The Glasshouses at the Botanical Gardens

Within the Botanical Gardens at Singleton Park you will find fine specimens of rare and exotic plants from around the world. The Gardens attract between 80-100,000 visitors per year and includes glasshouse collections. A selection of the plants you will be able to see are described and illustrated below. 

There are descriptions and photographs of plants from the Cactus House, Temperate House, Economic House and the Tropical Range House.

Cactus House

Within this section of the glasshouses you will find our collection of cacti and other succulents from several desert regions of the world.  


Desert rains are often light and brief, and the soil dries rapidly under an intense sun. To cope with these conditions, nearly all show various adaptations to arid conditions in that they store water in fleshy leaves, stems or roots. Because of the lower temperatures and higher humidity at night in desert regions many also employ a water-efficient variant of photosynthesis called Crassulacean Acid Metabolism. CAM plants open their stomata at night and store carbon dioxide. During the heat of the day, while the stomata are closed, photosynthesis is conducted using the stored carbon dioxide thus avoiding water loss.

Stored water in an arid environment requires protection from thirsty animals. Most succulent plants are spiny or toxic, often both. 


Some of the plants you may see in this section include:


Aloe vera

Native to the south-west Arabian Peninsula, naturalised in northern Africa (Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, along with the Cape Verde Islands, Canary Islands, Maderia) this plant is now cultivated throughout the world.

Amongst its many common names perhaps Medicinal Aloe, Medicine Plant, Burn Plant perhaps describe best the supposed healing properties of this plant.  Although there is little scientific evidence of the effectiveness or safety of Aloe vera extracts for either cosmetic or medicinal purposes, the cosmetic and alternative medicine industries regularly make claims regarding the soothing, moisturizing, and healing properties of Aloe vera


Crassula ovata

Commonly known as the Money Tree, Jade Plant, Friendship Tree and Chinese Rubber Tree this succulent is native to South Africa and Mozambique.  It has long been popular as a houseplant probably due to the low levels of care needed to grow it.


Echinocactus grusonii

Now endangered in the wild this cactus from Mexico commonly called the golden barrel cactus, golden ball or, sometimes, mother-in-law's cushion live to around 30 years old and do not generally flower until 20 years old.


Mammillaria bombycina

Now becoming vulnerable in the wild due to illegal collecting this pink-flowered cactus from Mexico also known as the Silk Pincushion is a popular houseplant.


Stapelia grandiflora

Also known as the Giant Toad Plant, Giant Zulu and Star Fish Flower this plant from South Africa (Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Free State) is also a very popular houseplant grown worldwide for its eye catching and large flowers.  The flowers smell of rotting flesh which attracts flies in areas where other pollinating insects are scarce.

Temperate House

Constructed in the early 1990’s on the site of the original wooden Tropical and Show glasshouses which had become dangerous and needed to be demolished this landscaped glasshouse is where you will find plants from around the world which experience Mediterranean-like temperatures.  

These Mediterranean-like areas of the world including Chile, South Africa and Western Australia experience temperatures which can fall to just above freezing but rarely below.

Plants you may see in the Temperate House include:

Abelia floribunda

This evergreen shrub introduced in 1841 from Mexico belonging to the Honeysuckle family has long, pink tubular flowers.


Brugmansia sanguinea var. flava

Also known as Angel’s Trumpet this large shrub is native to the Andes mountain range from Colombia to northern Chile.  All parts of this plant are extremely poisonous.  Its long trumpet-like yellow flowers are pollinated by humming birds.


Clivia miniata

This popular houseplant also known as Natal lily or bush lily originates from wooded areas of South Africa.   Flowering is improved if the roots are restricted.  All parts of this plant are poisonous.


Hymenosporum flavum

Native to Queensland and New South Wales in Australia and New Guinea this tree is commonly known as Australian Frangipani or Sweetshade and although from rainforest areas it will tolerate lower temperatures once mature.  In spring it produces fragrant yellow flowers.


Sparmannia africana

Belonging to the Lime family of plants this shrub from Africa, South Africa and Madagascar is also known as African Linden, African Hemp and House Lime.  Introduced to cultivation in 1790 this plant is named after Anders Sparrman a Swedish botanist who was a member of Captain Cook's second expedition of 1772.  It is unusual in that the stamens of the flower will continue to move for a short time after being lightly touched. 


Ugni molinae

Native to Chile Southern Argentina and Bolivia this evergreen shrub which is commonly known as Chilean Guava, Chilean Craneberry and Sacred Myrtle produces edible fruits which are usually made into jam but are also a key ingredient in the Chilean liqueur ‘Murtado’.  It was introduced to Britain in 1844 by the botanist and plant collector William Lobb, where it became a favourite fruit of Queen Victoria.


Economic House

In this glasshouse you will find plants from around the world which have various economic uses. It also contains a collection of foliage begonias and hybrid epiphyllums.

Some of the plants you may see include:


Cyperus papyrus

Native of Africa this is a species of aquatic flowering plant belonging to the sedge family and forms tall stands of reed-like swamp vegetation in shallow water.

Papyrus sedge has a very long history of use by humans, notably by the Ancient Egyptians (the pith being used as a source of papyrus paper, one of the first types of paper ever made). The highly buoyant stems can be made into boats. It is now often cultivated as an ornamental plant.


Musa acuminata 'Cavendishii Group'

Derived from Musa acuminata which is native of SE Asia this variety is a result of thousands of years of selection resulting in the most familiar dessert banana cultivar.  The ratio of pulp to seeds increases dramatically in these "seedless" edible cultivars with the seeds themselves being reduced to tiny black specks along the centre of the fruit.


Psidium cattleyanum

Commonly known as strawberry guava or cherry guava this native of Brazil is widely cultivated elsewhere.


Ceratonia siliqua

Commonly known as Carob, St John's-bread, or Locust bean this tree is native to the Mediterranean. 

It is widely cultivated for its edible pods.  The ripe, dried pod is often ground to carob powder, which is used to replace cocoa powder. Carob bars, an alternative to chocolate bars, are often available in health-food stores.  The production of locust bean gum (LBG), used in the food industry, is the economically most important use of carob seeds. LBG is used as a thickening agent, stabilizer, gelling agent, or as a substitute for gluten in low-calorie products. 

The unit "carat", used for weighing precious metal and stones comes from the ancient practice of weighing gold and gemstones against the seeds of the carob tree by people in the Middle East. The system was eventually standardized, and one carat was fixed at 0.2 grams.


Coffea arabica

Originally native to the forests of Ethiopia and the mountainous regions of Yemen this familiar plant is now widely cultivated elsewhere around the world. The first written record of coffee made from roasted coffee beans comes from Arab scholars, who wrote that it was useful in prolonging their working hours. The Arab innovation in Yemen of making a brew from roasted beans, spread first among the Egyptians and Turks, and later on found its way around the world.

Tropical range glasshouse

Constructed in the early 1990’s on the site of the original wooden Tropical and Show glasshouses which had become dangerous and needed to be demolished this landscaped glasshouse is where you will find plants from the jungles and rainforests of the world.  It has been planted so as to give a naturalistic setting. 

This glasshouse contains many epiphytes (plants that use other plants to live on but are not parasitic, merely using them as a convenient perch to achieve more favourable conditions) such as bromeliads, aroids and orchids.

The plants in these glasshouses experience temperatures of

 no lower than 12° C.


Plants you may see in this glasshouse include:

Asplenium nidus

This evergreen fern commonly known as the Bird’s-nest fern has a wide tropical distribution from tropical southeastern Asia, eastern Australia, Hawaii, India and eastern Africa it often lives on other trees where it collects water and humus in its leaf-rosette

Beaumontia grandiflora

This showy climber is found naturally from India to Vietnam and is commonly known as Nepal Trumpet Flower, Herald's Trumpet and Easter Lily Vine.  It has large white, fragrant flowers.


Cattleya maxima

A showy, epiphytic orchid native to Ecuador (their national flower), Colombia and Peru first introduced in the early 19th century.


Nepenthes

Also known as tropical pitcher plants or monkey cups these insectiverous plants are native to SE Asia.  

Nepenthes species usually consist of a shallow root system and a prostrate or climbing stem, often several metres long.  From the leaf tendril, which in some species aids in climbing, the pitcher forms. The pitcher contains a fluid which is used to drown the prey. 

The lower part of the pitcher contains glands which absorb nutrients from captured prey.  Prey usually consists of insects, but the largest species (e.g. N. rajah and N. rafflesiana) may occasionally catch small vertebrates, such as rats and lizards.


Neoregelia carolinae 'Tricolor'

This cultivar of a Brazilian bromeliad can be seen growing epiphytically as it would in the wild.  Its vase-like structure means that it can retain water during dry conditions and also plays host in the wild to numerous creatures such as mosquito larvae and tree frogs. 


Thunbergia mysorensis

This handsome climber from southern India has several common names such as Indian clock vine, Mysore trumpetvine, brick & butter vine, lady's slipper vine and dolls' shoes.  It is hummingbird pollinated in the wild.

All photographs in the Glasshouse section

Copyright Alan Gregg