Plants + Collections
The National Botanic Garden of Wales has several important plant collections which are not only unique to Wales but to the rest of the world
In the Garden as a whole, and since 1997, we have acquired 8,000 taxa (different sorts of plants) from 240 families, making up 12,000 individual entries on our database. Within the borders of areas such as the Double Walled Garden and the Broadwalk, we are currently developing collections of Actaeas (bugbanes), Thalictrum (meadow rue), Crocosmia (montbretia), Kniphofias (red hot pokers), Hamamellis (witch hazels), Cistus (rock roses) and Galanthus (snowdrops).
Within the parkland, we are expanding our collection of Quercus (oaks), Betula (birches), Fagus (beech), Juglandaceae (walnut family), Sorbus (mountain ash and whitebeams) and Alnus (alders).
Woods of the World is a phyto-geographically arranged collection of trees and shrubs from various different temperate regions across the world. Regions currently being developed include Tasmania, the Sichuan and Yunnan provinces of China, areas from the Western Himalayas (Nepal, Pakistan and parts of India) and the cool temperate regions of Chile.
As part of our contribution to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, and in particular Target 8 (which specifies that 60% of threatened plant species should be held in accessible ex-situ collections, preferably in the country of origin) we are also building a collection of native Welsh plants, some of which can be seen in the small display behind Theatr Botanica. One of the highlights of this collection is the Sorbus leyana, Britain’s rarest tree, which is found in tiny numbers at only two sites in the Brecon Beacons, and nowhere else in the world.
As we write, however, perhaps our most significant collection of plants is housed in the Great Glasshouse.
The Mediterranean flora of the South African Western Cape is known locally as ‘fynbos’ (fine-leaved bush). Important families are the Ericaceae, the heather family (more than 500 species), the Protaceae – Proteas and Leucadendrons (69 species) and the Restionaceae or Cape reeds (310 species). The diversity of plant species in the region is astonishing; Table Mountain alone (an area of 57 square kilometres) has almost 1,500 species, a number comparable to the flora of the entire British Isles.
Nearly 80% of the plants from South Western Australia are found nowhere else in the world. Families of interest here are the Protaceae (Banksia, Dryandra, Grevillea and Hakea being particularly notable), the Myrtaceae (Eucalyptus, Melaleucas and Callistemons, for example) and the Fabaceae, the pea family, which fix nitrogen in their roots, enabling them to survive in the very impoverished soils of the region (in particular, Acacias and Cassias).
The Mediterranean basin itself is characterised by, in particular, the scented-leaved shrubs we use as culinary herbs (the Lamiaceae, including Thymes and Rosemary), the Cistaceae (rock roses) and, again, the Fabaceae, especially brooms.
California is known for its enormous diversity of oak species, as well as Ceanothus (Californian lilacs) and Arctostaphylos (manzanitas). Many Californian annual species, such as the Escholtzias (Californian poppies) and the Limnanthes (poached egg plants), have become popular garden plants in Britain.
Chile is probably the least well-known of the floras represented here, but some plants, such as the Berberis and the Escallonias, will be familiar to many. Also important here are the Lobelias, the Azaras and many members of the Myrtaceae family.