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Issue 66: January 2005

News from the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian National Herbarium (CANB), for the information of CPBR and ANBG staff and volunteers.

CPBR News is produced monthly. If you wish to contribute, please email your suggestions to Val Oliver, the coordinator.

Val Oliver: ph (02) 6246 5533; fax (02) 6246 5249; email:



1. Staffing News

Murray - 35 Years - still hanging around

Murray, 1970

The words above are from the photo T-shirt several of the staff gave me at a lunch to celebrate my starting date as a technician at the Herbarium in the Gardens (then Canberra Botanic Gardens) on 27 January 1970.
I brought to the lunch a pocket diary that I had kept sporadically during that year.

So what was it like ?

Actually I was not a 'technician' because all except two herbarium staff were employed as 'gardeners', exempt employees not covered by the Public Servant Act. Dr Betty Phillips was Curator of the Herbarium and I think Estelle Canning was the other true public servant.

On the Australia Day long-weekend I had driven my Goggomobile down from Sydney where I had been working as a vacation student at the Herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens for the previous two months. The other 'gardening' staff included Ian Telford and Clyde Dunlop who some of you will know. As well as a staff of about 10 Australians, there were 8 Asian students working there, some as vacation employees, others almost permanently.

I was driven into Civic to 'sign on' with City Parks, but sent back until I could produce my National Service Deferment card, a pre-requisite for getting a job for a young guy during the Vietnam War days. The next day I record that it was a "free and easy atmosphere to work in", obviously a contrast from the Sydney Herbarium. My main job seemed to be "putting plants away and sorting them into order" which might be familiar to our current Interns. On the Friday of that first week about 20 staff went out to an Indian restaurant for lunch.

In the middle of the next week I got my first pay, after standing in a queue in front of a government caravan that came to the Gardens and handed over the cash, including coins, in an envelope that had to be counted and signed for by the recipient on the spot.

By the end of that week I wrote "put specimens away all day, can't see that there will be enough work for me here."

It’s been a great 35 years, thanks to all who helped make it so.

[Murray Fagg]


2. Australian National Herbarium

I’ll Bring You a Daisy a Day, Dear (1)

Ah, summer. The temperatures move gently into the mid to upper 30s, the northerlies sweep down the western slopes and plains bringing a hint of bulldust and the sweet smell of burning eucalypt leaves, the bushfly populations have recovered after the cruel winter, and the locusts have returned to turn pristine windscreens into instant works of art – it must be time to collect Cassinia again.

So it came to pass that I and my Chief Daisy Spotter headed north recently to collect a number of species that had escaped detection this time last year, or for which last year’s collections had not solved all the problems. The plan was to drive to Warialda the first day, collect CassiniaWarialda’ (known from a single 1988 collection) the second day, moving on to Inverell, collecting Cassinia macrocephala subsp. tenuis. On the third day the plan was to drive to Nundle to try to rediscover a strange Cassinia found at Hanging Rock by Musson in 1890, then return to Canberra on the fourth day. Other Cassinia species found along the way would be bonuses.

Day 1. On a whim we decided to make a slight detour through Coolbaggie Nature Reserve, between Brocklehurst and Mendooran, in the hope of extending the known range of Cassinia theresae. After just 25 km we stumbled on by far the largest known population of the species – several thousand plants (all previous populations ranged from single plants to 10s or at most 100-200 individuals). Theresa was photographed hugging one of "her" plants. A good start, and we weren’t even supposed to be collecting yet! Near Coonabarabran, overcome by excess enthusiasm, we stopped to collect an Opuntia. This was entirely the fault of Jim Croft, who had asked that I look out for succulents for his collection, and Dave Mallinson, who had taken some time last week explaining the technique for collecting good Opuntia specimens. Glochid removal from fingers, arms and other sensitive areas occupied the next 100 km. These two incidents put us behind time, so we stopped for the night in Bingara instead of Warialda.
Accommodation report: (2) The Bingara Fossickers Way Motel is highly recommended – large, very well equipped rooms, friendly and helpful proprietor, reasonable tariff.
Culinary report
: (3) The Bingara Chinese Takeaway scores 6 on the Orchard Takeaway Guide (not to be confused with the Michelin Guide). Worst feature: the premises is fully licenced, the owner will not allow BYO and the wine list is outrageously expensive. Best feature: it is the only eatery open in the whole town at 7 pm on a Sunday.

Day 2. Encouraged by advice from the motel proprietor we travelled east from Bingara to Copeton Dam, hoping to extend the known range of Cassinia copensis. We didn’t. Returned to Warialda and went to the reported collecting site of Cassinia ‘Warialda’, 10 km along the Mosquito Creek Road. We found the site, matched the vegetation and reported soil type, found excellent Cassinia habitat, but no Cassinia. Searches west, north and north east of Warialda also found no sign of it. That one remains a mystery. Late in the afternoon we got to Inverell, with enough daylight remaining to check into a motel then go looking for Cassinia macrocephala subsp. tenuis at Goonoowigall Bushland Reserve just south of town. This taxon was described by me late last year from a handful of collections, all from this reserve, but I had never seen it alive. After a 5 km walk we eventually found it – it turned out to be a "Scrotochloa" (5). It conforms to the Orchard Principle – when faced with the choice of taking a clockwise or counter-clockwise route around the circular track, whichever you choose, the plant you seek will be at the far end of the track. However, the effort was worthwhile. We now have excellent material of this taxon (although having seen fresh material I now have doubts as to whether it is really related to C. macrocephala!).
Accommodation report: The Inverell Motel is very conveniently sited just off the main street, quiet and with reasonable sized, well equipped rooms. It is notable for having a Raine & Horne Real Estate office sited (literally) in the middle of its entrance driveway, and the parking spaces are challenging for large 4WD vehicles.
Culinary report: The Yim Thai restaurant was the find of the trip. It scored 9.5 on the Orchard Takeaway Guide, and could hold its own easily in any major city. Great food, excellent service, very reasonable wine list, and they let you in even in grubby jeans.

Day 3. Having missed C. copensis at Copeton Dam we wanted to be sure that it was not a figment of my fevered imagination, so we drove south to Copes Creek and found it just where it was last year. Reassuring. We then went down the road to Howell (much longer and better than shown on any map – a feature of all roads in this part of the country) where C. copensis had also been reported. We extended its range quite substantially, and also discovered that it is confined to deep loams in this district, those that also support tall forest rather than the usual short scrub. This may explain its limited distribution. Fortunately we observed the Field Botanist Rule 1 ("We will go just another couple of hills/corners before turning back") and were well rewarded – the Chief Daisy Spotter found a population of C. macrocephala subsp. tenuis in an identical habitat to that in Goonoowigall BR, and 30 kms away from that previously sole locality. This second population will be very useful in my re-evaluation of the taxon. Travelling south to Bundoora we rediscovered C. copensis in the hills 10 km north of the town, a locality reported 40 years ago. Unfortunately only one plant seems to survive there. From Bundarra we drove via Baldersleigh to Guyra. A boring road, Cassinia laevis and cows, although Georges Mountain and The Basin NR seem worth a future look (when they put in a road to the top). From Guyra we drove in pouring rain to Backwater where for the first time I saw in the field the plant that is shortly to become Cassinia lepschii. This tall, slender, late-blooming, and elusive taxon is most unusual (for a Cassinia) in being found on the margins of wet sandy heaths. A collection was made and a posy collected for the eponymee. Incidentally, this plant seems to be an "Ephemeron" (6). There was still time to travel to Nundle, book in, and drive over Duncan’s Creek Forest Road. There we found the largest populations we have seen of Cassinia leptocephala, growing on the margins of pine plantations in rich deep chocolate loams. C. leptocephala is one of the few native shrubs surviving here, which it does by cunningly mimicking Pinus radiata in its young growth. By the time the foresters realise it is not a pine, it has flowered and seeded, and it never gets large enough to woodchip. At the junction to Hanging Rock lookout we found a single plant that seemed a good match to the mysterious plant collected there by Musson in 1890 (and never recorded since), growing with C. leptocephala but obviously somewhat different.
Accommodation report
: Nundle Hills of Gold Motel – very comfortable, well equipped, breakfast included in the very reasonable tariff. It was perhaps coincidental that our room at both Inverell and Nundle had an iron scorch mark in the very centre of the carpets. Both proprietors are saving up for ironing boards.
Culinary report
: Peel Inn. Good atmosphere; great outdoor eatery under a (?100 year old) grapevine. Worst point: steaks overcooked – always order a grade or two low. That is, if you want Medium, order Rare. If you want Rare, ask for defrosted. Good points: Only eatery in town, other than the Café (enormous Works hamburgers); homemade desserts.

Day 4. Determined to find a good population of Cassinia "Musson" we set off down the Barry road. The first 20 km provided an excellent range of blackberries and all recorded agricultural weeds. However, we then entered a 3 km stretch of magnificent eucalypt forest, in which every second tree, on both sides of the road, bore elaborate hand painted signs reading "Private Property. Trespassers will be caught and dealt with. You have been warned. I WILL GET YOU! Signed …". Right in the middle of this forest was a small population of Musson’s Cassinia. Gingerly, taking extreme care not to stray from the road reserve, we collected sufficient to allow it to be described (as Cassinia petrapendula Orchard, ms). We then drove 20+ km down the road towards Whites Sugarloaf and Nowendoc, further extending the known range of C. leptocephala. Now for home. Heading cross-country from Quirindi towards Premer, near Nicholsons Lagoon, I observed that we were quite close to the site where we collected the epitype of the elusive Cassinia uncata s. str. last year, and that the plant we were passing appeared to be a new population of that species. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a "Bastardia" (7). Never mind, I know where you grow and I WILL GET YOU.
Fifty km short of Wellington I was foolish enough to observe aloud that for the first time ever we would get home from a field trip by 9 pm. Half an hour later we got a puncture. Of this, I have just six questions to ask:

  1. In a Landcruiser, why is the jack handle in 4 separate pieces?
  2. Why do these pieces fit together with socket joints that are as loose as a politician’s promise?
  3. Why are the screws to hold the wobbly socket joints together supplied with hex heads instead of wing heads, thus requiring a separate tool to tighten them?
  4. Why is the special anti-theft key (without which it is impossible to release the spare wheel) hidden (specified in the manual) in the glove box, instead of being stored with all the other tools?
  5. Why is the jack, when used at the lifting point specified and extended fully, 6" (c. 15 cm), too short to actually lift the wheel off the ground?
  6. Why is it that the manufacturer who, year after year, sells more vehicles in Australia than any other, too mean to hire a native English speaking editor for their manual? Perhaps the Government could subsidise this process – they would more than recover their costs in savings from unnecessary marriage break ups and suicides.


(1) For those too young to remember, this was the title of a popular Music Hall song. It is unclear whether the daisy referred to was a member of the Gnaphalieae, or one of the Lesser Daisies (Astereae, Anthemidieae, Heliantheae, Inuleae, Senecioneae etc).
(2) Accommodation reports are an expression of our personal opinion, and based on a sample of a single night. They may vary from time to time.
(3) Culinary reports are a statement of personal opinion, based on a sample size of 1, and should not be relied on by those with different tastes, or who strike a different chef.
(4) This guide was developed for itinerant botanists who can't be bothered cooking their own evening meal and who forget to pack enough clean clothes to gain entrance to Silver Service restaurants. It is a ten-point scale: 1-2 points, it is better to go hungry; 3-4 points only for the very hungry (greasy, high MSG, batter on sweet and sour pork is thicker than the meat, skin on skinless chicken replaced with batter); 5-6 points average; 7-8 points, superior; 9-10 points, worth making a 100 km detour for.
(5) Technical terms used in this report come from that indispensible botanists' guide "The Tree of Liff" by Brendan Lepschi (Better Than You Productions: Canberra, 1997). "Scrotochloa: A plant which one spends three hours trudging through tick-infested scrub to find enough material to make one barely acceptable sheet, then discovers growing in profusion right alongside where you parked your vehicle."
(6) A term unfortunately omitted from "The Tree of Liff". It is here offered for the 2nd Edition. "Ephemeron: A taxon, apparently found in a wide range of localities, all 15 of which are in fact different ways of specifying the location of the sole surviving plant".
(7) From "The Tree of Liff". "Bastardia: A plant which is especially abundant in a particular area, but which you can't be bothered collecting just yet. However as soon as you decide you want to collect it, it disappears completely and is not seen again for the remainder of the trip".

[Tony Orchard] (assisted by Theresa, who bears no responsibility for the above article)



3. Research Groups

2005 Internship Jervis Bay fieldtrip - Hall of Shame

Some things never change. Late January 2005 saw the sixth annual Jervis Bay Internship fieldtrip, and the sixth annual display of ham-fisted incompetence, managerial folly and lacklustre performance by staff and Interns alike. Some lowlights of the 2005 excursion follow…

Anthony Whalen, for making the Hall of Shame even before the trip started, by preparing a presentation on Jervis Bay so large that it repeatedly crashed the laptop he was using, thereby defeating the purpose of the whole exercise (a pre-prep talk for Interns on the JB trip)

Laura Vallee, for providing the flimsiest, most insubstantial boxes she could to pack the JB food in. Anthony Whalen for picking one of the boxes up and having the entire contents (mostly soft bananas) spill out onto the asphalt herbarium carpark. Brendan Lepschi for laughing at him only to have the same thing happen to him immediately afterwards

Intern Peter van Eeten for bringing his entire fieldtrip equipment in 17 separate plastic shopping bags

Brendan and Dave have been into the plant growth hormones again!

 Anthony Whalen for saying to intern Julie Cathie: "I like your skin." There are laws against that sort of thing, Anthony…. (actually in reference to Julie’s mobile phone skin)

Dave Mallinson for locking his keys in his room within five minutes of arriving at the field station, and for insisting on wearing part of an old bank money bag as a hat

Bronwyn Collins for downgrading the legendary ‘Funky bus’ to ‘Folky bus’ ... no bus-rocking on the streets of Nowra this year…

Laura Vallee for locking the field station lab door so well that it took four staff to open it again. Dave Mallinson for insisting on climbing into the roof crawlspace of the lab to look for a manhole, which obviously wasn’t there

Dave Mallinson for being unable to separate Interns Julie Cathie and Kirsty Elwell at anything other than close quarters

Intern Sally Jacka for querying what a bimbo was, apparently confusing them with something edible

Intern Peter van Eeten for suggesting that the best way to get rid of ticks is by dousing yourself in petrol and lighting a match

Anthony "Mr GPS" Whalen, for failing elementary GPS techniques – spending hours looking for his team’s site, leaving barely enough time to actually do any fieldwork.

Intern Anthony Davidson for failing basic map reading – finding the right point the first time purely by chance, then changing his mind and going to three wrong points, eventually coming back to the right spot by the correct means

Anthony Whalen and Brendan Lepschi for failing in the manly art of map folding, and having to be shown by a girl (Bronwyn) how to do it

Brendan Lepschi for his "beerithmetic" – trading Anthony Whalen’s part of their joint beer supply for some of Intern Amber Grimley’s stash, and then drinking Dave Mallinson’s beer instead

Bronwyn Collins for telling Intern James Hitchcock in the surf at the beach: "If you’re going to drown, just do it quietly please"

Intern Amber Grimley for asking how to spell the generic name "Aa"

Brendan Lepschi for threatening to kill Intern Peter van Eeten for attempting to sit in his seat at the dinner table

Mason feeling uncomfortable with Troy’s
uninhibited display of "sandwich envy"

Bitou Bush tour leader, Nick Dexter (Booderee staff), for insisting on a massive logistical operation to drive Interns around on dirt tracks for 3 kilometres, requiring a 4WD shuttle service, and the near-bogging of the two Taragos, instead of simply parking at the beach and walking a hundred metres to the site!

Brendan Lepschi and Frank Zich for sending one vehicle with three passenger seats to collect 12 interns at the conclusion of the Bitou Bush trip

Dave Mallinson, Brendan Lepschi and Amber Grimley for inventing the world’s stupidest game – ‘Tossers’, a noisy, annoying pursuit only marginally more intelligent than two men wearing saucepans on their heads and running into each other at high speed. Played in close proximity to the more intelligent pursuits of Uno and Scrabble, causing much annoyance. Interns Sally Jacka, Peter van Eeten and James Hitchcock for joining in and encouraging them

Anthony’s finest moment - after many long hours he finally wins the coveted
Gleichenia Crown, Uno’s most prestigious honour

 Some of the interns for their enthusiasm in learning Australian culture (i.e. wanting to hear Koori dreamtime campfire stories) over the opportunity to swim at Hyams Beach. All other staff for not sharing their enthusiasm, meaning Anthony had to drive, thus missing on a swim at the beach (not happy!)

Intern Peter van Eeten for repeatedly asking Brendan if he (Peter) had made the Hall of Shame yet

Intern James Hitchcock for asking Malcolm Gill an open-ended question on fire control at 6:30pm after a very long day. There are reports that Malcolm is still at Jervis Bay answering this question....

The University of Canberra for insisting the Interns share the field station with a group of overseas students for an intense one week course on "Advanced Drinking Games" which were played long and loudly into the night. Special credit to some of the Interns for egging them on

Anthony Whalen and Brendan Lepschi for asking Jim Croft to help write the Hall of Shame for 2005, even though he wasn’t on the trip and doesn’t know any of the Interns. Jim Croft for agreeing to help, thinking about for two weeks and then doing nothing!

Anthony Whalen and Brendan Lepschi for the incredible amount of hype surrounding the Hall of Shame, and for raising Interns expectations well above what the Hall of Shame can ever deliver



CPBR seminar

"Developing National Environmental Policies"
By: Stewart Noble & Sally Box Department of the Environment and Heritage   Thursday 17th 12:30 -1:30pm CPBR Tea Room [Tupac Otero]


5. Other News

  Non-Cash Recognition Rewards

Congratulations to the following Program U staff on their Non-Cash Recognition Reward:  

Program U

Rewarded for

Margie Burk

Assisted with library work, this has led to developing an important dataset for a comparative study of plant diseases

Brendan Lepschi

Part of a team who identified a need for curation training, developed and facilitated a training session attended by 25 staff

Anthony Whalen

Outstanding job at managing the Herbarium Student Botanical Internship Program

Jo Palmer

Part of a team that facilitated a Workshop for Herbarium staff, to improve appreciation and awareness of sound curatorial practice

Terena Lally

Conceived the idea of a workshop to improve appreciation and awareness of sound and consistent curatorial practice in the Herbarium with an excellent outcome

Walter Tate

Analysed more than 100 transgenic chickpea plants as the relevant PDF left. This has enabled milestones to be met on this industry funded project

  [Val Oliver]

Updated 14 February, 2005 , webmaster, CANBR (