tofino botanical gardens

Fall settles in at the Tofino Botanical Gardens

by Josie Osborne, Tofino


The flashiness of spring and the heat of summer have given way to the more subtle smells and colours of fall at Tofino Botanical Gardens.

We've never been as quick at pruning and cleaning during the fall as we probably should be. Instead, we enjoy seeing the full cycle of a plant's life "above the ground". The giant Himalayan lilies (cardiocrinum giganteum) have long since flowered, but their swelling seed pods are almost as remarkable as the blooms that preceded them.

As the leaves fall from the Himalayan birches that line the entrance to the Gardens, look for the curling white paper-like bark as well as the yellow and red bark of the twig dogwoods near by. Fall is also the time to look for cyclamens under the Japanese maples near the entrance to the boardwalk, for the tiny fruits that the Japanese fibre bananas produce, and to smell the gorgeously scented blooms of ornamental gingers in the Tropical Garden.

This fall, we'll be further developing the new Chilean Garden, the newly planted area behind the rainforest gazebo on the Frog Pond. Naturalists and botanists have been fascinated with Chile for centuries.

The climate and terrain of southern Chile are very similar to that of Clayoquot Sound, so many species native to Chile grow very well here.

Perhaps two of the most common plants of Chilean origin that can be found growing in Tofino are fuchsias and Gunnera (Gunnera manicata is the large ancient looking plant that is often called 'Giant Rhubarb', 'Umbrella Plant, or 'Elephant Ear'). In fact, both fuchsias and gunnera seem to grow even larger here that in their native habitat. Interestingly, the forests of Chile evolved in a very different way. While our northern forests evolved as coniferous ones, in Chile broadleaf evergreens became the dominant forest trees. One such tree is the "alerce" (Fitzroya cupressoides), which can live to 4000 years and looks somewhat like our Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata). Once forming huge, old-growth forests, the alerce is now a protected species in Chile. Look for specimens of Fitzroya cupressoides in the Chilean garden, though you may wish to come back in 4000 years to truly appreciate its grandeur!

The Tofino Botanical Gardens are open throughout the fall from 9am till dusk. For for more information, visit the gardens' website at

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Tofino Botanical Garden changes in the fall: Josie Osborne describes plants that are prominent in autumn, and upcoming activities at the gardens.

tofino time september 2003

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