By Fiona Flores Watson
This botanical garden is full of species donated by countries in the Americas for Expo 92, and is divided into different areas, including palms, cacti (look out for the prickly pear, with its yellow flowers and reddish-yellow fruit), tropical and sub-tropical plants. Many succulents and other plants, including trees, have a multitude of uses, explained on identifying cards, such as making tequila or chichi (a Bolivian liquor); handicrafts; medicinal purposes; and edible fruits and seeds; some even have hallucinogenic properties.
Away from the shady paths, an open area features square pools, waterfalls and a lake, their dull grey concrete brightened up by red canna lilies and pretty flowering red yuccas, with long, fine stems covered in pale red flowers. Look out for tobacco plants (Latin name: Nicotiana), with their huge, rough-textured oval leaves and tiny purple flowers.
The large lake has benches around it, and a jungle-themed kids’ play area (crocodile rocker, wooden play house, palm-tree roundabout, though no shade), so this is a good resting spot. The other water-themed feature is the riverside walkway, a wooden boardwalk built above the river, which runs alongside the whole garden.
The subtropical area, under a slatted wooden roof, has a pool with a mini-waterfall. With the trickling water, dappled shade, ferns and tweeting birds, you could almost be in the Amazon. Past this, you come to the pergolas, a shady area next to the river, and the Aula Bioclimatica, a small wooden house where friendly, helpful staff give talks and presentations to visiting groups, and offer various leaflets about both gardens.
You may recognise some of the typical species found in Andalucia, from parks and gardens: oleander, with its bright pink or white flowers (highly poisonous); yellow-blossomed acacia (mimosa); jacaranda, with mass of purple flowers in spring and early summer; bougainvillea; hibiscus; a shrub with tiny pink, red, orange and yellow flowers called, with Spanish sense of drama, bandera española, flor de sangre or hierba de cristo (Spanish flag, blood flower, or Christ’s herb). More unusual plants include the spectacular bird of paradise bush, with its brilliant yellow flowers and long red tassels. Fauna to look out for include lizards and parakeets.
As with all gardens, the best time to visit, when the plants are at their most colourful and blooming, is spring.