The Indian Chestnut in Spring

Discovery at the Geelong Botanic Gardens takes many forms. As a volunteer guide, I like to think that my task is to help other people discover our gardens. However, sometimes the boot is on the other foot.

As part of my role on the committee of the FGBG, I spend most Wednesdays in and around the Friends' office and the Meeting Room. Wednesdays are a good time to meet people and sometimes to get a bit of work done in a friendly and lively atmosphere. In this way I have now got to know many of the Growing Friends who meet on Wednesday mornings as well as the Wagtails, a group of Botanical Artists who meet together for some studio time in the convivial surroundings of the Meeting Room on Wednesday afternoons.

It was my contact with this latter group that led to my latest discovery.

Botanical Artists excel at noticing and interpreting the fine detail in plants. Rosemary Donnelly had been out in the gardens when she noticed fallen seeds from the Indian Chestnut (Aesculus indica) which had started to sprout. A quick search of the ground under the tree revealed a whole series of seeds at various stages of germination. The first I knew about this was Helena’s urgent call “Jenny, you’ve got to come and see this”. Given the urgency of the call, I was expecting a sizable spider, or at least something that would not last long. What was revealed though was a tray of Indian horse chestnut seedlings, laid out to show the stages of germination from the first split in the seed coat, which revealed the root radica,l through to a young seedling with the first leaves just starting to unfurl.

Together we examined each seedling, while Rosemary explained to me how, during the early stages of germination, the seed is sitting on the surface, but that as the root develops, the seed is pulled down into the soil so that only the shoot is visible. We both marvelled at the way the root twists around the seed to grow down into the soil and how the shoot radical emerges from the root near the seed to grow upwards towards the light, all surrounded by a frilly pink and cream collar!

I’m sure that the sequence of seedlings would make a wonderful painting and perhaps Rosemary will choose them as a subject for one of her works, but I am content to have been invited into the world of fine detail – and to take a few snaps on my camera!

Jenny Possingham