2.1.6. Ethnobotanical themes
Ethnobotany the study of human use of plants has always been of
interest and is becoming a major theme of many botanic gardens around
the world. The use of Australian plants by people, both in Australia
and elsewhere, is an interesting study and, when carefully
interpreted, makes a fascinating topic for visitors to botanic
In recognition of the increasing interest in preserving Aboriginal
knowledge of plants and their uses, a self-guiding Aboriginal plants
trail was established in 1974, passing through the lower part of the
Gardens in Canberra. Plants were collected, propagated and planted
especially for this trail. Interpretive signs were placed near
plants that are known to have been used by Aboriginal people for
food, medicine, tools or shelter. The trail was later revitalised,
and information about the plant species displayed and the ways in
which they were used was sought from representatives of the local
Aboriginal community. A trail dealing specifically with Aboriginal
use of plants was also planned for the Jervis Bay site but it was not
established. This is now to be developed as an interpretive theme
along existing trails.
A display of Australian species that have become weeds overseas was
established in Canberra. Seeds of these species were obtained from
the countries in which the plants had become weeds.
The objective is to develop further interpretive displays of plants
of ethnobotanical interest.
A wide range of plants of ethnobotanical interest is already in
cultivation at the Gardens and considerable scope exists for the
provision of additional educational and interpretive material about
the importance of these plants in human development. Aspects of
ethnobotany identified for further attention are the use of native
plants by early settlers, medicinal plants, and plants of current
economic significance, such as plants used for timber, fodder, fibre
and oils. Further research will be undertaken to identify species
that can be grown successfully at the Gardens and efforts will be
made to bring into cultivation those species not yet represented.
Better liaison with and greater involvement of Aboriginal people in
ethnobotanical projects will be encouraged.