Extracted from the Australian Nature Conservation Agency Annual Report 1993 - 1994
The mission of the Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) is to grow, study and promote Australia’s flora.
The ANBG is a major scientific and educational resource. It is the original national collection and Australia’s most comprehensive display of living native plants. The ANBG occupies 90 hectares on the lower slopes of Black Mountain in Canberra and 80 hectares at Jervis Bay.
The ANBG was proclaimed as a reserve under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975 in September 1991. Proclamation not only provided legal protection for collections but also required the preparation of a Plan of Management for the ANBG, which was completed during 1993-94. The Plan was prepared by the Director of National Parks and Wildlife, in consultation with the ANBG Advisory Committee and taking into account public representations. It was laid before the Senate on 7 December 1993 and the House of Representatives on 13 December 1993, and came into effect on 3 March 1994.
The ANBG Advisory Committee met three times during the year, with the completion of the Plan of Management being the major issue under consideration. Other issues included:
• a proposed development plan for the Jervis Bay Botanic Gardens;
• development of an education policy statement; and
• detailed design guidelines for the ANBG.
The major achievement of the year was the completion of the Plan of Management which will guide the way in which the ANBG is developed and managed over the next five years. Key issues identified in the Plan include
• themes for the development of the collections
• the ANBG’s role in education and recreation; and
• the construction of new facilities.
An agreement between ANCA and CSIRO to form the Centre for Plant Biodiversitv Research was signed by Chief Executive Officers of both organisations on 22 November 1993. A management board for the Centre was established and met three times during the year. Staff from ANCA and CSIRO seconded to the Centre have been planning the merging of the collections and the biodiversitv research programs. Extensions to the CSIRO herbarium to house the combined collections progressed during the year, although problems delayed the completion date, and the move of specimens and staff is now expected to take place in late 1994.
In July 1993, the ANBG released its World Wide Web server to the Internet, supplementing the Gopher information server release the previous year. This new server integrates the Gopher information and is the fastest growing information protocol in the world today. The ANBG was the first botanic gardens and herbarium to make information available this way.
In conjunction with ‘Spring Fling’ celebrations, the then Minister, the Hon Ros Kelly MP, opened the Tasmanian Garden in October 1993, marking the culmination of years of planning and collecting. Featuring different habitat types ranging from alpine to woodland communities, it provides an opportunity for visitors to view many Tasmanian plants not previously grown in cultivation.
The ANBG site was the focus of ANCA participation in the second Australian Science Festival, held in April 1994. The four-day program of events and displays attracted great interest, and the ANBG Visitor Information Centre recorded its highest ever number of visitors. The herbarium was open for inspection by the public, with displays of the collection and current research projects, photographic and live orchid displays, demonstrations and access to the ANBG’s biological network information services.
Many parts of the ANCA contributed to the program and these events were coordinated through the Education and Public Relations Section. Events included a very popular ‘Feral Peril’ display and talk. Guided bird walks and ‘The Biology of Australian Snakes’, featuring snake handling and venom milking, were also popular. A series of six plays about threatened Australian plants and their habitats was performed by school students. The Australian Network for Plant Conservation information and plant stall attracted a great deal of interest and over 450 plants were sold. Water testing was conducted by staff and students of Lake Tuggeranong College, and the ACT Parks and Conservation Service weed display and competition attracted over 200 entries.
Career talks were presented twice a day by ANCA staff, with two speakers giving a short talk at each session.
The ANBG maintains about 85 000 plants representing more than 6,000 taxa—constituting about one-third of the vascular plants recorded for Australia. These are maintained in outdoor garden beds, permanent pot collections and controlled environment glasshouses. A major review of the living collections commenced during the year as part of an effort to rationalise the collection and plantings, and improve their interpretation. A pilot study of the Proteaceae was in progress at the end of the year.
A major project identified in the Plan of Management is the construction of a new nursery, trades and horticultural complex, to be located near the northern boundary of the Gardens. Planning for this commenced duringthe year with the preparation of final concept and site plans and a brief for the detailed design and documentation for the project. The new development will rationalise existing facilities and allow more efficient plant production and maintenance.
Staff conducted field work during December to collect additional plant material for the Tasmanian Garden and to familiarise themselves with the ecology of plants in the Garden.
Development of a major new part of the Sydney Basin display commenced with the construction of a viewing platform with connecting paths at the western end of the gully. Planning for the plantings for the Mt Tomah rainforest and wet sclerophyll forest areas is well advanced.
Stocktaking and performance monitoring of the plants were streamlined by the introduction of bar-coded plant tags, the application of a one- metre grid locating system throughout and the acquisition of portable computers suitable for field use.
Staff participated in the planning of the ACT Xeriscape Gardens and are planning a display for the 1994 Floriade. Plants were contributed to an Australian garden at the 1994 Chelsea Flower Show
Fire risk abatement and weed control were tasks undertaken during the year, with particular emphasis on boundary areas and the northern gully.
Staff exchange with the Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens continued. A design prize was again offered to architectural students from the Universities of Canberra and New South Wales for innovative designs for an orchid display conservatory.
The Council of Heads of Australian Botanic Gardens comprises the heads of principal Commonwealth, State and Territory botanic gardens. The Council meets annually to discuss significant issues of gardens management. The ANCA’s Dr David Kay (Executive Director, Biodiversity) attended the July l993 Council meeting in Darwin and accepted the role of Chair for the following twelve months. As a result of the Darwin meeting, the Council established formal reporting arrangements with ANZECC, commissioned a survey of visitation to botanic gardens, through the Australian Bureau of Statistics quarterly household survey; and completed compilation of the Census of Plants in Australian Botanic Gardens
The Jervis Bay Botanic Gardens has been placed on the Interim List of the Register of the National Estatein recognition of its importance as a mid- twentieth century research and teaching-based botanic garden established to display and interpret Australian flora, particularly that of the NSW South Coast.
A Development Planning Guide for the Jervis Bay Gardens was substantially completed during the year. This has proposed rationalised and better integrated site use and function by re-routing internal roads, locating trails and siting facilities.
In a most successful experiment, the Gardens were opened on Saturdays on a trial basis from Christmas to Easter. A new leaflet and flier were produced promoting and interpreting the Gardens and tours were operated by Wreck Bay Walkabout, providing visitors with an insight into Aboriginal plant use and local history.
A long-term controlled burning program in a four-hectare heath sitewas commenced for both ecological interpretation and fire control purposes.
The Herbarium collections form the basis of the scientific authentication and documentation of plants grown at the ANBG and are an important national research and reference collection of our plant heritage. During the year, management procedures for Herbarium collections continued to be combined with those of the CSIRO collections in the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research.
Over 31,700 specimens were added to the collection during 1993-94, from an active survey and collecting program and from exchanges and donations from other institutions and individuals. Significant donations were those of lichen specimens from Dr Jack Elix of the Australian National University and of South Coast flora from Mrs Margaret Parris. The Herbarium now holds approximately 275,000 specimens.
The exchange of duplicates and reciprocal loan of specimens for study is an important element of information exchange between herbaria. During the year the Herbarium distributed 7,124 specimens to other institutions and received 3,265 specimens; 17 loans of 1,384 specimens were dispatched and 29 loans of 1,226 specimens were received.
During the year, 370 public enquiries were answered, involving the identification of 400 specimens. and a wide variety of professional enquiries were also serviced. Staff continued to handle a large number of requests for information and material from other scientific institutions, including many requests for verified samples for genetic analysis, highlighting the importance of the integration of the living collections and the herbarium. The ANBG maintains a public reference herbarium of 2,111 specimens of 1,713 taxa from the ACT and south-east NSW, which includes the smaller public reference collection at the Jervis Bay Botanic Gardens. Six instalments of the annotated scientific reference set of Australian mosses were issued and distributed to Australian and overseas herbaria in 1993-94.
The Herbarium held its second Student Botanical Internship Program over January and February. Nine students from three universities participated as full-time volunteers, gaining intensive practical experience in a scientific program and contributing significant assistance to the curation and management of the Herbarium.
Herbarium staff collaborated with the Society for Growing Australian Plants, in particular with the grass study group. Participation of staff in the implementation of the Recovery Plan for the endangered Grevillea wilkinsonii (Tumut Grevillea) continued. Close liaison has developed between the various State, Commonwealth and local government agencies and private landholders involved in this project. The Herbarium continued to benefit from the valuable assistance of a team of 25 community olunteers who prepare specimens for incorporation, and assist in other non-technical tasks.
Council of Heads of Australian Herbaria
The Council of Heads of Australian Herbaria (CHAHI comprises the heads of the major Australian herbaria with observers representing smaller and regional herbaria. The Council meets annually to discuss collections management and curation, and significant issues of botanical activity in Australia. Herbarium Curator, Mr Bob Makinson, attended the CHAH meeting in Adelaide, as did Dr Helen Hewson of the Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS).
The ANBG maintains an active program of scientific research focused primarily on the systematics and biology of Orchidaceae of Australia and the surrounding region. Other areas of research include the primitive conifer M acrozamia, mosses, G revillea, Leptospermum and Cucurbitaceae.
Studies in the orchid research program are aimed at elucidating the taxonomy and evolution of different groups and involve a variety of techniques to clarify difficult species complexes, such as germination studies, studies of isozyme content and computer-based cladistic analysis. Laboratory and herbarium-based research is supplemented by an active field work program to observe populations of plants growing in natural conditions and to collect material for propagation in the living collections and for later study.
During the year extensive field investigations in Western Australia led to the discovery of many new species of Pterostylis and Diuris and an elucidation of the western species of Macrozamia. Several new species of Pterostylis were also discovered in the New England area. New orchid taxa were identified in Acianthus, Caladenia, Corybas, Dipodium and Genoplesium and line drawings with descriptions were prepared for publication. Studies into the complexes surrounding Caladenia lyallii and Prasophyllum alpinum were also written.
The in v itro propagation of orchids is being studied to provide material for research and seedlings for conservation purposes. Suitable media and techniques were trialled throughout the year: 193 hatches were sown, including seeds from Norfolk Island and Irian Jaya.
Staff have been involved in a collaborative project with the Tasmanian Department of Parks, Wildlife and Heritage to produce an Orchid Atlas of Tasmania; the draft for this publication was completed during the year. Other collaborative projects involve the systematics of New Zealand Orchidaceae with Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research New Zealand Ltd; the anatomy of the Monocotyledons-Orchidaceae with Kew Gardens, England; a revision of the Australian Taeniophyllum with CSIRO Atherton; the pollination of the subtribe Caladeniinae with the NSW Department of Agriculture, Orange; and the systematics of the genera PrasophylIum and Microtis. Financial support for the orchid research taxonomic program was received from the Australian Orchid Foundation.
Several problematic complexes of the genus Macrozamia were studied during the year and two scientific papers describing new species and clarifying species relationships have been prepared for publication. Isozyme analyses were used to explain some of the relationships.
Significant field work was conducted throughout Australia yielding research collections of Proteaceae, Callistemon, Astrotricha, and Cucurbitaceae taxa. Fieldwork in north-eastern NSW and south-eastern Queensland allowed preliminary conservation status assessment of several new and rare species. Staff undertook major collecting trips for mosses and other non-flowering plants to central Queensland, the Dargo High Plains, and the Bogong High Plains. On Norfolk Island, species distributions were checked and colour photographs taken of living specimens for a forthcoming book on the moss flora of the Island. Substantial progress on a taxonomic revision of the mosses of Norfolk Island has been made, and steady progress on a revision of the Australian mosses of the family Hookeriaceae.
Collaborative work with the University of Sydney on the genus Astrotricha continued, with sampling of wild populations for DNA analysis and further morphological work in the Herbarium. Studies of new taxa of Grev illea, and the variation of the south-western Pacific populations of Sicyos continued
Morphometric and cladistic analysis of the Le ptospermum brevipes species complex continued in order to determine it more than one taxon is involved and to examine possible intermediates with other related taxa. These studies are leading to a treatment of Leptospermum for the F1ora of Victoria.
The ANBG hosted the eleventh annual meeting of Australasian Lichenologists in Canberra, where lichen specialists from around Australia presented papers and studied specimens collected in local field work.
Electronic access and processing of botanical information is fundamental to the operation and management of the ANBG, and the Integrated Botanical Information System (IBIS) provides users with efficient access throughout the site. The living collections planting records (85,104 records representing 83,922 plants) are all recorded on database, as are the photo collection records (27,200 slides). All new herbarium accessions are recorded and steady progress was made on recording the older specimens; 31,700 were entered during the year, bringing the total to 172,000 records - about 70 per cent of the collection.
The acquisition of new mapping software and the incorporation of digitised maps of the gardens marked a new direction for information processing at the ANBG, providing for electronic interrogation and mapping of gardens’ features and plant locations and increased record-keeping efficiency. The new technology will also enable the efficient and accurate plotting of plant distributions from the Herbarium specimen database.
The ANBG plays an active role in the development and promotion of national and international standards for biological information storage and retrieval. Staff attended a workshop in Brazil on establishing an electronic Biodiversity Information Network (BIN21), supported by the United Nations Environment Program and the Brazilian Government, and a workshop at Berkeley California, on the structure of distributed biological databases, supported by the US National Science Foundation. The ANBG was also represented at meetings of the International (Organisation for Plant Information and the International Working Group on Taxonomic Databases for the Plant Sciences in Washington. The ANBG is custodian of the Australian Plant Name Index and Census of Australian Vascular Plants data sets. During the year, recently published information was added to the databases.
The ANBG coordinated the compilation for the Council of Heads of Australian Botanic Gardens of a Census of Plants in Australian Botanic Gardens from information supplied by member gardens. The Census consists of 35,500 entries ot Australian and exotic plant names and the gardens in which they grow. It has been supplied electronically to each of the contributing gardens and made publicly available on the Internet via the ANBG Gopher and World Wide Web servers.
The ANBG assisted in the compilation, database preparation and layout of PIant Systematics Research inAustralasia, a comprehensive list of active and completed flora writing and research projects on the systematics and taxonomy of the Australian flora, for the Council of Heads of Australian Herbaria
Visitor numbers for the ANBG this year totalled almost 400,000, with 349,000 visitors recorded for Canberra and 48,000 for Jervis Bay.
The Information Centre provided a seven-day-a- week service for visitors, acting as a referral point for horticultural and botanical enquiries and giving general advice on features of the Gardens. Staff worked closely with the contractors operating the Botanical Bookshop to ensure that the Centre worked as an integrated unit.
The Gardens Education Service continued to attract a large number of primary, secondary and tertiary students to its various programs in environmental education and horticulture. Assistance was provided to 22 000 students and their teachers from all parts of Australia during the year. New curricula materials produced for teachers included Some Australian Timber Trees and Our Beautiful Banksias. This material, produced as a series under the banner Discover. adds to those previously produced and regularly updated. providing a wealth of environmental learning activities for students visiting the Gardens. Publications during the year also included a leaflet on wattles and their propagation. The annual publication The Year in Review is an important means of communicating our activities to botanic gardens throughout Australia and overseas.
Volunteer guides are a vital part of the outdoor interpretation program. Volunteers offered regular tours throughout the year and were particularly busy during spring when special tours were given to tourist bus passengers on interstate visits to Canberra. Some 2 500 visitors availed themselves of the guides’ services during the year. The ANBG continued to offer visitors a range of recreational activities from school holiday programs to evening musical and drama performances during summer late night closing.
Significant developments during 1993-94 included:
• A workshop of key stakeholders for the Banksia Centre, held in July 1993, agreed on a new direction for the Centre, replacing the ‘therapy’ approach with an integrated horticultural training program for people of all abilities and backgrounds.
• The second intake of the Friends of the ANBG volunteer guides undertook their training course from July to September, producing 36 trained guides. All work areas were involved, giving the guides a comprehensive knowledge of the Gardens. In September a display was set up in Parliament House for the Interparliamentary Union Conference, and 150 delegates were given tours ofthe ANBG by volunteer guides.
• The Friends initiated a ‘Growing Friends’ group to propagate plants for sale to raise money for Gardens’ projects. A plastic- house was purchased and erected in August 1993, and by the end of the year 17 volunteers were working on the project.
• The one-day community festival ‘Spring Fling was held in October with the assistance of the Friends.
• Twilight tours conducted by the voluntary guides, and four Saturday evening free musical performances were used to promote the extension of opening hours till 8 p.m. from Christmas till the end of January.
• A drama production, The Sightless, was performed by a local theatre company in the Burbidge Amphitheatre at sunset for a two-week season in February.
• A new policy on wedding ceremonies and associated photography in the Gardens came into effect in April, with the ANBG providing additional facilities and charging for the use of the site
• An art exhibition, ‘It’s a Rare Thing’, depicting floral caricatures of threatened Australian plants, opened in the Information Centre in March. This most successful exhibition, initiated by the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, was associated with a range of items on sale at the Botanical Book shop from which a percentage of profits went to the Australian Network for Plant Conservation.
• An additional electric scooter was purchased and housed adjacent to the Information Centre enabling people with mobility difficulties to move more readily around the site.
• Consultants were engaged to provide advice on the most feasible and cost- effective way of charging fees for car parking at the Gardens in Canberra.
The ANBG’s collection includes photographs of Australian flora, a representative range of vegetation types and pictorial records of developments at the ANBG. The collection is linked through the IBIS database to plant specimens vouchered in the Herbarium. Use of the collection by researchers, students and publishers is encouraged. During the year government departments were licensed to use slides from the collection in textbooks, environmental leaflets and tourism guides.
The State Electricity Commission of Victoria publication Your Guide to Tree Planting near Power Lines included 68 photographs from the collection. A book of daily meditations, published in the UK, featured a selection on its cover, and a health food shop in Sydney uses collection photographs to label their honey bins .All plant photographs, including those held by the Research Centre, are now on the IBIS database and work is progressing towards entering all other slides. This year further donations have been made under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme, adding substantially to the collection.
Established in l963, the Australian Cultivar Registration Authority (ACRA) registers names of cultivars that arise from the Australian flora. It is based at the ANBG and representatives from each major State botanic gardens, the nursery industry, the Society for Growing Australian Plants, and private individuals form the membership
At its annual meeting in October 1993, the ACRA implemented a change to its membership structure, providing for the Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants to appoint a liaison officer to the ACRA from each of its regions. These will be responsible for liaison with the ACRA on any issues related to cultivar registration, as well as promoting the ACRA within their region and encouraging their members to register new cultivars. Seventeen new cultivars were registered at the 1993 Annual Meeting.
The Australian Network for Plant Conservation (ANPC) was established to encourage, promote and facilitate communication and advise on plant conservation efforts in Australia. Its membership. which is drawn from public, corporate and private sectors, stood at 177 in June 1994.
The ANPC’s first conference, entitled Cultivating Conservation, was held in Hobart in December 1993. Over 100 delegates attended and guidelines were produced for the ANPC’s development over the next two to three years. The ANPC Advisory Committee held its third meeting during the conference.
In I993-94 four issues of the newsletter Danthonia were published along with the first edition of the National Endangered Flora Collection. A Conservation Resource.