Climbing a man-made tree to see plants that live high in the forest canopy could soon be an activity on offer at Auckland Botanic Gardens.
Architect Andrew Patterson has a concept design to build a 19m high "sculptural tree" with spiral stairs and a central lift as part of the plan to further develop the gardens in Manurewa, which draw nearly a million visitors a year.
"There is nothing like this structure anywhere in the world - architecturally or as a way to present plants," said gardens manager Jack Hobbs.
The tower would show epiphytes - plants that perch on other plants and are hard to see because they grow too high in the forest canopy.
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Mr Hobbs said the "epiphytum" would differ from conservatories of other botanic gardens.
It would draw people into the gardens and would be a viewing platform, a rain shelter, a classroom and a lighting tower for night events.
Mr Hobbs said the idea was only at a preliminary design stage and he could not give a construction cost.
Auckland Council's parks, recreation and sport committee chairwoman Christine Fletcher supports the concept, which will be considered during August budget planning.
Said Mr Patterson: "It's a chance to make the gardens unique and celebrate our native and flora and fauna in a way which shows world leadership in that area."