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Issue 54- August 2003

News from the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian National Herbarium (CANB), for the information of CPBR and ANBG staff and volunteers.

CPBR News is produced monthly. If you wish to contribute, please email your suggestions to Val Oliver, the coordinator.

Val Oliver: ph (02) 6246 5533; fax (02) 6246 5249; email:

1. Herbarium

National Vegetation Information System

The CPBR has been contracted to provide a taxonomic and nomenclatural audit one of the Earth Resources Information Network's databases (ERIN is part of Environment Australia). The National Vegetation Information System (NVIS) is a database that provides information on vegetation communities from a national perspective. NVIS has been built over the years from data supplied from the CPBR and State herbaria. Laurie Adams and Jessie Szigethy-Gyula have been employed for eight weeks to check the currency of plant names in NVIS. Once this has been done, Brendan Lepschi, Jim Croft and myself will produce a report by the end of October, outlining the problems found and make recommendations for the future. For access to this database for research projects, go to and follow the links to Vegetation and Biodiversity.

[Anthony Whalen]


2. Research Groups

The Centre is offering up to six (6) summer scholarships for a period of 10 weeks during the summer of 2003 – 2004 and drawn from the following projects. The closing date for applications was 1 September and eighteen (18) applications have been received from 2nd, 3rd and 4th year university students in Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.

Phylogenetic relationships within the genus Citrus and related genera of the tribe Citreae (Rutaceae: Aurantioideae).
Supervisor: Randy Bayer

Distribution and diversity of Australian fern species.
Supervisor: Sophie Bickford

Conservation in Degraded Landscapes: assessing genetic and morphological variation in Acacia acinacea, an important restoration species.
Supervisor: Linda Broadhurst

Are patterns of genetic variation associated with morphological differences in River Red Gum?
Supervisor: Penny Butcher

Conservation of Endangered Australian Orchids by Seed Propagation.
Supervisor: Mark Clements

The relationship between species diversity and insect body size – comparing different insect communities.
Supervisor: Saul Cunningham

Invasion Ecology: Investigating the Prevalence of White Clover (Trifolium repens) in Native Grasslands and Woodlands.
Supervisor: Bob Godfree

Taxonomic and morphometric studies of Pultenaea glabra complex (Fabaceae).
Supervisor: Judy West

[Val Oliver]


News from the Cryptogam Group

Last November 2002, saw the launch of two exhibitions in the Visitors Centre at the Australian National Botanic Gardens. These were a static display with text, photos and display books and items on the Cryptogams. What they are, where they occur, their ecological role, etc. This display concentrated mainly on the bryophytes and the lichens. Accompanying this exhibition was a live display of cryptogams in the small alcove to the left of the main entrance into the Visitors Centre. After many teething problems with the live display, just recently we decided on a much needed revamp and remodeling. Instead of the tray system of presenting the cryptogams which tended to give the display an unnatural look, all the plants, pots and trays were removed, a layer of fly wire screen was placed over the metal grid to prevent sand falling into the bottom of the main display tray and a layer of sand placed over this. Mats, clumps, rocks and logs of cryptos were then placed on this sand layer or planted into the sand, in the case of ferns and fern allies, to grow and spread in a more natural arrangement. Brackets have been placed above the rock wall and will eventually hold hanging baskets and wires have also been attached to allow the climbing fern Ligodium to make its way up the wall. The spray system was also relocated to the front of the exhibition to direct the water towards the rock wall rather than spraying out onto the floor, with extra piping placed at the top of the main waterfall to feeders to come off for the hanging baskets. While the exhibition is still evolving, the overall appearance has improved immensely and should be easier to maintain.

Many thanks must go to the crew who helped out on the revamping of the display, including Jen Johnston, Joe McAuliffe, Rob Hinchcliffe, Paul Carmen and Paul Janssens.

Along with the revamp of the Live Cryptogam Display, the static display is returning in September with a couple of new panels, more exhibit items and a touch table of cryptogams. Heino Lepp is updating this in conjunction with Visitors Service personnel, Barry Brown and Rod Harvey.

Future developments in the Visitors Centre will be the development of an arid area crypto display in place of the Wollemi Pines in the opposite alcove.

Now, if that wasn’t enough cryptogam displays to what your appetite, the thematic plan for the Gardens also included the cryptogams and I have been assigned a small section next to the cryptogam herbarium to develop as an outdoor display. For those who know the layout of the Gardens, the section I have been given was previously the Heard Island section. Just recently rocks and logs and plants ranging from tree ferns to lycopodiums to epiphytic ferns to mosses and lichens have been planted in the section.

Many thanks go to Stuart Donaldson who collected many of the cryptos and who also helped in the planting along with Toby Golson and Adrian Gallman. Jen Johnston was a tremendous help in the design and planting suggestions.

Below are photos taken of the display in the Visitors centre and outdoor garden.

photo: cryptogam gardenphoto: cryptogam garden


3. Education and Communication

Online Gallery of Cultural Gifts Program

For some years we have been encouraging donations of suitable photographs to the Gardens’ National Plant Photographic Index using the Cultural Gifts Program, operated by the Department of Communications, Information technology and the Arts. This program provides a means whereby donors can use the value of the slides donated to reduce their taxable income.

To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Cultural Gifts Program we were invited to submit information about one of our donations in a suitable format for inclusion on a proposed web site.

We chose a donation of images taken in the Northern Territory by Denise Greig, who has donated many slides to the collection, as the donation to feature. We have recently received notification that our submission has been accepted and will appear as part of the Online Gallery of the Cultural Gifts Program. This website was launched at Screensound Australia on 19 August 2003.

[Jan Wilson]


CPBR Seminar

10 October 2003-09-05

12.30 pm

Location to be confirmed

Brent Mishler

"Ecology and evolution of desiccation tolerance and water reltionships in bryophytes, with emphasis on Tortula".

Brent Mishler is:
Professor, Department of Integrative Biology
Director, University and Jepson Herbaria
Associate Director, California Biodiversity Center


Canberra Botanical 2003

Discovering plants through art

11 – 19 October 2003 10am – 4 pm

An exhibition of botanical paintings from artists of the ACT and NSW

CSIRO Discovery

Clunies Ross Street, Black Mountain



5. General Centre Matters

Bye from Maggie

In 1991 I came to the ANH to help database specimens for the ERIN project part-time and also learned and undertook general herbarium duties with Joan Graham and Pennie Hohnen on a temporary basis. I enjoyed working in the old eucalypt building behind the Black Mountain library, except on frosty cold mornings, and was fascinated by the size and complexity of the collection. The following year I worked with Mike Lazarides, theoretically as a research assistant on Flora of Australia work on the Chloridoid grasses, but he handed a whole group of smaller (mostly weedy) genera over to me to attempt the flora treatments. This seemed exciting at the time, but I have grown older and wiser since. Alas, I am still struggling to resolve the final edits 11 years later (but I’m not the only one) after this baptism of fire. I know more than I want about nomenclatural conventions, and am now a dab hand with a pair of fine forceps and microscope.

In the meantime, I spent 7 years working with the Orchid Research Group, putting into practice some earlier training in plant physiology, enjoying the diversity of another group of monocots, and witnessing passion and dedication. This period saw the ascent of molecular systematics, and also the formation of CPBR. Marion Garratt and I were among the very few who had worked for both the partner organisations.

In 2000, I left the Centre to find out what an NGO (Greening Australia) does about conserving biodiversity in the field, but found myself desk-bound and becoming an expert in EXCEL financial spreadsheets. To make contact with botany again, and satisfy a long held urge to study plant ecology, I commenced a part-time Master of Environmental Management course through UNE distance education. Before long, I scampered back CPBR to work part-time on the AVH databasing project, see lots of plant specimens of different species, and continue my complementary part-time studies.

I am adding about 90 specimens to the bulging herbarium and the workloads of the curatorial staff. These were collected last year from a 3 ha native vegetation remnant between Fisher and Kambah which is not in Canberra Nature Park. They represent all the species which were present except for Eucalyptus blakelyi and E. rossii, with about 60 probably indigenous and 30 introduced. The area was completely burnt out on 18 January 2003.  As some species were in low numbers and may not come back, the records may be of some interest for future remnant and fire studies. They can be called up on the database by querying on collector: Nightingale, M.E., year: %2002, location: %Fisher%, and all are geocoded to the nearest second.

As an aspiring plant ecologist with an interest in revegetation, I am enthusiastic about the potential of the AVH to supply critical information to address land degradation issues, not to mention simplify the work of weary Flora writers, and hope that more information is available over the internet soon. I’ve enjoyed working on the AVH, with the great team of people getting it together, and with the broader community of the CPBR. Thanks for all your friendship and support. However, new and different plants and issues await me in Central Australia (not to mention my patient partner John). No doubt I’ll be back sometime…… check some more grass specimens. All the best to you all, and please do come and visit us at the Alice Springs Desert Park.

[Maggie Nightingale]


Next Program U/Centre meeting

The next Program U/Centre formal meeting is scheduled for Wednesday 10 September in the ANH Tearoom at 10.15 am.

The next Executive Committee meeting is scheduled for 17 September 2003.


[Val Oliver]


Updated 9 September, 2003 by webmaster