Extracted from the Director of National Parks Annual Report 1996 - 1997
The mission of the Australian National Botanic Gardens is to grow, study and promote Australia’s flora.
• Construction of a pedestrian circulation route for visitors linking the Gardens’ major displays was completed and provides access for people with disabilities. The route features aerial walkways in the rainforest gully and a steel arch bridge over the Tasmanian gully.
• ‘Cape York- Tropical Wilderness’, the major interpretive exhibition for the year, was opened by Senator Margaret Reid in December 1996, presenting an insight to the complex ecology of the region and highlighting the successful partnership approach to managing the area through the Cape York Peninsula Land Use Strategy.
• The Minister launched the revised edition of Rare or Threatened Australian Plants by J D Briggs and J H Leigh.
The Gardens provided a wide range of special activities for its 316 900 visitors in 1996—97. Exhibitions in the Visitor Centre included ‘What’s New in the Gardens’, ‘Golden Wattles’, heralding Spring, and ‘Colour in your Garden’, an innovative display for Floriade. The Education Unit embarked on a new program of community education courses in plant propagation and produced four new school kits, including The Jobs Track, a popular and innovative look at potential careers in science, horticulture, trades and public relations, focusing students’ attention on the many occupations that make the Botanic Gardens a success. Special events included ‘Jazz in the Gardens’ evenings during late night closing in January, Sunday lunchtime concerts in February, and performances of Eco-Man and Dr Earth and Ayes.
Friends and volunteer guides continued to play an important role in the success of the Gardens. The guides increased their free tours to every day of the week, and expanded the paid service to cater for tour bus companies. The Growing Friends’ regular plant sales were very successful and a new Friends Craft Group was established, utilising fruits and other plant products discarded during Gardens’ maintenance.
The Gardens’ Internet site on the World Wide Web attracted about 22 000 people each month. A range of educational material, including 600 photos of the family Proteaceae, was added during the year. A major collection of 1300 botanical photographs taken by Colin Totterdell transferred to the Gardens from CSIRO Plant Industry was databased and added to the Photographic Index. Donations comprising 159 photographs were made under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme.
An upgrade of the plantings around the café and along the newly completed pedestrian circulation route commenced. The plants are of colourful species that accord with existing themes. In order to improve the health of some plants a grafting program for mint bushes (Prostanthera species) and emu bushes (Eremophila species) is underway.
The root rot fungus Armillaria luteobubalina has been adversely affecting the growth of some plants. The extent of affected areas has been mapped, diseased plants are being removed and monitoring continues.
New plants were collected during field trips to the northern tablelands of New South Wales, North Queensland and the Australian Alps. Plants collected were 50 species of the daisy family (Asteraceae) and cool rainforest trees, shrubs and epiphytes (40 species). Two special collections were correa (60 species and variants) from the Society for Growing Australian Plants’ Correa Study Group and ten species from Macquarie Island. With the imminent renovation of the glasshouses in the nursery, glasshouse collections have been rationalised. Excess plants will be offered to other botanic gardens or sold to the public.
The Gardens continued to support the national office of the Australian Network for Plant Conservation. The Network produced guidelines on germplasm conservation and translocation of threatened plants in Australia, with the ANZECC Standing Committee on Conservation expressing their support. The Third National Conference of the Network, Sharing the Vision, was held at Coffs Harbour in late June.
Research projects attracted over $100 000 in external funding. Important progress was made in germinating local provenance grass seeds which has led to the client, ACTEW Corporation, extending the funding for a further year. Research is also in progress to develop three sub-antarctic plants for the food industry, while the research to develop Haemodorum coccineum as a flower crop is drawing to a close, with trial plantings under way.
Improving access to buildings and circulation around the Gardens was a primary focus during the year. As part of the Gardens’ commitment to better environmental management, ACTEW was commissioned to audit water use on the site and a range of recommendations are being considered for implementation. Substantial renovations to the glasshouses to improve energy and functional efficiencies are planned for 1997—98.
Organising and participating in training sessions for secondary and tertiary students from local and interstate institutions, and information sessions for members of the scientific and public communities, were continuing and successful staff activities. Staff were active in research, with 30 articles published in scientific journals, books and newsletters documenting Australia’s plant biodiversity.
Students and members of the public provided approximately two year-equivalents of volunteer work in the Australian National Herbarium. Databasing of the Australian National Herbarium collection continued. The server was accessed 6 519 000 times and delivered information to 351 690 hosts in 134 countries.
Staff participated in the following:
• Council of Heads of Herbaria Meeting, Darwin
• World Commission on Protected Areas (IUCN) Orchid Specialist Group meeting at the European Orchid Conference, Geneva
• International Association of Bryology Symposium, Bryophyte Specialist Group of the IUCN/Species Survival Commission Meeting, and International Committee of Endangered Bryophytes Meeting, all in China
• The Kew, Harvard and Australian National Herbarium Working Group on Plant Names Meeting, Boston
• Australian Cultivar Registration Authority Meeting, Melbourne
• Australian Network for Plant Conservation Conference, Coffs Harbour
• Council of Heads of Australian Botanic Gardens Meeting, Alice Springs