Alison Turner and Marilyn Faunt ‘Fern stories: the search for the 'magical fern seed' - and how fern knowledge grew'

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Thursday, 8 June 2023 - 12:30pm to 1:30pm
Spores on Dicksonia antarctica
Spores on Dicksonia antarctica

"Only people of discernment and good taste could appreciate the flowerless charms of ferns ". Such was the thinking that underpinned the fern mania of the mid-1800's when ferns became fashionable.  Volunteer ANBG guides Alison Turner and Marilyn Faunt will share their fern discovery journey and hope we look at ferns with fresh eyes and discernment.

Ferns have played a prominent place in history, as in creating massive climate change, causing the death of Wills, (of Burke and Wills fame) and nearly causing the demise of PNG Sepik river villages.

But how much do you know about ferns? Why did people once believe that ferns sprung up by 'magic'.  Where was this 'invisible seed'?  Why are ferns only ever found in moist places? What do we know now?

Volunteer ANBG guides Alison Turner and Marilyn Faunt will share their fern discovery journey with the hope that you too will look at ferns with fresh eyes, and become people of discernment!

Marilyn Faunt

Since her retirement from a career in Education, teaching art and photography Marilyn has been a Volunteer Guide at the ANBG for 6 years (2016 intake). She has been involved in a number of (professional development) projects exploring different guiding approaches to garden Walks and Flora Explorer bus tours. In collaboration with some of her colleagues she developed a special holiday Flora Explorer tour, 'Secrets of the Australian Bush' for families with young children. Marylyn designed a pamphlet with images of what would be seen on the tour, for the children to check off en-route. Her most recent project, with Alison, has been the study, preparation and presentation of their research on the ferns in the ANBG's living collection.

Alison Turner
With a background as a veterinarian and medical pharmacologist, Alison spent most of her career in the APS, with her last two F/T roles as CEO of the APVMA and National Blood Authority. Qualifying as an ANBG guide in 2016, she has led various projects, including the development of the Guides Professional Development (PD) program, an assessment of guides’ current and potential future public engagement offerings and the development of the Family bus tour “Secrets of the Australian bush”.  Learning about Ferns, and preparing material for guides, was Alison's and Marilyn's self-selected 2021 PD challenge.

Booking Link:

Lunchtime talks are held at 12.30 pm every Thursday from February to November.  Talks last for 1 hour.  We welcome donations by gold coins, notes, or electronically. The Friends use donations received at each talk to support Gardens’ programs and development and thank all those who have donated.  Please note: unless otherwise indicated, talks are in the ANBG Theatrette.

It is a good idea to reserve a seat at the talks that you wish to attend; several talks are booked out very quickly.  Bookings can be made from the Friday before the talk until Wednesday night before the talk or until seating limits are reached. 

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The Friends of the ANBG thank the speakers who volunteer their time and talents to further the knowledge of all attending events in the Gardens. Some summaries or PowerPoint presentations of Thursday talks are available to Friends at the ANBG library. Please direct queries about the talks to the Thursday Talks Team: email

The talks are in line with COVID-19 guidelines which can change rapidly.