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Botanical Garden at UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Botanical Garden

I’ve left the desk-nest this week and am touring the San Francisco area. Sunny weather. That’s always a nice gift to bring to one’s host.

Field trip to UC Berkeley Botanical Garden: Up up up the hill the car crawls past two flagmen. Grunting trucks are painstakingly choreographed  in the renovation/retrofit project going on at the old university football stadium. Destination reached and admission paid, we enter this very diverse 34-acre UC Berkeley research garden—13,000 varieties sectioned off by geographic regions of the world’s continents. First we enter the Arid House with its large collection of the quirkiest of cacti, sheltered, because they would not tolerate the Bay Area’s dampness. The collection dates back to the 1920s.

Exiting that shed, one is immediately struck by (photo above) the “Southern Africa” rocky hillside on the left dotted with oranges, yellow, purple annuals and bulbs and fan aloes. Turn around and there’s a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay behind a gauze of atmospheric blue.

I’m always attracted by the sound of water features. The Japanese Pond (photo below) augments the diminutive Strawberry Creek which runs midway through the property. The pond is set off by a small waterfall framed by maples, empress tree and dogwoods. But the pool’s claim to fame is its breeding ground reputation for Taricha torosa (newts), native to upper Strawberry Canyon. I got to see several newt couples doing their thing which is always interesting. Ah spring.

The loudest aspect of the botanical gardens, I would say, is a chorus of frogs. They live in a pond ecosystem which lies between the Herb Garden and Chinese Medicinal Herb Garden. No need to follow path signs, just follow your ears.

There’s much to see and learn at this botanical garden but I did notice that some toddlers couldn’t be happier frolicking around a small man-built water feature next to the tour deck and rest rooms. Down close to the ground and with attention to details they were fascinated searching for the little slimy critters clinging for dear life to the concrete pond wall.

http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu/

For a list of garden tours click here http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu/education/tours.shtml#children

Nancy R. Peck

UC Berkeley Botanical Garden Japanese Pool

Japanese Pool at UC Berkeley Botanical Garden

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Madeira Botanical Gardens

Madeira Botanical Gardens

Madeira, Portugal. This just may displace what had been No. 1 on my fantasy trip list. One way to arrive at the Madeira Botanical Gardens is by way of cable car from the historic village of Monte situated high above the seaside city center of Funchal. The cable car crosses the Joao Gomes Stream Valley for what must be a spectacular nine-minute ride.

Also be sure to take the famed toboggan ride in Monte. No snow required. Two-seat wicker sledges glide through the winding streets on wooden runners, a throw back from the 1850s. This is one of those trust-thy-driver travel adventures. Whether on a collision course or due to being 700 meters above sea level, this just might be the nosebleed arena for me. 

Looks worth it. The Madeira Botanical Garden, also begun in the 1850’s, features an arboretum, indigenous, succulent, aromatic and medicinal plants as well as agricultural plants. Also included at the site is a park featuring 300 types of tropical and exotic birds.

The Botanical Garden is involved in the Macaronesia Seed Bank (BASEMAC) program for the sustainable conservation of plant diversity. According to their website the archipelagos of the Region of Macaronesia is one of the world’s most important centers of biodiversity, with varieties of plants unique only to this area. Half of the endemic species are threatened with extinction. The seed bank works toward conserving the genetic heritage of the islands.

Wait a minute . . . a map shows there’s the Ecological Park nearby and the Monte Palace Tropical Garden too. Oh my! What‘s on your fantasy garden travel list?

Nancy R. Peck

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