Annual Report 2000-2001


Extracted from the Director of National Parks and Wildlife Annual Report 1999-2000 submitted to Minister for Environment and Heritage on 14 November 2000

The mission of the Australian National Botanic Gardens is to grow, study and promote Australian plants.

Major achievements

•The Gardens played a major role in development of the project Australia ’s Virtual Herbarium. State and Commonwealth Ministers agreed to fund this ambitious project to complete thedatabasing of all six million specimens in Australian herbaria over five years and to make thecollective information available to the community.

•A draft management plan was released for public comment.The plan will be finalised in 2001–02, after consideration of public comments.

•An education kit on floral emblems of Australia was produced and distributed to schools.

•The Gardens hosted the first Australian Botanic Gardens Congress.

•The Gardens celebrated its thirtieth anniversary and the Friends of the Gardens celebrated ten years since their establishment.

•A new interface was developed for the Australian Plant Name Index providing the general public with a user-friendly web site,What ’s Its Name?,to provide information on current plant names and name changes.The web site is at www.anbg.gov.au/win/.

Living collections

A Wollemi pine from the Gardens ’ conservation collection provided by the Royal Botanic Gardens,Sydney,was put on public display within a protective cage.The temperate grassland and grassy woodland collection was upgraded and major renovation of part of the Monocot display beds was completed.Major plantings during the year were of Monocots,Myoporaceae, Proteaceae,Darwinia,Homoranthus,Verticordia and Western Australian mallee species.

A glasshouse displaying a range of rainforest plantings including many orchids from the research collection was opened for regular public visits.

A programme of thinning trees on the northern edge of the rainforest gully to create sites for new plantings continued,as did the major tree surgery programme to remove damaged,diseased and dangerous trees.A short but violent storm on 12 February 2001 was responsible for many trees being blown over or damaged.The Gardens was closed to the public on 13 February to allow for a clean-up.

Field collecting trips were conducted to the north-west plains,northern tablelands,central coast, north coast and the Pillaga Scrub regions of NSW.

A partnership with Volunteering ACT to produce 10 000 plants of Helichrysum ‘Helping Hand ’ commenced.This plant will be used to commemorate and celebrate the International Year of the Volunteer with distribution and sale in October through Volunteering Australia member organisations.

About 360 seedlings of Actinotus ‘Federation Star ’ were received from the Mt Annan Botanic Gardens and planted as features throughout the Gardens.The Federation Star is the official emblem of the NSW Centenary of Federation.

Plants were donated to Coffs Harbour Botanic Gardens and Burrendong Arboretum.

A continuing major challenge to the health and integrity of the outdoor gardens is the presence of the root rot fungus Armillaria .A consultant ’s report,commissioned in 1999 –2000,was received and the Gardens is formulating a plan to minimise the damage caused by this pest.

Botanic gardens are a significant source of plant material.New procedures were introduced to regulate the acquisition and supply of plant material to conform to the prior informed consent and benefit sharing principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity and to the provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.The Gardens adopted the model contracts proposed by the Common Policy Guidelines for Participating Gardens Group,which was initially convened by the Royal Botanic Gardens,Kew.

Australian Cultivar Registration Authority

The Gardens hosts the authority,whose primary aim is to promote stable cultivar nomenclature. This helps nursery owners to protect their property rights and plant breeders to relate knowledge of genetics to plant material.It helps taxonomists to know what they are working with, communicators to have more confidence in the information they publish,retailers to source plant material,and the public to link their purchases to published information on gardening.The most effective method of promoting stable nomenclature is to publish names as widely as possible.The Australian Cultivar Registration Authority now has approximately 85 per cent of its registered cultivar descriptions available on the Internet,and has started compiling a list of all known Australian cultivar names,including registered names,plant breeders rights names and trade names.

The authority ran three seminars on the naming of cultivated plants and held a workshop at the International Plant Propagators Society annual conference in Canberra.There were ten new applications for registration and 80 plant breeders ’ rights herbarium specimens were processed (from 50 applications).The operation of the authority was again heavily dependent on the dedicated assistance of volunteers.

Horticultural research

Seed collections are the most economical and efficient method of storing and preserving genetic diversity ex-situ.The main focus of limited resources for research in 2000 –01 was on the Gardens ’ seedbank..Significant progress has been made towards best practice in seed collection.

A draft strategic plan was prepared and preparation of a standard operating procedures manual commenced.The installation of an efficient dust extractor and the introduction of procedures to minimise the risk of occupational overuse syndrome are making the seedbank a safer place to work.Better methods for assessing seed quality and a five-year cycle of germination testing will improve the value of the collection for conservation and use.

Gardens staff co-wrote Using Native Grass Seed in Revegetation ,No.9 in the FloraBank Guideline series.The seedbank was also a major contributor to the FloraData project (a collaboration between the Gardens,Environment Australia,Greening Australia and the Australian Centre for Mining Environmental Research.The FloraData e-book,a guide to the collection,storage and propagation of Australian native plant seed,was published as a CD ROM in May 2001.Details are available on the FloraBank website at www.florabank.org.au.The seedbank continued to depend on the services of five volunteers.

Visitor services

The Gardens continued to be a popular venue,with 367 500 visits during 2000 –01,an increase of around 15 per cent from the previous year.

A variety of recreational and educational programmes and visitor services were offered to the public.These included talks,tours and special events programmes.Technical services included a plant identification service and a public reference herbarium.

Special events included NAIDOC Week activities featuring dancers from the Torres Strait Islands and ‘bush tucker ’ walks,,which were very popular,particularly with school groups.Staff from the Gardens promoted Wattle Day and the Australian environment to visiting journalists at the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games with a presentation at the Olympic media centre.

Events marking the Gardens ’ thirtieth anniversary included the official opening of a display glasshouse;donation of specimens of the ‘Pineosaur ’ Wollemi Pine by the Royal Botanic Gardens,Sydney;hosting by the Gardens of a meeting of the Council of Heads of Australian Botanic Gardens;and an ABC radio documentary on the development of the Gardens.An exhibition ‘The Nation ’s Garden – 30 Years of Growing ’ was also opened as part of the celebrations.

Extended opening hours during January,February and early March proved popular.A summer concert programme,conducted jointly with the Friends of the Gardens,attracted between 5000 and 6000 visitors each weekend,a significant increase over the previous year.Displays of reptiles in conjunction with the ACT Herpetological Association,and open days at the herbarium and library,formed part of the contribution to the Australian Science Festival in May.The programme included an exhibition on the history and development of the Gardens; ‘Paperbark ’,an exhibition of plant-inspired forms by Catherine K;and a display on Australia ’s floral emblems.Around 106 000 people visited the exhibition area in the Visitor Centre.

An outdoor exhibition of sculptures by Francine Secretan was held in February and March in conjunction with the Embassy of Switzerland and the ACT Multicultural Festival.

Publications included a new visitor guide,a brochure on the history of the Gardens,a new promotional flyer,and a poster and education kit on Australia ’s floral emblems produced jointly with the Australian Biological Resources Study.Web publishing for the public included the completion of Growing Native Plants on the Web ,an update of an earlier paper publication.

In Flower This Week continued to be produced by a volunteer both in hard copy and as a web page.

The Gardens ’ Education Service developed a new range of self--guiding materials to complement existing programmes and conducted professional development programmes for teachers and adult education programmes on a variety of topics.Nearly 17 445 people participated in education programmes (including 3817 in Explainer-led tours),a substantial increase on previous years.

The Internet was used to engage schools in a national programme to complement the floral emblem poster and education kit.

The Friends of the Gardens celebrated their tenth anniversary and developed an active programme for their 692 members.Activities included a schools photographic competition, a variety of walks,talks and visits,evening entertainments such as the progressive dinner ‘Grazing in the Gardens ’ and an exhibition of watercolours by local artists..The Friends ’ Volunteer Guide Service conducted 943 guided tours for 3870 visitors,and contributed significantly to the success of events programmes.Projects funded by the Friends included a new seating area,a design competition for a new landscape development in the rock garden and the development of a public art strategy for the Gardens.Bound copies of oral histories of former staff and associates of the Gardens previously funded by the Friends were presented to the Gardens ’ library and Director..

The Friends maintained and updated their web page at www.anbg.gov.auhttp://www.friendsanbg.org.au/.

The Gardens continued to develop a modest revenue raising capacity through carpark fees,hire of indoor and outdoor venues and special events.The café and bookshop generated significant revenue through licence fees.The bookshop licence was also tendered and reviewed.

A draft management plan was released for public comment early in 2000 –01 and a revised draft is in preparation.The plan will guide management of the Gardens until 2008 and will outline priority developments.

Maintenance activities aimed at improving staff and visitor safety and amenity.Small capital works included the construction of orientation signs and notice boards.The fleet of electric vehicles was increased.

Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research

The Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research entered its second term.The centre ’s board of management and participating parties commended the centre on the progress it has made.

The centre maintained the scientific specimens of the Australian National Herbarium and continued research into the taxonomy,systematics and conservation of Australian native plants.

Staff published a total of 99 articles (with another 61 in press)in scientific journals,books and newsletters documenting Australia ’s plant biodiversity.Information was also published on the centre ’s Internet site at www.anbg.gov.au/cpbr.Articles covered the centre ’s activities in taxonomy and systematics,conservation biology,genetics in rare species,conservation management, management strategies for weed control,models of host resistance and pathogen virulence,and the underlying principles of rarity in flora.

Following a review of the centre ’s herbarium information and database activities,all of the recommendations for improved operational efficiency and client services were acted upon, resulting in improved productivity.

The reanalysis of the orchid tribe Diuridae and a realignment of several genera formed the basis of the treatment published as a major contribution in the international Genera Orchidacearum . The molecular phylogeny of the next large group,the Pterostylidinae,is complete and indicates several groups within the tribe.

Initial molecular analysis of the genus Acacia indicates that it may not be descended from a single ancestor.This is likely to have significant implications for the taxonomy and naming of the genus in Australia when species from the Americas are taken into account.There will be significant economic implications if this research concludes that most Australian acacias need to be renamed. Interactive electronic identification keys for two of Australia ’s major groups are in the final testing phase.The key to Australian tropical rainforest plants now covers all of the trees,shrubs and vines of northern Australian rainforests,and the new EUCLID identification key to the approximately 700 Eucalypt species of southern Australia will be published before the end of 2001.An advanced draft of an interactive key to Grevillea was prepared,and working keys were developed and enhanced for a number of other Australian plant genera.

New areas of research included systematics investigations in the angiosperm (mint)tribe Lamiales,a group of about 20 families worldwide that have strong but poorly researched southern hemisphere connections.A researcher was appointed to work on the cryptogams (mosses, liverworts,lichens),enabling the centre to enhance research in these groups and to capitalise on the extensive non-vascular collections.The centre was awarded a prestigious Myer Fellowship, funded by CSIRO Plant Industry,to investigate geospatial patterns of plant distributions in the fern groups and to test the value of using point source records for modelling plant endemism and diversity.

The centre continued to service the botanical,taxonomic and information needs of the Gardens and its clients,supplying identification services,database extracts,and general botanical information.

Centre staff advised the Harden Murrumburrah Landcare Group on the group ’s Greening the Grainbelt project.Using information from herbarium collections,a database and online list of species with recommendations for revegetation planting using the native flora was prepared for an area with only 2 per cent of its native vegetation remaining after intensive agriculture.This project was designed to serve as a model for other landcare activities.

Activities to publicise the centre ’s work included public lectures during Biodiversity Month and displays at venues such as the Australian Library and Information Association Conference and landcare forums.The centre opened its doors to the public for a behind-the-scenes look at its activities during National Science Week.

Training for graduate and postgraduate tertiary students continued,and staff contributed to information sessions for members of the scientific community and the general public.Interns, students and members of the public continued to provide substantial support on a voluntary basis to the Australian National Herbarium.With this assistance,18 133 specimens were added to the collection,which now numbers 1 400 000 specimens,of which over 40 per cent are databased.

Centre staff provided expert botanical advice on the biology of plant species of national significance and compiled database information,contributing to the development of decision- support systems under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The proposal to use data from the major Australian herbaria as part of Australia ’s Virtual Herbarium was endorsed by the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council.Collaboration with State and Territory herbaria in the formation of an on-line virtual herbarium is critical to this project,and a $10 million funding initiative for this over five years was agreed by the council.

The Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research entered a collaboration with the Australian Biological Resources Study to use the Centre ’s databases to manage the Flora of Australia data and deliver this information over the Internet as part of the Australian Biodiversity Information Facility.This information will form part of Australia ’s Virtual Herbarium.

Update of the Australian Plant Name Index continued and access to the databases was improved for the botanical community and the public through the What ’s Its Name?interface,a collaborative project with the Australian Biological Resources Study.Collaboration on the International Plant Names Project with the Royal Botanic Gardens,Kew,and Harvard University continued,further integrating the Australian Plant Name Index in the global database of plant names.

The Australian National Botanic Gardens and Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research Internet site was accessed 328 000 times each month,delivering information to 606 280 hosts from almost every country of the world.The various botanical databases were accessed about 8900 times each month.A fern site was added,reflecting the growing emphasis on cryptogams.The combined site is at www.anbg.gov.au/cpbr.

The National Plant Photograph Collection increased to 34 948 slides with 1612 additions including 636 made under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme.In all,796 photos were borrowed for lectures or licensed for publishing.Another 500 digital images from the collection were added to the Gardens Internet site.

National and international liaison

The Gardens continued to host the secretariats for the Council of Heads of Australian Botanic Gardens and Australian Network for Plant Conservation.

Staff took part in a range of botanical and conservation forums,including:

•the first Australian Botanic Gardens Congress;

•Australian Herbarium Information Systems Committee;

•Council of Heads of Australian Botanic Gardens;

•Council of Heads of Australian Herbaria;

•Australian Biological Resources Study Advisory Committee;

•ndangered Flora Network and Endangered Species Advisory Committee Plant Working Group;

•Australian Network for Plant Conservation Steering Committee;

•Biodiversity Advisory Committee;

•Herbarium Information Systems Committee;

•Taxonomic Databases Working Group;

•International Organisation for Plant Information;

•Kew,Harvard and Australian National Herbarium Working Group on the International Plant

Names Project meeting,Kew;

•International Plant Names Project;

•All Species Inventory Advisory Committee;

•International Association of Plant Taxonomists;and

•Global Biodiversity Information Facility Secretariat Planning Committee.

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