Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens

(page 3)

The highlight of the gardens (especially for those with no interest in palms) is the Fern Gully. It owes its existence to the Australian custom of throwing the houseplants out into the garden once they've grown too large. Today a small creek runs through a rainforest with Archontophoenix cunninghamiana and Livistona australis forming the canopy, with both Howeias, tree ferns (Cyathea sp.), Platycerium and orchids forming the understory. It's dark in here, but not quiet. Hundreds of fruit bats have made this their home and squawk and screech and, well, hang upside-down from palm fronds, wrapped in their wings. Cockatoos compete in the decibel stakes but not so eerily as the rampant black bats. When it's not raining, they have the sprinklers on. When the sprinklers area t on, it rains little red bullets of Archontophoenix fruit and bat poo.

With over 10,000 species of plants here you'll forgive me for failing to mention the Jacarandas, Cycads, 20ft. Euphorbias, Yuccas and the Sabal bermudana that sounds hollow when slapped. But, as the gardens are open 365 days a year and entry is free, you can explore them yourself. Just the small matter of finding the air fare...

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