UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, summer 2020: a bit of Australia/NZ and Africa

This is part 2 of my recent visit to the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley. Part 1 is here.

As I mentioned in my previous post, you need to make a reservation before you can visit the UC Botanical Garden (UCBG). My reservation was for 2:30 pm so I only had 2½ hours until closing—not a lot of time, considering the garden is a sprawling 34 acres in size. My friends Max and Justin and I focused on the Mexico & Central America Collection, but on the way there, we walked by the Australasia Collection. Among many things, it contains beautiful specimens from Australia, like these Tasmanian tree ferns:

Tasmanian tree ferns (Dicksonia antarctica)

More tree ferns are in the Cycad & Palm Garden surrounding the Conference Center and Tropical House, but that section is closed (unfortunately) because the paths there are narrow and social distancing would be difficult. I was disappointed because it's one my favorite spots at the UCBG.

Australian grass tree (Xanthorrhoea sp.)

Corokia cotoneaster from New Zealand's South Island. The zigzagging branch structure is called divarication. It's common in New Zealand shrubs, and it's thought to be an evolutionary adaptation that discourages browsing by the now extinct moa bird. Here is an in-depth discussion of this subject.

Corokia cotoneaster

Corokia cotoneaster

The cycad to the left of the NOID eucalyptus is a Macrozamia communis

Macrozamia communis is native to coastal New South Wales and resembles a small palm

Jumping to the Southern Africa Collection: It's a sight to see in the winter and early spring, with aloes and a huge variety of bulbs in bloom. In the summer, the hillside is mostly brown so we didn't spend much time there (it's also of the hottest spots in the garden). But here are a few snaps I took as we were walking by:

Cussonia paniculata

Encephalartos arenarius (labeled as a male)

Cyphostemma juttae

The remaining photos in this post were taken at the entrance plaza aka the Water Wise Entry Garden. The plantings here are a “best of” medley of unthirsty plants from around the world. 

Encephalartos laevifolius

Encephalartos horridus

Encephalartos eugene-maraisii

Encephalartos eugene-maraisii with seed cones

Agave mitis var. albidior 'UCBG' in front of Encephalartos arenarius

Encephalartos arenarius

Encephalartos arenarius pushing a cone

Aloe distans

Right now, the Plant Deck next to the Garden Shop is closed because it's a tight space. Instead, a selection of plants are for sale at the Tour Deck behind the Arid House, right before you get to the Southern Africa Hill and the Deserts of the Americas. 

Side note: Some of the plants in the photos above weren't labeled, but I was able to find them using the UCBG's Plant Collection Information database—a very useful tool for people obsessed with plant identification (me). Among other things, you can search by garden location to see all the plants growing in a particular area. That's how I was able to identify the Encephalartos laevifolius near the plant shop.


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  1. Those tree ferns are dramatic. Makes you think a dinosaur will walk by any minute.

    Looks like they have some fine plants there--hope to visit someday. Did you find anything good at the plant store?

  2. The garden looks great. It's nice to see the garden is still being cared for. Did a tour of a local college's botanic garden and was shocked to see what a disaster it was(full of weeds). No summer students to maintain it. Nature took no time to re-establish her dominance.

  3. Thanks for sharing part 2 of your visit. I keep thinking I should find a spot for a Cussonia.


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