Another Botanical Stroll: The Pacific Connections Garden at Seattle Arboretum

The Seattle Arboretum was founded in 1934, but the Pacific Connections garden is a brand new piece of it – five eco-geographic forests planted in the last 10 years.  As the below metal sculpture sign displays, they represent the Pacific Northwest (Cascadia), Chile, New Zealand, Australia, and China, all areas with temperate climates.  Many of the species planted at the garden are threatened in their natural habitat.

sculpture sign 1a

Below is another metal-sculpture sign comparing rainfall in the five regions.  All of them are similar in total annual precipitation, but China has more summer rainfall than the other four regions.

sculpture and sign

Features of the existing arboretum are all around: below are a walkway and a drainage hardscaped with large and small rock.

Sunday in park



The first area I came to was the Australia forest.

australia sign



leaning eucalypt

This young Eucalyptus is leaning west, looking for more sun.  The area behind the camera has been cleared to give it more morning light

In the New Zealand section, the unusual shrub known as the wire netting cotoneaster, a distant relative of our Pacific Northwest dogwood.  You can see how it got its name.nickname.

Corokia cotoneaster

New Zealand has so many plants that are found nowhere else.  Below is another odd looking native tree / large shrub, the narrow leafed lacebark.

narrow leafed lacebark

Narrow leafed lacebark’s weepy habit

Here is a Pacific Northwest native western red cedar, Thuja plicata, common to moist forests in this area.  But this one looks completely different because it is a cultivar (a plant found in the wild and selectively bred to attenuate its form or growth habit).  It is known as the whipcord, a shrub or even grass-like dwarf,

Whipcord cedar

Whipcord, the Western red cedar cultivar

wild western red cedar

The bottom of the original wild form – a tall western red cedar tree

western red cedar sign

Western red cedar is revered by Native Americans, who have used almost every part of it for something

The idea behind the Pacific Connections garden fascinates me.  When in grad school studying the semi-arid chaparral vegetation along the U.S. – Mexico border, I learned that similar looking, but completely unrelated plants grew in central Chile, where climate and rainfall were like California.  Chile’s flora is almost completely isolated from the rest of the world, yet its coast is a mirror image of our west coast.  As one heads south, desert grades into semi-desert, then dry coniferous forest, humid coniferous forest like the Pacific Northwest, Canada, and southeast Alaska,  and finally into sub-polar Patagonia at the southern tip of America.  

Below are shots of the Chilean conifer, Araucaria arcancana. Chilean pine or Pehuén, it’s common name in Chile.  The taxonomic name is from the indigenous Pahuénche Araucanian peoples of southern Chile. 

Aracaria branches

Striking Araucaria branches. The tree is described as almost “reptilian” in botanical literature, and as fossil-like, because individual trees can live 1,000 years, and because they have grown in Chile for 200 million years, since the dinosaur era.


An Araucaria catches some winter sun.  The Cahuénche Araucarians collected its edible nuts which are said to taste something like pine nuts.

Oddly enough, the Araucaria is known here and elsewhere in the world as the “monkey puzzle”.  The Missouri Botanical Garden website attributes the name to a comment made by an 19th century English botanist who mused that a monkey would be confused trying to climb its branches.  Well there are no monkeys in Chile, just sayin’.  A pretty misleading name.

Chinese paperbush

Chinese Paperbush shrub also known as “Nanging gold”. In the past its bark was used to produce high quality ornamental paper


falling flowers

Well, there’s lots more, but that’s enough for now.  if you have the chance, go there.  It’s a place of beauty, and also very relaxing …. see below

nap in park



3 responses to “Another Botanical Stroll: The Pacific Connections Garden at Seattle Arboretum

  1. Very nice photos Jonathan! I think I want to go there on my next visit to Seattle. Paolo

  2. Rosa Pérez Suárez

    ¡Que bonito recorrido e interesantes analogías de la naturaleza! Y las fotos nos colocan en cada detalle relevante del paseo. ¡Gracias por compartir el reportaje! Y, ¡por supuesto que deseo volver a visitar el Seattle Arboretum!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s