Backpack? Check. Magnifying glass? Check. Map? Check. Passport? No! There’s no need to go anywhere near an airport, because intrepid young explorers can discover plants from all over the world in the Botanic Garden this summer. And, each week this August, the Botanic Garden will be launching a new plant-spotting activity trail to inspire young Darwins on their summer holidays.
With support from Microsoft Research Ltd and design expertise from new collective, Can Can, the Garden’s popular young explorer backpacks have been totally overhauled and reprovisioned with pencils, notepads and all-new kit essential to a successful voyage of discovery. The backpacks will be stocked with a new and different trail each week in August, with Friday swap-over day.
The four activity trails all reveal just how many weird and wonderful stories plants have to tell. Be a Bee comes first, urging the sharp-eyed to spot all sorts of different bees in the Rose Garden and Bee Borders, and challenging mini Attenboroughs to observe bees collecting up propolis from pine trees (which they use as a glue to patch up the hive) or perhaps spot where a carder bumble bee has nibbled away at the soft leaves of lamb’s ear to collect up the fluff to make its home (in an old mouse nest!) more cosy.
PAH! is the next week’s theme, looking at the interactions between plants, animals and humans. The shrew loo makes an unusual pit stop on this trail through the Glasshouse Range. Nepenthes lowii, a tropical pitcher plant, lures shrews with a rich nectar source to perch above a special jug-shaped leaf, the pitcher, which the shrews then use as a toilet, thus supplying the plant with soluble nutrients! Overhead in the canopy, bromeliad plants collect rainwater in their whorled leaf arrangements to make the perfect paddling pools into which a poison arrow frog can deposit her tadpoles.
In the third week, young explorers can rate the superpowers of plants around the Garden, from the most poisonous to the most explosive, and play plant battle cards.
Lastly, globe-trotting juniors can collect up a plant passport and travel the world within the Garden, collecting stamps and finding out just how far some of the plants have travelled. On the way, budding botanists can try to spot the names of some famous explorers commemorated in the plant names – for example, the mountain flax that has come 11,630 miles from New Zealand is called Phormium cookianum, named after Captain James Cook, seafarer and amateur botanist, who mapped the islands on his first voyage (1768–71).
Just how far will your young naturalists go on an expedition around the Botanic Garden this summer!