Plants and Gardens

Explore our Gardens and galleries to find plants and Museum objects made from natural materials - download the resources below.

Explore our Gardens and galleries to find plants and Museum objects made from natural materials in this resource. Or, if you would like to make your own trails or work sheets tailored to your visit, the images and text on this page can be easily copied and pasted to your own design.

  • Perhaps use images from objects located in different galleries and in the Gardens to create a challenge or simple trail through the Museum to find specific objects or places.
  • Use object images to encourage independent research, for instance, find out and write down three facts about an object or group of objects. Alternatively, give facts or clues to challenge your pupils to identify mystery objects.
  • Set an alphabetical challenge to find or draw 26 objects one for each letter of the alphabet.
  • Create a sketchbook challenge.

Images in this pack

Nature Trail

The Horniman Nature Trail is the oldest in London. It is nearly a kilometre long and runs along the route of the original Crystal Palace and South London Junction Railway.

The railway was closed in 1954 and quickly became a wild woodland area. There is an apple tree growing along the Nature Trail that possibly grew after a train passenger threw an apple core out of the window!

Today, we look after the trail, encouraging a wide variety of plants so lots of birds and insects come to visit. We have a pond and a meadow to attract new species, and a log pile area gives minibeasts somewhere to live. We have even found the endangered stag beetle living on the trail.

Which plants and animals can you find down on the Nature Trail? Why is it important to encourage wildlife in cities?


This papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus, is similar to the papyrus used in Ancient Egypt to make paper. Parts could also be eaten or used to make utensils, boats and baskets. Yellow flowering heads were used to make decorative garlands as offerings for the gods.

Many of the plants that we grow in the Gardens, like this one, are from warmer climates than London. We often have to protect them from the colder winter temperatures, which can mean digging them up and putting them in the greenhouse until the spring.

What else could you do to help a plant from a warm country live in London?

Wollemi pine

This Wollemi pine grows in our Jurassic Garden, and is a very special tree. It is the only species left of an ancient type of tree that grew over 65 million years ago, when dinosaurs walked the earth. For a long time, this species was thought to have been extinct – but in 1994 a population was discovered in a remote location in Australia, which is kept top secret.

Our Wollemi pine was planted in the Horniman Gardens in 2016 and grows alongside other ‘living fossils’ – plant species that have been around for millions of years. These include a monkey puzzle tree, tree ferns and a ginko tree.

Bark cloth

Barkcloth is a type of material made from the inner bark of the Mutuba tree in Fiji. The bark is peeled away from the plant, soaked with water and beaten with heavy mallets until it becomes thin and flexible, and up to five times wider! The bark is then left in the sun to darken to a deep brown.

Beaten strips of the cloth are overlapped and beaten again to make a much longer piece of barkcloth. They are then hand decorated with paint or stencils.

Lots of things are made from barkcloth including headdresses, masks and body decorations, for every day and ceremonies.

What patterns can you see on this piece of barkcloth? What other objects in the museum can you find that are made from parts of trees?

Wedding basket

This basket is known as a sintong (wedding basket) in Malaysian Borneo.

It was made by weaving leaves from palm trees together. It is called a wedding basket because it is said to have been used for carrying things during a wedding ceremony.

Baskets shaped like this are now used to carry rice seed for planting, and can be worn on a person’s back by adding straps to the top. Rice plants grow well in places like Borneo, where the climate is hot and wet.

What do we call a climate that is hot and wet? Which other plants might grow well in a climate like that?


A nabu, from Papua New Guinea, is a bracelet worn on the upper-arm. It is made from a strip of bark, fastened with rope, then wound with a strip of Pandanus leaf.

Pandanus leaf is also used in cooking to make desserts.

A ribbon, made from a fern, is woven around different sticks to create the beautiful design. The name of this nabu, kenoni nabu, comes from the zig-zag decoration called kenoni.

Have you seen a design like this on other jewellery?

Tea caddy

Frederick Horniman, the founder of the Horniman Museum, bought this tea caddy from China. A tea caddy is a box that stores tea. This caddy is hexagonal, with different inscriptions on each side.

Tea was a very important part of Mr Horniman’s life. He was a tea trader who travelled the world. He first saw tea plants growing in Darjeeling in India.

Tea plants belong to the Camellia family and are evergreen (grow all year round). In India, tea grows on steep slopes,up to over a kilometre high.

Have you ever seen a tea plant? Can you think of other plants that we turn into drinks?

Cassava grater

Cassava is a root vegetable that grows in tropical areas. It is an important food crop in South America but it has to be prepared carefully to remove a natural poison called cyanide.

This cassava grater was made by WaiWai people who live in the Amazon rainforest in Guyana and often eat cassava. Once the cassava has been grated, it is put in a long, thin squeezer to get rid of the poisonous juices. The cassava is then washed and dried, and used to make flour to make large flatbreads.

Which other plants can you think of that we use to make flour? Have you eaten any of them?

Sheng mouth organ

This mouth organ, or sheng, was made and used in China in the late-nineteenth century. The pipes of the mouth organ are made from different-sized lengths of bamboo.

Bamboo is a grass that grows quickly and up to 20 metres high. It is a good building material because it is so strong. Bamboo shoots can also be eaten.

Here, bamboo has been used to make this mouth organ because it is hollow, allowing air to flow through it. Each bamboo tube is joined to a reed, which vibrates when the player blows into it, sounding a note when the small fingerhole in the side of the tube is covered.

Can you find some bamboo in our Gardens or another green space? Which other instruments are made from bamboo?

Seaweed sample

During the Victorian period, when Frederick Horniman opened the museum, it was popular to collect exotic or unusual plants and present them in public.

This sample shows rodophyta or red algae.

Red algae fossils were found in India between 2006 and 2011, dating back 1.6 billion years. They are the oldest plant-like fossils ever found.

What’s your favourite unusual plant? If you could collect a plant to show someone 150 years from now, which plant would choose?

Rose-ringed parakeet

Where do you think this bird might live? It comes from Asia – but now there are lots of parakeets like this living near the Horniman Museum and across London. These birds are often found in flocks, sometimes of hundreds, and you can hear them easily – they make a lot of noise!

Birds like this are important for dispersing seeds that then grow into plants. Parakeets are particularly good at eating then distributing chilli seeds. There are lots of ways that seeds are dispersed: sometimes animals store seeds and then forget about them, or pick seeds up on their fur and feathers and carry them to a new location. They also eat them and poo them out!

Why do you think there might be so many parakeets in London?

Nature Base Bees

Bees likes these live in hives with a queen bee and hundreds of worker bees. Our queen bee has a white dot on her back: can you spot her?

Bees are very important in pollinating plants. Pollination is when pollen from one flower or plant is transferred to another. This results in fertilisation, which allows new seeds to be made. Most plants rely on insects such as bees to pollinate them.

The number of wild bees are in decline worldwide. The plants we grow are important – flowers with lots of nectar and pollen encourage bees into our parks and gardens, which means those plants can survive, thrive and produce seed and fruit.

Bees especially like blue and purple flowers! Which plants can you think of that they might find attractive?