3.1.2 Scientific focus


Scientific research at the Gardens has focussed on plant systematics and taxonomy, plant biology and breeding systems, and horticulture. The emphasis of research programs has been to elucidate the classification and identification of plants and to expand knowledge of their biological attributes. In recent times, with declining resources, the applied horticultural research has been curtailed, and investigations into the biology and horticulture of plants are now focussed on contributing to an understanding of systematics and taxonomy. Plant morphology is the primary approach to systematic research, but it is supplemented by anatomical studies, developmental studies, genetic systems and biochemical studies. The tools available for systematic botany are expanding rapidly into areas such as molecular biology and, in order to take advantage of these tools, staff have undertaken collaborative projects with other institutions.

The study of plants at the Gardens has concentrated on the vascular plants to provide scientific credibility for the living collections. Conifers, ferns and their relatives, monocotyledons (grasses, lilies, palms, and so on) and dicotyledons (most other trees, shrubs and herbs) are represented in the living collections and vouchered in the Herbarium. In 1977 it was decided to create a nationally significant cryptogamic herbarium to cover the so-called lower plants. Because other centres of study already existed for algae and micro-fungi, the collection and research program was not extended to these groups. The Gardens' Herbarium now houses the major national collection of bryophytes and one of the major collections of lichens.

Lack of staff resources in the research area have caused a concentration of research efforts on a few significant plant groups (see Section 3.3). Every effort is made not to duplicate research being carried out elsewhere; where possible the research effort of the Gardens is compatible with the long-term requirements of the Australian Biological Resources Study Flora of Australia project, which is a multi-volume series describing all Australian plants.

Management prescriptions


The objective is to study and provide information about the systematics, evolution, taxonomy, distribution and horticulture of major groups of Australian native plants and their relatives.


Staff at the Gardens will continue to study the morphology of living and preserved plant specimens to elucidate their taxonomy and systematics, making use of the Herbarium, the laboratories, the living collections and field studies. This work will be augmented by biochemical studies, anatomical studies, and plant biology and breeding studies. The research programs of the Gardens will necessarily remained focussed on a small number of plant groups.

The Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research will provide Gardens' staff with access to appropriate modern facilities for their studies. It will also provide increased opportunities for collaborative projects and interaction with a large research team studying the systematics, horticulture and conservation biology of the Australian flora.

Staff will continue to study and maintain collections of vascular plants, the major groups of non-vascular plants and the macro-fungi. Cultures of some mycorrhizal fungi will be maintained in connection with the biological components of the orchid research program.

Staff will prepare scientific and popular accounts of their investigations; a major focus of publication and the research effort will continue to be the requirements of the Flora of Australia project.