I’ve never been in a botanic garden like this one. The Olive Pink Botanic Garden in Alice Springs, Australia, is across the Todd River from downtown. The Todd is odd too. Its flow is usually described as intermittent. I’ve never seen water in it. It flooded Alice Springs in 2015. This happened in December. There hadn’t been water in the Todd since the previous January. If it does have water in it, that water eventually flows into the Simpson Desert and disappears. The Olive Pink Botanic Garden opened to the public in 1985. It’s unusual because it doesn’t contain roses, tulips, etc. it contains only Australian natives, and, while there, you’re more likely to be surrounded by flies than typical botanic beauty. If you see an animal, it will more than likely be a Black-footed Rock Wallaby or a poisonous reptile.
Olive Pink Botanic Garden has 600 Central Australian plant species, 33 of which are threatened. It is now said to be “a globally unique treasure” but in its Guide Book. I never made it up to the top of Annie Myers Hill for its fine view of Alice Springs but, swatting flies the entire time, I took The Wattle Walk. The wattle is a native Australian tree that has many species but doesn’t have leaves. Most wattles are short-lived. They thrive in difficult places like Central Australia and many species bear yellow flowers in late spring and winter. I saw none in bloom. In fact, I didn’t see a single bloom in this entire botanic garden. This would probably please Olive Pink.
Olive Pink is most often described now as unforgettable, indomitable, colorful, or threatening. She lived in her garden in a small tin hut and, probably, had no fly swatter. She only hired Aboriginals like Johnny Jampijinpa to create and then tend her garden. She fought for Aboriginal rights in a time when this was controversial. Often in trouble with the law, she once was fined for contempt of court, refused to pay, and asked to go to jail instead. She studied anthropology, turned what was known as the Australian Arid Regions Native Flora Reserve into this garden, and promoted the cultivation of only native plants. She was far more likely to prefer one with thorns instead of flowers, and she focused on those that could either be eaten or turned into medicine. She lived to be 91.
Like Alice Springs itself, the Olive Pink Botanic Garden is a tough but interesting place to be.