Extracted from the Director of National Parks Annual Report 1997 - 1998
The mission of the Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) is to grow, study and promote Australia’s flora.
• Visitor facilities were improved by
construction of board walks in the rainforest gully and a viewing platform over the cafe pond. Detailed planning was completed for a pedestrian concourse and enhanced front entrance involving structural work and new plantings which will clearly identify the site to passing traffic and provide an attractive entry point for visitors.
• The Minister opened the new main path in September 1997. It features aerial walkways and a steel arched bridge over the Tasmanian Gully.
• A conservation policy was completed following extensive consultation and preparation commenced of a new Plan of Management. scheduled for completion before the end of 1998.
• At the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, staff and intern volunteers completed interleaving of ANBG and CSIRO specimens, consolidating the Australian National Herbarium as a single collection.
The ANBG provided a wide range of activities for its 350 000 visitors in 1997—98. Highlights of the summer program were ‘Jazz in the Gardens’ on Saturday evenings and ‘Sunday Serenade’ with lighter music on Sundays. These events attracted up to 2000 people. Other activities included evening spotlighting tours, moon-watching and sleep-overs for children. The success of the January program prompted the Friends of the ANBG to sponsor its extension through February. Visitor numbers for February showed an increase of 37 per cent over previous years, attributed to extending late-night closing through that month.
The Visitor Centre attracted 115 000 people, with a range of exhibitions including ‘Cape York — Tropical Wilderness’, ‘Pixels in the Gardens’ displaying digital images and art, and ‘Above the Snow Gums’ featuring the ecology of the Alps. As part of the centre’s information service, over 300 plants were identified for the public and 170 horticultural inquiries were answered.
The major outdoor improvement to visitor services was the new main path with signs identifying the key botanical features. The ANBG took part in the ACT’s National Sculpture Forum in April, providing the setting for ‘Earth Art’, a program of dynamic or ephemeral sculptures distributed around the site.
The Education Unit established the Explainers, who are paid to accompany and assist student groups in outdoor activities. The Explainers are drawn from the ranks of the Volunteer Guides and are given extra training on interacting with students. Nearly 15 000 students from 373 schools participated in educational programs. Community education courses in plant propagation continued, with 80 participants.
Friends and volunteers continued to play an important role in the success of the ANBG. The Volunteer Guides have revenue-earning bookings from tour bus companies through to the year 2000. The Growing Friends’ regular plant sales were very successful and the Friends Craft Group continued, making use of fruits and other plant products discarded during maintenance. During the year the Friends contributed $13 000 to the ANBG as well as an enormous amount of time as volunteers and goodwill ambassadors.
The ANBG published a third edition of the Directory of Australian Botanic Gardens and Arboreta, facilitating communication between the 120 State and regional botanic gardens. The directory was also made available on the Internet at http:/ /www.anbg.gov.au. The ANBG’s Internet site was used by 22 000 people each month. Material added included ‘In Flower This Week’ and other educational material. Access to images from the photo collection was improved.
The photo collection increased to 32 200 with 700 additions including 111 made under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme. Among major users of the collection was the Australian Biological Resources Study’s Flora of Australia series. A major project was converting 1200 photos to digital images for use in a forthcoming interactive CD-ROM key to the families of Australian plants.
The garden display was of a particularly high standard with excellent growth and flowering owing to an unusually warm growing season and maturing of new plantings from the last several years. The intensified planting program continued, with over 14 000 plants added to the outdoor gardens.
Two expeditions to Western Australia collected propagation material from 1100 species. This will be added to taxonomic displays and to displays interpreting the rich diversity of Western Australia’s plant life. Other collecting, particularly in the northern tablelands of NSW and the Warrumbungle Range, NSW, brought the total accessions for the year to 1500 species. The number of species represented in the total living collection now exceeds 7000, representing at least one third of the Australian flora.
As part of the ongoing development of the rainforest gully, cpiphytic (tree-growing) orchids and ferns were established arid a rockery constructed to display specialised species.
Management of the root rot fungus Armillaria continued, with burning of infected stumps and removal of fruiting bodies.
Following last year’s water audit, significant leaks were repaired and more efficient irrigation technology was installed. In spite of these measures, water consumption was high because of record high temperatures and low rainfall during the summer.
The Australian Cultivar Registration Authority completed colour coding of about 1000 taxa to facilitate proper description and comparison of cultivars. Descriptions of the 314 registered cultivars were revised to bring them to a unified standard, using volunteer assistance and external sponsorship. These descriptions will be added to the authority’s Internet site which is attached to the ANBG’s site.
In the ACTEW Corporation/Natural Heritage Trust supported project on grassland restoration in the upper Murrumbidgce catchment, good progress was made in investigating germination conditions required by six native grass species. Two major investigations funded by the Rural Industry Research and Development Corporation were completed. The project on development of three subantarctic plants for the food industry recommended that Pringlea antiscorbutica (Kerguelen cabbage) should be developed as a new vegetable crop. Research into the northern Australian species Haemodorum coccineum as a cut flower crop concluded that it has good potential for commercial development within its natural climatic range and would be available in Northern Hemisphere markets in their winter when relatively few species are exported from Australia.
Volunteer assistance enabled testing of seed viability and reorganisation of the seed bank to advance considerably. Approximately 200 new collections were added.
Access was improved by construction of a cantilevered viewing platform over the cafe pond and a pathway for pedestrians, bicycles and small transporters linking the ANBG with the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research. To facilitate site planning and plant location recording, the topographic survey of the ANBG was progressed to approximately 60 per cent completion.
The imposition of parking fees was agreed by the Minister and fees are expected to be introduced by November 1998.
An external mid-term review of the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, its programs and its achievements after nearly five years of operation was initiated. This included a detailed review of botanical activity and facilities on the ANBG site, and consultation with staff and key stakeholders.
In addition to maintaining the scientific specimens in the Australian National Herbarium, the centre continued research into the taxonomy, systematics and conservation of Australian native plants, with 87 articles published in scientific journals, books and newsletters documenting Australia’s plant biodiversity. Staff completed flora treatments of the genus Grevillea for the Flora of Australia and the Proteaceae of New South Wales, revised the large orchid genus Gastridium, described two new orchid genera from New Zealand, Wairea and Winika, and published Plant Systematic Research in Australia, a guide to botanical taxonomic work on the Australian flora.
The centre continued to service the botanical, taxonomic and information needs of the ANBG and its clients, supplying identification services, database extracts and general botanical information. Organising and participating in training sessions for secondary and tertiary students from local and interstate institutions, and information sessions for members of the scientific and general communities, were continuing and successful activities. Interns, students and members of the public provided substantial support on a voluntary basis to the Australian National Herbarium.
Databasing of the Australian National Herbarium collection continued. A census of the collection revealed 1 215 000 specimens, of which 460 000 or 38 per cent are databased. The Internet site was accessed 600 000 times each month, delivering information to 100 000 hosts in 130 countries.
Staff collaborated with other agencies in a range of botanical and conservation endeavours. Notable among these were:
• Australasian Lichenological Society Symposium
• Australian Botanic Gardens Curators Forum meeting
• Australian Cultivar Registration Authority meeting
• Australian Herbarium Information Systems Committee
• Australian Network for Plant Conservation Review
• Council of Heads of Australian Botanic Gardens meetings
• Council of Heads of Australian Herharia meeting
• Endangered Flora Network and Endangered Species Advisory
• Committee Plant Working Group meeting
• Endangered Species Advisory Committee meeting
• Global Environment Fund Indonesian Biodiversity Project
• Herbarium Information Systems Committee meeting
• International Organisation for Plant Information
• Kew, Harvard and Australian National Herbarium Working Group on the International Plant Names Project meeting, Boston
• Papua New Guinea Rapid Biodiversity Assessment (BIORAP) Project
• Software in Systematics Symposium, Australian Systematic Botany Society and the Ecological Society of Australia
• Taxonomic Authority File Symposium, American Library Association, Washington.