Extracted from the Australian Nature Conservation Agency Annual Report 1994 - 1995
The mission of the Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) is:
To grow, study and promote Australia’s flora
The ANBG is a major scientific and educational resource. It is the original national collection and Australia’s most comprehensive display of living native plants. The ANBG occupies ninety hectares on Black Mountain in Canberra and eighty hectares at Jervis Bay. In September 1991, the ANBG was proclaimed as a reserve under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975. Proclamation provided legal protection for the collections and required the preparation of a Plan of Management for the ANBG, which came into effect on 3 March 1994.
A major new building to house staff, specimens and equipment of the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research on the CSIRO site was occupied in late 1994. The Centre combines the native plant collection, systematic botany and ecology programs of the ANBG and the CSIRO Division of Plant Industry, and the botanical research program of the Australian Biological Resources Study. It is now fully operational, with a Board of Management, an Advisory Committee and combined program structures. The Centre was formally opened by the Minister on 23 May 1995.
During 1995, the ANBG celebrates the twenty-fifth anniversary of its establishment. One event held to celebrate this milestone was a concert by the SBS Youth Orchestra which attracted over 5000 people. As well, a major sculpture exhibition was held in April as part of the National Sculpture Forum
With funding from the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, a horticultural scientist was appointed to undertake research on native flora with potential commercial value.
The Council of Heads of Australian Botanic Gardens comprises the heads of principal Commonwealth, State and Territory botanic gardens. The Council meets annually to discuss significant issues of gardens’ management and formally reports to the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC). ANCA’s Mr Tim Richmond (Executive Director, Biocultural Landscapes— South) attended the March 1995 Council meeting in Melbourne. The Council is working towards development of an association of Australian botanic gardens to enhance cooperation and information sharing.
In 1995 the Government agreed that title to the Jervis Bay Botanic Gardens together with the Jervis Bay National Park is to be granted to the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council, with the area then being leased back to ANCA. The Gardens will be managed from Jervis Bay National Park, while retaining its distinctive status and role as well as its close professional links with the ANBG in Canberra.
The Jervis Bay Botanic Gardens was established to display and interpret the flora of the coastal south-east area of Australia, which is characterised by sands and soils of low fertility. Species and communities include heaths, dry sclerophyll forests and littoral rainforest. A long-term field collection strategy is in preparation, incorporating short-term collecting goals. Arrangement of the collection on the site is being reviewed critically to ensure that plantings accommodate overlapping themes of taxonomy, ethnobotany, ecology and conservation.
During the year a Development Planning Guide was completed, identifying a range of capital works necessary to improve access for the disabled and to enable the Jervis Bay Gardens to fulfil its role into the future.
Cooperation with the Australian National University and the University of Canberra continued, with students using the Gardens as a field resource for botanical and freshwater lake ecology studies. The number of local school excursions increased during the year, as did bus tours and specialised ecotourism. The Jervis Bay National Park Parkcare Group continued to provide valuable assistance to the Gardens.
Australian National Herbarium
During the year the ANBG’s herbarium collections were combined with those of the CSIRO Division of Plant Industry to form a single collection, the Australian National Herbarium (ANH), under a single management. The preserved scientific collections of the combined herbarium form the basis of the scientific authentication and documentation of plants grown at the ANBG and are an important national research and reference resource of our plant heritage. The bulk of the vascular plants are now housed on the CSIRO site and the ferns, conifers, mosses, liverworts, lichens and fungi are stored on the ANBG site.
During 1994-95, over 32,000 specimens were added to the collection. These comprised approximately 9,000 from collecting and survey programs and 23,000 from donations. Significant donations from other institutions and individuals were: herbaria from CSIRO Division of Wildlife and Ecology (7950 specimens); mini-vouchers and spirit collections from Robyn Barker (1570 specimens); lichen specimens from Professor Jack Elix (14,000); and smaller collections from Dr Josephine Piggin and the late Dr Murray Wallace
The exchange of duplicates and reciprocal loan of specimens is an important element of information exchange between herbaria. The ANH distributed 16,294 specimens to other institutions and received 7812 specimens; 76 loans totalling 5,659 specimens were dispatched and 120 loans comprising 6,903 specimens were received.
During the year 442 public enquiries were answered, involving the identification of 491 specimens, and a wide variety of professional and other enquiries were also answered.
Staff continued to handle a large number of requests for information and material from other scientific institutions, including requests for verified samples for chemical and genetic analysis, highlighting the value of the strong link between the ANH and the living collections of the ANBG
The ANH held its third Student Botanical Intern Program over January and February. Fourteen students enrolled for the course, a 50 per cent increase over the 1994 program. The students provided significant voluntary assistance in curation and research programs in return for formal training and practical work experience in the functions of a herbarium.
Staff continued close collaboration with the Society for Growing Australian Plants (SGAP), in particular through the SGAP Grass Study Group, presentations at SGAP meetings and tours of the ANH.
Liaison with State, Commonwealth and local government agencies and private landholders continued over the recovery plan for the endangered Grevillea wilkinsoni
An enthusiastic team of community volunteers assisted the ANH in a number of ways, in particular with preparation of new specimens for the collection and assistance in the loan and exchange area.
The ANBG maintains a public reference herbarium of 2150 specimens covering 1971 species from the Australian Capital Territory and south-east New South Wales, including a smaller reference collection at the Jervis Bay Botanic Gardens. Further specimens were added during the year, with literature and illustrations of each of the taxa.
Council of Heads of Australian Herbaria
The Council of Heads of Australian Herbaria comprises the heads of the major Australian herbaria, with observers from smaller and regional herbaria. During the year, the ANBG was represented through its involvement in the ANH and the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research. Director of the Centre, Dr Judy West, attended the annual meeting of the Council and Deputy Director, Mr Jim Croft, addressed the Council on a number of network and database issues.
With the formation of the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, the range of research options available to the ANBG has greatly increased. ANBG staff continue to focus on the systematics and biology of the Orchidaceae, the cycad Macrozamia, mosses, Grevillea, Leptospermum, and Cucurbitaceae. The move into the new Centre meant that some research programs were temporarily disrupted and major field work was curtailed.
Electronic access to and processing of botanical information is fundamental to the operation and management of the ANBG’s living and preserved scientific collections. All living collections and photograph records are on the Integrated Botanical Information System (IBIS) database, which holds information on 20 840 living plants and 19,403 photographic slides. ANH accessions are also recorded on the database. In 1994-95, 25,000 records were entered, bringing the total to
During the year, mapping software was installed and applications were designed to handle living collections survey and plant records data.
The ANBG is custodian of the Australian Plant Name Index and the Census of Australian Vascular Plants. In 1994-95, 283 records from published literature were added to the IBIS database.
The ANBG provided copies of its Acacia and Eucalypt datasets to the Environmental Resources Information Network (ERIN) as part of ERIN’s Landcover project.
The ANBG’s World Wide Web (WWW) server was extended to cover the activities of the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research. The WWW and Gopher servers provide public access through the Internet to the ANBG’s living collections, plant name, herbarium and photograph datasets and a range of written information produced by staff. The WWW also provides access to information produced by other botanical and environmental institutions. The ANBG servers receive over 10 000 requests for information each day from over 1100 different sites. The Internet is a powerful means of disseminating ANBG information to the national and international public.
The living collections consist of 85 000 plants representing almost 6000 taxa. The majority of these are grown in the 210 outdoor garden beds but 6000 plants of about 1200 tender species enjoy manipulated glasshouse climates. Another 5000 plants of 1800 difficult-to-grow species are kept in pots in the nursery, but wherever possible these are being planted in carefully located and prepared niches in outdoor beds
A major review of the living collections began in 1994—95, to improve the collections’ focus on interpretation of the evolution, ecology and ethnobotany of the Australian and related floras. Under the review, the roles of the Canberra and Jervis Bay gardens in a national network of botanic gardens will be considered.
An important initiative was taken during the year with the appointment of a horticultural research scientist. Re-establishment of horticultural research at the ANBG was identified in the Plan of Management as a high priority. The Plan specifically supports research into horticultural practices such as propagation, cultivation and germplasm preservation that also facilitate ex situ cultivation and restorative in situ conservation projects.
Research goals for the unit relate to sustainable use of plant biodiversity, in particular:
• screening plants for potential uses such as food, fibres, fuel and medicine, as well as ornamental and amenity horticulture;
• cultivating horticulturally desirable wild plants, thus reducing pressure on natural populations;
• improving production efficiency and quality;
• conserving genetic stock for plant breeding; and
• improving existing crops and assisting the introduction of other plants into commercial production.
Funding restrictions have resulted in many aspects of research being neglected in recent years but this problem has been overcome in part by a significant grant from the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. The specific project funded by this grant aims to develop cut flower crops from the native flora to exploit a northern hemisphere winter market gap. Further external funding grants are being sought and will be used to initiate research projects in other area
Detailed planning was completed for stage one of the nursery, trades and horticultural complex, one of the new facilities identified in the Plan of Management. Construction of this stage will begin in 1995—96.
The Plan of Management also identified the need for rationalisation of paths through the Gardens. A primary trail, begun during 1994—95, will provide access for all visitors to major theme displays.
The National Capital Planning Authority has prepared a master plan for the Black Mountain site in accordance with statutory requirements for national land.
The Australian Network for Plant Conservation (ANPC) aims to promote communication, and advise on plant conservation efforts in Australia. Its membership, which is drawn from the public, corporate and private sectors, was over 200 at 30 June 1995.
The ANPC held its first national training course in conservation techniques in Canberra in April 1995. The course ran for twelve days, with twenty participants from all eastern States as well as Norfolk and Christmas Islands.
The ANPC Advisory Committee held its annual meeting in November 1995. Four issues of the newsletter Danthonia were published during the year, as were the proceedings of the first national conference.
Australian Cultivar Registration Authority
The Australian Cultivar Registration Authority (ACRA) was set up in 1963 to register the names of cultivars derived from Australian species. It is based in the ANBG, which contributes considerable staff and material resources to its running.
At the 1994 annual meeting in December, ACRA appointed a new Registrar, Mr lain Dawson, the ANBG’s Horticultural Research Officer, and thanked the retiring officer, the ANBG’s Mr Geoff Butler, for his very considerable efforts over a long period in building and furthering the interests of ACRA. A volunteer was recruited to assist the Registrar one day each week.
Seven cultivars were registered in 1994: two grevilleas, two callistemons, a correa, a white waratah and a wattle.
Visitor numbers for the ANBG this year totalled almost 377 500, with 327 500 visitors recorded for Canberra and 50 000 for Jervis Bay. The Information Centre provided a seven-day-a-week service for visitors, and staff worked closely with the contractors operating the Botanical Bookshop to ensure that the Centre worked as an integrated unit.
The ANBG’s education service continued to attract a large number of primary, secondary and tertiary students to its programs in environmental education and horticulture. Assistance was provided to 22 670 students and their teachers from all parts of Australia during the year. New curricula materials produced for teachers under the banner Discover.., were The Maths Track and Grasslands. Publications during the year also included a bilingual report on the ANBG’s New Caledonia Field Expeditions 1992 in English and French.
Volunteer guides are a vital part of the outdoor interpretation program. Volunteers offered regular tours throughout the year and were particularly busy during spring when special tours were given to tourist bus passengers on interstate visits to Canberra. Some 1887 visitors availed themselves of the guides’ services during the year. A new intake of guides commenced their twelve-week training course in June
The ANBG continued to offer visitors a range of recreational activities including school holiday programs, interpreted walks and musical performances during summer late-night closing in January
Significant developments during 1994-95 included:
• the displays ‘Wattles’, ‘Colour in Your Garden’, ‘Grasslands’ and ‘The Early History of the Jervis Bay Botanic Gardens’
• a new directional sign system
• sessions on ‘bush tucker’ conducted by Aboriginal people from the Wreck Bay community to coincide with NAIDOC week (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee), and the development of an Aboriginal vegetable garden;
• a program on feral plants and animals developed by the rangers for presentation to school students
• publication of the second edition of the Directory of Australian Botanic Gardens and Arboreta
• preparation of policy documents on education, recreation and the photograph collection;
• a major change to the presentation of the public reference herbarium to make it more accessible to the general public; and
• relocation of the Growing Friends community group to the Horticultural Training Centre as part of the integration of educational facilities to provide access for people of all abilities.
The collection includes photographs of Australian flora, a representative range of vegetation types and pictorial records of developments at the ANBG. The collection is linked through the IBIS database to plant specimens vouchered in the ANH. Use of the collection by researchers, students and publishers is encouraged. During the year Government departments were licensed to use slides from the collection in text books, environmental leaflets and tourism guides. Further donations made under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme added 200 photographs to the collection, which now totals 23,400 photographs.
The best photographs of each plant species are being copied onto Kodak Photo CD, as a security measure in case the original photo is lost or destroyed, and as a means of making electronic images available. A selection of photos of endangered species and the genus Acacia was accessible on the Internet by 30 June 1995.