Bird watching, Rose Gardens, Spice Gardens, Orchid House, Cactus House,
Flower Garden, Fernery, Arboretum, Bulb Garden, Rock Garden
Hakgala. We are in Central Highlands
(Up country) of Sri Lanka. Hakgala Gardens lie beneath the towering
Hakgala Rock some 10km south of Nuwara Eliya
(Little England) with majestic views across hills receding in tiers into
the distance. Among the gardens in the island, Hakgala Botanical Gardens
is second only to renowned
Perdeniya Royal Botanical Gardens
the gateway to the Central highlands.
Hakgala Botanical Gardens is located within the Hakgala Strict Natural
The rock of Hakgala (Jaw Rock) rises 450 meters (1500 feet) above the
gardens & believed to be one of the two places (the other being the cave
) where King Rawana held Sita, consort of Lord Rama of great
Indian epic Ramayana. The soil of the area around Sita Eliya temple
close to the Gardens is darker than elsewhere in the island. According
to the legend, it was in this area Lord Hanuman, in his rage, wreaked
havoc on the villages & the forests: his tail was set on fire by King
Rawana. The darkened soil is said to be no accident or design of nature.
The strange circular depressions in the rock by the adjacent stream are
believed to be the footprints of King Rawana's elephant. Of course all
of these tales belong to Mythology in Sri Lanka.
The Gardens (27ha) were established in 1860 as an experimental Cinchona
plantation from which the anti-malarial drug quinine is derived.
Subsequently the gardens were used for experiments in acclimatizing
temperate-zone plants to life in tropics. Today Hakgala's gardens of
roses, shrubs, ferns & montane woodland are delightfully located in
salubrious environment, with small streams running across & wooden
bridges built over them with birds flying all over. The charm of the
Gardens, cold & shady atmosphere & enchanting sceneries soothes your
mind relieving you of your anxieties. The gardens sprawl up the steep
hillside, ranging from the anodyne ornamental areas around the entrance
to the far wider & more interesting forests up the hills. The best views
are from the steps & path on to the right immediately after the entrance
gate that lead through the azalea garden up to a little pavilion.
The Spice garden
The shady Spice garden to the right on main entrance bears a fine
selection including cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. Some of the oldest
nutmeg trees planted in the year 1840 still in fine fettle.
The Rose Garden
The Rose Garden, twin terraced block of land is home to more than 100
varieties of Roses. Some of the varieties of the Roses were imported &
planted by the British colonial rulers of then Ceylon. The glass house,
indoor garden displays blooming species & varieties of Begonia,
Peperomia, Saintpaulia, Primula, Glaxinia, Steptocarpus & Pelargniu.
The Orchid House
The orchid House shows off a captivation of exotic blooms of Cattleya,
Dendrobium, Arachnis, Oncidium, Phalaenopsis, Vanda & their hybrids.
Around the orchid House are several hardy orchids including the largest
orchid in the world (Grammatophyllum speciosum) which produces flower
spike up to 2.5 m long & the green orchid (Coelogyne meyeriana).
Small Plant House
Close to the Orchid House is a small Plant House containing a variety of
green house plants such as ferns, begonias, African violets, Episcia
diffenbachia, Phildendron bromelia & Anthuriaum.
The Cactus house & the Flower Garden
The Cactus house exhibit over 800 species including Agaves, Opuntia,
Kalachoe, Cereus, Rebutia, Rhipsalis while the Flower Garden displays
numerous annual flowers arranged according to the height & colour of the
The fernery provides shaded atmosphere. Among the ferns are Tree fern (Cyathea
crinita). Many species of native ferns grow in the shades of tall trees.
This section also house old bushes of Tea (Camellia sinensis), which
were used for experimentation of tea cultivation in hill country. This
collection forms the very introduction of Assam tea hybrid brought to
Ceylon in 1967.
The main rock garden established in 1921, provides an environment for
many kind of herbaceous plants. These plants thrive well in beds laid
out among rock & boulders. The pond below the sloppy lawn is home to
water lily (Nymphea maxicana).
The arboretum is one of the most important sections of the garden. This
section covers a large area behind the rock garden. Various native
species as well as species introduced from subtropical countries abound
Bulb garden established in 1924, contains a collection of subtropical
bulbous plants like Lillum varieties, Watsonia, Agapanthus varieties,
Galdiolus, Hemerocallis, Amaryilis, Alstremeria & Zantedeschia.
The wooded areas
The wooded areas of the gardens include numerous majestic Monterey
cypresses from California, U.S.A & fine old cedars. There are areas of
enormous tree ferns, stands of Japanese camphour, & pines & eucalpyts, a
shaggy cluster of bark-shedding Australian melaleucas.
Endemic montane bird species
The garden is also one of the best places in the island to spot endemic
montane bird species & migratory birds during North-East monsoon.
Among the indigenous birds are Sri Lanka wood pigeon, Southern crow
pheasant, Layard's wood pecker, straked fan tail warbler, Yellow fronted
barbet, Tickell's flower pecker (the smallest bird in Sri Lanka), Ceylon
jungle fowl, Forest Eagle Fowl, Yellow eared Bulbul, Southern Indian
Black Bulbul, Green willow warbler, Gray headed fly catcher, Black
winged kite, Pintail snipe, Brown shrike, Black headed Munia, Indian
Tailor Bird, Jungle bush quail, Ceylon scimitar babbler, Dusky blue fly
catcher, Ceylon munia, Large Ceylon white eye, Himalayan blue chat.
Among the migratory birds are Gray wagtail, Pied ground thrush, bungalow
swallow, Pied & brown shrike, Indian woodchat, Green willow warbler,
Gray headed fly catcher, Black winged kite, Pintail snipe, Brown shrike.
Above the gardens, a forest trail leads into virgin woodland-the home of
a troop of purple-faced leaf monkeys, a species endemic to the island,