Pomegranates by Ann Schweizer from the Shirley Sherwood Collection
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Abundance: seeds, pods and autumn fruits

An exhibition of contemporary botanical artwork from the Shirley Sherwood Collection, featuring fruit and plants from around the world. Until 11 March 2018.

Event details

Until 11 March 2018, 10am to 3.45pm

Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art


Included with entry to the Gardens. Save on the price of your ticket when you book online

Exhibition overview

This exhibition of fruit and plant paintings shows the diversity and breadth of the Shirley Sherwood Collection. Some of the paintings took months of observation to produce as they show all the different stages of the ripening fruit. 

Seed production and dispersal

Many plants produce an abundance of seeds, although usually only a small proportion are successfully dispersed and able to germinate. 

There are a number of dispersal methods that have evolved since large primitive embryos dropped to the ground and germinated nearby, crowding the parent (as seen with the idiot fruit Idiospermum australiense).

Wind dispersal

Lightweight seeds can have appendages like parachutes (e.g. dandelion), wings used to spin to the ground (e.g. dipterocarpus, sycamore) or fine fibres (e.g. kapok tree).

Some small seeds are wind-dispersed when their seed pod is shaken and they spill out from the top (for example nigella, poppy).

Dipterocarpus by Waiwai Hove

Waiwai Hove
Dipterocarpus: Shorea sumatrana, Anisoptera megistocarpa, Dipterocarpus zeylanicus, Dipterocarpus alatus

Fruits auto-girate to the ground in tropical forests.

Water dispersal

River plants disperse their seeds, which germinate when washed onto river banks, or sink to the river bed (e.g. water lilies). Some wind-blown seeds can float on the surface of the water and germinate far from the parent.

Buoyant, ocean-drifting seeds may survive in salt water for a year or more, until washed onto a coastal shore to germinate (e.g. coconut).

Fruits of Savannah by Alvaro Nunes

Alvaro Nunes
Fruits of Savannah

Mauritia flexuosa (bottom row, third from left) is dispersed by water and parrots.

Dispersal by animals

Some seeds are covered in burrs or hooks, which attach to animal fur or feathers and are cleaned off at a distance from the parent plant. Seeds inside fleshy fruits can be eaten by birds, pass through their gut and be excreted at a distance from the parent plant (e.g. elderberries). Nuts may be cached by squirrels (e.g. acorns).

Sausage tree fruit is eaten by a wide variety of animals, particularly voraciously by elephants, then the seed excreted in a large pile of dung and further dispersed by dung beetles.

Strelizia nicolai by Peta Stockton

Peta Stockton
Strelizia nicolai

Seeds with yellow arils are dispersed by birds.

Explosive mechanisms

Some pods explode, shooting the seeds away from the parent. Other pods split open to expose wind-dispersed seeds (e.g. catalpa).

Monkey Pot: Lecythis pisonis by Alvaro Nunes

Alvaro Nunes
Monkey Pot: Lecythis pisonis

Lid bursts open, exposing the nuts which are dispersed by monkeys.