Department of Territories and Local Government


Annual Report 1983-1984

National Botanic Gardens

The function of the Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) is 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 enpoyment.

The Gardens occupy 90 ha on the slopes of Black Mountain in Canberra. with a 78 ha annexe in the Jervis Bay Territory on Australia’s eastern coast. The Gardens were opened in 1970 and now contain about 6000 taxa of living plants. The annexe at Jervis Bay contains about 1500 species.

There were 350 000 visitors to the Gardens in Canberra in 1983-84 and 8000 to the Jervis Bay annexe.

Administration and policy

The Gardens have been subject to internal re-organisation as part of their integration into the new Parks and Conservation Division and to meet the operational needs of major new facilities and developments. There are now three operational sections covering national collections, botanical and horticultural research and visitor services as well as an administration unit. Several new positions were created and the position of Director was upgraded. Major developments in the Gardens during the year included extension of the Gardens south of Black Mountain Drive, construction of the Visitor Information Centre. the design of a tropical conservatory and a new propagation facility in the nursery

On I5 May 1984. the Minister approved the addition of the word Australian to the name of the Gardens to more clearly define its function within Australia and overseas, and to identify the significance of the Australian National Botanic Gardens as part of Australia’s cultural and natural heritage.

NewDevelopments and improvements

Work funded by NCDC continued on redevelopment of the main entrance to the Gardens. The landscaped terraces will be planted with a variety of species selected to provide a spectacular display in Spring.

An added attraction to the rainforest gully has been the construction of a timber boardwalk alongside the stream at the floor of the gully. The boardwalk gives visitors the chance to he totally surrounded by the rainforest and obtain a closer view of the plantings. The project was funded under the Wage Pause Program.

The Gardens and Kodak ( Australia) Ply Ltd jointly produced three native plant poster kits for distribution by Kodak to schools throughout Australia. The kits were launched at the Gardens by the Minister on 29 February 1984. Each kit contains a floral portrait poster 50 cm x 75 cm in full colour and supportive project material written by the Garden’s education service.

A pesticide shed has been built to overcome problems with handling and dispensing spray materials. The building, which has been divided into two sections, contains an area for mixing and storing chemicals and a room, with hot and cold showers and other facilities, for staff engaged in spraying.

Construction commenced on a Visitor Information Centre which is expected to be completed in 1984—85. The Centre will be in two parts astride the main pedestrian spine and linked to the present Botany Building by a glazed walkway. Public areas will contain exhibition rooms, a bookshop. public-access herbarium and photograph collections, a lecture theatre and rest rooms. New administrative offices will be built at the first floor level and reconstruction within the existing building will provide space for the Plant Sciences Library. Parking will be expanded as part of the project.

As part of an upgrading of security a contract was let for after-hours surveillance of the buildings and grounds, and a fire strategy plan was introduced.

The establishment of a tropical conservatory progressed with funds being made available through the NCDC for consultants to complete a research brief. The conservatory will house the Gardens’ extensive collection of tropical rainforest plants. including orchids and palms. making them accessible to the public for educational and recreational purposes.

Development and management of national collections

Living collection The collection comprises about 47 000 plants of 3100 taxa planted in the open ground. About 2400 plants of 1100 taxa are kept as stock plants in permanent pots in the nursery, these being rare plants whose reliable performance under open ground conditions cannot be guaranteed. A total of 1150 plants of 380 terrestrial orchid taxa are kept in cold-frames. An additional 2500 plants of 980 non-orchid taxa are kept in glasshouses together with 1900 tropical orchids of 670 taxa. These plants with their special requirements of temperature and humidity are not accessible to visitors until the tropical conservatory is built. Approximately 2800 plants were planted in l983-84. Of these, 50 were new taxa and 30 were new cultivars. An additional 590 plants were planted in the Jervis Bay annexe.

A private collector, Mr L Bird, and Mr J D Briggs (CSIRO, Plant Industry), supplied seeds and vegetative material of many rare and threatened species as part of a major program to bring endangered species into cultivation.

The Australian Survey Office provided assistance in mapping on a trial basis, the living collection in some areas of the Gardens. These base maps are expected to allow plant recording to be carried out more efficiently and eventually provide the data in a form suitable for incorporation into the Gardens’ computer system.

Two CEP projects began in 1983-84 to assist with stocktaking the living collection and determining the status of rare and endangered plants in the collection. The second will collect biological and horticultural information to assist in management of the collection.

Herbarium The Herbarium collection now contains about 143,600 accessioned specimens. 111,600 vascular and 32 000 non-vascular (cryprogamic) collections. The Herbarium is now an approved institution for receipt of plant specimens collected with funds provided under the Australian Biological Resources Study.

Valuable additions to the vascular collections came from field trips to Western Australia and southern central Queensland and from donations of rare and threatened species by Mr Briggs. Mr P Gilmour ( Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service) and Mr H Strcimann, while on secondment to the Forestry College at Bulolo ( Papua New Guinea) also provided important additions to the collections. About 790 replicates were obtained by exchange with or as donations from other Australian and overseas herbaria. About 1,860 replicate specimens were dispatched to kindred botanical institutions.

The cryptogamic collection benefitted from collections made by Mr Streimann while in Papua New Guinea. He concentrated on non-vascular plants (fungi. liverworts. mosses and lichens) mainly from the highlands and Morobe Provinces hut also from Gulf Province, an area rarely collected from. A total of 11,000 specimens were collected. The staff and students of the Forestry College at Bulolo donated 1,500 specimens. collected from their home provinces and about 800 specimens were obtained by exchange or as donations from other Australian or overseas herbaria. About 10 550 replicate specimens were dispatched to other botanical institutions. The Gardens now hold one of the most comprehensive collections of non-vascular plants from Papua New Guinea.

Work on the public access herbarium began as a CEP project. It is planned to have a complete set of specimens of plant species from the ACT. and the southern tablelands and south coast of New South Wales ready for use in the new visitor centre. At the same time a set of specimens of plant species of Jervis Bay is being prepared for use at the annexe.

Photographic collection The Gardens has a collection of 14,400 35 mm colour slides, of which 6,400are habit or close-up photos of Australian native plants and 4000 are records of major field trips recording many of these plants in the field. During the year 893 slides were added to the collection either by Gardens staff or by donations from private photographers.

A total of 121 slides was loaned for use in publications in 1983—84 and the collection was used extensively for educational purposes. A major reorganisation of the collection is presently in progress to enable its records to be incorporated into the Gardens’ data base.

Data collection A computer system is being developed to assist in the management of the living, photographic and herbarium collections.

Mr A Glenn of Systems Branch has been co-ordinating the project and Mrs L Lockwood is organising the botanical and horticultural data for processing.

Design of the computer system was completed during the year. Data is at present being converted from existing records to the Department’s mainframe computer, beginning with the living collection. Most of the records concerning the outside plantings in the Gardens have been incorporated into the computer data base.

A network of visual display and printer terminals is being installed providing inquiry access and on-line updating of the data.


Vascular Plant Research Mr J Armstrong continued his studies in the systematics and reproductive biology of the Rutaceae and other families, including a monograph of Zieria (Rutaceae). Cladistic studies were carried out in co-operation with Mr P Weston of the Royal Botanic Gardens. Sydney. and Dr D Colless of the CSIRO Division of Entomology. Canberra. to determine the systematic and phylogenetic relationships of Zieria and other genera of the tribe Boronieae.

Mr A Court has continued research on the genus Acacia Section Juliflorae in co-operation with Dr M D Tindale, and is preparing descriptions of species in the series Tetramerae.

Miss E Canning has continued work on the genera Cryptandra and Spyridium.

Dr M Crisp continued a revision of Daviesia, producing a treatment of the genus for the flora of the Perth region in co-operation with botanists at the Western Australian Herbarium. A paper describing several new species of Daviesia was published in the journal Nuytsia. Work commenced on a ‘Census’ listing all names published in the tribe Mirbelieae (c. 1500). together with details of types photographed by Dr Crisp in the UK and Europe in 1981-82.

Mrs J Taylor began a revision of Chorizema (Mirbelieae). an endemic Australian genus of about 20-25 species common in cultivation. Initial work has concentrated on the C. ilicifolium C. cordatum C. varium complex. The close relationship of one Oxylohium species with the genus chorizema will also be investigated.

Mr I Telford completed a treatment of the family Cactaceae and began writing an account of the family Dioscoriaceae (yams) for the Flora of Australia. Thelatter is being done in co-operation with Dr D Yen of the Australian National University, who is interested in the use of yams as food by the Australian Aboriginals. Other flora treatments are in progress for the family Stemonaceae and some genera of the Liliaceae. Mr Telford’s monographic studies on Rupicola (Epacridaceae) are continuing.

Non-vascular plant research Mr Streimann completed a ‘Catalogue of the Mosses of Australia and Australian Territories’ and this is awaiting publication. His checklist of the flora of the Upper Watut Valley ( Papua New Guinea) was published during the year. Mr D Verdon continued research on the genus Leprogium (Lichenae).

Horticultural research The year saw an expansion in the activities of the Horticultural Research Unit with recruitment to vacancies that had existed for many months. The conversion of the former curator’s cottage into the research centre has still not been completed with the Unit’s laboratory facilities remaining split between the cottage and the Education Centre.

Work continues on the propagation of a range of Grevillea spp. from cuttings, investigating seasonal and chemical effects and the clonal variation of the source material. The problems associated with the cultivation of Western Australian Banksia, Prostanthera and Eremophila species is being investigated with trials of grafting sensitive species onto hardy rootstocks.

Dr R Ellyard is supervising the study of the endangered Hibiscus insularis as a project approved for funding by the World Wildlife Fund, Australia. The natural population is reduced to eight plants on Philip Island, in the south Pacific, and the project will determine a conservation strategy for the wild population.

The ‘invitro’ propagation of native orchids has continued under the guidance of Mr S Hughes. A review of the symbiotic germination data for terrestrial orchids over the last nine years has been initiated as a basis for determining future research priorities. The genus Pterostylis and the associated fungal isolates required for germination are being investigated.

The Unit moved into a new area of research during the year with the introduction of techniques for pollen-stigma compatibility testing. This will enable investigations into the pollination biology and breeding systems of rare and endangered native species.

Jervis Bay annexe

Expansion of the water reticulation system at the annexe has enabled areas at the annexe previously unavailable for planting to he used. Further landscaping in the rainforest section will enable the collection of rainforest species to he better displayed.

CEP projects in progress include an Aboriginal plant uses trail, retaining walls in the older section of the annexe and the installation of fire hydrants to provide protection from hush fires for sensitive areas such as the rainforest. Local Ahoriginals were employed on all three projects.

Electricity was connected to the annexe depot during the year to provide improved facilities and allow for the installation of electric aquadial watering controls in the future. A small propagation facility was set up to allow repropagation of successful species and to assist in the development of the regional collection.

Visitor numbers continued to grow and should increase further with the proposed sealing of Cave Beach Road. It is possible to open the annexe to the public only on a limited basis at weekends and holidays. A proposal to link the annexe to the Gardens’ central records computer via a land line is being considered.


Education programs at the Gardens expanded in 1983-84. There were increases in the number of student groups from the ACT and elsewhere and in the range of programs offered. The diversity of subject areas accommodated also increased.

Equipping the Gardens’ classroom with modular furniture has enabled most secondary and tertiary level curriculum-related visits to begin with an indoor segment based on contact specimens. Background content and visit objectives are clarified before the lesson program is completed in the living collection. This revised strategy has been widely accepted by visiting teachers. In-service programs were conducted for secondary biology and geography teachers. Plant propagation workshops were held for primary and secondary teachers.

Two workshops were presented by the education officer, Mrs A Boden, as part of the annual conference of the Science Teachers Association of the ACT. One was based on the theory and process of biological field work and the other on the application of plant propagation in teaching programs at primary and secondary levels.

Gardens’ rangers conducted tours for local students especially at primary level. Tours of the Aboriginal trail and nature trails, as well as general tours were also popular with larger groups of out of town school visitors.

Work experience for secondary students was reorganised with the aims of iniproving the appropriateness of placements and increasing the range of participating work areas in the Gardens.

A document Guidelines to Work Experience Programs. National Botanic Gardens, was prepared by Mrs Boden. as a guide for supervisors, and as an instrument for assessment of student performance and evaluation of the program by students. Five placements were made under the revised program during the first 1984 semester

Therapeutic horticulture

The Banksia Centre. the Gardens’ special facility for disabled and elderly people. became well known locally and nationally in 1983-84. The Centre, managed by Miss F Smith. offers services and programs to people with various disabilities and limitations, and has provided specialised programs for 35 local organisations and disability groups. A total of 1800 disabled people participated in the program in its first year.

Staff at the Centre also promotes horticulture for disabled people and give advice to numerous national institutions and inquirers on accessible gardens, the therapeutic use of horticulture, suitable horticultural activities for therapy programs, hospital gardens, tools and techniques for disabled gardeners, and information on Centre programs.

In March, a seminar was conducted at the Gardens on ‘Horticultural Opportunities for Disabled People’ for therapists. horticulturists and rehabilitanon workers in Canberra. Dr D ReIf, a professional horticultural therapist from the USA. spoke on horticultural therapy, training and employment Opportunities for disabled people. The seminar was well attended and acted as a catalyst for further development of programs in Canberra.

Visitor services

Four major exhibitions were displayed in the Visitor Information Centre during the year: ‘Endangered Species’. ‘Trees’. ‘Alpine Plants’, and ‘Allan Cunningham’. Pots of terrestrial orchids from the nursery were an attraction in Spring, and a wide range of tropical plant species was brought from the glasshouses to the Centre when they were in flower

A total of 3500 publications was sold from the Centre and 130,000 free leaflets given out. Over 2,200 visitors sought advice from the horticultural adviser, Mrs E Mullins. and a further 230 requests for horticultural information were answered by mail. Mrs Mullins also disseminated advice and information through articles in the Canberra Chronicle.

A display cabinet of niounted bird specimens, partly funded by the Commonwealth Schools Commission, was set up in the Banksia Centre. This display completed the Bird Study Project initiated by Dr R Boden, and an amateur ornithologist, Sir Frederick White, to allow disabled students to appreciate native birds and their calls.

A display featuring information on bush fires was set up in the newly renovated ‘green hut’ at the Jervis Bay annexe. Displays on endangered species were also set up at the Canberra College of Advanced Education, at the Canberra Show to promote the role of the Banksia Centre, and during ACT Heritage Week. There were special displays at the Gardens for the launching of the native plant poster kits and the launching of the International Plants Campaign by the World Wildlife Fund, Australia.

Throughout the year. 70 non-student groups comprising 1500 people were given introductory guided tours of the Gardens by rangers Mr K Thaler and Mr J Jervis and a further 560 were given unbooked tours on Sundays. The Gardens continued to he a favourite site for weddings. with 80 held in 1983-84. Early morning bird tours, which were popular when run fortnightly in 1983, were discontinued with the reduction of the ranger force from three to two early in 1984.

Plant Sciences Library

The Plant Sciences Library at the Gardens is an outpost of the Department’s Central Library. It has a collection of approximately 1800 monographs, 400 serial titles and 4000 maps. During the year 196 monographs. 70 serial titles, 225 maps, 121 reprints, and 894 serial issues were added to the collection.


. The trip lasted four weeks and yielded about 850 herbarium specimens and 600 collections of propagation material. In Spring 1963 there was a major field trip to Western Australia by Mrs J Taylor and Mr P Ollerenshaw, primarily to collect Chorizema. A remarkable discovery during this trip was a new genus of Pittosporaceae. Mrs Taylor is now preparing a formal description of it for publication. The field trip also yielded herbarium specimens and propagation material of Daviesia ovata, a rare species reduced to about 40 plants on Mount Manypeaks near Albany

A second major Spring field trip to south western Queensland was undertaken by Miss Canning and Ms B Rymes. The objective was to collect large quantities of seed of annual species following an exceptionally good season. Seed is being assessed by the Horticultural Research Unit for its suitability in massed displays at the Gardens. The trip lasted nearly four weeks and yielded 471 herbarium specimens and 398 collections of propagation material.

Dr Crisp went on a five-day trip in July 1983 to photograph specimens at the National Herbarium of Victoria in Melbourne and to collect rare and endangered species from the Melbourne area. The latter included the tree fern Cyathea cunninghamii and the rare Astelia australiana, Astrotricha parvifolia and Correa reflexa var cardinalis. Several one-day trips were undertaken by Messrs Streimann and D Verdon to collect non-vascular plants in the Nerriga and Mount Brown area of south eastern Australia.

National and international liaison

In August 1963 the Gardens planned and implemented a display for the South Pacific Forum organised by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for heads of government from south Pacific countries. The display, ‘Australia Land of Contrast’ featured the beauty of Australia’s plants with a display of living and cut flowers, plus landscape diversity with contrasting rainforest and arid settings of potted plants in modular planter-boxes. Wall-mounted photographs and a random access projected slide display of landscapes complemented the living plants.

The Gardens is involved with its first major overseas exhibition at the International Garden Festival held in Liverpool, England, which opened in May 1984. Plans drawn up by Mr P Schumack of the Gardens were adopted by the Australian Exhibit Organisation, and Mr G Butler, planting officer for the Gardens, visited England in March to co-ordinate the final stage of planting and landscaping. An outdoor garden of 575 m and an indoor garden of 33 m were landscaped with over 2000 native plants comprising 300 different species. The supply of plants had been organised by the Gardens. the Queensland Nurserymens Association and private nurseries throughout Australia.

On 27 January, the Gardens hosted the second Elderly Citizens Australia Day Concert organised by the Australia Day Council and the Canberra Permanent Building Society. More than 600 people attended.

The International Plants Campaign for Australia was launched by the Minister for the World Wildlife Fund, Australia, at the Gardens on 22 March. Eighty-five guests attended and saw the launching of the book Extinct and Endangered Plants of Australia by Leigh, Boden and Briggs.

Dr Boden visited Europe. the UK and the USA in 1983-84 to study administrative and funding arrangements and development trends in overseas botanic gardens and arboreta. He found a growing public interest in botanic gardens which was reflected in increasing attendances and requests for educational programs. Gardens are becoming the ‘shop window’ for botany, a role which can he performed satisfactorily only if they have well integrated and adequately funded programs of research, education and management.

Australian Cultivar Registration Authority

The Australian Cultivar Registration Authority, based at the Gardens, was established in 1963 to register cultivars of native plants. The Authority has 16 members representing botanic gardens, the horticultural trade and special interest groups. The chairperson is Mr P Lumley of the Royal Botanic Gardens. Mclhournc the secretary. Mr Armstrong. assistant director, ANBG: and the registrar. Mr Butler, planting officer at the ANBG. During the year 26 applications were received by the Authority to register new cultivars. Work on these had initially been suspended due to insufficient staff. However, the employment of a scientific officer on a six-months’ CEP project should reduce the backlog.

ANBG publications

Growing Native Plants No. 12 was issued in April 1984. The lead article is ‘Pests and Diseases’ and there are 14 other articles prepared by Gardens’ staff on native plants suitable for horticulture. Plants of the Upper Watut Watershed of Papua New Guinea by Mr Streimann was published for the Gardens in August 1983. Mr Streimanri is curator of non-vascular plants in the Gardens’ herbarium and was seconded to the Papua New Guinea Forestry College in Bulolo in 1982, holding the post of Senior Lecturer in Botany and Ecology. Staff of the Gardens contributed papers to a wide range of scientific and educational journals.

Updated October 17, 2006 by Webmaster (anbg-info@anbg.gov.au)