3. Growing Australian Plants

3.1 Thematic Structure of the Gardens

Aim: To provide recreational and learning experiences for visitors, and opportunities for scientific study, through the development of interpreted thematic plant displays.


The living collections of the Gardens have been developed to encourage public enjoyment, appreciation and use of the Australian indigenous plant life and for the conservation and study of Australia’s plant heritage. The whole collection has conservation significance, particularly the collections of plants known to be at risk in the wild.

The existing planting themes have been developed in three broad areas as described below (see also Figure 3).


Plant displays that illustrate the scientific classification of plants are a traditional and highly effective way to provide opportunities to compare the similarities and differences within taxonomic groupings. Many of the early plantings in the Gardens are organised in this way. They include the Eucalypt Lawn, Acacia (wattle) beds and the displays from the plant families Myrtaceae and Proteaceae.

Ecological and Geographic

Plant displays that group species from similar ecological or geographic areas provide opportunities for visitors to readily relate to and understand natural communities. These displays have a rich educational and interpretive potential. The best existing examples of these are the rainforest gully, mallee, the Sydney basin flora and the Tasmanian garden. Grouping species that originate from similar environments also facilitates management of their horticultural needs. Some displays, such as the Tasmanian garden, have been slow and difficult to establish and will be improved over time as additional collections of plants are made and a better understanding of their horticulture is developed.


Plant displays promoting an appreciation of the horticultural values of the native flora are used throughout the Gardens, both in display beds and as a complementary backdrop to more scientifically structured themes.


Management Actions

1. Plant conservation: plant displays illustrating plants at risk in the wild, now used in education and interpretation programs, will be rationalised and extended to form a dispersed interpreted theme.

2. Ethnobotany: interpretive programs based on plants used by indigenous people have been popular with visitors. The Aboriginal plant use walk was first developed in the 1970s and features plants used by Australia’s indigenous people. In consultation with relevant Aboriginals a display interpreting plants used traditionally by local Aboriginal communities will be established and the Aboriginal plant use walk continued.

3. Evolutionary Origins and Relations of Australian plants: the origins and relations theme will be developed as a logical broadening of the interpretation of the present Australian flora. A display featuring plants that have origins in the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana is currently under development (see also Section 4.3).

4. Tablelands grassy woodlands: the current theme sited in Section 175 below the Visitor Centre will be revamped and interpreted, and will take into account access needs of pedestrians in this area.5

5. Rainforest vegetation elements such as epiphytes, lithophytes, ground herbs and palms. These will be enriched in the rainforest taking advantage of the new boardwalks, and the general advancement of the vegetation canopy layer. Define and interpret a series of secondary thematic loops from the primary walk. These may include themes on Tasmanian flora, Sydney region flora, Myrtaceae (paperbarks, teatrees, lilly pillies) and Proteaceae (banksias, grevilleas, waratahs).

3.2 Horticultural Management

Aim: To develop and implement best practice in horticultural management practices and procedures.


Developing horticultural techniques that are suitable for Australian native plants has been an important role for the Gardens as its collections contain species which have not formerly been brought into cultivation. The Gardens has made a significant contribution to improving understanding of the horticultural requirements of Australian plants by documenting successful techniques and by exchanging information with botanic gardens and other interested horticultural groups. Records of the natural conditions in which plants grow, made when collecting from the wild, have also contributed to the success of the Gardens’ experimentation with horticultural techniques.

Experimentation has been mirrored in the nursery, where specific techniques have been developed for the propagation and maintenance of a large number of taxa. For example the Gardens has developed specialised vegetative propagation techniques for Lycopodium species and rare plants such as Hakea pulvinifera. The Gardens has also established suitable water management applications for hairy-leaved arid plants under propagation and cultivation.

The Gardens’ living collections can be affected by a variety of pests and diseases, including insects, viruses, fungi and vertebrate pests such as rabbits, hares, rats and even some native animals such as Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Australian Wood Ducks. Pest and disease management measures are required to maintain the health and vigour of the collections. The orchid collections are particularly susceptible to infection from viruses and the Gardens’ Orchid Research Group is currently developing and utilising micro-propagation techniques to produce virus-free plants from seed. Identification and monitoring of virus-infected orchids is undertaken in collaboration with scientists at the Research School of Biological Sciences at the Australian National University.

Particular attention is given to the management of naturally occurring trees and those introduced from other parts of Australia (see also chapter 7). A naturally occurring fungal pathogen, Armillaria luteobubalina, is known to occur on site and is responsible for areas of tree decline and death. This pathogen also restricts the range of non-tree species that can be grown in infected areas. Other pathogens such as the water-borne fungus, Phytophthora cinnamomi, are also known on site. Known pathogen occurrences are monitored and a range of measures taken to reduce further infection.


Management Actions

3.3 Access to Genetic Resources

Aim: To supply and obtain reciprocal access to plant materials for research, education, conservation or commercial purposes with appropriate benefit sharing.


A large number of requests for plant material (living plants, seeds or plant parts) are received from client groups including research and educational institutions, commercial enterprises and community groups. Material is supplied for promotional, scientific, educational, conservation, revegetation and commercial purposes.

Requests are managed under a Plant Material Release Policy and Procedures document developed by the Gardens. Each request is considered on its merits and in the context of various Commonwealth, State, Territory and international treaties and conventions. These may involve, for example, issues such as the ownership of the genetic material, the conditions of the permit under which material was originally collected, and the intellectual property rights vested in the material. Charges generally apply to plant material requests except where reciprocal exchange arrangements have been developed or in other exceptional circumstances (refer to Appendix 6).

In response to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew has taken the initiative to have an agreed policy between botanic gardens of the world pertaining to access to the genetic resources in their collections and to benefits arising from that access. These benefits may include possible participation in scientific research based on the genetic material supplied, the fair and equitable sharing of research and development results, and commercial and other benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.

The Horticultural Research Unit manages a seed bank which has a major germplasm collection. The seed bank facilitates access to these genetic resources for conservation projects as well as functioning as a conservation project in its own right.

The Gardens also participates in regional conservation projects, offering expertise on sustainable management or horticultural requirements of Australian plants. For example, the Gardens participated in the Natural Heritage Trust ‘Florabank’ project with Greening Australia, which aimed to help community groups wishing to undertake revegetation projects by developing guidelines on seed supply and storage. The Gardens also completed a project utilising seed propagation techniques on native grasses for revegetating the upper Murrumbidgee catchment.

Access to biological resources, including genetic resources, in the Gardens may be affected by the development of regulations under section 301 of the EPBC Act to control access to biological resources in Commonwealth areas. Such regulations are being considered by Government following an inquiry held in 2000. Regulations may include empowering the Director, as the holder or manager of biological resources, to enter into benefit sharing agreements with applicants and mechanisms to ensure that the Minister or delegate is satisfied that research undertaken is done in accordance with this Management Plan and with no significant harm to the environment.


Management Actions

3.4 Monitoring and Curation of the Living Collections

Aim: To maintain comprehensive information on the status of the living collections for public information and to facilitate curation and research.


The living collections of the Gardens are an integral part of the organisation’s scientific collection. Maintenance of an accurate data set and record system is fundamental to their management, providing the key to their scientific significance.

Much of the Gardens’ botanical data is stored on a number of computerised and hard copy databases. Plant names, horticultural and botanical information, and the location in the Gardens of specific accessions, species and forms are all stored and managed in this way. The databases provide information to facilitate curation of the living collections, to label plants and to prepare interpretive material. Records of the Booderee Botanic Gardens are also maintained on the ANBG database and can be accessed by staff based at Booderee.

A census of the garden beds is conducted regularly to check names and accession details against current data. The census also ensures tags and labels are correct and properly secured. Labels carrying the current scientific names of plants are an important source of information for the public, visiting scientists, and staff. Providing this type of information is an important and defining function of botanic gardens. Gardens staff also provide technical advice on plant labelling at Booderee Botanic Gardens.

The numbering of Gardens sections has developed in association with the construction of new garden beds and landscape features.

Review is required to align the numbering system with standard gridmaps and allow for cross-referencing to geographic information systems.


Management Actions

3.5 Horticultural Focus

Aim: To contribute to a greater understanding of the horticultural potential of Australian plants, their sustainable use and the potential to use this information in the service of conservation.


Horticultural research within the Gardens enhances the organisation’s ability to maintain and expand the living collection, with benefits to ex situ conservation, and contributes to a useful wide-ranging and informative inventory of Australian plant resources. Horticultural research activities have been successful in attracting funding from both government and non-government sources.

The Gardens horticultural research also contributes to the economic and social development of Australia through the sustainable use of plants for food, health, fibre and amenity and ornamental horticulture. For example, the Gardens acts as an information resource for native flower industries, assisting with advice on managing native flower crops or providing ideas on the development of new cultivars for export.


Management Actions

3.6 Horticultural Training

Aim: To provide a range of horticultural training opportunities for staff, students and visiting horticulturists.


The Gardens assists with public horticultural enquires through reference to published texts and, for specialised enquires, by reference to experts within and outside the organisation. While staff resources do not permit the operation of an extensive horticultural advisory service, the Gardens disseminates horticultural information largely through professional contacts and publications. The Gardens also provides advice to government and other professional organisations on matters related to botanic gardens management.

A scheme has been established whereby apprentices with Cityscape, the ACT Government horticultural business, come to the Gardens to broaden their knowledge in relation to Australian plants. A work experience program for secondary school students is facilitated through the Education Service. Placements for local and international horticulture students are provided from time to time.


Management Actions


Updated 15 December, 2004 , webmaster, ANBG (anbg-info@anbg.gov.au)