Wednesday, 29 July 2015

UC Berkeley Botanical Garden

On Monday the girls and I ventured to a popular local spot that we had never visited before; UC Botanical Garden here in Berkeley.

This weekend, UC Botanical Garden had their biggest weekend ever in terms of attendance and it was all due to one special flower. Trudy, the garden's resident Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum) or Corpse Flower was blooming for the first time. What makes this flower so special? Well, first of all it takes at least seven years for the plant to bloom for the first time, and then that bloom only lasts for a few days. Second of all, the flower is absolutely massive. I believe that Trudy reached 56 inches in height! And last but not least there's the smell. When the Corpse Flower blooms a foul odor reminiscent of rotting flesh is released to attract flies for pollination. I'm guessing you can tell where the name Corpse Flower comes from!

When I heard about the blooming Corpse Flower I knew I had to take the girls to see it. I mean, how often do you get to see a flower that's bigger than your whole body? Or smell a flower that reeks of rotting flesh? But as the UC Botanic Garden is perched high in the Berkeley Hills where regular buses don't go I wasn't sure how we'd get there. As luck would have it, it turns out that the UC shuttle buses I see driving around town aren't just for UC students (as I has always thought) and there's one that goes right to the entrance of the gardens. Woo hoo!


Trudy's bloom was at its peak on Sunday - and so was the number of visitors. We waited until Monday when I knew it would be a little quieter to visit. While it would have been amazing to see the flower completely open, the large crowds would have been too much for the kids.



When we arrived at the Botanical Garden we headed straight to the Tropical House to see Trudy. There was a small crowd of people there but we were still able to head straight in. I heard that on Sunday there had been an hour long wait to get into the Botanical Garden plus an equally long wait to get into the Tropical House! By the time of our visit Trudy was already starting to close up but was still pretty impressive none the less.


A hole had been cut near the base of the flower for the collection of pollen and to also serve as a window into flower for visitors. I believe that staff collected the pollen a little later in the day after our visit.



The rotting flesh smell was mostly gone when we visited, but I'm perfectly ok with that! You could still smell it a little if you put your face in close. Ava and Lola were able to get a whiff when someone kindly held them up to get a little closer. When asked by staff what she thought the flower smelled like Lola yelled out "Garbage!" Ava didn't find the smell so unpleasant though and responded that she thought it just smelled like flowers!


Oh, and I'm guessing you probably noticed Lola's pink hair!


While Trudy the Corpse Flower was the main reason for our visit we were keen to check out the rest of the garden. The garden is spread over thirty four acres and features more than 13,000 plant varieties from around the world, cultivated by region in naturalistic landscapes. The girls were pretty keen to see the Australasia section first so we headed there next.


It was a hot day (positively sweltering by Bay Area standards!) so we were all pretty excited when we came across a sprinkler watering a section of the Australasia garden - and some of the path! The girls danced around under the sprinkler to cool off, and under many more throughout the garden. I was a little worried that Lola's pink hair chalk would wash out and spread everywhere but it hardly budged. On a side note, I shampooed her hair four times the following morning and it's still slightly pink!


Nice and cool from the sprinkler we made our way around the garden, stopping to look at a pond, the stunning views over the Bay, beautiful flowers and, of course, to play under more sprinklers!


We couldn't see quite as much of the Botanical Garden as we would've liked as I had Mathilde's stroller with us which restricted which paths we could walk on. Being on a hill, the garden is full of little paths with stairs. We ventured up and down a few of them but couldn't stray too far away from the main paths where I'd left the stroller. Now that I know how easy it is to get to the UC Botanic Garden by shuttle bus we'll be sure to go back again soon - without the stroller. The girls noticed that the shuttle bus also stops at nearby Strawberry Canyon pool which we've only ever been to once - on foot, hence never making it back! I think that a trip to Strawberry Canyon pool and UC Botanical Garden is in order soon.

For more information about UC Botanical Garden you can visit their webpage here: http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu/


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