Issue 30: November 2000



News from the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian National Herbarium (CANB), for the information of CPBR and ANBG staff and volunteers.



CPBR News is produced monthly. If you wish to contribute, please email your suggestions to Val Oliver, the coordinator.



This is your newsletter, please contribute news relating to the Centre.





Val Oliver: ph (02) 6246 5533; fax (02) 6246 5249; email:




1. Herbarium and Services

Herbarium Volunteers

On the 1st November we had a Morning Tea to thank our Volunteers for the work they have carried out during the year and to present our Appreciation Award to Camilla Bennett who has now joined the ranks of those who have been with the Herbarium Volunteer Programme for five years.  Judy West confirmed how important to the Centre and Science this Volunteer work is.  About ten thousand more specimens were mounted last year than were mounted in previous years.

We plan to hold a Review of the ANH Volunteer Programmes on Thursday 23 November.  This Review will:

.   examine successes and problems

.   clarify and reaffirm common goals

.   clarify and where possible resolve problems or points of difference

.   help to make the Volunteer programmes even more productive and enjoyable for all.

Volunteer representatives are Patrick Crone, Barbara Thompson, Pauline Wicksteed and Tony Wood, all of whom have a considerable history as Volunteers in the HerbariumIf any of you have any issues you would like covered in the Review please let one of these representatives, or Bob Makinson, Judith Curnow or myself know.

Invitations will be sent out soon for the Herbarium Volunteer Christmas BBQ to be held on Tuesday Dec. 12th under the old Oak Tree at the Centre.  It was agreed that numbers are getting too high now to have the usual combined Christmas party at ANBG.

People who have joined and stayed with the Programme since late last year are:

Jill Alexander

Liz Allen

John Crawford

Jean Egan

Noeline Gentle

Jordy Hannson

Nicholas Hulskamp

Susan Innes

Makarand Kale

Marianne Paul

Les Philip

Elizabeth Richardson

Shen Xing-Su

Alan Sohier

Penny Sohier

Angela Stankovic

Cathy Zdanowicz

If you bump into any of "The Mounties" around the building please be sure to make them feel welcome.

[Faye Davies]



2. Research Groups

Program B post-doctoral fellows

Earlier this year Curt Brubaker and Jeremy Burdon each received grants from the Cotton Research and Development Corporation. Augusto Becerra has been appointed to work with Curt to progress the work on the molecular characterization of Australian wild cottons and crosses with cultivated cotton. To examine variation in a significant disease of cotton (Fusarium) Bo Wang has been appointed to work with Jeremy - This appointment will research (i) the use of native cottons as sources of disease resistance; and (ii) the occurrence of new pathotypes of this pathogen in native stands. The two PDFs will start work in early January 2001. They will both be based in building 1.

[Jeremy Burdon]


Bob Godfree is the recently appointed post-doctoral fellow working with Andrew Young on ecological risk assessment for genetically modified (GM) pasture plants.  Bob comes to us from Portland State University in Oregon, where he worked on the ecology of mistletoes.  Bob is based in building 1. 

[Andrew Young]


Visiting Researchers

In recent weeks two visiting researchers have joined Program B of the Centre.

Professor Reid Palmer,  a soybean geneticist , USDA  research scientist working in the Department of  Agronomy,  Iowa State University, Ames, USA is to spend five months on sabbatical with us. A  research project of his is concerned with soybean hybrid breeding and the development of systems of male-sterility for soybean breeding.  He is particularly interested in the reproductive biology of the Australian native perennial Glycine species, and variation among them in characters likely to affect pollinator attraction and outcrossing rates.

Mr Domenico Rau is a final year PhD student from the University of Sassari, Sardinia, Italy.  His thesis project is on traditional barley varieties still growing on some farms in Sardinia and the dynamics of host-pathogen systems in such populations.  While here he will be studying genetic variation in population samples of the causal agent of net blotch, a fungal disease of barley, using AFLPs. Domenico will also be here for five months.

Both visitors can be contacted directly (Reid  extn. 4988;  Domenico extn. 5326) or via Tony Brown (5081)

[Tony Brown]


John Clemens, from Massey Univerity in NZ,  is a visiting scientist working with Rod King in Plant Industry and Andrew Young for the next 6 months. John will be working on analysis of mating system and polyploidy in the legume Swainsona recta.

[Andrew Young]


Program A post-doctoral fellow

We have received eleven applications for the Plant systematist position advertised recently. This is a post-doctoral fellowship to work in the area of Lamiales and we want someone with strong experience in morphology as well as molecular expertise. The selection committee is Jeremy Burdon, Randy Bayer, Judy West and Barry Conn from RBG Sydney. We hope a decision will be made before the end of the year.

[Judy West]


Acacia collecting trip - Central Australia

During two weeks in October Neil Bagnall, Rose Andrew and I traveled to central Australia to collect Acacia, specifically mulga (Acacia aneura).  I began this project a year ago with the urging of Bruce Maslin of Perth. Mulga covers 30% of the Australian land mass and is a taxonomic trouble. 

The major problem in mulga is that many "morphotypes" grow together in a single population.  As many as 15-20 different types can be in a population. Also another population a few kilometers down the road may have a different morphotype mix.  Also the same morphotypes can be found in the WA goldfield, Pilbara and central Australia.  The question we are trying to answer is that of the origin of these morphotypes.  Does a morphotype found in various populations throughout the range have the same genetic origin?  Or are these morphotypes formed locally by hybridization.

Bruce Maslin joined us in the Northern Territory.  This is the third time he and I have collected mulga together and are beginning  to get a handle on the problem.  We collected multiple plants of each morphotype in many separate populations.  I am currently collaborating with CSIRO Forestry to transfer microsatellite (SSR) markers to use in mulga. That, along with new equipment expected soon at PI, will soon allow detailed analyses within and among populations of mulga.

Rose made a detailed collection of mulga for her honours project.  We collected 302 plants in a 1 hectare plot with all plants spatially mapped. There are 4-5 morphotypes in this population and this detailed study is what is needed to start to sort out the complex morphological variation.  Rose is busy extracting DNA and preparing for SSR and cytogenetic studies.

Neil was busy look for daisies among the mulga trees.  He found a few.

Preliminary cytogenetic results are showing that while most plants in WA are tetraploid that may not be the case in central Australia.  Chromosome counts and flow cytometry to determine ploidy level will be critical to determine possible isolating mechanisms.

We spent a day in the Alice Springs Herbarium consulting specimens, examining and listening to Peter Latz and Dave Albrecht.  Dave accompanied us for two days of collection.  We learned of a morphotype that retains juvenile phyllodes.  The next day we collected a plant that had three distinct phyllode sizes.  Now the morphological diversity may be partially confounded by retention of juvenile foliage.  Hopefully the DNA markers will allow us to differentiate among these hypotheses.

[Joe Miller]


Mongarlow River trip

Thursday 9 November: Anthony Whalen and Frank Zich went on a day trip to Mongarlowe River and climbed Clyde Mountain in the never ending search for a population of Logania albiflora and Logania sp A growing together. Clyde Mountain according to the herbarium records seems to be the only place the two "species" are found together. After several hours of having my legs "sandpapered" by dense thickets of Blechnum wattsii (don’t ever let anyone say ferns are a "soft" option), we failed to find the elusive stand. Back to the herbarium records. At least I managed to get decent field photos of another population of Logania sp. A.

[Anthony Whalen]


3. Information Technology and Data Management

3.1 WWW Site

The URL for the Centre can be found at:

Please check regularly for new items of interest re Centre staff and activities.


4. Education and Communication

Summer Scholarships 2000/2001

The Centre offered four summer scholarships for 2000/2001. One scholarship has been deferred to next year after special consideration. Julia Cooke and Matthew Rawlings will commence on Monday 4 December 2000 and Lindy Orthia will commence on Monday 27 November. The successful students, their supervisors and projects are listed below

COOKE Julia Supervisor: Dr A. Willis

Project: Comparative Impacts of Natives and Exotic Weeds on the Seed Ecology of Rare Species

ORTHIA Lindy Supervisor: Dr R de Kok

Project: An Examination of the Subgeneric Classification of Pultenaea (Fabaceae)

RAWLINGS Matthew Supervisor: Mr M. McDonald

Project: Allozyme Variation in Proposed New Species of Ironbarks


5. General Centre Matters

Centre Administrative Assistant

We have finally made an appointment of administrative assistant for the Centre, and Alison Smith will begin with us from Thursday November 30. Alison has experience in administrative support and customer service with the retail industry, and should provide a good contact point for the Centre and staff support. She will be working in the mornings only.

I am sure everyone in the Centre would like to thank Suzie Budyneck sincerely for the job she has done over the past few months holding the fort in this position. It is good to have someone happy and obliging in the front office and I hope this period with us will provide Suzie with some office experience for her future employment.

[Judy West]


6. Other News



7. Diary of Events/Activities




Details (relate to projects)

23 November

ANH Volunteer Programmes Review

Bob Makinson, Judith Curnow, Faye Davies, Jo Palmer, Brendan Lepschi, Frank Zich

10.00 - 4.00 pm

Map Room, CPBR

8 December

PI forum - Divisional Seminar

(See details below)

Randy Bayer, Mark Clements, Joe Miller

Speakers & Topics (See details below)

Randy Bayer - The Everlastings and daisies (Gnaphalieae)

Mark Clements - Terrestrial orchids

Joe Miller - The Acacias (wattles)

11 December

Divisional Retreat


Jeremy Burdon

Program A being considered

11 December

CSIRO Collections Group Meeting

Judy West

2.00 -5.00 pm

Map Room, CPBR

12 December

Herbarium Volunteers’ Christmas BBQ


old Oak Tree, Herbarium

13 December

CSIRO Collections Group Xmas get-together

All ANH staff

ANH, Centre - hosting for CSIRO Collections

Email received from Anne Tate 24/11/00



DATE: 3:45pm, Friday, 8 December

VENUE: Plant Industry Lecture Theatre, CSIRO Plant Industry, Black Mountain

DNA sequencing offers taxonomists a powerful new tool for resolving the genealogies of plant species.  Understanding how recently different plant groups shared a common ancestor is the necessary first step in elucidating the evolutionary mechanisms that generate the genetic and morphological variation on which much of CSIRO’s research depends.  The Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research is using DNA sequence to reveal historical genetic relationships among taxa that are important components of Australia’s indigenous flora.  The forum will focus on new and unexpected results that are forcing taxonomists to reevaluate previous evolutionary hypotheses. The three speakers will present examples that demonstrate just how misleading initial appearances can be.


Joe Miller, CSIRO Plant Industry / Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research The Acacias (wattles), Australia’s major legume group, share a commonancestor, but their closest relatives are not the Acacias from the New World or Africa as previously suspected.  They are Australian legumes from the tribe Ingeae.  The data also suggest that the simple-leaved (phyllodinous) Acacias (found almost exclusively in Australia) evolved very recently in Australia and are not as old as previously suspected.

Randy Bayer, CSIRO Plant Industry / Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research The Everlastings and daisies (Gnaphalieae) are a group of composites that have their greatest diversity in South America, Southern Africa and Australia. Present results indicate that the Australian Gnaphalieae trace their origins to groups of woody shrubs or subshrubs, such as Ozothamnus (pill flower) and Cassinia (sago flower) that are found in eastern Australia. Their western Australian relatives, such as Rhodanthe manglesii (pink sunray) and Lawrencella (paper daisies), evolved more recently in conjunction with radiation from an east Australian point of origin. Results also demonstrate that many of these groups do not share the same parents although they look very similar.

Mark Clements, Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research / Australian National Botanical Gardens Australia contains roughly 1200 species of terrestrial orchids.  Previous assumptions that all these species comprised a single natural genealogical lineage, however, have proved false.  The greenhood orchids [the Pterostylis group] do share a single parentage but their closest relatives are in South America not Australia.