The tropical rainforest habitat contains a unique collection of rare and endangered plant species including cycads, strangling figs, tree ferns and orchids. One area is dedicated to economically important plants that include rice, coffee, banana and sugar cane. A collection of insectivorous plants that include venus fly traps, pitcher plants and sun dews is popular with visitors, especially young children. Aquatic plants that include the ‘worlds worst water weed’ are also present.
The cactus and succulent collection has unique significance for the history of plant science. In the 1940s, researchers working in the Botany department at Newcastle University discovered a new mode of photosynthesis that predominates in desert succulents. Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) is a most interesting means by which plants can conserve water by ‘photosynthesising’ at night. The University today remains an internationally recognised centre for research on CAM.
Outside, the Rhododendron collectioncontains many original wild species that were transferred from Randle Cooke’s Kilbryde garden in the 1980’s. The Teesdale collection includes rare species of Alchemilla whilst the Primula and Meconopsis bed contains species grown from wild seed collected from China and Nepal. There is also a Viburnum and Corylopsis collection.