Gardens in paradise

It may be difficult for readers in southern areas to imagine why there is a need for a Botanic Gardens in Cairns where lush tropical plants grow all year around. However, pressure on plant life from development occurs everywhere.

The Flecker Botanic Gardens, named after Dr Hugo Flecker a pioneer in the preservation of the region's flora, provide a haven for a broad collection of tropical rainforest and plants. This includes many rare and endangered species.

The importance of its tropical vegetation is emphasised by the fact that Cairns is one of the few Local Governments to operate a Botanic Gardens. For the citizens of Cairns and visitors, the Gardens provide an insight into the beauty, variety and fragility of tropical plantlife.

Established as a Reserve in 1886, the Gardens are regarded as one of the best examples of tropical plant species in the world. An estimated 100,000 people visit each year.

The Gardens include a rainforest boardwalk through three different kinds of rainforest, a swamp forest, melaleuca wetlands, a fern house, an interpreter centre and an area of tropical fruit trees.

An extensive Aboriginal Plant Use Garden illustrates how local species can be used for food, medicine, contraception and construction materials. Each year, Friends of the Botanic Gardens hold a Festival. This celebrates the contribution the Gardens make to expanding knowledge and awareness of tropical ecosystems and their place in the natural world.

This year, the Festival featured free family friendly theatre, music and dance under the stars in this lush rainforest environment. Funds from the Festival contribute to equipment used by Gardens staff to further their study of tropical plant species.

The Botanic Gardens is just one of three popular open space venues all located in close proximity. Adjacent to the Gardens are the Centenary Lakes, which offer a variety of waterbased recreational activities.

Also nearby is Sugarworld. Here families can picnic under big shady trees or take advantage of the refreshment stall and licensed facilities. Entry is free, with charges applying to those who want to have fun on the four Giant Waterslides.