Australian National Botanic Gardens

Special features

The Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) is a major scientific, educational and recreational resource. It was one of the first botanic gardens in the world to adopt the study and display of a nation’s native species as a principal goal. Approximately one-third of the known flowering plant species that occur in Australia and about half the known eucalypt species are represented in its living collection. The ANBG is a national showcase for the horticultural use of Australia’s native plants. It is a partner in the Australian National Herbarium which provides the scientific identification of plant species represented in the living collection and scientific information on Australian plants.

The ANBG contributes to meeting Australia’s obligations under international environment conventions to which Australia is a signatory. In particular, the Convention on Biological Diversity recognises the importance of botanic gardens in ex situ and in situ conservation, research, training, plant identification and monitoring, raising public awareness, providing access to genetic resources, and global cooperation in the sustainable use of plant biodiversity. The ANBG provides expert participation and contributes scientific data to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and other international biodiversity projects.


Latitude 35°16’ South, Longitude 149°06’ East


85 hectares

Proclamation date

17 September 1991

IUCN category

Category IV

Biogeographic context

Displays plants from a diverse range of climatic and biogeographic regions—alpine to tropical, coastal to central desert

Management plan

Second management plan expired 9 January 2009. A draft third management plan is in preparation for release for public comment in 2011–12

Other significant management documents

Risk Assessment and Management Schedule; ANBG Masterplan (National Capital Authority); ANBG Emergency Management Plan; Agreement for the Operation of the Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research (CANBR) between the Director of National Parks and the CSIRO; CANBR Strategic Plan



$9.777 million


$3.561 million


$11.782 million


450,480 to ANBG

104,635 to visitor centre

Living plants

Planted in 2010–11: 4,265

Total number of taxa in the living collection: 6,267

Total number of plants in the living collection: 76,946

Herbarium specimens

Specimen records added to database in 2010–11: 17,199

Specimen records in database: 874,478

Total number of specimens in collection approximately 1.2 million: 918,200 items databased, plus approximately 300,000 not databased

Australian Plant Name Index

Names added to APNI database in 2010–11: 10,530

Total names in APNI database: 215,807

Seed Bank

Total number of collections in the Seed Bank: 5,061

Number of collections added to Seed Bank in 2010–11: 164

Australian Plant Census

Names added to APC database in 2010–11: 2,299

Total names in APC database: 19,431

Australian Plant Image Index

Images added in 2010–11: plant images 12,751, other 615

Total number of images in collection: 76,449  


9 commercial activity permits; 37 wedding licences; 5 research permits

International conventions and agreements

World Heritage Convention

Supports Australia’s World Heritage sites through botanical research, scientific plant collections, plant identification, botanical information management, and horticultural and educational programs

Wetlands (Ramsar) Convention

Supports Australia’s obligations under the Ramsar Convention through access to plant identification services and data on aquatic plants in the Australian National Herbarium, and by delivering information on Australia’s aquatic plants through its website

Other agreements

Collaborates with international organisations including:

• Botanic Gardens Conservation International

• International Association of Plant Taxonomists

• International Plant Propagators Society

• International Union of Biological Sciences Taxonomic Databases Working Group

• International Plant Name Index (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and Harvard University)

• Global Biodiversity Information Facility

• International Organisation for Plant Information World Vascular Plant Checklist Project

• Species 2000

• Millennium Seed Bank Partnership

• American Public Gardens Association

• Global Strategy for Plant Conservation

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999


On Commonwealth Heritage List

Management arrangements

The ANBG is managed by an Executive Director supported by a General Manager, both appointed by the Director of National Parks. Since 1993 the ANBG has been a partner in the Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research (CANBR) (formerly the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research), a joint research venture with CSIRO Plant Industry which incorporates the Australian National Herbarium. The herbarium retains voucher specimens for research and environmental studies and for plants at the ANBG.


ANBG staff stocktake the living collection and record information on plant locations, plant deaths and the overall health of the collection. This information is linked electronically to scientifically documented voucher specimens in the Australian National Herbarium. A team of botanists, including national and international collaborators, ensure that the correct botanical names are always applied to the ANBG’s living specimens and used in public interpretation. New accessions help to document the occurrence and distribution of plants in Australia.

Kangaroo, wallaby and rabbit populations are monitored to alert management to threats to the living collection. A venomous snake management plan monitors snake interactions with people.

Future challenges

Major challenges are:

• strengthening scientific research through the acquisition of new resources and partnerships

• integrating climate change considerations into conservation programs and research

• securing future expanded accommodation for the Australian National Herbarium collections

• increasing the reach and impact of the national environmental education program

• undertaking a new site development plan to guide the strategic development of the living collection and major infrastructure requirements

• developing and reviewing contingency plans for major risks such as bushfires, drought, pests and resourcing issues.

Report on performance by key result areas

KRA1: Natural heritage management

Major issues

• Water management and associated infrastructure

Ex situ conservation

• Enhancing the living collection and visitor experience through new developments


• Increase water use efficiency and sustainability

• Position the ANBG as a leader in ex situ conservation including seed banking

• Planning for new developments to expand the range of species represented within the living collection

Performance results 2010–11

• The non-potable water infrastructure improvement project for the ANBG was completed within budget in March 2011. The project enables up to170 million litres of water to be delivered from Lake Burley Griffin to irrigate the Gardens each year. The Gardens will no longer have to rely on Canberra’s drinking water supply to sustain the extensive collection of native plants and regular irrigation will be possible, even in times of tough water restrictions

• Continued a program for ex situ alpine plant conservation supported by a three-year partnership between the ANBG, Australian National University, University of Queensland and the Friends of the ANBG. The program studies the effect climate change will have on the reproductive ecology and demography of Australian alpine flora. Eight field trips to the Mount Kosciuszko area were undertaken and 94 seed samples were collected

• Made 64 seed collections to secure ACT grassland species in the ANBG Conservation Seed Bank. Experiments being performed on these seed collections help build understanding and knowledge of the germination requirements of these Australian flora species, thus informing conservation and restoration practices

• Following completion of the rehabilitation of the old nursery site in June 2010, design of an arid garden with a ‘Red Centre’ theme for the site’s redevelopment was initiated and is being finalised; the first stage of construction is scheduled to commence in 2011–12

• The grassy woodlands garden at the main entrance was redeveloped to showcase local flora and create a sense of arrival to the Gardens. The redevelopment was opened in October 2010 and acts as a shopfront for interpreting and displaying plants from this threatened ecological community

• The ANBG conservation program focused on grassy woodland communities and sub-alpine flora. Specific conservation projects were undertaken associated with the following threatened species‑Zieria obcordata, Z. baeuerlenii, Swainsona recta, Eucalyptus imlayensis, Lepidium ginninderense and Hakea pulvinifera

• The ANBG Pest Animal Management Strategy was reviewed and fauna surveys were completed for rabbits, foxes and kangaroos. The ANBG collaborated with ACT Parks Conservation and Lands staff to reduce rabbit numbers within the Gardens

• The ANBG continued to display approximately one-third of the plant species occurring naturally in Australia, in a managed horticultural setting

KRA4: Use and appreciation of protected areas

Major issues

• Visitor services including signage, interpretation and education programs

• Education programs need to be expanded and promoted to students throughout Australia

• Visitor programs and outreach

• Monitoring and evaluating visitor satisfaction and needs


• Review existing education programs and develop new targeted programs that meet Australian curriculum requirements

• Use social media platforms to engage with a wider audience

• Develop a calendar of public programs, events and temporary exhibitions targeting key audiences

• Conduct visitor surveys to measure visitor satisfaction and determine future needs

• Encourage greater visitation through a range of programs and initiatives

Performance results 2010–11

• Received a total of 450,480 visitors of which 24 per cent were recorded at the visitor centre

• In October 2010, the ANBG celebrated its 40th anniversary (see case study page 11). The range of events held to mark this milestone included a public open day that attracted 5,000 people, a gala dinner held within the Gardens, a 40th anniversary exhibition in the visitor centre, an orchid exhibition and development of a native ‘five senses’ garden at Floriade. The celebrations provided extensive media exposure and public interaction with the Gardens

• Continued to evaluate and redevelop education programs to incorporate the national curriculum and inquiry-based learning techniques

• Hosted 8,958 school and tertiary students from 206 schools in ANBG education programs (73 per cent of students participated in programs facilitated by ANBG and 27 per cent in Do It Yourself programs run by their own teachers). Schools from every state and territory included the ANBG on their Canberra excursion itinerary

• Participated in a partnership with National Capital Education Tourism Project to attract interstate school excursions to Canberra and the ANBG. Activities included representation at teacher conferences, primary and secondary teacher and tour operators familiarisation tours

• Collaborated with the National Capital Attractions Association Inc to represent and promote the ANBG and other national attractions within Canberra and the surrounding region

• Implemented a successful events and outreach program including:

• NAIDOC Week (July 2010)

• Making Music, Weaving Nature’s Wonders, Wearing Nature’s Treasures: School Holiday programs (July 2010)

• Science Week: Twilight An Adventure (16 ,19, 20 August 2010)

• Go Native, Papermaking, and Budding Artists: School Holiday Programs (28 September to 8 October 2010)

• Wattle walks (1–7 September 2010)

• spring flower walks (11 September to 10 October 2010)

• Floriade display and outreach program ‘Five Senses Garden’ (11 September to 10 October 2010)

• Canberra Youth Orchestra (24 September 2010)

• Christmas Concert (4 December 2010)

• Snakes Alive (13–25 January 2011)

• St Patrick’s Day Concert (17 March 2011)

• Easter Bilby Storytime (19, 20, 26, 27 April 2011)

• The annual Summer Sounds concert series held in January 2011 was highly successful with 12,000 people attending over four weekends. The concerts were held in partnership with the Friends of the ANBG and commercial sponsorship funded a temporary stage and a proportion of the Garden’s event costs

• Hosted a short film festival Flix in the Stix on 26 February 2011. The event was managed and promoted by the event organiser with the ANBG providing the venue

• Bush Magic: Storytime in the Gardens attracted a strong following of repeat family visitors. The program is aimed at preschool children and their families and 11 sessions were run through the year with an average of 33 children at each session

• Promoted the cultural, artistic and scientific values of Australian native plants through exhibitions including:

• Working on Country Photo exhibit

• 40th anniversary exhibition ‘40 years and growing’

• Friends schools photographic exhibit

• Sex and Death in the Display Glasshouse

• United Nation Photo Competition: Year of Biodiversity

• Rhythm Interrupted – Life Redirected

• Friends Botanical Art Group Exhibition

• Australian Plants Bonsai Exhibition’

• Lasting Beauty: Peter Garnick

• The Gardens part of the ANBG website was updated with a new ‘look’ and improved functionality. The website has 45,000 pages and provides access to 63,000 images. The ANBG’s Facebook and Twitter sites grew in popularity‑453 people ‘like’ ANBG’s Facebook page and 214 people follow ANBG on twitter

KRA5: Stakeholders and partnerships

Major issues

• Supporting and participating in national and international botanical forums including the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, Council of Heads of Australian Botanic Gardens, Global Biodiversity Information Facility, Taxonomy Research and Information Network, Atlas of Living Australia, Encyclopaedia of Life and Taxonomic Databases Working Group

• Servicing the department’s and CSIRO’s need for technical and scientific advice on Australian plants

• Developing new partnerships with government and non-government organisations

• Continuing a collaborative partnership with the Friends of the ANBG

• Supporting and engaging with the Australian Cultivar Registration Authority, the Australian Network for Plant Conservation and Greening Australia

• Ongoing support for the Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research (CANBR)

• Providing leadership and co-ordination of the Australian Seed Bank Partnership

• Fostering opportunities and partnerships with new stakeholders


• Continue the ANBG’s active leadership role with the Council of Heads of Australian Botanic Gardens

• Continue strategic partnerships and cooperative data management with the Taxonomic Databases Working Group, Global Biodiversity Information Facility, Taxonomy Research and Information Network and Atlas of Living Australia

• Continue the Australian National Herbarium’s engagement in the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria

• Undertake and promote the services that the ANBG and the CANBR can provide to the department and CSIRO in the form of technical and expert advice

• Continue to foster the positive partnership between the ANBG and the Friends of the ANBG

• Continue hosting the Greening Australia Community Seed Bank, the Australian Cultivar Registration Authority and the Australian Network for Plant Conservation on the ANBG website

• Continue and further develop the joint ANBG–CSIRO partnership in the CANBR

• Co-ordinate the Australian Seed Bank Partnership

Performance results 2010–11

• The ANBG’s 17-year partnership with CSIRO Plant Industry was renewed for a further 10 years in December 2010. A new strategic plan for the renamed Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research was put in place and a new Director for the Centre was appointed in January 2011

• Continued ANBG membership of technical working groups under the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and Taxonomic Databases Working Group

• Engaged a national coordinator for the Australian Seed Bank Partnership in July 2010 to co-ordinate national conservation seed banking efforts. Partners from across Australia met at the ANBG in November 2010 and prepared a 10-year seed collecting and research program to build the national safety net for Australian plant species; a partnership website was also launched

• Continued the close collaboration between the ANBG Conservation Seed Bank and Greening Australia, including joint field collecting, seed storage and management. The ANBG provided Greening Australia with space and irrigation for seedling production

• The Australian National Herbarium continued to play a driving and coordinating role on behalf of the department for projects undertaken by the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria. This included continued work with Australia’s Virtual Herbarium, and the Australian Plant Census

• The CANBR continued its close association with the Taxonomy Research and Information Network, housing the network’s core staff and participating in projects such as systematic and diversity studies of weeds of national significance and biodiversity information management

• The ANBG and the CANBR entered into a partnership with the Australian Biological Resources Study and the Atlas of Living Australia to develop and manage a common taxonomic infrastructure for databases held by these organisations and to develop web services, including a species profile template for the Atlas

• The CANBR participated in a ‘Bush Blitz’ collaborative biodiversity survey in the Dananbilla, Illunie and Koorawatha Nature Reserves in the south-west slopes of NSW, coordinated by the Australian Biological Resources Study. The results of these surveys will contribute to such projects as Australia’s Virtual Herbarium and the Atlas of Living Australia

• The Friends of the ANBG ran the annual students’ photographic competition and the autumn and spring plant sales; published quarterly newsletters; provided volunteer guided walks each day and facilitators for the Botanical Resource Centre twice a week; and supported the ANBG’s annual summer concerts in January 2011

• The Friends of the ANBG provided funds to enable the development of a shade shelter over the Crosbie Morrison Amphitheatre, two environmental monitoring stations, interpretative signage in the grassy woodland garden, an orchid display in the visitor centre and a new lichen website

• The Australian Cultivar Registration Authority, based at the ANBG, documents the nomenclature of cultivated plants in the Australian Plant Name Index database. Funding was secured from private donors and the horticulture industry to enhance the index’s cultivar data and add scanned pdf documents of the original cultivar descriptions

• The Australian Network for Plant Conservation, based at the ANBG, continued to conduct workshops in plant conservation techniques throughout the country and continued to produce its quarterly newsletter

• The CANBR partnership in the Australian Tropical Herbarium in Cairns continued. The ANBG and the CANBR successfully provided database services to support the tropical herbarium’s collections management

• Strengthened partnerships with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, ACT Government, landholders and NGOs to collaborate in the recovery of threatened species and ecological communities. Specific projects included seed banking, cultivation of plants for translocation, research and germination testing

KRA6: Business management

Major issues

• Finalisation of the third management plan

• Effective budget management and new revenue opportunities to meet increasing operational costs

• Ongoing development and retention of staff

• Minimisation of operational risks to staff, visitors and assets


• Finalise the third management plan for release as a draft for public comment

• Align the strategic risk assessment and business planning timelines to ensure that resources meet existing and emerging needs

• Investigate new revenue opportunities to offset operational costs

• Continue staff development through targeted training programs, regular communication and a team-based approach to projects

• Embed risk management principles in project planning and operational processes

Performance results 2010–11

• Further developed the draft management plan for public consultation in 2011–12

• Addressed the challenge posed by increases in the cost of water through the new project to extract water from Lake Burley Griffin

• Undertook recruitment of essential ongoing positions that were previously non-ongoing contracts, maintained and improved staff consultation, involvement and capacity building through training, staff working groups and planning sessions

• Continued commitment to health and safety through regular occupational health and safety committee meetings and applying risk management principles in developing capital works projects and operational plans

• Developed and implemented a new emergency management plan

• Undertook an energy audit and commenced stage 1 of recommended works

• Developed a draft Fund Raising Strategy, developed a fund raising prospectus and generated sponsorship for the Summer Sounds concert series

KRA7: Biodiversity science, knowledge management and use

Major issues

• Nationally consistent names for Australian plant species

• Systematics and classification of Australian plant species

• Taxonomic botanical research and documentation

• Developing the horticultural knowledge base

• Integrating the living collection database, herbarium database and image database

• Improving access to botanical information and images for application around issues of plant conservation, natural resource management and environmental change

• Awareness of, and engagement with, national and international collaborative biodiversity projects


• Maintain and curate the Australian National Herbarium collections and associated data content, and links to related information

• Make botanical data, information and expertise available to the national and international botanical communities and to the public

• Develop and maintain the Australian Plant Name Index and the Australian Plant Census to provide an up-to-date listing of flowering plants in Australia as a consensus view of the Australian botanical community

• Undertake taxonomic and systematic research, publish and disseminate research findings, and make data available to the research community and the public

• Develop, maintain and promote authoritative scientific databases of Australian plant information and make this information accessible online using contemporary data standards

• Integrate the department’s plant and animal name databases with ANBG databases to allow more consistent management and delivery of biodiversity data

• Expand the extensive plant image collection and improve electronic management and access to the digital collection

• Position the ANBG as a key agency for disseminating information on conservation and environmental change issues in botanic gardens

• Drive national collaborative biodiversity information accession, management and delivery projects

Performance results 2010–11

• Databased 17,199 herbarium specimens with a total of 874,478 collection specimens now recorded in the database and available to the public through the internet

• Maintained currency of data for the Australian Plant Name Index, including extensive editing of existing data and capture of new data

• Updated the Australian Plant Image Index to make 13,366 additional images accessible on the internet

• A special labelling project for the living collection was initiated in June 2011 with 2,000 labels placed on plants in over 80 sections along parts of the Main Path and Rock Garden. This has significantly improved interpretative use and value of the plant collections for visitors. The project will continue next year, focusing on the Rainforest Gully and other areas of high visitor use

• Hosted a national myrtle rust workshop in March 2011 to share information on potential threats posed by this introduced fungus disease to plant collections in botanic gardens (as well as bushland) throughout Australia. A range of information and resources on myrtle rust was made available on the ANBG website

• The interactive Key to Rain Forest Plants, prepared as part of the partnership with James Cook University and the Queensland Herbarium in the Australian Tropical Herbarium in Cairns, was launched as an on-line version. 9,808 images from this project have been imported into the Australian Plant Image Index

• Completed data collation for an agreed list of scientific names for Australian liverworts and hornworts through the Australian Plant Census project

• Maintained the Census of Vascular Plants, Hornworts and Liverworts of the ACT, including addition of much new data for vascular plants

• Negotiated a contract for a partnership with the Atlas of Living Australia to redevelop the nomenclature and taxonomic infrastructure for Australian plant and animal species in association with the Australian Biological Resources Study. This will effectively combine Australian plant and animal names data through a common interface

• Collaborated with the Atlas of Living Australia and the Taxonomy Research and Information Network to develop specifications for species profiles for managing digital biodiversity data. The Atlas of Living Australia also provided additional computer hardware to support increased demand for biodiversity name services

• Continued redevelopment of the living collection information system to better support the operational activities of the nursery, seed bank, horticulture and plant records activities and to integrate with provenance data in the herbarium system

• Appointed research and technical staff to the CANBR to undertake spatial analyses and research into the occurrence and distribution of Australian plants

• Commenced redevelopment of the CANBR website to match its appearance to that of the ANBG and prepare for a major update of content as the new strategic plan for the Centre progresses

• Continued research on the ecological function, structure and small-scale dynamics of grassland communities in south-eastern Australia, using grasslands in the West Wyalong district of NSW as model systems. A paper on this work was published in the journal Global Change Biology and other papers resulting from this work are in preparation

• The ANBG and the CANBR participated in national and international biodiversity information management and technical infrastructure projects including the Atlas of Living Australia, the Australian Faunal Directory, the Taxonomy Research and Information Network, the Australian Plant Census, Australia’s Virtual Herbarium, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, the Encyclopedia of Life and the Taxonomic Databases Working Group

• Researchers completed 12 scientific papers or publications resulting from research undertaken at the Australian National Herbarium. Areas of study included Australian Asteraceae, Orchidaceae, Amaranthaceae, Rutaceae, Myrtaceae, Malvaceae, Mimosaceae, Santalaceae, weeds and bryophytes

• The Australian Plant Image Index undertook a contract to collect, database and manage images of weeds for the department’s Weeds Australia website

• The Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research was contracted by the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority to document and manage translocation and conservation of three species of orchids threatened by the Bulahdelah bypass highway realignment

Case study: Australian National Botanic Gardens – 40 years and still growing strong

Dr Judy West started working with plants about the same time as the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra opened its gates — 40 years ago.

And while the Gardens celebrated its 40th birthday last October with a gala dinner, a garden party, activities for the kids and talks and walks, behind the scenes staff were hard at work.

Today as the Gardens’ Executive Director Judy still ‘loves working with plants’ and, wearing her other hat as Assistant Secretary of Parks and Biodiversity Science, is working tirelessly to promote the Gardens as a national scientific institution.

“What many people don’t realise is that the Gardens were actually developed as a scientific institution,” Judy says. “A key focus over the last year has been boosting the science side of our work.

“We’ve managed to make substantial progress in this area and have developed and strengthened some of our key partnerships.”

One of these partnerships was the renewing of the 17-year agreement between the Director of National Parks and CSIRO to form the Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research, which includes the Australian National Herbarium with strong links to the Gardens.

“The National Herbarium is doing critical work providing botanical knowledge for Australia,” Judy says. It plays an essential role identifying plants and weeds and documenting the country’s vast diversity of plant life. I’m now keen to see the herbarium working more closely with our Commonwealth parks helping out with plant surveys.

“Another milestone was our appointment of a national coordinator for the new Australian Seed Bank Partnership which the Gardens is leading, expanding our role in seed conservation.

“We have our own seedbank in Canberra, and we’re now working with partners around the country to collect specimens of all plant species nationally listed as threatened or endangered. Our ambition is to have seedbanks in every state to insure against the loss of Australia’s flora from threats such as climate change.”

As part of its scientific focus, the Gardens also brought together Australia’s leading plant and fungal scientists to explore options for managing outbreaks of myrtle rust, a newly introduced fungal disease which infects plants in the Myrtaceae family such as bottlebrushes, tea trees and eucalypts.

“On the physical side of things we also made major improvements to the Gardens infrastructure,” Judy adds.

The Gardens now has a drought-secure irrigation supply thanks to the completion of the non-potable water pipeline from Lake Burley Griffin which will save up to 170 million litres of Canberra’s drinking water each year.

“We’ve redeveloped the grassy woodland at the main entrance showcasing local plants and giving a sense of arrival at the Gardens and, close to my heart, we’ve started work on the Red Centre Garden — a massively challenging project to develop an arid area plant display in Canberra’s environment.”

Dr Judy West, Parks Australia’s Assistant Secretary Parks and Biodiversity Branch has an international reputation for her work in plant systematics and phylogenetics and conservation biology. Judy – Congress President and Chair (right) – speaking with International Botanic Congress delegates Megan Clark CEO of CSIRO and Pat Raven from Missouri Botanic Gardens in St Louis, USA. Photo: Tim Pascoe

Map of National Botanic GardensPhoto: Dr Judy West from Parks Australia speaking with delegates at the International Botanic Congress.