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

November, 2002

Our Nation's Garden

Botanic Gardens Wins Recognition as Premier Tourist Attraction

The Rainforest

Southern Tablelands Spring Tour

Anne Joyce Passes the Baton

Growing Australian Plants

What's in a Name
Dr Colin Barnard       Guitar Plant

 Our Nation's Garden

This year's annual photographic competiton, sponsored by the Friends of the Gardens, was a great success, with 300 entries from various high schools and colleges in Canberra.

In this issue of the newsletter we show you two of the outstanding entries. You can see the other winning entries on display in the foyer opposite the Visitor Centre or on the Friends' website.

             weaver                hollier

                   "Heart of the Matter"                                                   Untitled 
            Phillip Weaver, Hawker College                   Larissa Hollier, Copland College

Joint First Prizewinners, College Colour

 Botanic Gardens Wins Recognition as Premier
Tourist Attraction

The Australian National Botanic Gardens was announced winner of the award in the Ecotourism category of the Yellow Pages Canberra and Capital Region Tourism Awards 2002. The award was presented at a function on 26 October.

The Award recognizes the achievements of all the Gardens staff in creating such an interesting and engaging public garden and brings together the scientific, educational and public elements of the ANBG.

ANBG Communications officer, Paul Ziesing, developed the award submission with the assistance of Louise Jong, a final year Tourism student from the University of Canberra and Barry Brown, the Gardens Graphic Designer. The forty page submission detailed the success of the Gardens in attracting visitors, hosting events such as the summer concerts, training staff and volunteers and developing innovative ideas such as its public art programme.

It has been an award-winning year for the Gardens - with its Volunteer Guide Training programme receiving the "Outstanding Programme" award in the ACT Adult Learning competition.


group   L to R :  Robin Nielsen (Director, ANBG), Louise Jong,
                          Paul Ziesing, Barry Brown







       Robin, Paul and Barry with the Award award

The Rainforest  

As part of an Earth Education activity for trainee Volunteer Guides
during their training course,

Sue Dowling
an  'established guide' , took a group of trainee guides into the rainforest gully and asked each of them to nominate two words which best described their impressions of the rainforest.    She then composed this poem, using the words they supplied :

It's smelly, and I hear trickling.
There's music, there's silence.
The canopy, the leaf mould;
Such variation, and trickling.
Chiaroscuro, which means light
And shade, like a mosaic.
I see caves, and water;
Deep and dappled,
Caves, and ah ... a tinkle.
It's multilevelled, with shade and light;
It's quiet and gentle, peaceful and fresh,
Quiet and enfolding.
Oh, the sights and the sounds, so green and lush,
And peaceful.
A special place ... the rainforest.


Southern Tablelands Spring Tour

John Turnbull, Volunteer Guide

The weather was perfect for the visit of a group of 34 Friends of ANBG to Morton National Park and Bundanoon in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. Our first activity was a stroll through Robertson Nature Reserve, a remnant of cool temperate rainforest of the Yarrawa Scrub. Set among the fertile farmlands, the forest is dominated by tall coachwood (Cedratopetalum apetalum) and Sassafras (Doryphora sassafras), with a rich understorey of shrubs, vines and ferns.

We were introduced to Morton National Park with the sight of the spectacular Fitzroy Falls plunging off the plateau over a sheer sandstone cliff into the rainforest gorge and more distant views down the Yarrunga Valley towards Mt Scanzi. The more energetic walked through the Silver Topped Ash (Eucalyptus sieberi) and the urn-fruited Sydney Peppermint (E. piperita spp. urceolaris) around the valley rim to the Twin Falls lookout. Others took advantage of the excellent Fitzroy Falls Visitors Centre where displays featured the flora and fauna of the National Park. A wonderful contrast to the native bushland of the National Park was a visit to the delightful garden of Joe Mercierca in Bundanoon. He has skillfully combined exotic and native plants. Waratahs rubbed shoulders with their South African cousins, the proteas, while lavenders, daisies and creeping grevilleas provided a colourful ground cover. A moonlight walk to Glow Worm Glen gave us the opportunity to appreciate the heavy perfume of Sweet Pittosporum and wombat activity.

The colourful range of native wildflowers growing on the sandstone cliffs in Morton National Park provided much interest for the group who took the short steep walk through woodland, heath and rainforest down the Erith Coal Mine Track. A second party chose the Amphitheatre Walk following the narrow track of Nicholas Pass under the cliffs to Fairy Bower Falls. Here the water cascades into a small pool surrounded by rainforest and an abundance of ferns, and was a pleasant, peaceful place to rest before continuing on to Tooth's Track and the steep climb out of the valley. After lunch at Gambell's Rest we visited the Australian Plant Farm to view commercial growing of spectacular waratahs and proteas.

The variety of plants, the excellent organisation by Pat and Warwick Wright, and the perfect spring weather combined to make this an enjoyable and memorable tour.


The steep trek down the Erith Coal Mine Track

Photo by Pat Wright

Anne Joyce Passes the Baton

Rod Harvey, Manager, Visitor Services

Anne Joyce joined the team at ANBG nearly 12 years ago. Her appointment was a 'first' for the Gardens - the first 'real' Public Relations Officer we ever had - and we really didn't know what to expect.

It soon became apparent that Anne was a bundle of energy and enthusiasm, ready to provoke and challenge outdated ideas and keep our programs vibrant. Very soon after her appointment she was given the task of furthering the establishment of a volunteer program and the Friends of the Gardens. It wasn't an easy task, staff were nervous that volunteers might mean they'd lose their jobs - and who were these Frineds anyway, what would they want? Twelve years on, the Friends and volunteers are an integral part of how the Gardens works, a tribute to the energy of the Canberra community and to Anne's tenacity and hard 'behind-the-scenes' work.

Anne's decision to move on to yet another career, 'retirement', didn't totally come as a surprise. After all, she said "giving birth to a grandchild is about the hardest thing I've ever done". We know that Anne's commitment to the Gardens and the community will continue, and all at the ANBG thank her for her work with us and wish her all the best for the future.

               The party begins .....

   and Anne reflects ..............





In 1990 I was introduced to the world of Botanic Gardens. My task? - to increase community awareness and support for the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra. Through the development of a Friends group and subsequent volunteer programs such as the Growing Friends and the Volunteer Guides, I believe we are well on the way to achieving this aim.

The members' enthusiasm and imagination have been directly responsible for the organisation of many events designed to encourage public involvement and visitation to the Gardens during the last 12 years. Festivals, concerts, theatre and ballet, photographic competitions and art shows have contributed to a rich tapestry of activities. Funding for the improvement of areas of the Gardens and support through bursaries and projects have enhanced the site and provided opportunities for staff development. I consider myself fortunate to have been included as one of the recipients.

My time at the Botanic Gardens has enabled me to meet staff and members of Friends groups from Gardens all over Australia. What a pleasure it has been to share in this network of like minded people. Our mutual interests have ensured a genuine welcome wherever I've travelled, a fact highlighted during my recent attendance at the Botanic Gardens Conservation International Congress hosted by Sydney Botanic Gardens. I renewed old acquaintances and formed new friendships with delegates from all over the world, including Endo Gauf, from Lae, PNG, whose attendance was sponsored by the Friends of the ANBG. As your representative I have enjoyed similar warm encounters with Friends of several museums and galleries devoted to supporting their chosen organisations and forming vital links with their communities.

In our case, the Volunteer Guides program is a stunning example of just how much an organisation can benefit from the dedication and commitment of its Friends members. It was especially rewarding to be part of their triumph as hosts for last year's conference of Botanic Gardens' Guides. My involvement as Guides' recruiter, trainer and co-ordinator provided many challenges, joy and unforgettable fun.

I count it a real privilege to have been instrumental in the development of the Friends of the ANBG, and feel confident that the next decade will prove even more successful as programs expand, membership grows and the ANBG staff celebrate increased interaction with the Friends.

My role has changed! No longer a full-time employee, I have the luxury of considering my options. But one thing is certain, wherever I go, whatever I do, I will always be welded to the Friends of the Botanic Gardens in Canberra.

Photos by Anne Phillips        


Anne Phillips, Growing Friends

Doryanthes excelsa    Gymea Lily      (Family :   Agavaceae)

Doryanthes : from the Greek doratos  meaning spear and anthos meaning flower, excelsa :         from the Latin excelsa meaning tall.

This magnificent plant has over metre-long sword-like leaves that surround a flower spike to six metres high bearing a large cluster of bright red flowers.  It blooms in spring and summer.  It is easily propagated from seeds, which are sown in autumn, and take about eight weeks to germinate.  Flowers will appear in six to seven years. The plant prefers a reasonably well-drained soil in full sun, but needs protection against frost.

Doryanthes excelsa is currently in spectacular bloom at the Gardens - along the main path at section 25 in the monocot section, in section 53 and 63 of the Sydney Basin and in two adjacent plantings in the Rock Garden.


The magnificent Gymea Lily
Photo by Andrew Lyne

What's in a Name?

Dr Colin Barnard

by Bernard Fennessy, Volunteer Guide

In the Australian National Botanic Gardens, about five metres downhill from the Nancy Burbidge Amphitheatre, is a large tallowood, Eucalyptus microcorys. In the shade of that tree, on its lower side, in the adjacent bed (Section 37), is a plaque commemorating Dr Colin Barnard MBE, DSc (1912-1977).

He spent almost the whole of his working life with CSIRO. In 1927 he joined what was then the Division of Economic Botany of CSIR and was seconded to the Commonwealth Research Station at Merbein, Victoria, and later transferred to Canberra. He studied growth and production in grape vines and developed a system for forecasting yield. He also worked on decline and dieback in apples.

In 1935 he assisted Dr B T Dickson with his report proposing the establishment of a botanic gardens in Canberra, and took the photos included with that report.

During World War II Dr Barnard was in charge of the production of exotic plants by CSIR to supply drugs such as morphine, hyoscine, strychnine and quinine. Later his group investigated native plants, such as Duboisia, of pharmacological and insecticidal value as possible substitutes for, or alternative sources of, imported drugs. L J Webb, later an authority on rainforest ecology, was appointed to expand the collection of native plant species.

In 1944 Dr Barnard approached the CSIR Division of Industrial Chemistry for assistance in research on the alkaloids from Australian native plants. Dr J R Price who was appointed for this work later became Chairman of CSIRO. When the war was over and the urgency for drug production was reduced, it was accepted that exploring the chemical and pharmacological potential of the flora of Australia and Papua and New Guinea was a worthwhile contribution to the mapping of Australia's natural resources. Hence a collaboration between CSIRO and chemists in universities developed into the Australian Phytochemical Survey. It continued for about 25 years to the early 1970's.

In 1951 Dr Barnard had turned his attention to a detailed study of the growth of floral parts in wheat plants and later to a systematic study of all the monocotyledons. He established the Herbage Plant Registration Authority and as its Registrar was responsible for preparing authoritative descriptions, origins and identification of all herbage plant cultivars registered in Australia.

In 1964 Dr Barnard edited the book Grasses and Grasslands which covered the accumulated knowledge of Divisional research staff on the biology of grasses and on the problems of pasture establishment, maintenance and improvement.

. . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Lomatia tinctoria, Guitar Plant

by Dick Burns, Hon. Member of the Friends

Each time I visited the Gardens, I used to look over the wall at the far side of the car park to admire the plant of Lomatia tincotoria. It had luxurious growth, much larger than seen in the bush here in Tasmania. I hope it is still there. As well, when I was collecting Tasmanian plants for the Gardens, I sent up a number of different leaf forms of this species: they may be dispersed around the beds. (There are several plants of L. tinctoria and other species of Lomatia mentioned below in and adjacent to the Tasmanian Garden (ed)). Here at Penguin, in Tasmania, I have about six different forms planted in a group, and it is quite a sight. Well, I think so anyway.

Lomatia tincotira is in the family Proteaceae, with a close relationship to Telopea sp. The Flora of Australia states that there are twelve species of Lomatia, three in South America and nine in Australia. This genus is a classic example of a Gondwanan plant group. Tasmania has three species, all endemic. Lomatia tinctoria is the most widespread, being found in most parts of the island. It has shiny leaves that range in shape from pinnate with lobes to bipinnate, with the width of the divisions varying as well. White flowers in an elongated cylindrical grouping are produced in spring.

Lomatia polymorpha is found mostly in the west coast and south-west regions, extending to Mt Wellington and Cradle Mountain. It has simple leaves without divisions or lobes; they are dull above and densely hairy below. The white flowers tend to be in a more rounded arrangement and can be strongly perfumed.

The rarest species is Lomatia tasmanica, found only in a few remote gullies in the south-west. It has glossy divided leaves, the divisions then having pointed lobes. Its flowers are red. The species never sets seed, propagating itself from underground rhizomes. The live material is thought to be a 40,000-year-old clone. Lomatia ferruginea of South America has some similarities.

The two common species also hybridise; it is this hybrid that should be called 'polymorpha' because the leaves vary in shape from having a few lobes to bipinnate. The flower head is often larger than those of the parents.


Close up of Lomatia tinctoria     (Photo by R Hotchkiss)

Lomatia tinctoria   (Photo by R Hotchkiss)

Lomatia tasmanica would be a magnificent garden plant but is extremely hard to grow outside its specialised environment. I collected material twice for Canberra. Cuttings root easily but the young plants mostly die. I have a photo of one planted in the Tasmanian Gully of ANBG, but next time I visited the gardens, it was gone. The Hobart Royal Botanical Gardens had great success, but after a few years, their potted material started dying off. It can be grafted on to L. tinctoria stock.

The name Lomatia is one of the prettiest plant names. But it nearly didn't make it. The name was developed by Robert Brown, the botanist who travelled with Matthew Flinders on his famous voyage of exploration and mapping. The seeds of Lomatia sp. have papery wings and there is a ridge forming a border around the wing and seed. The Greek word for a border is loma. Brown launched the name in a paper he read to the Linnaean Society of London in 1809. Later in the same year, another botanist, Salisbury, published, with Joseph Knight, a description using the name Tricondylus as the name for the genus. Brown published his paper in 1810. The rules of botany nomenclature state that the first-published name has to be accepted. The rule seems to have been bent this time, thankfully. I think there should be a rule against ugly names.

So much for the word Lomatia. The species name tinctoria comes from the Latin word for 'used in dyeing'. (Many of us as kids had tincture of iodine painted on cuts.) Wrigley and Fagg state that this refers to a powder found in the fruit, that produces a red colour. I didn't know this when I decided to try out the tinctoria bit, and used leaves to dye wool. Using iron mordant, I got a good fawn colour, but with chrome mordant I ended up with a rich chocolate colour.

Finally, concerning the common name, Guitar Plant, Baines suggests it is linked to the fern-like leaf, but I'd agree with Wrigley and Fagg, and link it to the shape of the fruit. Lomatia fruit is a hard follicle that opens flat. It reminds me more of a lute than a guitar.

The long straight stems and interesting different foliage make Lomatia tinctoria an excellent plant for the garden, and for flower arrangements. Oh, and if you hadn't guessed, it is one of my favourite plants, in the garden and in the Tasmanian bush.

References :

Anthony E Orchard (executive editor) Flora of Australia, Vol. 16 Elaeaginaceae,
1, Melbournhe CSIRO, 1995

James A Baines, Australian Plant Genera, SGAP, 1981

John W Wrigley and Murray Fagg, Banksias, Waratahs and Grevilleas,
      Collins Australia, 1989

Friends Briefs

Adult Learners Week Award

During Adult Learners Week in September, the ANBG, together with the Friends, won the ACT Outstanding Adult Education Program for the Volunteer Guides Training Course. Many ANBG staff and 'senior' volunteer guides invested a great deal of their time in preparing for and conducting this excellent course and it was good to receive this external recognition for their efforts. The prize, a $100 book voucher, will be used to purchase a suitable book(s) for the Library.

The Gardens commenced its first training course for Volunteer Guides in late 1991, and on the Easter weekend of 1992 the first group of 28 Guides began sharing their skills and knowledge with visitors. The service was an immediate success, and training courses for new members have been held on a regular basis ever since 1991. This year's training course was the sixth offered in ten years, and has swelled the ranks of the Volunteer Guides to 75 members.


Visitors to Floriade in September and October were able to visit a display showing how plants at the Australian National Botanic Gardensp apear to humans, insects and dogs. The display was part of the National Capital Attractions Association exhibition in the Exhibition Marquee, and was designed and assembled by Canberra Institute of Technology Floristry students.

The Botanic Gardens display included three identical arrangements, two of which had been sprayed to give an approximate idea of how the flowers appear to insects and dogs.

Many insects, including bees, cannot detect the colour red, and this arrangement featured the colour blue. The arrangement demonstrating colour vision for dogs was in muted tones, because, although it is a popularmyth that dogs see in black and white, they do perceive some colour.

The Weedbusters display at Floriade, mounted by the ACT Weedbusters Committee and actively assisted by Geoff Butler, our local weeds expert, attracted a great deal of favourable comment. In particular, several of those visiting the display remarked upon the friendly helpfulness of the 15 volunteer guides (from the ANBG) who, together with volunteers from the Australian Native Plant Society, answered queries about the treatment of various invasive plant species.

Archives index

Friends' Home Page

Compiled November, 2002 by Shirley McKeown   -  email : wombats1@tpg.com.au