Tag Archives: cactus

Botanical Garden of Rome (Orto Botanico)

29 Sep

Sometimes, after a week spent dealing with the logistical and bureaucratic aspects of moving to a new country (opening a bank account in Italy and accessing online banking are not for the faint-hearted, for example), all you want is a tiny bit of peace. That can be hard to find anywhere near the usual sights of Rome. But there are two spots where it is possible if you get to each when they open: the walled-in ‘Non-Catholic” Cemetery in Testaccio (burial place of Keats, Shelley, and other luminaries), which I will write about later, and the Botanical Garden of Rome in Trastevere, which is featured in this post. Despite having lived in Rome before, we had never been to this lovely spot; beyond the horticultural appeal, it would have been a fantastic, open place to take our (then young) children and let them run around. That is why you should get there right when it opens, especially on weekends–Roman families start arriving later in the morning.

Entrance sign; View of fountain

Hybrid Tea Rose ‘Altesse;’ White Gossypium (cotton) flower

White water lily and its reflection; Ferocactus pilosus (cactus)

View from Medicinal Garden; Tropical Greenhouse

Giant Water Lily pad; a young pad unfurling

–More photos from the Botanical Garden of Rome here.

Bay Area 3: UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley

30 Jul

What is it about botanical gardens or other large, planned gardens that makes them magical places? The kind of place where you can wander in relative silence, revel in the beauty of plants that you have never seen before (or even ones you have seen, though now viewed in a different light), where you can stop and sit on a bench in a hidden spot to soak it all in, or even read, or think? Who designed the spaces, mapped out what types of plants would be featured where, and planned the spots that would lure people and bees and butterflies and birds? They, and the current-day keepers of those gardens, are magicians.

If not already obvious, I love wandering in those kinds of gardens. I like everything about them: the flora, the fauna, the paths and stairs and benches and arches and bridges and streams. The University of California Botanical Garden has many of those features, and is a veritable outdoor museum. It is home to collections of plants from nine major geographic regions around the world, including a large area devoted to California–a biodiversity hotspot that contains more than 40 percent of the world’s plant species. To all this, add special collections including orchids, ferns, cycads, palms, roses, and herbs.

A plant lover could spend days roaming the 34 acres. I only had 5 hours, but I made the best of it; I signed up for a 1.5-hour tour that was being offered (Secret Paths of the Garden), which got me off to a great start via paths less traveled, and then I spent the remaining time wandering to my heart’s content. It really was a magical day.

Here are some of my favorite photos (and plants) from the Garden:

Manzanita Tree Bark

Dudleya Pulverulenta (Chalk Lettuce, Chalk Liveforever)

Encephalartos arenarius (Alexandria cycad)

Opuntia Kuehnrichiana                               Opuntia microdasys (Polka-dot cactus)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Pattern

13 May

Another photo challenge, and amazingly, I had another photo that might work for this week’s theme: Pattern. This is a close-up of the spiny bark of the Madagascar Palm (pachypodium lamerei), taken at the US Botanic Garden last month. It is not really a palm; it’s in the succulent/cactus family. When you look at the tree from afar, its spines are neatly splayed across the trunk in diagonal rows, forming a diamond-like pattern. But this pattern is best observed from afar–if the 2.5-inch spines don’t already say “keep away,” the fact that all parts of the tree are also poisonous (if ingested) reinforces the message.