Friday, April 7, 2017

Royal Botanical Gardens

Orchid House Kandy,  Photo by Mary M Payne

We head for the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya and buy our tickets and some inexpensive hats on offer because the day has turned out to be sweltering.   Some of us didn't think we would need our Tilly hats when we started out this morning.  

We meet with a professor of botany who has a wonderful booming voice. He will show us around the main part of the gardens.  It is not the showiest time of year as nothing is in flower ( except the orchid house) but we do see some impressive trees.  

  The garden includes more than 4000 species of plants, including orchids, spices, medicinal plants and palm trees but we see a fraction of it.  Indeed there are 200 species of palms in the gardens. the most famous of these is the Double Coconut from the Seychelles also know as the Coco de Mer as collectors find them floating in the seas.   This palm produces the largest seed of any plant and takes five years to mature.    See photo below. 

Coco de Mer Palm , Botanical Gardens Kandy,  photo by Mary M Payne

I find out that the origins of the Botanic Gardens date as far back as 1371 when King Wickramabahu III ascended the throne and kept court at Peradeniya near the Mahaweli river. This was followed by King Kirti Sri and King Rajadhi Rajasinghe. A temple was built on this location by King Wimala Dharma, but it was destroyed by the British when they were given control over the kingdom of Kandy. 

Poisonous latex tree,  photo by Mary M Payne

The Botanical Garden at Peradeniya as we now see it was established in 1843 with plants brought from Kew Gardens,  Slave Island, Colombo and the Kalutara Garden.

There are a few notable trees.... one is a Cannonball Tree planted by King George V of Britain and Queen Mary in 1901.   Its fruit resembles cannonballs.    There are also trees planted by some of the American astronauts and other well known personalities.  

 We get to see a Sri Lankan ironwood tree whose wood is known for its hardness and is too heavy to even float.   I believe that is the one behind the fig tree in the photo below. 

    We visit the purported largest Java fig tree in the world but it turns out to be only a junior of the former one which has died about 15 years ago.  Still, its pretty impressive.  Notice the size of the people in the foreground.

Enormous Java fig tree, Kandy Botanical Gardens,  photo by Mary M Payne

Struts hold up branches of the largest Java fig tree,  Kandy,  photo by Mary M Payne

We visit an array of pines that is called the Drunken Avenue as termites have attacked the roots of the trees weakening them and causing them to sway.  Sadly there is nothing to be done at this stage.  This is the same avenue that continues on to house other trees with hundreds of fruit bats suspended above us.  

Drunken avenue, Royal Botanical Gardens, Kandy  photo by mary m payne

Fruit bats at Royal Botanical Gardens,  Kandy photo by Mary M Payne

I remember only that this tree had a beautiful name.  Tell me, please. 

Bats in the silhouette at left.  Royal Botanical Gardens, Kandy  photo by Mary M Payne

Giant bamboo stand of Burma,  Royal Botanical Gardens, Kandy photo by Mary M Payne

We pass an impressive stand of Burmese bamboo with a diameter of around 15-20 cm across for each stalk.  They will eventually achieve 30-40 cm across as this is the largest bamboo in the world.  The average growth rate is about 30 cm in length a day.  ( and I was worried about the one in my garden)  The photo here doesn't do it justice. 

 And we pass the house where Mountbatten lived. 

Mountbatten's house, Royal Botanical Gardens... photo by Mary M Payne

But we are moving fast and are headed to the Orchid house because  a moderate rain begins to fall.  Luckily, Dave and I have our rain parkas in his back pack.   So great to have my brother along. 

The orchids are captivating and I wish we could stay longer.  I want to see the largest orchid in the world which is somewhere here but there are no end of delights for the senses and our guide senses that we must escape to the cafe because the water is really coming down now.  

 Orchid House, Royal Botanical Gardens , Kandy photo by mary m payne

Orchid House, Royal Botanical Gardens , Kandy  photo by mary m payne

Orchid House, Kandy Photo by Mary M Payne

Orchid House, Kandy photo by Mary m Payne

As we exit the Orchid house we are now in the midst of what in the American desert is called a "flash flood" and what is known in Sri Lanka as Monsoon rain.   I could see a person easily getting swept off his feet in this rain. 

 It will be almost an hour before we dare to venture from the cafe to the bus.   The locals are all talking about the unseasonal rain.    Our cheap hats are now stashed away and Dee is thinking up a indoor location for us to visit this afternoon. 

1 comment:

  1. Mary , I am so much enjoying your gorgeous pictures of Sri Lanka. We used to know a young man from there. My daughter Susan's family had hosted him for a number of occasions while he was a student. I remember his name was Thalanka, from Sri Lanka. He is now married and lives in USA as something like a nuclear physicist. They brought him to Okla. on one or two of their trips here for Christmas and summer.
    I am happy that you and Dave got to go there. There is so much to see, isn't there? I do appreciate you taking the time to share with us.