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Behind the Scenes Sensory Tour at Royal Botanic Gardens

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by Sydneyfunmum (subscribe)
Dreamer, wordsmith, mum of two - I enjoy the outdoors, good food and good company. Subscribe to my articles to follow what I've been up to, and like those articles you want to see more of so I can tailor what I write to my audience.
Published August 1st 2019
Taste, touch, smell and see the gardens in a whole new light
Cocoa bean royal botanic gardens
Cocoa bean at the Royal Botanic Gardens


I have been enjoying strolling through the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens for many years. There are beautiful features that emerge with the change of the seasons - such as the lovely Spring Walk. I also love the exhibitions they hold at the Calyx - the previous pollinators exhibition was beautifully put together, and the current carnivorous plants exhibition is lots of fun. Without a doubt, there is plenty of fun to be had at the Royal Botanic Gardens without paying a cent.

I was vaguely aware that the Royal Botanic Gardens offered paid tours but I always figured that there wasn't much they could show me which I wasn't already seeing for free.

Turns out there is so much more behind the scenes at the Botanic Gardens than I was aware of.

There are many scientists behind the scenes studying many different plant-related things. And the plants and the stories behind them are fascinating. This tour is chock full of all manner of sensory experiences, which will give you insights into so much more of the gardens than you could know by just taking a stroll by yourself.

You will feel furry leaves, smell the scents of certain plants, and taste the fruits of others. It's a truly delightful tour.

tongue orchid Royal Botanic Gardens
Tongue orchid. World's stinkiest flower.


I finally took the plunge and did a tour because the tongue orchid was in bloom, which is a rare and special occasion. Taking the tour was the only way to see it because it's in an off-limits greenhouse accessible only through the tour.

To be truthful, the tongue orchid was a bit of an anti-climax. It is certainly an amazingly weird looking plant, and by the time I saw it, it had been in bloom for about 5 days and the notorious stench it is famous for was wearing off.

It was all the other fascinating bits of information and plant experiences that really made the tour memorable. Which is just as well really, because the tongue orchid only flowers once a year for about a week, if that.

ant plant royal botanic gardens
Ant plant. Symbiotic relationships at their best


The ant plant is a fascinating example of one of the unexpected stories you can learn about on this tour. It creates tunnels within itself which are perfect for ants to live in. So the ants move in and live in it. If something attacks the plant, the ants swarm out and protect the plant. There's a third limb to this symbiotic relationship though, which involves some butterfly larvae being brought into the plant by the ants because they smell like ant eggs. If you want the full story, you will need to go on the tour yourself because I can't remember all the details.

The tour is an hour and a half and costs $41. It runs on Tuesdays and Fridays between 11 and 12.30pm. It will take you through several greenhouses which you wouldn't otherwise get access to. The stories behind a lot of the plants are really interesting, and the guides are excellent. I would highly recommend it if you want to delve below the surface beauty of the Royal Botanic Gardens.
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Why? Learn more about the Royal Botanic Gardens and the stories behind their plants
When: Tuesdays and Fridays, 11am - 12.30pm
Where: Visitor Information Centre, Royal Botanic Gardens
Cost: $41
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