, the silvery leaves and cool purple flowers interspersed amongst grasses and giant coneflower envelope you like a cloud. Buzzing with bees and moths feasting on its nectar, the Russian sage is like a cool breeze in the hot heavy days of midsummer. It is not surprising that some members of the Perovskia genus have been shown to have medicinal benefits as a ‘refrigerant’, used medicinally as a cooling agent in fever.

One benefit to the humidity that we’ve been having is that flower fragrances are often stronger when the air is humid. The humidity allows the scent molecules to travel farther and makes them easier for your nose to pick up. Some flowers even release more fragrant compounds under humid conditions. It wouldn’t be surprising if this was the case for Russian sage, because the air is heavy with its scent. It almost makes up for the sticky heat.

Contrary to its name, Russian sage is not Russian at all. It is actually native to Afghanistan, the western Himalayas and parts of China. Russian sage has grown and adapted to the harsh climates, on steppes, hillsides and at high elevation throughout these regions. It’s not surprising that in this hot summer, the drought that has affected so many plants seems not to have touched Russian sage. In fact, it is one of the most heat and drought tolerant perennials available. As interest in finding plants to withstand changing global climates becomes more widespread it is easy to see why plants like Russian sage will only become more popular. Luckily it is also one that has so many other benefits to your garden.

Veronicastrum virginicum

Culver’s root

Laking Garden’s Perennial Borders is in full bloom right now, an explosion of vibrant yellows, lush greens and splashes of purple. If you wander around the Garden paths that divide the beds you will find hidden gems tucked into every corner. Towards the back of the middle garden is a stand of the native perennial, Culver’s root. It is recognized by its tall, upright stems and deep green lance-shaped leaves that are arranged like collars, in whorls around its neck. Atop these, are spikes of small white flowers that branch off like little candelabras.

It is said to be named after Dr. Culver (or Dr. Coulvert), a physician in the United States around the 18th century, though not much more information about him is widely available. It can be ascertained, however, that Dr. Culver must have been a follower of the heroic tradition of medicine. This tradition, popular at the time, used treatments with immediate and dramatic results (such as bloodletting and purging) to treat their patients. They believed that these extreme measures would cleanse the body of the offending disease, the more extreme the better. Culver’s root, when used fresh, is a good example of this. The fresh root is a powerful cathartic (or purgative) and was likely used for this affect by Dr. Culver. More gentle effects on the liver and digestion are said to be found in the dried root, which has a long history of use in indigenous medicine for intestinal problems and fever.

In the Garden, Culver’s root is admired for its vertical integrity, spiky branching flower heads and spiraling foliage. While it is likened in appearance to Veronica (its scientific name, Veronicastrum literally means false Veronica), its height and distinctive leaves stand it apart. Culver’s root can be found in several different Gardens here at RBG. In the Perennial Borders, it provides a delicate white contrast to some of the brighter and bolder flowers. In Hendrie Park’s Helen M. Kippax Garden, it offers interest along the paths, while a violet variety looks lovely amongst the swaying grasses in the Rock Garden Bowl.

Monarda didyma

Bee balm

Bee balm is native to eastern North America and, as the name suggests, one that is popular with pollinators. It is interesting to note that the particular species of bee balm found in the Helen M. Kippax garden, Monarda didyma, is one of 19 plants in the eastern United States said to have co-evolved alongside hummingbirds.

Bee balm also has a long history of popularity and use by people who love it for its delicious oregano-like flavour (the tiny flowers are delicious and you can make a tea from the leaves too) as well as its medicinal properties. It’s known for its long blooming period and pleasant scent.

Many of the common names for this plant arose out of its use by European settlers looking for familiar flavours in their new home. For example, it was called bergamot for its similarity in flavour to that of the bergamot orange. It also became popularly known as Oswego tea amongst American settlers who learned from the indigenous people in the Oswego New York that it could be drunk as a replacement to their familiar black teas (Camellia sinensis). It became very popular when tea imported from Great Britain became highly taxed in America, resulting in the famous Boston Tea Party.

However, long before this, First Nations people across North America used bee balm as an important culinary and medicinal plant. It was used to aid digestion, for gas, bloating and upset stomach as well as for fevers and to promote sweating. Bee balm is high in thymol (a highly antiseptic constituent first isolated in thyme) and was widely used as an antiseptic for wounds, mouth and throat infection.

Nigella damascena


Wander over to the medicinal garden in Hendrie Park and you will find a patch of love-in-the-mist carpeting the Gastrointestinal Garden. Love-in-the-mist is an annual known for its solitary blue flowers (with cultivars ranging in colour from white, to pink, to violet) floating atop stems feathered with finely cut thread-like leaves. This lacy web of foliage gives the appearance of a mist surrounding the delicate flowers and inspiring its common name, love-in-the-mist. Funnily enough, it is also sometimes known as ‘devil-in-the-bush’, referring to its striking horned seed capsules.

The species epithet damascena is a reference to its origin in Syria. It is said that the plant travelled to Northern Europe in 1570; however, recent excavations have found carbonised seeds of Nigella damascena in a bronze-age mine in the central Alps. These likely travelled either by trade or with workers in the mine who had migrated to Europe, bringing with them these treasured seeds.

Love-in-the-mist is a member of the buttercup family. Interestingly enough, most members of this family are poisonous to humans. However, the black teardrop shaped seeds of love-in-the-mist have long been used as a culinary and medicinal herb in the Middle East and Europe. The seeds taste slightly spicy though they are far less flavourful than those of their relative, Nigella sativa (commonly known as ‘Black Seed’ or ‘Black Cumin’). Nigella Sativa has been known for thousands of years as a medicinal panacea in many different traditions, from ancient Greek physicians, to the Ancient Egyptians. It is said that the Prophet Muhammad even advised his followers: "Use the black seed, because it contains a cure for every type of ailment except death." While love-in-the-mist has been used medicinally, its effects are far milder and less widely studied. The seeds tend to be used more as a condiment and the flowers as a beautiful addition to any garden.

Eryngium × zabelii

Sea Holly

Eryngium is a genus of flowering plants which is made up of around 250 species. Eryngium is more commonly known as Sea Holly and can be found in many parts of the world, mainly in coastal areas and grasslands. It is often mistaken for a thistle but actually isn’t in the same family. In fact, Eryngium is part of the same family as carrots.

Sea Holly was popular in the 17th and 18th century when its roots were candied and sold as ‘kissing comfits’ to sweeten the breath. These sweets were also known as eryngoes and boasted aphrodisiacal qualities. The selling of eryngoes was a popular trade in Tudor England and is even mentioned by Shakespeare in the Merry Wives of Windsor in reference to its use as an aphrodisiac:

“Let the sky rain potatoes; let it thunder to the tune of “Green Sleeves”; hail kissing comfits, and snow eryngoes.”

This particular variety of Sea Holly is a showy, intensely-iridescent, violet blue. It’s the result of a chance open pollination, which occurred in a controlled outdoor nursery environment in England in 1997. It is easily grown in dry, sandy, well-drained soils in full sun and is fairly tolerant of poor soil and drought. The intensity of it colors is best in areas with full sun and cool nights.

Wander down to the center bowl of the Rock where you can find this lovely Sea Holly growing along the edge of the water.

Tilia platyphyllos

Big Leaf Linden

The Arboretum seems quiet now that Lilac season has ended. However, a short walk through the Avenue of Trees (west of the Lilac dell) will land you at the trunk of a towering Linden tree, which is buzzing with activity, literally. Linden in bloom appears quiet and peaceful in its lush green canopy but upon approach thousands of delicate yellow-green flowers gracefully dangle down from under its branches. If you were to close your eyes and try and find the tree, you would be drawn to the hum of multitudes of pollinator bees, the air thick with the honey-like smell of its flowers.

Like the Linden, pollinator week has gone by relatively unnoticed. But for the bees that rely on plants like the Linden, we need to start paying attention. Pollinators are suffering around the world from loss of habitat, chemical misuse, introduced and invasive plant and animal species, disease, and parasites. Organizations like Pollinator Partnership Canada and Seeds of Diversity have been running programs across the country this week to draw attention to what is happening to the world’s pollinators and to reiterate that protecting pollinators is also about ensuring healthy ecosystems and food security for all of us.

It is not only bees though that have a long-standing relationship with the Linden tree, humans have revered it as a holy tree across Europe and North America. It is usually associated with the qualities of grace, love, justice and protection. Historically, it is said that the Germanic people held their judicial meetings under the branches of the Linden tree as it was believed the tree would unearth the truth.

In addition, many parts of Linden have long been used by humans. Its wood has been used for carving the inner bark as a fiber for rope and basket making and the flowers in perfumes, honey and medicines. Linden is highly regarded as a relaxing remedy, easing tension and stress. It is also known as an overall tonic for the cardiovascular system, having a restorative effect on blood vessel walls. Linden’s affinity for the heart and relieving tension and anxiety makes it a useful herb in nervous palpitations, arteriosclerosis and even heartache. Because of the aromatic volatile oils that make it smell so good, Linden makes a delicious tea that can be drunk hot or cold!

Paeonia (Itoh Group)

‘Garden Treasure’

The Garden Treasure Peony is eye-catching for its soft golden yellow flowers and muted red flares of colour at the petal base. It was introduced in 1984 by Don Hollingsworth of Missouri and in 1996 it was awarded the gold medal from the American Peony Society. Notably, it is the only intersectional hybrid to have received this prestigious award.

Intersectional peonies get their name because each parent is from a different ‘section’ of the genus Paeonia. They are the result of a cross between an herbaceous peony and a tree peony, a feat that evaded generations of peony breeders. It was not until 1948 that Japanese hybridizer Toichi Itoh successfully bred an intersectional peony. For this reason, they are sometimes referred to as Itoh peonies.

These peonies are of particular interest for displaying the robust paper-like blooms of the tree peony combined with the lush foliage of the herbaceous peony. In addition, intersectional varieties made possible a true rich yellow herbaceous peony (as seen in Garden Treasure) which had previously been impossible due to the lack of a true yellow herbaceous species. The development of these plants has increased the range of colours available for herbaceous peonies and introduced the flares (contrasting colour markings at the petal base).

Perhaps the most poignant part of the story is that although Mr. Itoh produced a number of successfully intersectional peonies, he died in 1956 and it was not until several years later that these plants first bloomed revealing the fruits of his success. ‘Garden Treasure’ can be found in the peony collection in Laking Garden, along with a variety of intersectional and Itoh peonies.

Dictamnus albus

Gas plant

Dictamnus albus, commonly known as gas plant (also: burning bush, dittany and fraxinella), is a herbaceous perennial native to southern Europe, north Africa and Asia.

Gas plant is cultivated mainly for its showy flowers and lemon-scented leaves. The delicate flowers grow in long pyramidal spikes up to one meter with colours varying from pale purple to white. The slightly fragrant flowers only bloom for a brief period (about two weeks) in late spring to early summer but give way to attractive star-shaped seed pods. It grows best in well-drained soil and full sun (though can tolerate some shade). Once established, it is a lovely low maintenance plant great for borders.

Dictamnus has some reported historical use as a medicinal plant, likely due to the volatile oils that it produces, however it is classified as a poisonous plant and can cause skin irritation when touched. It should not be confused with dittany of Crete, Origanum dictanum, an edible and medicinal herb used in Greece.

Gas plant’s name refers to the glue-like, flammable substance it’s covered in during summer months. If ignited, the plant catches fire in a burst of methane gas without harming itself. This is due to an essential oil that gives off an inflammable vapour in heat or in dry, cloudy weather. The plant’s other common name, burning bush, denotes to a supposed biblical reference.

Dictamnus albus can be admired in Hendrie Park’s Medicinal Garden.

Geum triflorum

Prairie Smoke

Geum triflorum, or Prairie Smoke, is a herbaceous perennial plant that blooms mid-spring to early summer. Contrary to its common name, Prairie Smoke is not only native to the prairies but also here in Ontario, along with other regions from northern Canada to New York and California.

Part of the Rosaceae (rose) family, Prairie Smoke’s name is due to its blossoms. Once they open up, the flowers resemble a pinkish smoke hovering over the plant with a wispy, feathering effect. Its bell-shaped flowers hang in groups of three.

The plant is relatively easy to maintain and doesn’t require special attention after the initial spring planting period. It does well in either partial sun or full sun and can grow in drier conditions after its spring growth.

Previously used as a wash for body aches, the Indigenous peoples of the Northwest Plateau tribes also used Prairie Smoke roots in tea to treat tuberculosis. The plant’s aromatic seeds have also been used as perfume in the past.

Gem triflorum can currently be seen complementing the lower bowl of the David Braley and Nancy Gordon Rock Garden.

Syringa ×hyacinthiflora


Syringa ×hyacinthiflora ‘Turgot’ is reliably always the first lilac to flower in the Katie Osborne Lilac Garden. Having checked on this plant earlier in the week sure enough the first few florets are emerging bringing the promise of a fragrant start to lilac bloom season. Hyacinth lilacs are notable as the earliest flowering lilacs often producing blooms 10-14 days before cultivars of Syringa vulgaris (common lilac) and other species and hybrids. Understanding lilacs by bloom season is a great way in which to plan for planting lilacs in your own garden. If for example you choose to plant a hyacinth lilac, a common lilac and a Preston lilac (Isabella Preston hybridized lilacs to suit the Canadian climate and are thus Canada’s introduction s to the lilac world) one can achieve a bloom sequence of up to six weeks long.

This particular cultivar was introduced by V. Lemoine & Son based in Nancy, France and was first commercially available in the Lemoine catalogue 194 in 1921. The catalogue (from the Historical Horticultural Catalogue Collection at RBG) describes the cultivar ‘Turgot’ as having “Broad panicles, single, round flowers of purplish rose passing to soft mauve, very striking”. It is noted in the International Lilac Register that the name Turgot was chosen for this plant to honour Anne Robert Jaques Turgot (1727-1781) who was a French Jurist, statesman and economist.

Keep an eye on the What’s in Bloom web page for lilac bloom progression and other bloom related news.

Fritillaria imperialis

Crown Imperial

Part of the lily family, Fritillaria imperialis is native to Asia, specifically the Himalayan foothills, Iran and Afghanistan. Imperialis refers to “the emperor” which makes sense when considering its crown-like flowers. Sometimes referred to as Crown Imperial, the plant’s unique tropical appearance draws attention to itself with a tall stalk, top leaf bracts and bright bell-shaped flowers that hang from it. The flowers’ wild form is red-orange but other variations allow them to grow in red and yellow.

Crown Imperials are perennials and typically grow to about 1 meter (or 3 feet). It’s a moderately-difficult plant to grow due to the way the bulb is formed with the stem emerging from a depression. Because of this, it should be planted on its side in sunny areas with well-drained soil.

Fritillaria imperialis is a mid/late spring flower and is currently blooming in both Laking Garden and Hendrie Park.


One of the first to bloom, Crocus is the flower of joy and cheerfulness that celebrates the return of spring. This ephemeral favourite grows from a structure called a corm, which is a swollen underground plant stem that acts as storage for essential sugars and nutrients that the plant needs to survive winter and the extreme heat of summer. Crocuses are members of the Iris family, are native to Europe, North Africa and Asia, and were first cultivated in the Mediterranean on the Island of Crete for saffron in the 8th century.

Crocuses have singular, cup-shaped flowers typically with six petals. They are available in many colours and colour variations, but the most common are white, purple and yellow. Their leaves are narrow, bright green, grass-like and typically have an obvious white margin down the centre of the leaf. The stamens are a bright orange-yellow; saffron is collected from the stigmas, which are the pollen bearing part of the autumn flowering crocus, Crocus sativus.

Planting Crocuses is easy, dig a hole 3-4 inches deep, and place the corm in the hole with the “tip” side up. Next, cover the corm with soil and finally, water it. Crocuses prefer being planted in full sun and are a wonderful addition to lawns and meadow gardens. Avoid planting crocuses in water-logged areas because the presence of too much moisture will rot the corms. Crocuses are currently poking through the lawn at RBG Centre at Royal Botanical Gardens.


Air Plants

Bromeliads or Air Plants as they are colloquially known are Native to the Americas and are unique plants because of their aerial habitat. Most species of Bromeliad can survive out of soil and usually affix themselves to another plant, such as the canopies of trees for support. Their leaves are covered with tiny scales that allow them to collect moisture from humidity and from runoff rainwater that trickles down the bark of host trees. Their brightly coloured bracts, which are modified leaves that aid in attracting pollinators, are showier then the inconspicuous flowers on most bromeliads and attract pollinators such as hummingbirds and butterflies.

Often, these plants are homes for many tiny tropical animals. Because of the cupped foliage on most of these plants, when it rains water gets trapped inside the plant’s leaves and form small pools. These pools provide homes for tree frogs and their tadpoles, and in turn, the waste the frogs leave behind create fertilizer for the plants.

These plants rely on relationships with other living beings in order to survive which is what makes them unique but it’s what also makes them vulnerable. If something happens to their host tree or its amphibious inhabitants, the plant is at risk of drought and starvation. Bromeliads are at the epicentre of their own fragile ecosystem because they rely on other beings for survival, while providing food and shelter to others.

Ask for directions to view the Bromeliad display in RBG Centre at Royal Botanical Gardens to take a closer look at these magnificent plants.

Picea abies

Norway Spruce

One of the most common sights at Christmas time, Picea abies represents tradition and steadfast beauty in the harrowing months of winter. This tree is one of the largest and most cold hardy trees in North America. It can grow up to 180 ft. tall and belongs in cold hardiness zone 2B which means this plant can withstand temperatures as low at -42°. This tree is native to Central Europe, is often planted for its wood, and is the main species that many countries around the world use as a Christmas trees.

Some of the earliest instances of conifers being involved in Christmas celebrations have been recorded as far back as the early 16th century in Renaissance era Germany. Many people thought that decorating the property and home with evergreen twigs and trees would ward off evil spirits during the long winter months. The tradition was first brought to North America by Europeans to Quebec in the late seventeen hundreds during the holiday season, since then the popularity of the Christmas tree has grown exponentially and has become an icon for the holiday season in North America.

Picea abies can be seen in the pinetum in the arboretum at Royal Botanical Gardens.

Pachyphytum oviferum


This succulent plant is native to Mexico where it thrives in its arid habitat. This plant has thick egg shaped leaves that can range from sea-foam green to a bluish lilac and grow circularly around the main stem. This plant, like many succulents, has a fibrous root system. The plant keeps its roots near the surface of the soil, which allows the plant to absorb water, even from the lightest of rainfalls or even heavy morning dew. All the water gets stored in the plants fleshy leaves and sometimes a large taproot. A thick waxy layer protects the plump leaves of Pachyphytum oviferum, this feature is called a cuticle and it prevents water from evaporating from the plants leaves in high temperatures that our in the desert like habitat it is native to.

Pachyphytum oviferum makes an excellent indoor plant because it requires very little maintenance. It is recommended that this succulent be planted in a very well-draining medium in a container that has holes for excess water to escape. Overwatering is the number one cause of succulent death so monitor your watering habits and place the plant in a sunny warm location.

Pachyphytum oviferum is on display in the Mediterranean Garden in RBG centre at RBG.

Heptacodium miconioides

Seven Son Tree

Heptacodium miconioides is the only member of the genus Heptacodium, growing to about 8 metres in height this tree is perfect for smaller properties and for those who want a late show of colour. This tree was discovered in 1907 in China and is considered a vulnerable species by IUCN. This tree takes an irregular form that would complement a Japanese of Chinese style garden. All parts of this tree are highly ornamental; pure white flowers open in late summer then give way to crimson colour bracts that last until snow covers the ground. Additionally, the exfoliating bark adds texture to dull winter landscapes.

Heptacodium miconioides is well loved by gardeners and horticulturalists alike, this tree is a highly versatile piece that can practically be applied to any landscape. This tree is very fast growing, and shade tolerant. Propagation is fairly easy and done by either softwood cutting or seed. This tree is tolerant of most pests, diseases, light conditions and soil types so long as the location is well drained. Overall, this tree is an excellent option for late season interest and supports late season pollinators.

Heptacodium miconioides’ colourful bracts are currently on display in the Morrison Woodland Garden in Hendrie Park at RBG.

Symphoricarpos albus


This snow-white beauty reminds us of the winter season that’s just around the corner...

Symphoricarpos albus or the Snowberry as it’s commonly called, is a native shrub that grows throughout the Western United States and Canada. This shrub prefers a shaded forest-like habitat and is a great hardy shrub option for Gardeners that have shade gardens or native gardens. This plant also enjoys moist soil and can tolerate wet feet. One of the more resilient options for the landscape, this shrub is rated hardy up to USDA zone 2.

Though the flowers are rather inconspicuous on this shrub, the fruit is what makes it a highly sought after ornamental. The berries formed after flowering are the purest white that a fruit could be. They are ovate to spherical and fruit in large concentrated groups on the branch. When broken open or split, the flesh inside the berry looks like very fine white crystals or snow.

Symphoricarpos albus is a very important food source for many of Ontario’s ground nesting birds. Quails, grouse, pheasant and turkeys rely on plants like Symphoricarpos albus and other late autumn to winter fruiting shrubs to provide food and shelter necessary for winter survival. Please note: the fruit of this shrub is poisonous to humans and should not be consumed. Symptoms include: nausea, dizziness and, sedation.

Symphoricarpos albus is currently fruiting in the Helen M. Kippax Garden, located in Hendrie Park at Royal Botanical Gardens.

Aconitum Napellus

This deadly beauty springs to life in the days of autumn when the weather seems to be its most dreary. Aconitum napellus contains one of the most lethal toxins in the natural world; even brushing up against this plant can cause severe health problems. Yet, left on its own, it is a gorgeous fall flower that offers supports many pollinators in the later seasons. This plant is endemic to European wetlands like the Alps, where it is considered an endangered species. It has tall strong stocks that bare deep purple flowers that contrast perfectly with fiery autumn hues. The flowers have a unique form that resemble a helmet or hood granting this plant is common or English name: Monkshood.

This plant should only be handled with gloves and extreme care. A stratifying period is required in order to germinate the seeds and, seedlings should be planted in part shade with plenty of moisture. The upright form of this plant allows for versatility when designing a bed though it is suggested that it be placed towards the back due to its height. Some primping and removal of dead leaves is recommended to keep this plant looking optimal but not necessary for performance.

Lore and legends surround Aconitum napellus; it was once said that this plant had the magical capabilities that would allow humans to transform into animals. It was also said that an antidote of Aconite would cure humans who’ve turned to werewolves.

Aconitum Napellus is currently in bloom in Hendrie park, at Royal Botanical Gardens.

Aster novae-angliae ‘Alma Potschke’

New England Aster ‘Alma Potschke’

Even in cooler temperatures, the garden still surprises us with fantastic showy colours. One of the plants responsible is Aster novae-angliae ‘Alma Potschke’, this hardy aster is a stunner in the garden, impressing even the most seasoned of native gardeners. What’s particularly impressive about this perennial is its many bright pink blooms that open in late summer and carry over till late autumn. Additionally, this plant has an upright and vigorous growth habit and is particularly attractive to butterflies and various other pollinators.

This plant is an excellent addition to the garden, it is very easy to grow and can tolerate moist to dry soils in full sun or part shade. You can pinch this plant back in summer to keep a more compact form if desired. Furthermore, this plant can be used to naturalize previous garden areas because it has integrated so seamlessly with our local flora that native insect and bird species would only benefit from the food and shelter this plant provides. Pruning and division is recommended to keep this plant looking fresh and to promote air circulation to avoid things like powdery mildew and rot.

Aster novae-angliae ‘Alma Potschke’ is currently in full bloom in Kippax Garden in Hendrie Park at Royal Botanical Gardens.

Ageratina altissima

White Snakeroot

Ageratina altissima is a poisonous perennial native to North America. It is a wildflower and a member of the aster family. This perennial is tall, upright with pretty white blooms. A relatively late blooming wildflower hits peak bloom in late September. This plant has many wonderful ornamental features; like tall, strong stocks and attractive foliage. Many gardeners love this plant for its late blossoms and wonderful texture. The cultivar ‘Chocolate’ is a popular choice amongst gardeners because of its dark chocolaty foliage and snowy white flowers. This plant performs well in both sun, shade, and is not too fussy when it comes to soil type.

Early settlers believed that making a poultice from the root of this plant could cure snakebites. Unfortunately, this plant is toxic and cased many deaths to early settlers because of Milk Sickness. This occurred when livestock ingested this plant and the toxins along with it. When humans consumed this vesture, the toxicity would get into their systems and begin having serious symptoms often leading to death. Symptoms in animals include depression, lethargy and, difficulty breathing. If you suspect this plant has poisoned an animal, phone a veterinarian immediately as this animal needs urgent care.

To see this pretty plant in bloom take a stroll through Kippax Garden located in Hendrie Park at Royal Botanical Gardens.

Tetradium daniellii

Korean Evodia

Native to Korea and southwestern China, Tetradium daniellii has made its way into North American landscapes as a popular flowering tree. It has glossy green leaves that are compound and keep their green colour until autumn. The bark is smooth, gray and, doesn’t furrow with age. Flowers are small, white and scented. They attract many different kinds of pollinators but are a notorious favourite of honeybees. Trees get so overwhelmed with bees that the tree itself sounds like its buzzing in late summer when the tree hits peak bloom. After the flowers have faded, the tree produces red pods with black seeds that look even showier than the blooms. These seeds are small and appealing to wildlife, they attract many birds and small animals in the autumn months when gathering food is critical.

Generally easy to grow, Tetradium daniellii prefers a sunny location with lots of irrigation for the first 5 years of its establishment, watering can become less frequent as the tree grows older. Usually, this tree is low maintenance with high potential of attracting important pollinators to your back yard.

The bright red fruit of Tetradium daniellii can be viewed in the Laking Garden at Royal Botanical Gardens on the middle terrace.

Carissa macrocarpa

Natal Plum

A risky venture full of thorns and rashes, the sugary fruit of Carissa macrocarpa keeps culinary enthusiasts coming back for more.

Native to South Africa, Carissa macrocarpa is a medium sized shrub that is covered in spines and excretes latex. It has deep green glossy leaves that are round and evergreen. This plant also has snowy white blooms that are star shaped and scented of honey. The scent intensifies at night and is one of the reasons why this shrub is a popular landscape plant in its native range. The fruit of this plant is about the size of a kiwi fruit and bright red. Not only is the fruit visually pleasing, it is edible and quite delicious, but only when ripe. All other parts of this plant are poisonous and all culinarians should proceed with caution.

Carissa macrocarpa grows well in harsh salty environments and is a good choice for seaside areas. Though it is a tropical plant, many have found that this plant makes an excellent candidate for bonsai and as an indoor ornamental. A lot of sunlight is needed to grow this plant, so an area with large windows is preferable.

Carissa macrocarpa is currently blooming and fruiting in the Mediterranean Garden in RBG Centre at Royal Botanical Gardens.

Ficus carica

Common Fig

Ficus carica has been cultivated since ancient times and has significant symbolism in many religions and legends. This deciduous tree has been farmed globally as both an ornamental plant and fruit crop. This tree was one of the first plants to ever be cultivated by humans with evidence tracing back to approximately 9400–9200 BC; this could prove to be one of the earliest instances of agriculture in human history.

Ficus carica is medium sized tree with smooth white bark and deeply lobbed large leaves. The flowers are developed and concealed by a structure known as the syconium; because of this, the flowers of Ficus carica are not visible. The fruit of this tree is pear-shaped and about 8-10 cm from tip to base. When split open, the flesh of the fruit is pink to magenta and very sweet when ripe.

Ficus carica has only female flowers, which means it can produce fruit without fertilization or pollination also known as being a parthenocarpic plant. This tree enjoys dry substrate or rocky soils therefore; it is recommended that it be planted in a very sunny, dry location. This tree can be grown locally either by bringing the plant indoors during winter or, by digging a trench into the ground, tying up the branches, burring the tree and covering it with mulch for the winter season. This crop is very forgiving and can handle the apparent roughness of these farming techniques.

Ficus carica is currently fruiting at the Mediterranean Garden in RBG Centre at Royal Botanical Gardens.

Stachys byzantina

Lamb’s Ear

Thick, soft and silvery, Stachys byzantina is truly a plant you’d want to cuddle up to. Known for its thick, woolly leaves, this cute little perennial adds plush fun to any garden setting. Easy to grow and tolerant of dry spots this low growing perennial is ideal for borders or filler. The remarkable “fur” this plant grows is an adaptation developed due to the harsh, dry nature of its native environment and the plants tendency to be predated by animals.

Stachys byzantina prefers dry well drained soil and direct sunlight. It has a mounding habit and spreads generally as wide as it is tall. It is tolerant of poor soil quality and propagated readily from division. Too much watering can result in rot and brown spots due to the plants fuzzy nature and its inclination to retain topical moisture. When in flower, this plant sends shoots of light pink to magenta coloured florets just past the height of its silvery leaves but are somewhat inconspicuous because of the felt hiding the blooms. When done flowering, cut back the blooms to the base and new foliage will emerge. The leaves develop quickly and reach full size by the time flowering occurs. The leaves remain on the plant for the majority of the growing season and late into autumn and, on occasion into early winter. Annual rejuvenation is recommended to keep the plant looking fresh and clean for the season.

Stachys byzantina is currently growing in Oak Allee at Hendrie Park in Royal Botanical Gardens.

Nelumbo nucifera

Sacred Lotus

With deep cultural roots and an air of mysticism, Nelumbo nucifera conveys a sense of tranquility in any aquatic space.

Nelumbo nucifera is native to Asia and found in a range of shallow wetland habitats. The root or rhizome is thick and porous. This plant relies on its strong rhizomes to anchor itself to the bottom of ponds and rivers to keep it from floating away. The leaves of this plant are extremely hydrophobic. This means that the leaves repel water, so much so that even if honey was dropped on the leaves that it would just roll off like a droplet of water. This unique feature keeps muddy water off the leaves so the plant has an easier time photosynthesizing. The bloom is probably the most visually intriguing part of the plant, reaching heights of 1-2 feet off the surface of the water; the blooms of the Sacred Lotus are huge. Fading from pink to white and sunny yellow in the middle, this flower practically has an aura of its own.

Nelumbo nucifera has been cultivated for over 3000 years and is a regularly consumed food crop in various places in Asia. All parts of the plant are edible, the roots are often boiled or sliced and deep-fried like chips and the seeds are turned into a paste that is used in traditional Chinese baking like mooncakes and sesame pastries.

Nelumbo nucifera is a very important symbol in Buddhism, it’s growth represents the progression of the soul to enlightenment. Once the opened flower appears Nelumbo nucifera represents purity, original nature and, wisdom.

This spectacular plant is currently in bloom in the reflecting pools of Hendrie Park.

Quercus suber

Mediterranean Cork Oak

One of the world’s most unique crops, Quercus suber is an evergreen oak that is native to the Iberian peninsula of the Mediterranean Basin. These trees can grow to be about 20 meters in height and live to be between 125 to 250 years old. The tree must reach an age of 25 years before its first cork harvest; most often generations of farmers will get 12 harvests from the tree in its lifetime. The cork on the tree takes 9-12 years to regrow and is all harvested by hand. This is to ensure the practise is sustainable and doesn’t damage the tree in the process. Because the trees are not cut down or removed in the process, cork is considered a valuable and renewable resource.

Quercus suber are unique plants that provide habitats for many endangered species. The Iberian Lynx is the world’s most endangered large-cat with populations less than 100 remaining in the wild. Quercus suber provides the Iberian Lynx with a habitat and is essential to the survival of the animal. Many organizations are focused on planting these trees to conserve the unique and vanishing wildlife of the Iberian Peninsula.

Global awareness and the demand for cork related products give people initiative to conserve and protect this irreplaceable tree and all the native fauna that depends on its survival.

Quercus suber is growing beautifully in the Mediterranean Garden at RBG Centre.

Achillea 'Moonshine'

Moonshine Yarrow

Resilient and beautiful, Achillea 'Moonshine' will lighten any landscape with its fine textured glow. Its feathery silver foliage and radiant buttery blooms adds unique flare to the landscape. Full and thick, this perennial will grow to be about two feet in height and spread just as far. This plant is excellent for attracting unusual pollinating flies and smaller bees. Additionally, it has the tendency to repel mosquitoes as well as biting flies plus, is deer and rabbit resistant. Requiring little to no maintenance to perform beautifully, it’s no wonder why this perennial is a popular choice among gardeners and plant enthusiasts. Achillea 'Moonshine' is a hardy perennial and will not only survive, but also excel in hot dry areas.

Greek mythology states that Achilles, hero of the Trojan War first discovered the medicinal uses of Yarrow while on the battlefield healing his men. This is how Yarrow or Achillea earned its namesake. When applied topically, this plant can be used to stop bleeding. When made into a tea and ingested, this plant is used to reduce the severity of fevers, colds and, cramping. Please do not ingest or use plants medicinally without permission or under supervision of a healthcare provider.

An amazing plant with many uses, Achillea 'Moonshine' is a welcome delight in many displays at Royal Botanical Gardens. Visit Laking Garden and see Achillea 'Moonshine' in peak bloom along with other wonderful plants in the paired herbaceous border display.

Capparis spinosa var. inermis

Caper Bush

Capparis spinosa var. inermis is a Mediterranean plant that thrives in arid environments. This shrub has rounded shiny leaves and a spindly wild habit. The flowers are complete and resemble sea anemones. The petals are almost pure white with many magenta hued filaments. This plant’s resilience is due to its adapted coriaceous, leathery leaves, which help to retain moisture and, its ability to survive in extremely rocky soils. Normally, the Caper Bush has spines, but in this case, the spines were eliminated from the plant due to selective breeding. The epithet inermis basically translates to “spineless”.

Capparis spinosa var. inermis is a commonly used ingredient in many Mediterranean dishes, the young flower buds and fruit are frequently pickled and served as antipasto and as a garnish for several dishes. Recipes and pickling practises vary depending on region, but generally is a common ingredient in pastas, as a garnish for drinks and a side for seafood dishes.

Capparis spinosa var. inermis is currently blooming in the Mediterranean Garden in the Main Center at Royal Botanical Gardens along with other spectacular plants for you to enjoy.

Nymphaea ‘Pink Sensation’

Water lily ‘Pink Sensation’

Romanticized throughout the ages, a subject of dauntless admiration, Nymphaea has captured the attention of humankind since the ancients.

A hardy aquatic perennial, Nymphaea‘Pink Sensation’ is a botanical bathing beauty and an important part of the ecosystem. This plant can stay in ponds all year round, dying back in the winter months and growing in the spring. Generally, bloom occurs from late June

to September, flowers are available in a multitude of colours including white, yellow, pink and, peach. The flowers generally open in the early morning when dawn breaks and close in the late afternoon. Blooms last 3 to 5 days and will continue to produce new blooms until the end of the season. These plants have a spreading habit, growing across the surface of ponds and other bodies of water, and produce shade for fish and other aquatic life while inhibiting the growth of harmful algae. Additionally, they absorb nutrients that would be used by the algae to reproduce and by doing this; they keep the water clear.

Nymphaea ‘Pink Sensation’ requires a bit of maintenance to stay looking healthy. Removal of dying foliage and spent blooms aids in appearance and general plant heath care. These plants will die if the pond is not deep enough and the rhizome is exposed to frost or ice. To prevent freezing, many people remove the plants from the pond and store the rhizomes in buckets of water until they can be replanted the following spring.

Nymphaea ‘Pink Sensation is currently in bloom in the beautiful reflecting pools of Hendrie Park.

Jacaranda mimosifolia


Jacaranda mimosifolia is native to Southern Bolivia and Northern Argentina but can be found in many other countries with a similar climate. Growing about 5 to 15 meters tall, this small tree takes a unique form and grows quickly. This plant has thin grey bark and soft wood, which is often used in crafts and bowl carving. The compound leaves of this tree are medium green and quite large resulting in people planting this tree regularly just for its light green, fern like foliage. The most impressive feature about this tree is the long lasting lavender-blue blooms that take over the tree once a year. Each flower is approximately 2 inches long and trumpet shaped, blooming in mass clusters. Not only are the blooms impressive visually but they fill the air with a light sweet fragrance.

Because of its fast growth habit, this plant has naturalized in many areas of South Africa and Australia outcompeting the local flora. Though not classified as a noxious weed, it is a good idea for homeowners who live in tropical climates to be careful and maintain this plant if they choose to have it in their gardens. Like many cultivated plants, they can escape into nature and disrupt the ecosystem; therefore, homeowners must take care of their gardens to prevent this from happening.

A beautiful tree overall, Jacaranda mimosifolia is a well-loved tree by many people native to its range. Due to our Canadian climate, we grow this plant in the Mediterranean Garden in at Royal Botanical Gardens and right now, it’s in peak bloom for you to enjoy.

Baptisia australis

Wild Blue Indigo

Baptisia australis has worked its way into the hearts of many gardeners due to its flawless habit and early summer blooms. An impressive perennial and, excellent performer this plant wows visitors with its early summer show of colour and impressive size. Reaching up to 1.5 meters in height and 1 meter in diameter it is quick to establish itself in the landscape.

Baptisia australis is Native to North America and is part of the pea or Fabaceae family. It grows in a dense clump and has a graceful weeping habit. The foliage is adorable; it has rounded tiny light green leaves that complement this plants delicate structure. The tips of the stalks are pendulous and dance with the wind and the bases are strong, rigid and, remain in a tight upright clump. Baptisia australis has beautiful butterfly shaped flowers that attract various native pollinators and dapple the garden with cobalt blue. After flowering, this plant forms neat little seedpods that add wonderful texture and late summer interest. Due to its native parentage, this plant is extremely cold hardy and thrives in the Canadian landscape. Though hardy, this plant does not enjoy being transplanted. It sends a giant taproot into the soil to establish itself, so it is best not to move Baptisia australis once it has been planted to avoid damaging the root system.

Baptisia australis is currently in bloom at The Laking Garden; stop by to see it in the Perennial Collection and Iris Collection in full bloom.

Wisteria floribunda

Japanese Wisteria

Pendulous blooms sway like wind chimes when Wisteria floribunda peaks full bloom; the violet purple clusters resemble grapes on a vine as they swing with the breeze.

Wisteria floribunda is a member of the Fabaceae or pea family and is native to Asia. This plant was introduced to North America around the 1830’s and since then, has graced many a trellis, fence and, pergola. Japanese Wisteria is a woody vine that takes years to flower after it’s planted, it prefers a well-drained, sunny plot but, will grow in any location if need be. When left unsupported, Japanese Wisteria takes a mounding habit. However, when supported with a structure, it twines and wraps around the structure supporting itself up to 20 m vertically. Wisteria floribunda has an aggressive habit, which means the gardeners who have Wisteria planted in their landscape must be able to control and properly maintain the plant so it does not become an unruly issue. Wisteria has been known to uproot trellises and damage the sides of houses, but, when properly maintained is an excellent addition to the garden.

Wisteria floribunda has hanging blooms that flower in mid-spring and have a faint sweet scent particularly in the evening. Flower colours can differ depending on the cultivar; some of particular notabilities are ‘Alba’ and ‘Rosea’ that have white and pink blooms. Because this plant is deciduous, it retains its leaves until autumn and provides a pretty display of fall colour. Additionally with its winding habit provides winter interest with its natural knot work. Wisteria is very hardy plants with a zone of 5-9. Some plants in the average landscape have been known to reach 50 years of age.

Wisteria floribunda is currently blooming at RBG in Hendrie Park Take a walk under Amy’s Pergola and experience all the sensations this wonderful plant has to offer.

Syringa × hyacinthiflora 'Maiden’s Blush'

Hyacinth lilac ‘Maidens Blush’

The sweet scent of lilacs can make any gardener weak in the knees; a treasure in any landscape, the lilac steals the show in spring without argument. RBG features over 700 lilacs in the Katie Osborne Lilac Collection (Lilac Dell) of all colours, shapes and, sizes. Difficult as it may be to pick an exceptional cultivar from RBG’s renowned collection, one of particular prestige is Syringa ×hyacinthiflora ‘Maiden’s Blush’.

A Canadian hybridizer named Frank L. Skinner hybridized S. ×hyacinthiflora ‘Maiden’s Blush. Frank L. Skinner from Dropmore, Manitoba made a name for Canadian hybridizers with his renowned Hyacinth Lilacs. Skinner created many magnificent lilacs including: S. ×hyacinthiflora ‘Pocahontas’, S. ×hyacinthiflora ‘The Bride’ and, the last of his hybrids and arguably his best one being S. ×hyacinthiflora ‘Maiden’s Blush’.

The cultivar ‘Maiden’s Blush’ has large, nearly nickel sized florets of light bubble-gum pink. Unlike many Syringa, the petals of each floret are rounded and almost circular which adds a unique texture to the garden landscape. When in bloom, the inflorescence looks like a lavish collection of petit pink bouquets. If the striking colour was not enough, this lilac smells divine; with a sweet almost sugary scent and slight undertones of spice from its parentage, it could lure anyone outside for a scented stroll through the garden. The compact growth habit of this plant makes it useable for many landscaping purposes. Grown either wild or pruned to fit a landscape it is a stunning addition to any yard or garden.

Come see Syringa ×hyacinthiflora ‘Maiden’s Blush’ in full bloom at the Arboretum in the Katie Osborne Lilac Collection. Come out for a beautiful walk through one of the world’s most diverse lilac collections at Royal Botanical Gardens.

Syringa × hyacinthiflora 'Turgot'

Hyacinth Lilac

Syringa, known commonly as Lilac, is a genus of flowering plants in the Oleaceae family. Currently, there are 21 species within the genus and most species have a natural geographic range within eastern Asia. Lilacs are used in cultivation in areas around the world and hybridizers have created thousands of cultivars. Hybridizers are those who invent and trial new and unique cultivars. Hybridization is a process of breeding various plants of the same genus to produce new cultivars. Canada was home to two especially revolutionary hybridizers that created many wonderful cultivars that are featured in our collection.

Our Canadian hybridizers used cultivars of lilac that were developed in Europe by many different hybridizers. One hybridizer of particular notability was Victor Lemoine, a prolific plant breeder who hybridized plants on his farm in the north of France. Victor Lemoine was a man of particular influence when it came to the garden landscape. He worked with many different genera of plants but his most exceptional work stemmed from his passion for lilacs. One remarkable example of Lemoine's work being Syringa × hyacinthiflora 'Turgot'

S. × hyacinthiflora 'Turgot' is one of the early blooming Lilacs at Royal Botanical Gardens and it seems as though traditionally, this cultivar is the earliest lilac to bloom at RBG. S. × hyacinthiflora 'Turgot' is pinkish in colour and single flowers form in clusters on the tips of its branches. S. × hyacinthiflora 'Turgot' has a faintly sweet and spicy fragrance. This cultivar was named for Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, a French economist and statesman.

Generally, the leaves of S. × hyacinthiflora lilacs have smooth margins and a cordate shape. They often emerge bronze in colour, maturing to deep green. The leaves of some plants turn a bronze-purple or red colour in the fall. Plants tend to have a spreading upright form when young and have a variety of uses within the landscape, including ornamental displays or for use as a hedge.

Lilacs can put on a spectacular show when planted in an area with full sun, good air circulation, and well-drained soil. After flowering is complete, old blooms should be removed and plants should be pruned to maintain size and shape. Keeping plants should under 3 m with yearly pruning will help to prevent leggy plants.

Royal Botanical Gardens holds a world-renowned collection of Lilacs with over 700 plants in the Katie Osborne Lilac Collection (Lilac Dell) in the Arboretum. Early-flowering Hyacinth Lilacs, including S. × hyacinthiflora 'Turgot', are now in bloom and will soon be followed by the French Hybrids and the Preston Lilacs.

Magnolia salicifolia

Willow-leaf Magnolia

Magnolia salicifolia is a deciduous tree in the Magnoliaceae family. Native to Japan, this spectacular spring bloomer grows in rocky soils, in or near forests in its natural habitat. Trees typically grow to be 6 to 9 m tall and have smooth, grey-coloured bark. When young, trees have a conical or tight pyramidal shape but as they mature, they develop an attractive broad pyramidal shape. When bruised or crushed, stems emit a pleasant lemon scent. The simple, alternately arranged leaves of M. salicifolia are narrow, tapered at both ends and are between 3 and 11 cm in length. Emerging leaves often have a bronze-purple tint to them, but mature to be dark green in colour.

M. salicifolia is an early flowering magnolia and goes into full boom before leaves emerge. Flowers are white in colour, have a diameter of 7 to 10 cm and are fragrant. The fruit of M. salicifolia is approximately 5 cm long and is pink in colour.

There are several M. salicifolia trees beginning to bloom at Royal Botanical Gardens. They, and many other magnolia trees, can be found in the Arboretum.


Orchidaceae is a diverse plant family containing thousands of species. These stunning plants feature unique and often colourful blooms, and are cultivated by plant enthusiasts around the world. Flowers feature bilateral symmetry, with either side being a mirror image of the other, and can vary in size, shape, and colour depending on the species, hybrid, or cultivar. Several orchids have very fragrant flowers, a feature used to attract pollinators. Like the flowers, orchid leaves can vary in size and shape.

Guarianthe is a genus of orchids native to areas in Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, and Trinidad. Members of this genus were previously grouped in Cattleya, a large genus popular with hybridizers due to the wide range of flower forms, colours, and sizes, but DNA analysis, in part, lead to the creation of the genus Guarianthe. Guarianthe × guatemalensis is a naturally occurring hybrid of G. aurantica and G. skinneri, an epiphytic orchid that grows in the forests of its natural range. It thrives in warm to hot temperatures and will grow well in bright, indirect light.

The Orchid Society of Royal Botanical Gardens recently earned several awards while attending the Ottawa Orchid Society Show. One spectacular Guarianthe × guatemalensis specimen received a first place ribbon in the Cattleya species class, earned the Best Cattleya Alliance plant award, and took home the Best Plant in Show award. This plant also earned an American Orchid Society Certificate of Cultural Merit (CCM), scoring 88 out of a possible 100 points. A CCM is awarded to the exhibitor of a healthy, well-flowered plant. At the time of the show, this stunning plant had approximately 405 flowers and buds on 25 inflorescences.

While visiting Royal Botanical Gardens, be sure to check out the beautiful blooms of this remarkable plant. It is currently located near the front entrance of RBG Centre.

Crocus spp.


Spring flowering crocuses are a popular, perennial bloomer in the genus Crocus, which belongs to the Iridaceae family. While not native to Canada, crocus blooms are a common sight throughout Ontario’s landscape in the early days of spring. Small, cup-shaped flowers bloom in a stunning display of whites, yellows, and purples. Leaves have a grass-like appearance and typically have a white stripe of chlorophyll-free cells down the center of the leaf. Crocus flowers grow to be 7 to 15 cm tall and form from corms, a type of modified stem and underground storage structure that provides energy to the growing plant. At the end of the growing season, energy from the leaves is put into producing a new corm, as each corm lasts only one season.

Crocus plants grow well in a variety of settings but thrive when planted in well-drained soil in full or partial sun. Spring flowering crocuses should be planted in the fall to allow for the period of dormancy needed to initiate spring flowering.

Royal Botanical Gardens has crocuses blooming across its property. A stunning display of blooms can be found at RBG Centre’s main entrance, where 200,000 crocus corms were planted by Deloitte volunteers in 2013.

Eranthis hyemalis

Winter Aconite

Eranthis hyemalis is a tuberous, herbaceous perennial in the Ranunculaceae family. Commonly known as Winter Aconite, E. hyemalis begins to bloom in the late days of winter, often through snow, and is a sure sign that spring is on its way. Solitary bright yellow flowers 3 cm in diameter open atop a collar of lobed, leafy bracts, and, depending on conditions, can last well into spring.

Native to parts of Europe—from southern France through to Bulgaria—this low-growing, clump-forming species thrives in the moist, humus-rich soils of woodland areas. While not native to our area, E. hyemalis has naturalized in some parts of eastern North America, and can be found growing in woodland habitats and gardens throughout Ontario.

E. hyemalis is in flower, and can be seen in Spicer Court at RBG Centre.

Schinus molle

Pepper Tree

Schinus molle is an attractive, pendulous-branched species in the Anacardiaceae family. It is native to parts of South America, where it thrives in arid habitats. S. molle grows to a height of approximately 15 m and has a spread of 5 to 10 m. It has pinnately compound leaves up to 30 cm in length, with leaflets up to 6cm in length. Bark is grey when trees are young, and with age, exfoliates to reveal the reddish-brown layer beneath. Plants are dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate plants. Flowers are small in size, creamy white in colour, and form in dense, hanging panicles. After flowering, female trees produce small, round, red fruit that produce a peppery fragrance when crushed.

Escape from cultivation has led to the naturalization of S. molle in several areas around the world. In parts of the United States, Australia, and South Africa, S. molle has become a serious weed in grassland areas. S. molle is has long been used in traditional medicines—it has been shown to have analgesic, antimicrobial, and insecticidal properties. S. molle is also used in other applications including use as a pepper substitute.

Royal Botanical Gardens has one S. molle plant. It is located on the lower level of the Mediterranean Garden in RBG Centre.

Clivia miniata


Clivia miniata is a flowering perennial in the Amaryllidaceae family. Native to South Africa, C. miniata grows in forested areas where it thrives in the shaded, humus-rich soils of its natural habitat. Vigorous fleshy rhizomes allow for large clumps of plants to form across the forest floor. Arching strap-like leaves form from the rhizomes, with each leaf up to 1 m long. Leaves are very sensitive to sunlight and are prone to burning if exposed to direct sun. Plants are also sensitive to cold—temperatures below 5°C or very cold winds can damage plants. Clusters of bell-shaped flowers, usually orange in colour, form on tall stalks. These showy flowers are long-lasting and have a faint, sweet fragrance.

C. miniata was first collected from the wild in the 1800s. This brilliant bloomer is popular for both garden and indoor plantings around the world, and there are now hundreds of C. miniata cultivars available. Unfortunately, over-harvesting by plant collectors and the traditional medicine trade has caused natural populations of C. miniata to dwindle.

Royal Botanical Gardens has several flowering C. miniata plants on the upper level of the Mediterranean Garden at RBG Centre.

Pittosporum tobira

Japanese Pittosporum

Pittosporum tobira is a flowering evergreen shrub in the Pittosporaceae family. Native to areas in Japan, China, and Korea, this dense, rounded plant is used in cultivation around the world. On average, P. tobira reaches heights of 2.5 to 4 m, with a spread of 1.5 to 2.5 m. Leaves are dark, glossy green with a pale green underside and can be up to 10 cm in length. They are broad and rounded near the leaf tip and taper in at the base. This plant's handsome, leathery foliage is frequently used in the floral industry.

Pleasantly fragrant flowers form in clusters on the ends of branches. Individual flowers have a diameter of 1.5 to 2.5 cm and feature five creamy-white petals. The seeds of P. tobira form within pear-shaped capsules. Over time, these capsules split apart and expose the plant’s seeds, which are covered in an orange, fleshy coating.

P. tobira is a tolerant and adaptable plant. It thrives in dry, sunny locations but will tolerate shaded areas. P. tobira will also withstand varied pH levels as well as saline soils. P. tobira is susceptible to pests such as mealybug and pit scales and may suffer from leaf spot diseases. Plants are typically grown in warmer regions—it is a popular landscape plant across the southern United States—but plants have exhibited tolerance to temperatures just below 0 °C.

A stunning P. tobira plant in full flower is located on the upper level of the Mediterranean Garden at RBG Centre.

Sansevieria spp.

Snake Plant

Sansevieria is a genus of flowering plants containing approximately 70 known species. Commonly referred to as Snake Plant, this genus is typically found growing in dry tropical and subtropical regions but plants have long been cultivated and used around the world. Plants in this genus vary in size, shape, and colour, and numerous attractive cultivars have been created. S. trifasciata is one of the most widely sold and cultivated species. Its striking rosette-forming foliage combined with its easy to care for nature—low watering needs and the ability to tolerate low light levels—make it a popular houseplant.

S. cylindrica is another interesting species belonging to this genus. It is a slow-grower and as its name suggests, leaves are cylindrically shaped. They have pointed tips, are striped with grey and green, and often grow to be more than 1 m long. Flowers form on tall racemes and are usually greenish-white to brownish in colour.

Several species and cultivars of Sansevieria can be found throughout RBG Centre including S .cylindrica in the Mediterranean Garden and the Snake Plants used within the frog habitats located on the lower level of the Camilla and Peter Dalglish Atrium.

Haworthia spp.


Haworthia is a genus of succulent plants native to the southern part of Africa and was named after English botanist Adrian Hardy Haworth. Commonly referred to as Haworthia, these plants are typically small in size, with leaves forming rosettes 3 to 30 cm in diameter. Leaves are often fleshy and firm, and leaf size, shape, and colour vary depending on the species. Some species have translucent “windows” on their leaves which allow sunlight to reach the interior of the leaf.

Although Haworthia plants produce small white flowers on the ends of long flower spikes, they are usually grown for their unique leaf markings and are often used as houseplants. In their natural environment plants typically grow under shrubs and rocks, making them well suited to semi-shaded conditions.

Several Haworthia plants can be found at RBG Centre in the Cactus and Succulent Collection.

Chlorophytum comosum

Spider Plant

Chlorophytum comosum, commonly referred to as Spider Plant, is an easy-to-grow perennial, native to southern Africa. It has long, narrow, arching leaves that are typically 20 to 40 cm in length. Leaves are green or variegated with yellow or white stripes. Small, star-shaped, white flowers are produced on long, wiry stalks. Plantlets also develop on these stalks and if they touch soil, they will root.

Spider Plants are popular as houseplants and can look stunning when planted in hanging baskets. Although they are known to be tolerant of less than ideal conditions, they grow best when planted in well-drained soil in areas with bright, indirect light. When grown as a houseplant, Spider Plants are generally disease free. Soil should dry out between waterings as overwatering can cause root rot and under watering may cause leaf tips to turn brown. It is also important to divide your Spider Plant as it is needed, as thick fleshy roots can cause pots to break.

Flowering Spider Plants can be found throughout RBG Centre.

Roldana petasitis

California Geranium

Roldana petasitis is a large shrub in the Asteraceae family and is often referred to as California Geranium. This sprawling shrub can grow to be 2 to 3 m tall and wide, and has large rounded, lobed leaves. Leaves are typically 20 cm wide, green in colour, and are covered in tiny hairs. Hundreds of small yellow flowers form on large panicles and put on a remarkable show. The fruit (cypsela) is 3 to 4 mm long and is dispersed by wind.

R. petasitis can grow in both sunny and shaded locations in a variety of soils. It can be somewhat drought tolerant but will perform best with access to water. R. petasitis can be found growing naturally throughout Oaxaca, Mexico. In parts of Australia, R. petasitis is considered a weed because of its prolific seeding and large form that shades out plants beneath it.

Flowering R. petasitis plants can be found on the lower terrace of the Mediterranean Garden at RBG Centre.

Jasminum polyanthum


Jasminum polyanthum is a twining, climbing plant that typically grows to a height of 4 m with a spread of 1.5 m. It has dark green compound leaves with five to seven leaflets per leaf. Leaflets along the sides of the main axis are usually 1 to 3 cm in length while the terminal leaflet can be up to 7.5 cm long. Showy, heavily scented flowers are borne on loose panicles. Individual flowers are 2 cm wide, have five petals, and range from white to pink in colour.

The abundance of showy, fragrant flowers have made J. polyanthum a popular houseplant. It grows well in full sun or partial shade, with a preference for sheltered, south facing areas. It is a vigorous grower and in warm climates, can be invasive once it escapes from cultivation.

The fragrant flowers of J. polyanthum are in bloom now and can be seen and smelled in the Mediterranean Garden at RBG Centre.

Aloe ferox

Cape Aloe

Aloe ferox is an attractive single-stemmed succulent native to southern Africa. It is an adaptable plant but grows best in sunny, well-drained areas. It typically reaches heights of 2 to 3 m and forms a large, dense rosette of thick, green leaves at the top of its stem. Individual leaves can grow up to 1 m in length. Leaves have spines along leaf margins but spines can also be found scattered on both upper and lower leaf surfaces. Dead, dried up leaves remain on the plant and form a skirt along the stem. Gel from within the leaves is often used as an ingredient in cosmetics and remedies.

Attractive tube-shaped flowers, bright orange in colour, bloom on tall stalks above the leaves, and in garden and natural settings, attract several bird and insect species. The showy blooms of A. ferox can be seen on the second level of the Mediterranean Garden at RBG Centre.

Mammillaria plumosa

Feather Cactus

Mammillaria plumosa, commonly known as Feather Cactus, is a small, low growing, mounding cactus native to Northeastern Mexico.  In its native range, spherical stems grow clustered together in the cracks of calcareous rocks.  In more temperate regions, M. plumosa is often grown as a houseplant.

The globose stem of M. plumosa is light green in colour but typically goes unseen due to the downy spines that completely cover this cactus.  Small tubercles on the stems contain structures which bear approximately 40 radial spines, each 3 to 7mm long, giving the cactus a cotton ball like appearance. The flowers of M. plumosa are 1.5cm long and creamy white, often having a pink midstrip, but flowering can be sporadic and dependent on environmental conditions. Flowering leads to the production of fruit. Fruit is approximately 15mm long, deep purple in colour when mature, and is usually hidden beneath the spines.  M. plumosa requires a location with full sun and well-drained soil, and does not require high amounts of water.

Flowering M. plumosa can be found in the Cactus and Succulent Collection at RBG Centre.

Ginkgo biloba

Maidenhair Tree/Ginkgo

Ginkgo biloba, commonly known as Maidenhair Tree, or simply Ginkgo, is an extraordinary tree.  A living fossil, the Ginkgo has been around for over 200 million years and has no remaining close relatives.  This remarkable tree can live to be thousands of years old, and while native to China, G.biloba is grown in cultivation around the world.

G. biloba is a gymnosperm meaning it produces naked seed with no flowers, and trees are dioecious with separate male and female plants.  Male trees produce pollen containing motile sperm that is dispersed by wind.  Female trees produce ball shaped reproductive structures.  This structure is not a fruit, but is the seed (female gametophyte) of the Ginkgo.  As the structure ripens, it falls to the ground, and when the seed coat is broken, an unpleasant smell is emitted.  To avoid the malodorous mess Ginkgo seeds can create, male cultivars (which do not produce seed) are often selected for use in the landscape.

Ginkgos have a slow to medium growth rate, maturing at a height of approximately 15 to 24m with a spread of 9 to 12m, although some trees can reach heights and spreads much larger than this.  Leaves of the Ginkgo are fan-shaped, 5 to 8cm long and wide, and have a leathery feel to them.  They grow in clusters of three to five on spurs, or individually on shoots and are often harvested for their medicinal properties.  Leaves are bright green throughout the summer, and in fall, can offer brilliant hues of yellow.  After colour change, a tree will often drop all of its leaves within a few days as the result of a hard frost.  This creates a striking effect and carpets the ground a beautiful gold.

Ginkgo trees offer year round interest with unique branching patterns, interesting foliage, and attractive bark.  Their tolerance of poor growing conditions and resistance to pest and disease make them an excellent choice for use as a street tree.  G. biloba can be found in all garden areas at Royal Botanical Gardens.  Several cultivars, such as ‘Ding-a-Ling’ and ‘Autumn Gold’, can be found in the Prehistoric Grove at Hendrie Park.  

Liquidambar styraciflua


Liquidambar styraciflua is a deciduous tree grown for its attractive leaves.  Its common name, Sweetgum, refers to its sweet sap with a gummy consistency.   Trees typically reach heights of 18 to 25m and have an oval to rounded crown when mature.  The bark of the Sweetgum is greyish brown in colour and older trees have deeply furrowed, narrow ridges.  Sweetgums are monoecious with male and female flowers appearing the spring.  Female flowers give way to distinctive, fruit capsules that are 2.5 to almost 4cm in diameter.  The spiny, ball-shaped structure is green at first, changing to brown over time and can persist into winter.

Sweetgum leaves are star-shaped with five to seven lobes and when bruised, are aromatic.  The glossy, deep green leaves of summer turn to magnificent purples, reds, oranges, and yellows, and are held late into the fall.

L. styraciflua works well as a street tree or landscape tree, but needs adequate space for root growth.  Falling fruit can be quite messy and may present a slipping hazard.  Carefully selecting planting locations or the use of a fruitless cultivar can help to prevent this. 

Several Sweetgum trees can be found throughout Royal Botanical Gardens, including two specimens in the Urban Street Tree Display at RBG Centre and one located in the Medicinal Garden in Hendrie Park. 

Gymnocladus dioicus

Kentucky Coffeetree

Gymnocladus dioicus, commonly known as Kentucky Coffeetree, is native to central and eastern North America.  This deciduous tree belongs to the Fabaceae family and was once the designated state tree of Kentucky. 

G. dioicus has a typical height of 18 to 23m and a spread of 12 to 15m.  Bark is dark brown and has a rough looking texture.  Leaves emerge with a purplish hue in late spring and mature to a dark blue-green colour by mid-summer.  They are bipinnately compound and are up to 1m long and 0.6m wide.  Individual leaflets are approximately 5cm long.  The large leaves of G. dioicus offer plenty of shade and in autumn, some trees have impressive yellow colour.  The late spring leaf-out means Kentucky Coffeetrees are leafless approximately six months of the year.  This is reflected in the genus name, Gymnocladus, which means naked branch

G. dioicus flowers in very late spring.  Trees are dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants) or polygamo-dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants, but plants also contain some perfect flowers).  After flowering and pollination, fruit comes in the form of brown coloured pods that are 10 to 25cm long.  Inside, there are several hard, round seeds in a sticky pulp.  The raw seeds, fruit, pulp, and leaves of the Kentucky Coffeetree are poisonous to humans and animals. 

G. dioicus requires full sun and prefers rich soils, but is tolerant of drought and poor soil conditions.  It can be useful in urban plantings however, the messy seed pods may be a nuisance in some locations.  Fruitless male cultivars such as 'Espresso' can be used in order to avoid some of the mess.  A Kentucky Coffeetree can offer bold, year round interest with its large leaves, handsome bark, and unique branching patterns.   

Kentucky Coffeetrees can be found throughout RBG.  There are G. dioicus trees located in each garden area, including a very large specimen beside the Turner Pavilion Tea House in Hendrie Park.  

Liriodendron tulipifera

Tulip Tree

Liriodendron tulipifera, commonly known as Tulip Tree, is a fast growing deciduous tree in the Magnoliaceae family.  This stunning tree typically reaches heights of 21 to 30m but can grow much taller if conditions are ideal.     

The leaves of the mighty Tulip Tree emerge in early spring.  The attractive four lobed leaves are bright green in summer and turn golden yellow in fall.  Measuring 20cm across, the large leaves of the Tulip Tree often conceal the showy flowers that bloom in May.  Flowers are cup shaped with a diameter of 3 to 7cm.  They are greenish yellow with an orange band near the base of each petal.  Flowers are followed by fruit, a cone-shaped aggregate of samaras (winged seeds), that turn brown in the fall.  The samaras are dispersed by wind. 

L. tulipifera is native to eastern North America.  It is one of only two species within the genus Liriodendron.  The other, L. chinense (Chinese Tulip Tree), is native to parts of Asia, and was introduced by E.H. Wilson in the early 1900s.

Tulip Trees can be found in all garden areas of RBG, with several large trees located at RBG Centre and the Arboretum.   

Cercidiphyllum japonicum

Katsura Tree

Cercidiphyllum japonicum, commonly known as Katsura Tree, is an elegant looking deciduous tree native to Japan and China.  It was introduced in 1865 and is one of only two members of the Cercidiphyllaceae family.  C. japonicum is a relatively fast growing species that typically reaches heights of 12 to 18m in a landscape setting, but can grow to be over 30m in the wild.   

C. japonicum is a dioecious tree, with non-showy flowers that are pollinated by wind.  In the spring, new leaves emerge a reddish-purple colour and mature to bluish green.  The oppositely arranged leaves of C. japonicum have a rounded shape and resemble the leaves of the unrelated Cercis (redbud).  Katsuras offer a lovely autumn show, with rich yellow and apricot coloured leaves.  These leaves not only look nice, they also smell nice.  A fragrance akin to cotton candy or caramelized sugar can be detected when standing near a Katsura.

C. japonicum trees can be found in all garden areas at RBG with several large trees located in the Lilac Dell at the Arboretum.

Maackia amurensis

Amur Maackia

Maackia amurensis is a deciduous tree that was introduced to North America in 1864.  It is native to north eastern Asia and the genus name, Maackia, is in reference to Richard Maack, a Russian naturalist and botanist.  M. amurensis belongs to the Fabaceae family and its roots support nitrogen fixing bacteria.  The tree is a slow grower and typically reaches heights of up to 9m in cultivated areas.  The compound, odd-pinnate leaves of M. amurensis are dark green and offer no significant fall colour.  Handsome copper brown bark exfoliates as the tree matures.  In the summer, fragrant pea-like, cream coloured flowers bloom on dense, upright racemes.  After flowering, flat seed pods 5 to 7cm in length form. 

M. amurensis prefers to grow in sunny locations with loose, well-drained soil, however, it appears to be a very adaptable tree.  It can tolerate wet soil and drought and has no serious pest or disease concerns.  This adaptability, combined with its slow growth and ornamental features, make M. amurensis a suitable tree for urban plantings.     

M. amurensis can be found in the Urban Street Tree Display at RBG Centre.

Heptacodium miconioides

Seven-son Flower

Heptacodium miconioides is a stunning late-season bloomer that is native to China.  Plant collector E.H. Wilson first collected specimens in 1907 during an expedition to western China, but no living plants came of this.  In 1980, seeds were collected during the Sino-American Botanical Expedition which resulted in the introduction of living plants to North America.    

This uncommon and unique plant grows to a height of 4.5 to 6m with handsome dark green leaves emerge in early spring and are held until late fall.  The small but showy flowers are creamy white, very fragrant, and attract butterflies.  After flowering, attractive clusters of fruit form and slowly ripen to a rosy purple colour that persists for several weeks.

The striking H. miconioides is currently putting on a spectacular September show at RBG, with one tree located in the Synoptic Shrub Collection in the Arboretum, and one tree located in the parking lot of RBG Centre.    

Styphnolobium japonicum

Japanese Pagoda Tree, Scholar Tree

Japanese Pagoda Tree is a deciduous species that puts on a spectacular late-summer show.  Creamy white flowers with a hint of fragrance are produced on terminal panicles 15 to 30cm long, with each individual flower approximately 1.3cm long.  The fruit is a pod 7 to 20cm in length, which ripens from bright green to brown and may persist through winter.  Leaves are a medium green with yellow fall colour.

Although its name suggests it comes from Japan, S. japonicum is actually native to China and Korea.  It was introduced to France in 1747 and despite being somewhat messy, it is often used as an ornamental landscape tree.  It grows to heights of 15 to 22m with a rounded crown, and while it  prefers loamy, well-drained soil, it is a tolerant species with the ability to withstand heat, drought, poor soil conditions, and pollution. 

Look for its eye-catching display now at RBG, with trees located in the Arboretum, Hendrie Park, and RBG Centre.

Poliothyrsis sinensis

Chinese Pearl-bloom Tree

Chinese Pearl-bloom Tree is an attractive though seldom used species. It was discovered in China by Augustine Henry and introduced to North America by plant-hunter Ernest H. Wilson in 1908.  The flowers of this late summer bloomer lack petals, and are formed on loose, terminal panicles on the current year’s growth.  The flowers have four to six white sepals that turn yellow with age.  Rich green leaves grow in an alternate arrangement, are 6 to 15cm long, and have a red petiole.  In the fall, leaves change in colour from green to yellow-burgundy.  The only species in its genus, this tree has attractive grey bark, grows to a height of between 9 and 15m and is tolerant of various soils.  Royal Botanical Gardens has one specimen, in bloom now at Hendrie Park. 

Tetradium daniellii

Korean Evodia/ Évodia de Corée

Native to Northern China and Korea, Korean Evodia (Tetradium daniellii) was introduced by famous plant-hunter, E.H. Wilson, in 1905.  This deciduous tree offers lustrous, pinnately compound leaves and smooth grey bark. It is a medium to fast growing tree that typically reaches heights of 7 to 9m with a similar spread. This summer bloomer features small, fragrant, white flowers that are very popular with bees. Its fruit is a capsule comprised of four to five carpels that are red to purple in colour, adding ornamental value. The seeds are shiny black and are often dispersed by birds.  Korean Evodia grows best in moist, well-drained, fertile soil and is pH adaptable. Full sun is preferred but it will grow in part shade.

Look for its eye-catching blooms now, with two attractive specimens located in the main parking lot of RBG Centre.

Koelreuteria paniculata

Goldenrain Tree

Koelreuteria paniculata, commonly known as the Goldenrain Tree, is a summer-flowering tree that grows to a height of 9 to 12m with a spread of 9m or more. This deciduous tree has a rounded crown with densely leaved branches. Leaves are alternately arranged, are pinnate or bipinnately compound, range from 15 to 45cm long, and have seven to 15 leaflets on each leaf. The leaves are purplish red as they emerge, green when mature, and yellow in the fall.

The, showy, bright yellow flowers, each just over a centimetre wide, bloom mid-summer in long, loose panicles, and are followed by eye-catching seed capsules 3 to 5cm long.

Goldenrain tree grows well in full-sun, in a wide range of soils. It is tolerant of many conditions, including drought, heat, and air pollution.

Two flowering specimens can be found at RBG Centre, with one tree located in Spicer Court and the other in the main parking lot.


Hosta, Plantain Lily

Hostas are an easy to grow, durable, shade tolerant, herbaceous perennial that come in a wide array of shapes and sizes.  The genus Hosta, named in honour of Austrian botanist Nicolaus Thomas Host, is in the Asparagaceae family, with plants commonly known as Hosta or Plantain Lily.  They are grown primarily for their eye-catching foliage and are useful in several garden applications.  Hostas are native to China, Japan, and Korea. They were first imported to Europe in the 1700s and to North America in the 1800s.  Hybridization has resulted in thousands of registered cultivars.

Hosta leaves come in variations of green, blue, variegated, or gold colours.  Leaves can be very small or very large, smooth or rippled and narrow or wide. Leaf size, shape and colour vary depending on the species and cultivar.  Light coloured bell-shaped flowers form on stalks that grow up from the mound of leaves.  Because the plant is grown for its showy leaves rather than its showy blooms, many hosta enthusiasts cut the flower stalk off before it blooms. 

Hostas grow well in rich, moist soil and thrive in areas with filtered, all-day sunlight.  Lighter coloured hostas require more sunlight than the darker blue hostas.  Like all plants, hostas are susceptible to damage caused by pest and disease.  Common pests include slugs, mice, voles, and deer, which physically damage plant parts.  Diseases that may impact hosta health include rot, anthracnose, Hosta virus X, and foliar nematodes.             

Hostas are planted throughout RBG's gardens, but the most impressive showing can be found on the Hosta Walk in Laking Garden.  Here you will find numerous hostas of varying shapes, sizes and shades of green – a living reference library for our visitors.

Yucca filamentosa

Yucca filamentosa

Yucca filamentosa, commonly called Adam’s Needle, is a hardy plant that features rigid, sword shaped, pointed leaves.  These evergreen leaves can grow to be 75cm long and 10cm wide, and radiate from the base of the plant creating a rounded form 75cm wide by 75cm tall.  The specific epithet, filamentosa, refers to the loose white threads found on the edges of the leaves.  A flower stalk bolts from the centre of the leaf rosette, reaching heights of up to 2.4m, and creamy white flowers bloom in mid-summer.  After the showy flowers finish, fruit appears.  To keep the plant tidy, pruning should occur after flowering as the woody stalk can persist for two to three years if not removed.

Y. filamentosa offers evergreen foliage, tolerance to high heat, high sun, and drought, and can withstand winter salt spray.  It grows best in well-drained soils with full sun, and is tolerant of sandy soil.  It can make a great focal point in a garden, offering strong texture and interesting foliage.  

Several flowering specimens of Y. filamentosa can be found in the Display Beds, located in Hendrie Park.



Typically grown from bulbs, lilies are an eye-catching summer bloomer that can add a burst of colour to any garden.  Showy flowers emerge in a variety of colours, including orange, red, yellow, purple, and white, and often have striping or spotting.  Most lilies grow to a height of 30 to 120 cm but some species can reach heights of 2.0 to 2.5 m.  Flowers generally feature six vibrant tepals, and come in an array of sizes and shapes, including bell, bowl, cup, flat, funnel, and trumpet shapes.  Some lilies are fragrant while others have no noticeable scent.   

Lilies belong to the Liliaceae family, and numerous hybrids have been created.  Hybrid lilies have been classified into eight divisions (Division 1- Asiatic Hybrids, Division 2- Martagon Hybrids, Division 3- Candidum Hybrids, Division 4- American Hybrids, Division 5- Longiflorum Hybrids, Division 6- Trumpet and Aurelian Hybrids, Division 7- Oriental Hybrids, Division 8- Other Hybrids) which are based on parentage, habit, and flower type.

Generally, hybrid lilies grow best in well-drained soil that is high in organic matter, in full sun to part shade.  Lilies will thrive in a location that offers cool shade for the roots and full sun for the upper parts of the plant.  Whether they are planted in a home garden, or grown in a container, lilies will add a lively punch of colour to any area.  Potential problems for lilies include botrytis, lily mosaic virus, bulb rot, and red lily beetle.

Lily species and hybrids can be found throughout RBG’s property, with the most spectacular show being in the Lilium Collection at Hendrie Park.

Syringa reticulata ‘Japanese Tree Lilac’

Japanese Tree Lilac

Syringa reticulata is a late flowering lilac that grows as a small tree or a large shrub.  It typically reaches 6 to 9m in height, with a spread of 4 to 7m wide.  A spreading oval shape combined with the bowing of older branches gives way to a graceful appearance for mature specimens of S. reticulata.  The bark of S. reticulata features prominent horizontal lenticels which can be useful as an identification feature.  Bark is reddish brown in young trees and scaly grey in older trees.  Flowers of S. reticulata are very showy and fragrant, and emerge in late spring to early summer.  The creamy white flowers bloom in panicles that are up to 30cm long and 25cm wide.  Pruning should occur after flowering finishes.    

S. reticulata is quite adaptable but grows best in well drained, slightly acidic soil with full sun.  Because of its tolerance and adaptability, S. reticulata can be used for urban applications as well as for the home landscape.  

Varieties and cultivars of S. reticulata can be found throughout RBG’s property.  There are flowering trees located in Laking Garden, Hendrie Park, the Arboretum, and in the parking lot at RBG Centre.  

Robinia pseudoacacia 'Purple Robe'

Purple Robe Locust/Robinier faux-acacia

With delicate leaves and eye catching blooms, Robinia pseudoacacia 'Purple Robe' is one of the most aesthetically pleasing Black Locust cultivars.  Bright purple flowers emerge in early June and put on a spectacular late spring show. The pleasantly fragranced pendulous blooms are nectar rich, making them very appealing to bees.  Once flowering finishes, flat, smooth, dark brown seed pods are produced.  They mature in the fall and persist through winter.  The pinnately compound leaves are 15cm to 35cm long, with seven to nineteen leaflets per leaf.  Leaves emerge a bronze red colour, changing to a bright green as they mature, and go yellow in the fall.  The branches of R. pseudoacacia ‘Purple Robe’ are very susceptible to breakage and can easily be damaged by high winds.

R. pseudoacacia ‘Purple Robe’ is very tolerant of difficult conditions, provided it is an in area with well-drained soil.  This tolerance combined with its proneness to suckering can make this tree somewhat invasive, and will take over a landscape if left unattended.  The Purple Robe Locust is susceptible to many pests and diseases including leaf miners, locust borer, aphids, cankers, wood decay, and powdery mildew.  Despite these difficulties, the beautiful and condition tolerant Purple Robe Locust is often used as a street tree.

R. pseudoacacia ‘Purple Robe’ can be found in the Urban Street Tree Display at RBG Centre.  The beautiful flowers of this cultivar are bound to catch your attention.     

Magnolia tripetala

Boasting large, lustrous leaves and showy, white flowers, Magnolia tripetala is an impressive tree to see this spring.  Commonly known as Umbrella Magnolia or Umbrella Tree, M. tripetala’s remarkable leaves can be up to 61cm long (24”) and 25cm (10”) wide.  These leaves grow in clusters at branch tips, and bear a striking resemblance to an umbrella.  Shortly after leaf emergence, attractive white, bowl-shaped flowers appear.  While beautiful to look at, these flowers emit a slightly unpleasant odour that may be noticeable when close to the blooms.  Attractive pinkish-red cone shaped fruit follow flowering, and ripen in the fall. 

The genus, Magnolia, was named after Pierre Magnol, a French botanist.  Tripetala means three petals, but in this case, the name may be referring to the three green sepals on the underside of each flower.  This bulky but attractive tree prefers to grow in moist, well-drained soil in slightly shaded areas, however it will tolerate close to full shade.  Although large and sturdy looking, M. tripetala’s leaves are very thin and can easily be damaged by strong winds.

M. tripetala and other late blooming Magnolias can be found in the Magnolia Collection, at RBG’s Arboretum.