Of the 8000 different species of plants grown at the Garden, it is rather extraordinary that both Sally Petitt, Head of Horticulture, and Alex Summers, Glasshouse Supervisor, have both picked favourites that come from Iran. But they couldn't be more different from each other.
Sally has selected the very hardy Persian ironwood, Parrotia persica, one of the Garden's most beautiful and distinctive trees, offering year-round interest from spidery crimson flowers of late winter to the fiery autumn foliage. Our specimen, on the eastern edge of the Systematics Beds, exhibits the unusual habit of self-grafting to make a serpentine, latticed canopy, stunning in winter.
Alex also looks to Iran, but has chosen a tropical aquatic that grows in the new Tropical Wetlands house. The beautiful waterlily flowers are held aloft on long stems, while the round leaves are super-hydrophobic, meaning that even the stickiest substances are unable to get purchase and simply roll off the leaf surfaces. This phenomenon is the result of a unique surface microstructure, andthe plant is under research as a design guide for self-cleaning materials. The sacred lotus is also adept at time-travel, with a team of horticulturalists successfully germinating seed estimated at over 1200 years old.
Come and read the full storyboards at the Botanic Garden, in situ for Open Cambridge from 12-30 September. You can also download the full trail of My Museum Favourites, which range from a walking stick with a leech compartment to rock that is older than the earth itself, via the link left.