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Annual Report 1998-99

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The mission of the Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) is to grow, study and promote Australia's flora.

Major achievements

Living collections

The intensive planting program was continued with over 18 000 plants being added to the outdoor gardens. Around 6500 of these were used for the front entrance and Banks Concourse display plantings. Following successful trials, more epiphytic orchids were attached to trees alongside the main trail in the rainforest gully and to rocks along the northern edge of the rainforest plantings. (Epiphytic plants live on the surface of other plants but do not derive water or nourishment from them.)

Field collecting trips were made to Western Australia, the Victorian alps, the Sydney basin and the northern tablelands, north coast, and south coast of NSW. The orchid collections were redistributed into three newly renovated glasshouses, each with computer controlled environments. Plants from the glasshouse collection were displayed at launches held at Parliament House and the National Library, Canberra.

A grafting program focusing on Prostanthera and Eremophila was successful, enabling species with wet-sensitive rootstocks to be grown outdoors.

Contracted tree surgeons continued a major program to remove dead trees and branches. Storm damage was significant and many gravel pathways were eroded by run-off. Management of the fungal root pathogen Armillaria luteobubalina continued using excavation and burning. Fruiting bodies were removed and destroyed.

Staff were trained in snake handling techniques to reduce the risk to staff and visitors from brown snakes through the warmer months of the year.

Australian Cultivar Registration Authority
A revision of cultivar records was completed, and conversion of descriptions into an Internet-friendly (html) format is well under way. Eight new cultivars were registered and 25 applications for registration were received. A full list was prepared of endemic or largely endemic Australian genera for the next edition of the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants. The Australian Cultivar Registration Authority has international registration authority status for these taxa. Intellectual property rights for plant products was a major issue, with the registrar involved in industry briefings and policy meetings.

Horticultural research
Activities focused on the native grass seed germination project, and on publicising the outcomes of research into the north Queensland species Haemodorum as a flower crop, and into food crop species from sub-Antarctic islands. Results were published by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation and this was followed by excellent national media coverage. The outcomes of the cut flower project have been publicised nationally and internationally at industry conferences. As a result, there were enquiries from the commercial sector regarding further collaborative development.

The native grass seed germination project funded by the Natural Heritage Trust and ACTEW has progressed to the stage where the results of laboratory trials are being tested in revegetation projects. Community groups have contributed to these projects.

About 400 accessions to the seed bank were cleaned and sorted with the assistance of volunteers. The seed bank now holds 4368 species from 2548 taxa.

Visitor services

The ANBG provided a wide range of activities for its 333 000 visitors in 1998-99. The outdoor trail, What's for Lunch?, and the indoor exhibition of artwork by paper sculptor David Miller, were particularly popular with very young visitors and their parents over the summer holidays.

Summer program events including Jazz in the Gardens on Saturday evenings and Sunday Serenade attracted up to 2000 people at a time. Other summer activities included bird walks, reptile walks under the title of Snaketales, paper sculpture workshops and an open day allowing visitors to see behind the scenes at the education centre, glasshouses, seed bank and herbarium.

The visitor centre attracted 115 000 people, with a range of exhibitions including 'Places in the Heart' from the Australian Heritage Commission, 'Flowers and Fruits of the Bush', and an exhibition on bushfire and its effect on the biota. As part of the centre's information service, 326 plants were identified for the public and 50 horticultural enquiries were answered.

Research and nursery staff contributed to a display of native orchids at Parliament House in conjunction with the release of a set of postage stamps featuring these unique plants. The ANBG assisted with the design of the stamps.

The major outdoor improvement to visitor facilities was a seating area and landscaped water feature at the main pedestrian access point. Construction of the Ducrou pavilion was substantially completed and an interpreted conifer trail was made.

Friends and volunteers continued to play an important role in the success of the ANBG, their numbers increasing to 488 during the year. The Volunteer Guides took 3400 visitors, including 142 bus groups, on tours. The Growing Friends' regular plant sales were successful and the Friends' Craft Group continued to make use of fruits and other plant products discarded during maintenance. The Friends' students' photograph competition was an additional attraction for younger visitors. By far the major contribution of the Friends is as goodwill ambassadors for the ANBG.

The recently established Explainers program was successful, with 5200 students using the Explainers' guidance in outdoor activities. New or revised education booklets in the 'Discover...' series included Rainforest, Mallee, and four booklets on the Alps. Links were established with CSIRO's Green Machine for joint publicity and combined school activities. About 8200 students from 338 schools participated in educational programs. Community education activities continued to grow, with three plant propagation courses for adults and a program of weekend talks on bushfires.

The photo collection increased to 32 854, with 795 additions including 148 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. During the year 1374 photos were borrowed for lectures or publishing. An additional 1200 digital images from the collection were made available via the ANBG's Internet site.

The Internet site was used by 22 000 people each month, and featured weekly updates of In Flower this Week and other educational material.

Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research

During the year staff addressed the recommendations of the previous year's external review, which strongly endorsed the continuation of the centre. The initial agreement establishing the centre expires in December 1999.

The centre maintained the scientific specimens in the Australian National Herbarium and continued research into the taxonomy, systematics and conservation of Australian native plants. Staff published a total of 105 articles in scientific journals, books and newsletters documenting Australia's plant biodiversity. Contributions were published on the centre's activities in conservation biology, including research into fire regimes, management strategies for weed control, models of host resistance and pathogen virulence, and assessment of the role of genetics in rare species conservation management.

Significant contributions were made to the international Genera Orchidacearum project, including a chapter on embryology and contributions on the Diuridieae. A project using DNA analysis to understand the evolution and phylogeny of these groups of orchids was initiated. A volume of Australian Orchid Research written by staff at the centre described many new Tasmanian orchid species. Staff provided detailed technical advice to Australia Post on illustrations and biological details of orchids for a joint Australia-Singapore postage stamp issue.

Contributions to the Flora of Australia included:
· fern and gymnosperm treatments;
· a review chapter on biogeography and evolution of the terrestrial flora in the revised Volume 1;
· treatments of the moss family Hookeriaceae and the Arecaceae (palms), Spergularia (Caryophyllaceae) and 18 Rutaceae rainforest genera; and
· editing the volume on Grevillea, Australia's third largest genus.

Major molecular studies were completed proposing updated evolutionary and systematic arrangements in the family Asteraceae and the Triodia group of the grasses. Molecular studies were started for the legume family, particularly an analysis of Pultenaea and an analysis of evolutionary relationships of the major groups of Acacia.

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. Staff worked with the Australian National University on a project that identified five new orchid viruses.

Training sessions for secondary and tertiary students, and information sessions for members of the scientific and public communities, continued. Interns, students and members of the public provided substantial support on a voluntary basis to the Australian National Herbarium. With this assistance, exceptional progress was made in processing specimens.

The Australian Plant Name Index was updated and applications were developed to make the index accessible to the botanical community and the public. Staff continued to work on the International Plant Names Project with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and Harvard University. The aim is to integrate the Australian Plant Name Index in a global database of plant names.

The integration of the specimen databases and the Australian Plant Name Index marked a significant step in botanical information management. Databasing of the Australian National Herbarium collection continued. The collection now numbers 1 215 000 specimens, of which 506 000 or 42 per cent are databased. The Internet site was accessed 500 000 times each month, delivering information to 90 000 hosts in 145 countries.

The centre hosted the annual meeting of the Council of Heads of Australian Herbaria and conducted a training workshop for herbarium technicians on collection, curation, identification and management of non-vascular plants (mosses, liverworts, lichens and fungi). An interactive CD-ROM, Australian Tropical Rain Forest Trees and Shrubs, was launched and an illustrated interactive key to Australian angiosperm families was completed.

Training workshops in the use of EUCLID, the interactive key to the eucalypts of south-eastern Australia, were held in regional areas for local Bushcare and land management groups .

The centre continued to provide the chair for the Endangered Flora Network, a subcommittee of the ANZECC Standing Committee on Conservation, and staff were involved in the development and implementation of a number of endangered plant species recovery plans.

The centre's web site is at:

National and international liaison
ANBG staff took part in a range of botanical and conservation endeavours, including:
· Australian Herbarium Information Systems Committee
· Council of Heads of Australian Herbaria meeting
· Endangered Flora Network and Endangered Species Advisory Committee Plant Working Group
· Endangered Species Advisory Committee meeting
· 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
· World Orchid Conference
· Second International Monocot Symposium (Monocots II).

Updated October 17, 2006 by Webmaster (