Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria
Malcolm Brown was posted to the one-teacher school at Coen in 1962. Initially he found the was to the one hot dry surrounds of Coen rather uninviting, until he met Lea Wassell who encouraged him to start exploring for orchids in the wild McIlwraith Range to the east of Coen.
He struck up a most profitable relationship with Alick Dockrill while on holidays in Cairns. Malcolm would send specimens from the McIlwraith Range to Alick in Cairns who would identify them and describe the new species among them. This working relationship extended from the early 1960s to the 1970s, even continuing when, in 1967, Dockrill moved to Lae in Papua New Guinea. New species and new records to come from this partnership were: Pteroceras hirticalcar, Saccolabium rhopalorrachis, Dendrobium malbrownii, Trichoglottis australiensis, Ephemerantha comata, Sarcochilus moorei and Taeniophyllum malianum.
Brown travelled by packhorse to the edge of the scrub, often with Aboriginal stockmen, who as it turned out, knew the open forests well but often had little knowledge of the rainforest-clad ranges. Almost every trip seemed to turn up new species. In the 1960s a mining company opened up a track to Leo Creek, deep in the heart of the ranges, where there were reports dating back to the 1890s of gold in a large waterhole. The miners' attempt at dredging the creek yielded no worthwhile results and they left, but the road remained. Mal Brown headed to Leo Creek and he describes it as follows:
"What a revelation! The Leo Cre was one great orchid garden. The dominant orchid was the impressive Dipodium pandanum that crawled across the leaf mould over rocks and up trees: many plants were several metres long Numerous other species grew on any available log or rock along the creek including Phalaenopsis amabilis var. rosenstromii, Bulbophyllum longiflorum, Dendrobium malbrownii, Taeniophyllum malianum. Sarcochilus moorei, Thelasis carinata, Flickingeria comata, Eria, Malaxis and all the common rainforest types...... Sadly within 12 months the garden was gone; devastated by the professional collectors from Cairns and others who did not share our respect fr the bush". (Brown 2003.)
Source: Extracted from: Laverack, Bill (2013) 'With Strange Device: A history of the discovery of Tropical Australia's Orchids', (Australian Orchid Foundation), Peter S. Laverack, Buderim, Qld