A Gardener’s Tour of the Royal Ontario Museum

It might surprise you to know that in the same place we go to visit dusty mummies and dinosaur bones, a world of plants is awaiting your visit.  The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto has a strong theme of botanical heritage throughout its exhibits, and this is a whistlestop tour of what the ROM has to offer the gardener (especially in the winter when our gardens are under snow).

Stop 1 – The Dinosaurs!

Alongside the triceratops and its friends, you can see fossilized seeds and leaves, as well as plants from dinosaur times that have survived to today, such as the ginkgo tree and horsetail.  In fact, horsetail grew tree-sized back then, resembling today’s conifers!

Stop 2 – Gallery of Biodiversity

The biodiversity gallery features an in-depth display on tallgrass prairies, including specimens of big bluestem, wild bergamot, Culver’s root and many more.  The map showing the past range of tallgrass plains in Ontario, now diminished to few remnant sites, is a memorable image.  There is also a wall display headed “Naturalize Your Garden”, showing the wealth of pollinator plants that thrive in Ontario gardens.

Stop 3: Wildlife Photographer of the Year Special Exhibit

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year is a temporary exhibit, but well worth a visit while it is still here.  The quiet, vivid world of fungi, mason bees and tiny wildlife battles, including some pictures taken by very young photographers, was an excellent experience.

Stop 4 – Secret Specimen Drawers

While most of the ROM’s storage is out of sight, a few areas hold drawers of exciting things to see, including this collection of carefully labelled seeds (and a few escapees!).  Don’t forget to peek in the drawers you spot among the displays.

Stop 5 – Online Collection

Even if you don’t have Toronto on your itinerary in the near future, there is an impressive online herbarium on the ROM’s website.  Thousands of plants are featured among the ROM’s almost 80,000 items in the online collection: https://collections.rom.on.ca/search/*/objects?filter=department%3ANatural%20History%25255C%3A%20Plants#filters#filters

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