Department of Territories and Local Government


Annual Report 1982-1983

National Botanic Gardens

The National Botanic Gardens were established to collect, study and display a national collection of living and herbarium specimens of Australian native plants and related species for scientific research, education, conservation and public enjoyment.

The Gardens in Canberra occupy eighty-five hectares on the slopes of Black Mountain near the Australian National University and contain 5000 species. An annexe of seventy-eight hectares at the Jervis Bay Territory on the coast south of Nowra contains 1200 species.

There were 345,000 visitors to the Gardens in 1982-83, representing a twenty per cent increase on 1981-82 figures.

Developments and improvements

A contract was let by the NCDC for reconstruction of the main entrance to the Gardens that will provide a more imposing approach and safer access for pedestrians. Terraced banks flanking the entrance roadway will be planted to give a massed display effect. A fence at the entrance will be realigned to bring the access road to the Banksia Centre within the Gardens.

The Department’s Systems Branch has prepared a feasibility study on the potential of computerising the Gardens’ record system. Planning has been commenced for implementation in 1983-84.

Administration and policy

The Commissioner for Taxation advised recently that donations to botanic gardens are eligible for deductions under the Income Tax Assessment Act. A proposal to establish a fund for the National Botanic Gardens to receive such donations is being considered.

A proposal for a friends group for the Gardens has been developed. Progress depends on community support and involvement.

New curator: Mr J A Armstrong joined the staff as Curator in August 1982 following the resignation of Mr J W Wrigley in December 1981. Mr Armstrong was formerly Senior Botanist at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Sydney. He brings to the Gardens considerable experience in the fields of botany and horticulture especially within the family Rutaceae. He also has a special interest in .the pollination biology of the Australian flora.

The lack of after-hours security causes concern. The fire security and preparedness to cope with fires starting either within the Gardens. including the buildings. or running into the Gardens from the Black Mountain Reserve, were improved.

Development management and protection of the national collections

Living collection: During the year sixty-six new species were incorporated into the living collection including thirty rare and endangered species. The severe winter of 1982. followed by the drought, drastically affected the Gardens with the loss of a considerable number of plants.

The living collections at the Jervis Bay annexe were further developed during the year. Electricity was connected enabling automatic watering, lighting, heating and electrification of the boundary fence to be introduced. The installation of a new pumping system provided increased water pressure through the irrigation system. The annexe now has its own fire fighting unit which helped combat a major fire in August.

Herbarium collection: Development of the Herbarium collection continued and specimens collected on field trips have been identified and incorporated in the main collection. About 2400 replicates obtained as donations or by exchange with other Australian and overseas herbaria were added during the year. The Herbarium now contains about 120 000 specimens.

Field collections: A field trip to northern NSW and Queensland was undertaken by Messrs I R Telford, G F Butler and D Verdon from 18 January to 9 February to collect tropical Cucurbits (for the continuing research on that family by Mr Telford) and to bring into cultivation at the Gardens rare and endangered or restricted species. Major finds included the rare gesneriad Cyrtandra baileyi. the unique aquatic Torrenticola queenslandica, the blue-flowered Banksia plagiocarpa and Daviesia flava and Homoranthus tropicus, two species restricted to sandstone plateaus near Laura.

A field trip through central and northern South Australia into the south-central Northern Territory as far as the Tanami Desert was undertaken by Messrs A B Court and R B Hadlow. The main object was to study Acacia aneura and its relatives and to collect herbarium and living material for the Gardens. Among the most noteworthy species collected were Acacia nelsonii from the north-west extremity of the Simpson Desert; A. gillii. A.imbricata and A. enterocarpa from the southern Eyre Peninsula; A glandulicarpa from Dimboola: A .williamson ii and Eucalyptus frogatti from near Bendigo.

Miss E M Canning and Mr S R Corbett travelled to south-eastern South Australia and western Victoria from 29 November to 16 December. The trip re suited in approximately 500 herbarium specimens and 300 living specimens being added to the Gardens’ collections. A large number of Rhamnaceae specimens (101 herbarium, fifty-nine living) were also collected.

A number of local one-day field trips in the region yielded data and specimens for the Herbarium and the living collections.

The report of the Australian Orchid Foundation expedition to Western Australia in August 1980. written by Messrs M A Clements and A S George (Bureau of Flora and Fauna), was published. It detailed the authors’ field trip to the Israelite Bay area of the south coast of Western Australia. The expedition was subsidised by the Australian Orchid Foundation which also assisted with the cost of publication of the report.

Research and development

Taxonomic research: Taxonomic research into important groups of Australian plants is continuing. Mr Court researched Acacia section Juliflorae in co-operation with Dr M D Tindale in Sydney. He has commenced writing up species in the series Tetramerae’. During the year two new species were examined in the field; one of these is a new bipinnate species confined to the Wadbilliga National Park and the other is known only from Mt Typo in north-east Victoria. Both will be described during 1983-84.

Dr M D Crisp has almost completed his work on the genus Daviesia the published revision of which will emphasise conservational, ecological and taxonomic aspects of the genus. He is also researching Brachysema and related genera as his work on Daviesia closes. Miss Canning is studying the genera Crvptandra and Spvridium

Mr H Streimann is researching the Bryophyta and is preparing a bibliography of Australian species of Musci. His checklist of the flora of the Upper Watut Valley ( Papua New Guinea) is soon to be printed. Mr Telford has been writing up the family Cactaceae for the Flora of Australia project. Mr Verdon has continued research on the genus Leptogium (Lichenae).

Mr Telford prepared the family treatment of Cucurbitaceae for Volume 8 of the Flora of Australia, which was published in November 1982; a new monotypic genus, Nothoalsomitra , endemic to south-eastern Queensland. was described. He is preparing the family treatment of Cactaceae for Volume 4.

Horticultural research: During the year this was restricted due to staff changes. However, a reduced program, concentrating on vegetative propagation of native plant species, was maintained

Tissue culture of Geijera parvifolia. a species difficult to propagate from seed or cuttings, began in 1982. Boea hygroscopica, a native species related to the African Violet has been established successfully in sterile culture. Work continued on the vegetative propagation of Eriostemoni australasius and experimental grafting with Prostanthera was undertaken. Mr Clements continued research into the symbiotic germination of terrestrial orchids.

A horticultural research centre and seed laboratory is being developed by renovating the former Curator’s cottage.


A position of plant biology teacher (TAFE) was created in the Commonwealth Teaching Service and allocated to the Gardens. Mrs E A Boden, a librarian and secondary and university teacher, was appointed to the position in October 1982. She is responsible for developing and implementing programs in plant biology and related subjects at the post primary level including technical and further education.

The primary and special school Course in Australian Native Plants’ organised by Mrs E Mullins was conducted successfully throughout the year with more schools wanting to participate than could be accommodated. The course instructs students in seed germination, stiiking cuttings, potting-on, basic floral biology and an understanding of botanical classification, as well as crafts related to plants.

Guided walks on the Aboriginal plant trail and the nature trail were taken by rangers. A summer program ‘Gardens at 10’ consisting of indoor talks and outdoor walks was well attended. Topics included Aboriginal plant use, plant nutrition, parasitic plants and native birds.

A handbook, National Botanic Gardens: Guide to the Educational Resources, written by Mrs Boden, was published by the Department for distribution to educational institutions. It familiarises teachers and lecturers with the functions and facilities of the Gardens, its diversity as an educational resource and procedures for arranging visits.

Therapeutic horticulture

The Banksia Centre. a garden for the disabled, which offers special horticultural facilities and services for the disabled and elderly people, was opened by Mrs Malcolm Fraser, wife of the then Prime Minister, on 21 July 1982. Two staff operate the Centre.

Since formal programs began at the Banksia Centre in January 1983, 735 visits have been made by disabled people. In addition, 215 assistants and non-disabled visitors attended the Centre. Other visitors included intellectually disabled students from Koomarri and Malkara schools and Chapman and Bruce hostels, physically disabled and frail elderly people from several nursing homes and day care centres, and rehabilitating psychiatric patients from Woden Valley Hospital. Watson Hostel and the community

Inquiries and visits were made by occupational therapists, social workers, special care students, rehabilitation personnel, garden club members and staff from other botanic gardens.

Interest in the Centre has extended to local government areas developing proposals for facilities for disabled people in their parks and gardens. Council members have visited Canberra, and Centre staff have addressed meetings. Miss E V Smith presented an invited paper to a public forum on therapeutic horticulture in Adelaide in December 1982.

Visitor services

Four displays were exhibited in the Gardens’ information centre covering Aboriginal use of native plants, trees, bush fires and endangered plant species.

A cross section of Toona australis (Red Cedar) estimated to be 350 years old, was loaned for display by the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney.

Bird walks continued throughout 1982-83 and proved popular.

Horticultural and botanical inquiries were an important aspect of visitor services. To cope with increased demand, restrictions were imposed on the number of specimens identified at any one time.

The Gardens contributed on a shared basis with the City Parks Administration and the Conservation and Agricutlure Section in producing articles for the Canberra Chronicle which supplemented leaflets, talks and other promotional material.

The Canberra Festival Committee organised concerts at the Gardens during Canberra Week. Canberra School of Music students and the concert bands of Ginninderra High School, Lyneham High School and Garran Primary School presented programs. Weekend concerts were held at the Nancy T Burbidge Memorial amphitheatre.

On 27 January the Gardens hosted a successful concert organised for senior citizens by the Australia Day Council, Canberra Permanent Building Society and radio station 2CA. Approximately 800 people attended. It was opened by Senator Margaret Reid.

The Gardens participated with the Greening of Australia commmittee in a weekend of films and walks about trees and their conservation.

National and international liaison

In a joint venture with the Australian Development Assistance Bureau, Mr Sosoli Seluka of the Department of Agriculture and Forests, Western Samoa, spent six months at the Gardens to gain management experience. Hc has now returned to Apia, Western Samoa, to manage Vailima Botanic Gardens.

Members of the Museums Association of Australia and the International Federation of Landscape Architects visited the Gardens during their conferences in Canberra.

Due to staff movements and rearrangement of priorities it was decided to withhold production of the international seed exchange list Index Seminum Seeds will he supplied only to kindred institutions on request.

Dr Crisp returned from his appointment as Australian Botanical Liaison Officer at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England, in December 1982.Before returning he spent three months visiting European and United States herbaria and compiled a collection of photographs of type specimens of the family Fabaceae not held elswhere in Australia. As a result of his continued work on the taxonomic revision of Daviesia (Fabaceae) and related genera, four papers were published, three describing new species and one giving a revised phylogenetic classification of Leptosema.

Mr Streimann returned from Papua New Guinea in March, where he was seconded for twelve months as senior lecturer in Botany and Ecology to the Papua New Guinea Forestry College in Bulolo. He collected 600 flowering specimens and 11 600 lower plant specimens for the Herbarium.

Mr J Jervis returned from the United States in July where he completed a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust fellowship. He attended an interpretive methods training course conducted by the East Bay Regional Parks District, Oakland, California and visited botanical gardens, museums and national parks in California and Arizona.

Mr Clements was granted leave without pay for eighteen months in January, to take up a temporary research position at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, to investigate the propagation and cultivation of rare and endangered European terrestrial orchids.

Dr R W Boden attended the annual general meeting of the Australian Flora Foundation and seminar on native plant research. He visited the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne for talks with the Director on developments. He also attended the official opening of the new Herbarium and Visitor Centre at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, on 6 November.

Messrs Armstrong and Butler attended the Ornamental Horticulture Research Advisory Liaison Conference at the Department of Agriculture Research Station at Rydalmere on 26-27 October and presented a paper entitled Horticultural Development of the Australian Flora and the Australian Cultivar Registration Authority’

Dr Boden and Mr M Fagg attended the conference of the Museums Association of Australia held in Canberra from 17-22 October

Mr Court attended the tenth annual meeting of the Council of Heads of Australian Herharia in Brisbane in October 1982

Mr Armstrong attended the fifty-third ANZAAS Congress at the University of Western Australia, Perth. He presented a paper ‘Pollination Syndromes and Breeding Systems in Boronieae (family Rutaceae)’ and read Dr Crisp’s paper ‘Plantae Preissianae types at Lund

The annual meeting of the Australian Cultivar Registration Authority was held at the Gardens in November 1982. The constitution was revised to take account of the authority becoming incorporated. Fourteen cultivars were registered

Mr F Howe attended the tenth Summer School of Park Management run by the Canberra College of Advanced Education in February. Mr Hadlow attended a seminar on pests and diseases organised by the University of New England at Coffs Harbour in November 1982.

Mr Wrigley, formerly Curator of the National Gardens, was created a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Australia Day honours. The award was for public service, particularly in the cultivation and study of the Australian flora in his thirteen years as Curator

Updated August 26, 2008 by Webmaster (anbg-info@anbg.gov.au)