September 2017


A Day at the Peradeniya Gardens
September 2017




The gigantic Java Fig tree at the centre of the Great Lawn

Set amidst 147 acres just 5.5km away from the hill capital Kandy is a rare, fragile collection of living and breathing plant life. Garlanded with vines that tumble down, ribboned and riddled with paths and colourful beds of flowers, the Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya will definitely leave you in awe.


Words: Nethu Wickramasinghe
Photography: L. J. Mendis Wickramasinghe


The longest river Mahaweli, on its journey passing the hill capital, takes a curve near Peradeniya, which borders the Peradeniya Gardens from three sides, while the southern end is margined by the Kandy-Colombo road.


It is believed that the area first got its recognition during the reign of King Wickramabahu III, when he kept court at Peradeniya. Therein for the Kings of ancient Sri Lanka, this was a garden maintained for royalty. Later during the colonial era as the forest covered slowly dwindled for timber and land was encroached for tea and other cash crops, this mere 147 acres eventually became a ‘log book of plant life' to the islands floral collection, labelled and tagged for visitors to see. Currently this land holds as many as 4,000 different species of plants from around the world. Among the popular features of the garden are the Orchid house, the Memorial collection of trees, Flower garden, Palm avenues, Cactus house, and the Bamboo collection.


The entrance to the Gardens has always been welcoming. You will only see endless expanses of plants that dance with colour vibrant in their full magnificence. Vines that descent from branches that web above the paths provide shade to the passerby. The double coconut palms (Lodoicea maldivica) from the Seychelles are the most astounding of all the palms that are found in the garden. These can be seen lined on either side of the road, as you turn left from the entrance. The fruit apparently takes as much as five years to mature, and is supposedly the largest of the seed producing plants.


In a silent niche shaded amongst the greenery lies the memorial built in remembrance to the late George Gardner, who looked after the garden during 1844-49. Moving farther just next to the lake is Napolean's crown plant. An evergreen plant native to the African continent, which has one of the most striking of blooms, that resembles the crown of the great emperor of France Napoleon Bonaparte for which the plant was named after.


Further Info
A transport service is provided for site seeing along with a guide.


Name boards come in four colours
Green - Native plants
Black - Introduced plants
Red - Endemic plants
Yellow - Poisonous plants


The next attraction that many visitors undoubtedly spend much of their time is at the Great Lawn. An ideal spot to picnic, or to have lunch while taking a break from the tiring journey. At the centre is a huge Java fig tree; a tree of memoires which bears branches out stretched and entwined. It has been rocked and swung for years by every child that has entered this premises. Passing the pines avenue, we stopped to explore the glory of the gigantic ficus trees of the Ficus collection. Branches that have dwindled to the earth many years from now, have become strong pillars of support to the massive trees. During the months of April to June these plants come alive thanks to the vines that decline from every inch of the tree.


The suspension bridge to the north of the Garden across the Mahaweli river connects the garden to the Gannoruwa road, which now serves as an entrance way. The memorial collection is an important place that one must not miss while here, for reading each plaque, we were indeed taken by surprise for there were over hundred trees planted by eminent personalities who had visited the garden from time to time. All we could see next were barks, tall and bearing vibrant colour. These were a type of Eucalyptus known as the Rainbow Eucalyptus, from the Australian continent.


Beds laden with blooms of vibrant hues, of the Flower garden attracts many visitors for its magnificent beauty. Not only are these beds laid with blooms but by colourful coleus varieties from red to bright green to yellow. All landscaped like dainty like ribbons bordering the path on either side. The Orchid house is perhaps the most attractive destination within the botanical premises. A spectacle of colour, where each species and variety makes one fascinate the magnificence of nature. Bunches of cute orchids spring out from the plants that hang from the top as if to greet every one passing by. Amongst many species the largest orchid in the world, Grammatophyllum speciosum can be seen here, which was not in bloom that day.


There are two types of species - Alphonsea hortensis (Annonaceae) and Doona ovalifolia (Dipterocarpaceae) of plants here that gain more value than the rest of the plants, as they are the only plants that have survived the test of time through extinction. They are found no more in the wild.


The Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya is a reflection of natural harmony where botanical science and conservation have come together to present the beauty of nature.


Plants of special importance


Memorial Trees

Oldest tree was planted in the year 1875 by HE the late King Edward VII, which is a Ficus or Bo tree.


Apollo 12 Astronauts had planted a Byrsonima crassifolia tree on March 14, 1970.


Kola nuts (Cola acuminata)
The fruit of the Kola trees contains caffeine, hence were used in early beverage production.


Lignum vitae
The densest wood traded, which can easily sink in water.

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    The magnificent entrance leading to the Flower Garden

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    Beds of flowers welcoming guests at the main entrance of the Botanic Gardens

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    The palm collection of the gardens holds over 200 species of palms from around the world

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    The double coconut palms (Lodoicea maldivica) from the Seychelles

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    There are three palm avenues within the premises all of which are perfectly landscaped, lined with tall palm trees

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    The magnificent flower of the Napoleon's crown (Napoleona imperialis) plant

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    A slight drizzle over Lanka Pokuna a lake shaped like the island of Sri Lanka

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    Branches of the gigantic trees entwined in the Ficus collection

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    The suspension bridge over the Mahaweli river is an entrance way to the Garden from the Gannoruwa Road

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