Bristol botanic gardens


We were welcomed by volunteer guide Charmaine on a sunny autumn morning outside one of the University’s halls of residence. The botanic gardens are this year celebrating their 10th year on this splendid site which has a strong backbone of mature trees but otherwise the garden had to be created from scratch.

The garden serves as a world wide educational resource, conserves rare species; it is laid out by category (e.g. Pollination / Chinese herbal medicine / Evolution / Habitat: e.g. garigue, maquis / Phrenology…) rather than design.

Indeed this was an educational visit and our vocabulary was expanded with beautiful botanical words.

  meeting Charmaine our guide

Evolutionary dell

Pre-angiosperm* plants such as ferns, mosses and lichens are the focus of this area – plants that reproduce with spores rather than seeds. The oldest angiosperm is the Magnolia.

This area was also planted with Wollemia nobilis, a coniferous tree that was thought to be extinct until it was discovered in an isolated ravine in Australia about 15 years ago. Through modern micropropagation methods this is now widely available across the globe.


Willow sculptures adorn the garden.

Garigue & Maquis – Stone pines, think of stony soil in Greece – lots of grey green foliage plants, the colour protects them from photosynthesizing too much and therefore more resistant to drought. Also the oils in their leaves help to retain moisture (e.g lavender, rosemary, sage, thymes, Cistus, Phlomis, globe artichoke, hellebores).

Our visit was rounded off with a visit to the greenhouses: warm temperate (unheated) (e.g. xerophytes such as cacti), sub tropical and tropical with many epiphytes (plants that grow on others e.g. orchids).


Angiosperm – flowering plants

Phrenology – study of plant plant families. DNA identification accounts for recent changes in plant names as scientists discover true DNA links between plant families

Phototropism – plants behaviour when it grows towards the light

notes by Angela Morley