This is a sample of our Newsletter's diverse and interesting content.
Join the Friends to receive your own full copy of each issue.

The background of this web page (Grevillea aurea , photographed by Ron Hotchkiss)
is part of the cover page of the current issue of the Newsletter, a photograph
which is one of Jan Wilson's favourites, and is on display
in the Visitor Centre.
It is one of several photographs selected from the Australian Plant Image Index
and framed by the friends of the ANBG for permanent exhibition within the Gardens.

Jan Wilson recently retired from the Gardens after 21 years of caring for and managing
the photographic collection.
Quietly efficient, Jan helped many to find just the right picture from the Gardens' huge collection.
We wish her well in her retirement.

March, 2004


 Grasses in the Gardens

Poa labillardieri   (Common Tussock Grass)

Naomi Bell ,   Member of the Friends

Poa :  from the Greek poa grass
labillardieri :  after the French botanist and explorer, J.J.H. de la Billardiere

Poa labillardieri usually grows on the lower slopes and valley floors in the ACT because it seems to need a damp, alluvial soil, especially in the winter. This plant also prefers to grow in areas where the soil is reasonably fertile. The species has a large distribution along the coastal regions of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia wherever there seems to be enough moisture to encourage it.

It is a tufted perennial grass with leaves to about 80cm in length, slightly pointed in shape and usually green in colour. The flowering spike is approximately 1.3m long, a more or less erect panicle. Where the spikelet joins the stem, it can be slightly rough to the touch. These spikelets usually have three to five florets, green to purple in colour and usually with loose woolly hairs at the base (the Poa 'web'). The flowering season is from about October to February.

Poa labillardieri is tolerant of frost as well as drought, and though its nutritional value may not be great, it is available as feed in the off season (winter) so farmers are able to control its spread by grazing, while the larger tussocks may provide shelter for their lambs in inclement weather. The plant has adapted to cultivation in either full or part sun.

A mass planting of the Poa labillardieri makes a good garden display on its own, as can be seen in Section 106 in the ANBG, just across the wooden bridge past the Mallee (Section 100); there it is, in all its glory. Plants of this species may also be seen in Sections 175 and 178.

Poa is a large genus containing about 500 species worldwide, 45 in Australia. There are many Poa listed in the ANBG Living Collection. Look for :

Poa sieberiana - very like P. labillardieri but in drier sites, local (Section 175).

Poa meionectes - small, dainty grass, local (Section 175).

Poa poiformis - wet forest, large deep green tussock (Rock Garden, Section 15).

Poa tenera - lovely purplish inflorescences (Section 15)


         This inflorescence is old and closed                                          This inflorescence is young and open

Trees, Beautiful Trees

Anne Phillips , Member of Growing Friends

Trees, trees, beautiful trees;
Plant them and help them grow
Care is repaid by cool green shade.
Oh trees, beautiful trees.

Who else learnt that little song in primary school?

The Eucalypt Lawn (Sections 34, 35 and 300) in the Australian National Botanic Gardens has over 100 species of Eucalyptus planted, and they all have stories to tell.

Belonging to the family Myrtaceae, the genus Eucalyptus was named in 1788 by the French botanist Charles Louis L'Heretier de Brutelle (1746 - 1800), from the Greek eu well and kalyptos covered, referring to the cover (operculum) of the flower buds. There are over 700 species, with more than 3000 of these occurring in south-eastern Australia.

While not many trees will be flowering at this time of year, there remain of interest the textures and colours of the bark, of which there are several categories, i.e. smooth, scribbly, powdery, stringy, box, tessellated, minniritchi and ironbark.

Australian Aborigines use various species of eucalypts for medicines and as food. The roots of some can be tapped for water, the bark used for shelter, paintings and for canoes, and the wood used for implements and weapons.

Economically, the timber is used for wharves, bridges, boat building, railway sleepers, fences, housing, furniture, musical instruments, veneers, pulp and fuel. Essential oils for pharmaceuticals and perfumery are distilled and the honey industry makes great use of Eucalyptus flowering.

One of the earliest plantings in the Eucalypt Lawn was in 1949 with Eucalyptus paniculata (Grey Ironbark) with hard, dark grey, deeply furrowed bark (located at the top of Section 34).

Also at the top of the lawn is the Nancy Burbidge Memorial Amphitheatre, opened in 1980 to commemorate her life and work in botany. Not only did Nancy establish the Herbarium Australiense and become director of the Flora of Australia Project, but also her love of the Australian bush led to her becoming a foundation member of the National Parks Association of the ACT in 1960 and campaigning to have areas of the ACT protected, thus the declaration of Namadgi National Park.

I haven't made a map of the eucalypts I mention below, but if you zigzag down the lawn, you'll find them and other interesting discoveries along the way.

To the left of the amphitheatre, is the flaking, mottled, yellow-brown bark (like jigsaw puzzle pieces) of E. michaeliana (Hillgrove Gum). Its range is restricted to Mt Barney National Park in Queensland and in NSW to Wyong, Hillgrove and Enmore areas. It is currently in flower. It was named after Reverend Norman Michael (1884 - 1951), a Queensland minister, who had a life-long interest in the flora of Queensland and collected extensively.

E. citriodora (Lemon-scented Gum) was planted in 1954. Its natural distribution is in eastern Queensland. The bark has a pink and grey marbled appearance, smooth and powdery, then sheds in curling flakes.

E. citriodora  (Lemon-scented Gum)
Photo by G. McEwin

E. Pulverulenta (Silver-leaved Mountain Gum) is straggly, usually a mallee, with smooth bark, but often with ribbons of old bark hanging from stems. On this tree the rusty brown bark is splitting open to reveal the smooth yellow-green new trunk. This is a local species.

E. pulverulenta (Silver-leaved Mountain Gum)
Photo by Brooker and Kleinig

Far right is e. bancroftii (Bancroft's Red Gum) with mottled tan-grey bark, planted in 1954, and named after Dr Thomas Lane Bancroft (1860 - 1933), a Queensland physician with a special love of botany, zoology and entomology. He tasted over 1,000 north Queensland plants and tested 150 of these, studied the biology of Australian mosquitoes and gained international recognition for his work on the Queensland lungfish.

Three big, beautiful E. saligna (Sydney Blue Gum) with pinky, blue-grey smooth bark were planted in 1963.

E. watsoniana (Large-fruited Yellowjacket) from southeastern Queensland has bark that is orangy-yellow to brownish-yellow, rough and flaky. This species is distinguished from other yellow bloodwoods by having the largest buds and fruit.

E. watsoniana (Large-Fruited Yellowjacket)
Photo by Murray Fagg

Cross the bitumen road to Section 35.

A trunk with a short stocking, smooth and creamy-white, is that of E. benthamii (Camden White Gum), with a restricted occurrence west of Sydney and on the flats of the Nepean River. Dr George Bentham (1800 - 1884) worked at Kew Gardens, England, and examined and classified flora sent to him which were included in his great work Flora Australiensis. He never visited Australia.

Behind E. benthamii is E. bosistoana (Coast Grey Box) occurring on coastal planes and nearby ranges from near Sydney southwards to eastern Gippsland in Victoria. Joseph Bosisto (1824 - 1898) was a pioneer pharmacist in Australia and Mayor of Richmond, Melbourne, where his large business manufactured essential oils, particularly those of eucalypts.

E. eximia (Yellow Bloodwood) was planted in 1962 and occurs on coastal hills from Nowra to the Hunter Valley region. The bark is rough, tessellated, yellow to yellow-brown, soft and flaky (like eczema). It is the only Yellow Bloodwood occurring in NSW noted for its curved leaves.

E. baeuerlenii (Baeuerlen's Gum) occurs at Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains and west of Batemans Bay between Mt. Budawang and Sugarloaf Mountain and in the Deua National Park west of Moruya. William Baeuerlen (1845 - 1891) was a collector of Australian plants and with Gertrude Lovegrove published one of the first books on wildflowers in Australia, Wildflowers of NSW, 1891. He discovered E. baeuerlenii near Braidwood, NSW.

In the early 1990's the water usage in the Gardens was assessed and in order to reduce consumption, part of the upper Eucalypt Lawn was turned into Section 300 where many mallee eucalypts are planted.

Enjoy your stroll through this tranquil part of the Gardens.

President's Report
Andrew Walker

Despite the fact that both the ANBG and the Friends have had to respond to a number of significant challenges during the past year, brought about by drought, bushfires, water restrictions and resource cuts, I am able to report yet another successful year for the Friends. Our membership base remains strong, the number of activities arranged for Friends has increased substantially and we have been able to maintain the level of our support for the ANBG.

The severe drought and bushfires affecting the ACT and its surrounds were undoubtedly the dominant features of the early part of 2003 for the ANBG and the Friends. The Gardens were closed to the public for a number of days after the devastating fires of 18 January because of safety concerns. The extreme fire danger also forced the cancellaton of the Friends' summer concerts on two successive weekends. While this inevitably dented a major source of our income, we have still been able to maintain the level of our financial support for projects to enhance the infrastructure and activities of the Gardens.

During the year the Friends approved a total contribution of $20,000 towards two new electric scooters, the fogging system around the main bridge, stereo microscopes for the Gardens Classroom and some mature Macrozamia moorei to be obtained from Queensland. The highly successful renovation of the garden in front of the Friends Lounge, completed in the spring, is a similar project (approved in the previous year but held over because of the drought) which has attracted many favourable comments. As well as maintaining the level of our funding for approved projects we have also continued to sponsor the annual Photographic Competition for High Schools and Secondary Colleges and to provide book vouchers for Botanical Interns. In addition, of course, we also provide a small amount of financial support to our Growing Friends and Volunteer Guides to assist them in various ways to improve their capacity to support the Gardens.

Apart from membership fees, the summer concerts program again formed the largest single source of our revenue, despite a decline since the previous year caused by the cancellation of four concerts because of the fire danger. However, the increase in our membership fees last August will help us to maintain our healthy financial status in the coming year. Fortunately, this increase appears to have had no impact on the number of members, which has risen slightly (from 1254 to 1291) since last year. The Growing Friends also made a substantial contribution through their two plant sales. Additional income was received from the Art Exhibition, Grazing in the Gardens, donations from people attending Friends' activities and from booked guided tours of the Gardens.

On an excursion to Tidbinbilla a number of Friends examine the regeneration
responses of different plant species to the January 2003 bushfires.
Photo : Jean Geue

We have at last received the necessary Ministerial approvals for the establishment of the new ANBG Friends Public Fund and have been entered on the Register of Environmental Organisations. We are now waiting for the Australian Taxation Office to formally endorse us as a Deductible Gift Recipient. The Committee of Management for the Fund will meet soon to consider ways of attracting donations to the Fund. If substantial contributions are forthcoming we will soon be in a position to significantly increase the level of our support for the Gardens.

At present we have about 50 'active' Volunteer Guides who have once again provided a superb service by communicating their knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, Australian native plants and the ANBG to about 3000 appreciative visitors who joined their tours of the Gardens. In September about 20 Guides made the long trip to Perth to attend the National Conference of Volunteer Guides in Botanic Gardens, hosted by the Kings Park Guides. Those stalwarts remaining in Canberra coped well with the increased number of visitors to the Gardens in the peak wildflower season.

One of the most notable features of the past year has been the substantial increase in the number of activities arranged for Friends. These have ranged from illustrated walks and talks, special 'behind the scenes' tours, the art exhibition and the twilight dinner, to major weekend excursions to areas of special interest. The weekend excursion in July to the Illawarra Grevillea Park, Bundeena and the Royal National Park attracted over 30 Friends, all of whom were highly appreciative, both of the wonderful diversity of the flora on display in ideal weather and of the excellent organisation. Excursions to various fire-affected areas in the ACT to examine the regeneration responses of different plant species to the January bushfires also attracted large numbers.

An enormous amount of effort goes into organising our fund-raising events and other Friends' activities and we are indeed fortunate to be blessed with an enthusiastic band of competent and hard-working volunteers. However, more would always be warmly welcomed.

We are also fortunate to enjoy a fruitful, symbiotic relationship with the Gardens' staff. Despite the considerable pressures they have had to endure over the past year, caused largely by budgetary (and staff) cut-backs, they have continued to be readily accessible to the Friends and have invariably been willing to help and to share their expertise whenever it has been needed.

In recent years, while the key events in our calendar have continued to attract good support, the annual pattern of Friends' activities has remained largely the same. However, in the context of increasing competition from other institutions staging similar events, there is always room for improvement. We regularly review our various activities with a view to developing new ways to increase their appeal to the communities they are intended to serve and, in the case of fundraising events, their cost-effectiveness. During the coming months reviews will be undertaken of the Volunteer Guides service, the summer concerts program, the art exhibition and the photographic competition. Undoubtedly, some changes will occur as a result of these reviews and I am confident that, through this process of evolution, the Friends will continue to grow from strength to strength.

What's in a Name?

Bernard Fennessy , Volunteer Guide

In the Australian National Botanic Gardens at the top end of the Eucalypt Lawn is the Nancy Burbidge Memorial, an amphitheatre used for musical performances and for weddings. It is named in honour of Nancy Tyson Burbidge A.M., D.Sc. (1912 - 1977), botanist and conservationist.

Dr Robert Boden talks to a school group at the
Burbidge Memorial Amphitheatre, 1981
Photo from ANBG Collection

She was born in Yorkshire, but came to Ketanning, W.A., in 1913 when her father was appointed to the Anglican parish there. Her mother opened a primary school at the rectory and in 1922 founded the Ketanning Church of England Girls' School. Nancy was educated there, at Bunbury High School and at the University of Western Australia, graduating in Science.

She started a long career in botany. She was awarded a prize by a group of shipping companies of a free passage to England and spent eighteen months in 1939 - 40 at the Herbarium, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. On returning to Perth she spent three years studying the ecology and taxonomy of Western Australian plants. She then moved to the Waite Agricultural Research Institute, Adelaide, to study regenerating native pasture in arid and semi-arid regions of South Australia. In 1946 she became systematic botanist in the CSIR's Division of Plant Industry, Canberra, and soon became responsible for the Division's collection of plant specimens, and then Curator, Herbarium Australiense. In 1953 she was seconded to be Australian Botanical Liaison Officer at the Kew Herbarium, London.

She contributed many articles to botanical journals leading to the award of a D.Sc. In 1963, with Max Gray, she published The Plants of the Australian Capital Territory. Three volumes on grasses followed and then in 1970, again with Max Gray, Flora of the Australian Capital Territory. Later she published for the general reader The Wattles of the Australian Capital Territory and The Gum Trees of the Australian Capital Territory

Dr Burbidge was a founding member of the National Parks Association of the A.C.T. and was at times its secretary, president and a committee member. She lobbied for the establishment of the Tidbinbilla Fauna Reserve and campaigned for the establishment of Namadgi National Park. A peak in the Park is named Mount Burbidge.

She was a member of the Australian Federation of University Women and was very involved with the Pan-Pacific and South East Asia Women's Association supporting causes such as scholarships for AB original women and the establishment of a women's hall of residence at the University of Papua New Guinea.

Archives index

Friends' Home Page

Compiled March, 2004 by Shirley McKeown   -  email : wombats1@tpg.com.au