Many Australian plants are not amenable to Canberra's hot, dry summers and cold, frosty winters and require specific climatic conditions to thrive. The Gardens have four glasshouses and a shadehouse divided up into seven distinct microclimates to accommodate the needs of all its plants.
The glasshouses and shadehouse contain over 5000 individual plants, with the vast majority being orchids. Scientists from the Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research use these orchids and specimens from the Australian National Herbarium to research the highly complex classification system of orchids.
The glasshouses contain both epiphytic and terrestrial orchids. Epiphytic orchids attach themselves to rocks, logs or trees and form the bulk of the collection. In addition, a small number of terrestrial (ground-dwelling) orchids are housed in a propagation polytunnel at the nursery. Terrestrial orchids occur naturally in spring and summer in the Gardens and the surrounding Black Mountain Nature Reserve. No epiphytic orchids grow naturally in Canberra as the climate is too cold and dry, but they do occur in the nearby coastal ranges.
When the orchids are flowering in springtime, the Shadehouse is opened to the public. Check the What's on pages for more details, as this event does not happen every year.
Display Glasshouse - public access
This glasshouse contains orchids that are surplus to requirements for scientific study, plus a variety of interesting tropical plants that cannot grow outdoors. More information on the Display glasshouse.
Understorey of rainforest plants
Cool temperate species. Approximately 25°C day / 15°C night. In winter the temperatures drop 5 - 10 °C. Moderate humidity.
Monsoon woodlands and grasslands (some from Kakadu National Park)
Tropical climates. Approximately 33°C day / 22°C night. In winter the temperatures drop 5 - 10 °C. Moderate humidity.
Glasshouse (Lowlands / Mountain Mist) - no public access
Tropical lowlands environment
Wet tropics. Approximately 30°C day / drops by 5°C at night. High humidity.
Mountain mist environment
Cloud forests found in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Includes many orchids from Papua New Guinea. Also large tassel ferns and pitcher plants. 25°C day / 10°C night.
Glasshouse (Monsoon) - no public access
Monsoon / dry tropics
Hot, low 30°C's and very humid for Summer / Wet season. Dry and cooler in Winter / Dry season.
Glasshouse (Montane) - no public access
Intermediate / montane house
Replicates the intermediate area between the cloud forests and lowlands of Papua New Guinea. Many tassel ferns. Cool to warm 25 - 30°C day / 15°C night. Low humidity.
Shadehouse (Cool Temperate) - occasional public access
The corridor almost exclusively grows orchids, many from the coastal ranges of the east coast of Australia.
The plants in the shadehouse are protected from the elements with varying layers of waterproofing or shade cloth added to the meshed exterior walls throughout the year. The changes in covering coincide roughly with the seasons.