Everyone's heard of - and most probably been to - the Royal Botanic Gardens at Circular Quay. However, it's not so well known that Mount Annan is also home to a Botanic Garden; in fact, at 416 hectares, the Australian Botanic Garden at Mount Annan
is the largest of its kind in Australia.
The Australian Botanic Garden at Mount Annan was opened in 1988, yet it was only a few years ago that it was made free to the public. As a result, its popularity has soared, which is unsurprising given the Garden's beauty, diversity and vast recreational spaces. It's a great spot to take children of all ages; even babies are catered for, with change tables in most of the toilets.
There's the 'Wollemi Walk of Discovery', a walk featuring the rare and literally ancient Wollemi Pine
; the 'Woodland Picnic Area', where visitors can enjoy a picnic surrounded by endangered woodland and water; and the 'Connections Garden', a beautiful and carefully constructed garden designed to connect humans with nature.
The Connections Garden
One of the Garden's landmarks not to be missed is the Australian PlantBank, a state of the art building which conducts plant research with the aim of protecting the future of many Australian plant species. It contains one of the largest native seedbank collections in the world and currently holds more than 100,000,000 seeds. It's an important facility, especially given that 10% of NSW's plants are at risk of extinction. On certain days, visitors can even view scientists at work in the PlantBank's seed vault.
In keeping with today's techno-savvy society, the team at the Australian Botanic Garden at Mount Annan has launched a free app: 'PlantBank' (available for iPhone
). The app allows visitors to get the most out of the Australian PlantBank. Replete with audio-visual information, maps and a quiz, visitors can conduct self-guided tours and gain a better understanding of the PlantBank and its function, leading to a more enjoyable experience.
The Australian PlantBank and app
encourage a greater appreciation of plant life, particularly Australian plant life, and its place within the context of global warming. Australian flora may very well hold the key to human survival. The PlantBank and app illustrate how some plants - which could adapt in changing climates - can be used for food, medicine, clothing and shelter, amongst other necessities.
The PlantBank's award-nominated 'diversity wall' is a winner with adults and kids alike. This standout wall features colourful displays, objects, riddles, old and new artefacts and pull-out drawers which include samples (think animal droppings!), pictures and books.
Acrostic poems divide the wall's displays
Surrounding the PlantBank is the 'Living Laboratory', which is exactly that: a place where scientists can observe plants in their living state. Not only is this series of garden beds pretty, it is used to research natural ecosystems and study how plants can - and will - cope with a warming planet.
Once back at home, visitors can continue to use the app, by reading up on worldwide seedbanks or checking out the mini videos. The app delves into topics such as plant reproduction, endangered and invasive plant species, and sustainability. There are plans to further develop the app, making it even more thorough, interactive and user-friendly.
The Australian Botanic Garden at Mount Annan is located at Narellan Rd, Mount Annan, by taking the Narellan Rd exit (Route A9) on the M5 South West Motorway. It is open 10am - 5pm every day of the year, except Christmas Day. There are free guided tours of the Garden most days. Directions to all three of NSW's Botanic Gardens can be found in the PlantBank app.