City Botanic Gardens self-guided walks
Self-guided walks enable botanical gardens exploration at your pace. A free map and brochure for the City Botanic Gardens self-guided walk is available from the Rotunda.
Mt Coot-tha and city botanical gardens now have permanent wheelchair-friendly orienteering courses. Visit the Orienteering Queensland website to download maps and courses.
A to Z walk references
A. Queensland's sugar industry inception
After many failed attempts, in 1862, Walter Hill and John Buhôta (a Barbados planter), successfully granulated the juice from sugar cane. The sugar cane was growing in crop trials at the City Botanic Gardens. This achievement marked the Queensland sugar industry's inception.
B. Flood mark
This was erected in 1999 to commemorate floods that devastated parts of the gardens. Between 1870 and 1974, eight major floods swept though the gardens. The worst floods were in 1890, 1893, 1897 and 1974. In the 1974 flood, water rose up to 4.6 metres in the garden's centre. Whole plant collections were destroyed and the gardens closed for 10 weeks.
C. City Botanic Gardens lagoon and fern island original site
The lagoon was built for irrigation and drainage when the government garden was established. During the 1860s, Walter Hill developed the highly acclaimed Fern Island within the old lagoon. The island was linked to the shores by two small footbridges. A grove of giant bamboos surrounded it. In 1937, the lagoon was drained and filled because of mosquito complaints. An outstanding collection of bamboo was lost.
D. Bamboo grove
The Bamboo grove is a collection of 23 bamboo species. It was planted to commemorate the bamboo collection lost in 1937.
E. Walter Hill Fountain
In 1867, Stonemason John Petrie built the stone drinking fountain. He used the designs of Queensland's first colonial architect Charles Tiffin. It commemorates the completion of Queensland's first major engineering achievement - Enoggera Dam. The fountain was later named to honour the first gardens' curator.
F. Jemmy Morrill and the Brolgas sculpture
Queenslander Lindsay Daen created the bronze sculpture. It's on permanent loan from the Queensland Art Gallery. The sculpture is of 22 year old seaman, James Morrill. In 1846, he was the sole survivor of an outer edge Great Barrier Reef shipwreck. Saved by Aborigines, he lived with them for 17 years before returning to Bowen's European settlement. He helped to improve indigenous and early settler relations.
G. Mahogany tree (Swietenia mahagoni)
Walter Hill planted the tree in 1858. It's believed to be Australia's first.
H. Macadamia nut or Queensland nut tree (Macadamia integrifolia)
The tree is believed to be the world's first commercially-grown macadamia, planted by Walter Hill in 1858. The tree, which still produces nuts, was brought from the Queensland bush near Gympie. Locals know these trees as the bauple nut, named after nearby Mount Bauple.
I. Rainforest Garden gneiss and coral rockeries
During the 1860s, Australia shipped wheat to South America from Kangaroo Point wharves (acorss the river). Ships returning without commercial cargoes used rocks or gneiss, as ballast. View the South American gneiss - a streaked metamorphic rock - in the gardens' rear rockeries. You will also see coral dredged from Moreton Bay.
J. Site of the first jacaranda
Cargo ships travelling to South America returned with plants, including what is believed to be Australia's first jacaranda tree (Jacaranda mimosifolia). The specimen was planted in 1864 and grew to 34 metres high with a canopy diameter of 27 metres. It was blown down in a 1980 storm. View the tree in R. Godfrey Rivers' oil on canvas Under the Jacaranda (1903) at the Queensland Art Gallery.
K. Curator's residence
The curator's residence was built in 1909. It was a federation -style home with:
- four bedrooms
- a parlour
- dining room
- lounge room
- maid's quarters
- office with a tiled roof
- wide verandahs
It replaced other residences built for earlier curators. The navy claimed the building during World War II and removed the back-half to an unknown location. In 1987, the house was converted into a restaurant during a major gardens' redevelopment.
L. Dragon tree (Dracaena draco)
Planted by Walter Hill in 1862, the tree originates from the Canary Islands. The wood is heavy, with red sap that oozes from the cut truck. The resin was used by 18th century Italian violin-makers for varnishing their instruments. It was also used for staining marble. Dragon trees live to an old age and do not branch or flower until 30 years old.
M. Tamarind tree (Tamarindus indica)
In 1858, Walter Hill planted the tree as a potential food crop for the early colony. It still produces fruit. In 2001, a neighbouring lychee tree (Litchi chinensis) planted at the same time was removed. The gardens' volunteer guides replaced it with a commemorative tree.
N. Floods and leaning palms
You can see the effects of the 1890s floods in several palms with trunks leaning at angles. Failed attempts to upright them involved using horses, ropes and winches.
O. Fig trees
The small-leaved fig (Ficus microcarpa) is a Queensland native, while the banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) originates from India. Banyan trees can cover many acres when they are 500 to 600 years old. Their aerial roots form new trunks and the huge branches can extend a long way from the parent plant.
P. Bear pit shelter
Currently a shelter for visitors, the area was originally a bear pit enclosure with the gardens' zoological collection. During the 1930s, the zoo also had aviaries and animal compounds with deer, monkeys, a baboon and fauna. In 1958, the zoo closed due to a gardens' conflict of interest, and because of the animal enclosures' poor state and cost of care.
Q. Anzac pines and other conifers
Area tree features include:
- On the right are Anzac pines (Pinus brutia). In 1979, these pines were planted from seeds collected at Lone Pine, Gallipoli where Anzacs fought during World War I.
- On the right, you will also see native Australian conifers such as the hoop pine (Araucaria cunninghamii). The hoop pine was popular for building in the early days of colonisation and was nearly milled out.
- On the left is a Roxburgh pine (Pinus roxburghii) from the foothills of the Himalayas.
- Towards the fence is a Queensland kauri pine (Agathis robusta). There is also a Cook's pine (Araucaria columnaris), a New Caledonia native.
- Along the fence is a bunya pine (Araucaria bidwillii). Mature trees can grow to 40 metres and the cones can weigh up to 10 kilograms. The cones contain many large, starch-filled seeds that Aborigines would eat raw when unripe or roasted when ripe.
R. Ornamental ponds
Harry Oakman, former manager of Brisbane City Council's parks' department and landscape architect, designed the top ornamental pond. It was created between 1958 and 1960. The lower ornamental pond was part of the gardens' original natural creek system.
S. Albert Street entrance gates and City Botanic Gardens' fence
The Albert Street entrance gates are the oldest formal gates to the gardens. They were erected in 1865 and marked the official opening of Queen's Park, a public park next to the gardens. Queen's Park officially became part of the City Botanic Gardens in 1916. In the same year, a fence was built on the Alice Street gardens' border. This fence was made from iron palisades from an earlier fence and convict-cut stone from the demolition of Brisbane Jail.
T. Cuban royal palms
There is a circle of Cuban royal palms (Roystonea regia) planted in the early 20th century by the-then curator, Ernest Walter Bick. Where the palms are located was originally a cricket ground when it was part of the former Queen's Park. Int he 1860s, Queen's Park was incorporated into the botanic gardens. It was officially gazetted in 1916. In 1919, the lower-end of Queen's Park was filled with soil from the newly-graded riverbank to reduce flood risk. Exotic shade trees and palms including the royal palms were planted here.
U. Bunya pine walk
Walter Hill planted the row of bunya pines between 1858 and 1867. The bunya pine (Araucaria bidwillii) was named and planted here in honour of John Carne Bidwill. He was an important colonial botanist and Commissioner of Lands at Wide Bay. He died in 1853.
V. Blue gums (Eucalyptus tereticornis)
The largest blue gums along the riverbank are the remnants of the area's original vegetation. The species is a significant native habitat tree providing food and shelter for many different native animals. Few of these trees are now found in the inner city.
W. Paluma Boat
The Paluma Boat playground has a ship-like structure, inspired by the worst flood in Brisbane's history. On 6 February 1893, three small naval vessels were washed up onto the gardens' riverbank. The government accepted a tender to refloat the vessels. However, before this could be done, another flood two weeks later carried the ships back into the river at no expense to the government.
X. Weeping Fig Avenue (Ficus benjamina)
The Weeping Fig Avenue was planted in the late 1800s as a barrier between the northern boundary of the City Botanic Gardens and Queen's Park. The avenue of figs is a significant gardens feature, connecting pedestrians from the riverside to the main entry path at Alice Street.