Christchurch Botanic Gardens; the Cuningham Subtropical Greenhouse

The C. A. C. Cuningham greenhouse is one of my favorite greenhouses in New Zealand. It is big in every dimension, and boasts a second story walkway that offers a pretty incredible view of the larger plants in the collection. The only places that I have seen larger specimens and more variety are in outdoor gardens further north. Namely the Auckland Botanic Gardens and Whangarei Quarry Gardens.

That’s a nice sized Coffea arabica on the left. Behind it are elephant ears, bananas, papayas, palms, peace lilies, ferns, philodendrons, and all sorts of plants. Many that we’ve all seen before, and many that I’ve never heard of. Isn’t that what makes a greenhouse great?
I bet you could get a decent amount of coffee beans from a tree of this size.
Hoyas and peperomias trailing down over beds of ginger and other subtropical plants! I could get lost in here.

The bananas in the greenhouse are amazing. They have some pretty big bunches on them as well. A bunch of bananas has layers, or tiers of bananas. Each one of these layers is called a hand. That’s a lot of hands!

There wasn’t a label on this grove of bananas, but by the way things were growing in here the original plants may have been halfway across the greenhouse. Nice banana clump though.
This is really the best part of the genus Musa. Those leaves are what get me. Leaves like those drive the march of civilizations… maybe not, but they’re still neat.
Even if the fruit doesn’t turn out, the banana plant can still satisfy your hunger. Fried banana flowers are very tasty, and compliment pork-stuffed bamboo shoots like nobody’s business.
Papaya on the left, banana in the middle, and taro (Colocasia) on the right. This greenhouse makes me hungry. I wonder if the gardeners planted it this way on purpose?
The large tree to the right is one that I’ve seen planted out in northern NZ fairly often. I’m not sure what the name is, though. It can take the occasional frost and has thorny new growth, as well as massive palmate leaves…

The palms in the greenhouse are impressive too. There were quite a few Phoenix roebelenii and Chamaedorea elegans, something that I really liked. They both stay small even at maturity (for a palm, at least) and can be manageable planted in the ground.

This one could use a little bit of cleaning up. It was only about 10 feet tall though, so it’s not a giant palm. This one happens to be Phoenix roebelenii.


Rhopalostylis sapida is always easy to spot. The upright leaves make it a very distinctive and regal palm, in my opinion.
This palm looks like an Archontophoenix alexandrae poking out from underneath those massive banana leaves.
That palm behind the bench is a Chamaedorea elegans. I used to have one, and it lived for 20 years in my care until I sadly had to give it away.

There is a ficus tree in one end of the greenhouse that reminds me of a giant rhododendron.

It is called Ficus albert-smithii. Very imaginative, very nice. Huge green leaves, and a very nice tint.
The underside is even cooler though. Look at the rusty red! It’s even better in person.
Another Ficus elastica tree, looking a lot like the color of Colocasia ‘Mojito’.
Thunbergia mysorensis, Indian Clock Vine. I like this one, probably because it’s weird.
Closer view of T mysorensis.
Alcantarea imperialis
Peperomia clusiifolia ‘Jely’
Peperomia argyreia, Watermelon Peperomia.
Usually cycads are armed with razor sharp leaflets, but this one looks benign. 
This dwarf banana is tiny. I’m talking a foot tall, and no more. Most likely it’s Musa ‘Truly Tiny’. What a fitting name.
Philodendron of some sort, growing it’s way up the concrete wall underneath the raised walkway. No name on this one, but it’s a neat one.
Just outside the greenhouse is this Cordyline australis, absolutely massive. The temperatures right now are very chilly, and when I took this photo it was below freezing. Looks like it doesn’t mind at all.

The humid heaven that is the subtropical greenhouse is the last part of the Christchurch Botanic Garden that I’ll cover. The garden also includes a fernery, but extremely low light inside that building made it impossible for me to get any good photos. You’ll just have to visit it yourself, and I encourage everyone who has any interest in ferns to do so. The tree ferns and smaller ferns are very nice in that particular fernery. The Auckland Botanic Garden also has a fernery worth visiting, again with low light conditions. Show me a good fernery, and I’ll show you a place that I can’t take a clear photo!

One thought on “Christchurch Botanic Gardens; the Cuningham Subtropical Greenhouse

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s