October, 2004

The Gardens Production Nursery
On the Tenth Anniversary of the Discovery of the Wollemi Pine
Botanical Latin is All Greek to Me
Grasses in the Gardens
Research at the ANBG
The Student
Botanical Internship Program
What's in a Name
A New (Photographic) Friend
Friends Briefs

The Gardens' new Production Nursery

These are images of the Gardens' new Production Nursery which was officially opened by Senator Gary Humphries on 18 June, 2004.

The energy efficient nursery will be used for the production of up to 40,000 plants each year, and includes numerous design elements to minimise energy use and lead to efficiencies in plant production processes.

Photos by Barry Brown


On the Tenth Anniversary of the Discovery of the
Wollemi Pine

Roger Heady
Electron Microscope Unit, Australian National University

(The following article is an abridged version of Dr Heady's talk to the Friends on 8 July, 2004)

In September 1994 a small population of trees of a previously unknown type was discovered growing in a secluded gorge in Wollemi National Park, 150 km west of Sydney. Subsequent investigation of its leaf, pollen,cone and seed morphology indicated it to be a new species in a new genus within the Araucariaceae family. Its pollen and leaf style was then matched with fossils from 94 to 2 million years ago and this led to the conclusion that it once had a widespread geographic range that included Tasmania, New Zealand, India, Antarctica and southern South America.

The surprise discovery of fewer than one hundred trees of a type thought to be long extinct, growing undetected close to the largest city in Australia, attracted world-wide attention in the media. The genus was named Wollemia in reference to its occurrence in Wollemi National Park and the species became nobilis to honour its discoverer David Noble (a NSW Parks and Wildlife Service ranger who found the tree while bushwalking). Wollemia nobilis soon became commonly known as the 'Wollemi pine'.

Wollemi Pine trees, some more than 30 metres in height,
growing on site in Wollemi National Park

Photo courtesy of Roger Heady

Although a definite member of the Araucariaceae family, Wollemia nobilis has several unique features. Mature trees often develop many stems after the original trunk has died. This is termed 'coppicing' and is very unusual for a conifer. It also has very distinctive bubbly bark that was described as being "like coco-pops" by David Noble. Also its leaves are unusual in having no mechanism for being shed from the tree after they die. Instead leaves are removed when the tree sheds the entire branch.

Scientific investigation of the generic makeup of Wollemia nobilis has produced the surprising conclusion that there is no genetic variability between the 100 or so individual adult trees and 200 seedlings that are now known to occur in three separate sites within the park. This is indicative of a species that is on the verge of extinction and is probably a result of inbreeding within a very small population.

Examination of the tree rings of a fallen tree on site has indicated that the age of some trees can be greater than 300 years. The occurrence of a 'wind shear' in the wood of the tree also indicates that very strong winds occasionally occur within the gorge. Examination of the wood of Wollemia by scanning electron microscopy has shown that it is similar in its micro-anatomy to that of the other two Araucariaceae genera, Agathis and Araucaria.

A scanning electron microscope image of a very small area of the wood of Wollemi Pine.
The sample is about 0.08 millimetre in width and shows an end-on view of
several tube-like tracheids which transport water from the roots
up to the leaves of the tree.

The small inner apertures are
bordered pits that inter-connect tracheids to one another.
The particular arrangement of these bordered pits indicates that
belongs in the Araucariaceae family.

Photo courtesy of Roger Heady

After at least two million years in decline, and with so few remaining specimens, the Wollemi Pine trees growing in the wild are definitely teetering on the verge of extinction. The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and Royal Sydney Botanic Gardens have devised plans to protect the remaining trees and ensure long-term species survival. It was realised that the site must not become a popular tourist attraction and to ensure this the exact location f the trees within Wollemi National Park remains a closely guarded secret. Access to the site is limited to the absolute minimum, and those who are admitted must adhere to strict regulations. Great care is taken that seedlings are not trampled. Anti-microbial footbaths are used to ensure plant diseases are not introduced, and in order to reduce soil compaction, visits to individual trees are minimised. Sites are monitored to ensure that there are no visits, either by chance or otherwise, by bushwalkers or plant collectors.

Furthermore, in order to conserve the species, a plan to propagate trees on a commercial scale has been devised. It is hoped that by making Wollemi Pine trees widely available to the public that the risk of illegal and potentially devastating collection of the species in the wild will be reduced. Commercially grown Wollemi Pine trees will become available in September 2005. Persons wanting to be placed on a waiting list to buy a plant should register at Experiments at the Royal Sydney Botanic Gardens have indicated that the juvenile Wollemia grows well in pots, and can make a nice feature tree for large gardens. It favours acidic (ph 4.5) soils and is very tolerant of shade.

The Survivor

In your misty gully, deep in Wollemi
veiled, cloistered, unseen to eye
you skulked. Unwilling to cede
your Eden. And with a need
to stay unchanged, sonsistent
you endured, invariable and persistent.
You're of a kind not seen by Man before
and hidden from the axe and saw
his plunder you eluded.
Methuselah in a paradise secluded.

A chance discovery brought instant fame
Wollemi pine became a household name.
Press headlines declared you to be
the tree find of the century.
The sole species in a genus new
Only forty living specimens. So few,
yet from fossil record there's indication
of a once widespread population.
In the Cretaceous you stood tall
surviving even the dinosaur's fall.

But then your habitat became cold and dank,
reduced, and in the ice-age shrank
to almost nothing. Your numbers depleted,
and to a single canyon you retreated.
Where you became inbred - no further evolution
So when change came you had no solution
The change was fame, and it brought a threat
to your existence. Peril not before met.
Unaccustomed pathogens you'd not seen
In your secluded quarantine.

An Man's curiosity, vandalism, greed,
have brought realisation of a need
for your destiny to be controlled
by Man. A well-meaning and bold
plan to plant and propagate
seedlings and clones to populate
a million gardens. To spread your flora
through a human-controlled diaspora.
To assist you - a benefolent plan
to survive your ultimate enemy - Man.

Roger Heady 2004


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Botanical Latin is All Greek to Me

Brian Buckley, Volunteer Guide

When Warwick Wright took us for a special walk recently, conversation turned to the meanings of some of the botanical names of the plants we encountered. A few questions were unresolved so I turned to the books to see if I could unravel some of these puzzlers. Some of the words are derived from Greek and I have used the Roman alphabet to spell them rather than try to incorporate the actual Greek spelling. In no particular order I made these discoveries.

Named after : sometimes this is denoted by the ii ending, e.g. Acmena smithii named after Sir James Edward Smith, an English botanist who lived from 1759 to 1828. This is the masculine equivalent to the apostrophe 's' in English. If the person's name ends in 'er' then only one 'i' is added so only one 'i' as in cooperi. An alternative ending is 'ia' as in Banksia or Darwinia, but note the exception in Dampiera.

Speaking of Acmena smithii, we were introduced to her as Lilly-pilly. According to James A. Baines in Australian Plant Genera, Acmena was another name for Venus (Roman) or Aphrodite (Greek), the goddess of love. It is possibly derived from the Greek akmenoa which means full-grown or in full vigour. How do these facts sit with thoughts of grandma making lilly-pilly jam?

Did Acmena have beautiful hair? Well the next question dealt with callicoma and calytrix. There is a connection because both have something to do with hair. The Greek word kallos means beautiful; komo is a head of hair. So callicoma means a beautiful head of hair and refers to the flower. If you want a beautiful head of hair you go to the komoteerio (hairdressing salon). We use 'calli' to mean beautiful in calligraphy (beautiful writing), callisthenics (exercises to make you beautiful from kallos + sthenos, which means strength; fair dinkum! check the dictionary if you don't believe me).

On the other hand calytrix comes from the Latin calix (wine cup) and the Greek trixia which means a hair or bristle. The sepals join together around the unopened flower in a cup like shape to form the calyx. By the way, the plural of calix is calicis. This has come into the English language via French as chalice; a wine goblet especially used in church ceremonies.

I hope these explanations have been lucid. That means bright and clear, just like the shiny leaves on the Macrozamia lucida.

Enough! My brain is about to explode.

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Research at the Australian National Botanic Gardens

Jim Croft
Deputy Director (Science and Information), ANBG

This is the second part of an article on research in the ANBG, continuing from the previous Friend's (June, 2004) Newsletter. The first part introduced botanical research in the ANBG, the ANBG's participation with CSIRO Plant Industry in the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, and the Australian National Herbarium and plant systematic research, including herbarium and plant name databases. There are two other areas of research associated with the ANBG : conservation biology and horticultural research.

Conservation Biology Research. This is a research program of the Centre which focuses on the conservation biology and utilisation of the Australian flora. Work in this area covers population genetics of rare plants and the dynamics of fragmented populations, invasive weeds (including biocontrol) and risk assessment of genetically modified organisms, ecosystem restoration, plant host pathogen interactions, rhizobial interactions in nodulating legume species, pathogen variability and native plant species as a genetic resource for modern crops. Staff are involved in a number of recovery plans for rare and endangered species.

ANBG and Centre staff help support the Australian Network for Plant Conservation (, the secretariat for which is maintained in Canberra at the ANBG.

Horticultural Research.The Gardens had a significant focus on horticultural research in the past, but this area of activity was put on hold in response to changing priorities and resources. Nevertheless, staff at the Gardens have maintained an interest in evaluating horticultural procedures and regimes best suited for growing plants in Canberra conditions. In recent times staff have been involved in evaluating optimal conditions for growing plants from the subantarctic Heard and Macquarie Islands, and in developing propagation techniques for the 'tassel ferns', Huperzia. Some of this knowledge is being made available on the Internet through such parts of the ANBG web site as Growing Native Plants (

Research Infrastructure. Research and other staff in the Gardens have access to a wide range of research activities on the ANBG site, on the CSIRO Black Mountain campus and also through collaboration with the adjoining Australian National University. This includes well-equipped glass houses, modern laboratories, and of course the living collection of the Gardens themselves, a living repository of one third of the Australian vascular flora. The Gardens and CSIRO herbarium buildings both house excellent botanical libraries which are extensively used by staff and visiting clients as part of their research. The Gardens' database and computer network allows staff to store and manage a vast encyclopaedic array of research and other information and to make views of this and other botanical information available to the general and botanically curious and interested public. If Friends are interested in further details of research activities of the ANBG and the Centre, please contact Gardens' staff Jim Croft, Brendan Lepschi or Murray Fagg, or visit the Gardens or Centre websites at (

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The Student Botanical Internship Program

Anthony Whalen
Student Botanical Internship Program Coordinator

The Student Botanical Internship Program was started in 1993, with eight students in a pilot program at the ANBG Herbarium. In 1995 the Program moved into the newly formed Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research (CPBR). Since its inception, 190 Interns have passed through the Program, representing 35 tertiary institutions. Each year the Program attracts university/college students who are typically studying for natural science or horticulture degrees. Participating students give up seven weeks of summer to join the program. This is a big commitment in these days of increasing university expenses.

Interns graduating from this program have acquired that most valuable of commodities for new starters in the scientific job market - real experience! The Program is divided roughly into two. Half of their time is involved acquiring new knowledge through seminars and workshops; the other half involves working on herbarium curation and related projects. The interns have helped with specialised research projects such as the conservation assessment of Muehlenbeckia tuggeranong, post-2003 fire assessment of the Duffy pine forests and the Greening the Grainbelt Landcare project.

An important part of the program is field work. Several trips are organised each year, including a four-day trip to Jervis Bay. These trips give interns experience in field collection along with lectures and tours presented by Booderee National Park senior rangers and the local indigenous community on park management issues such as fire management and weed control.

I have no doubt our graduating interns are the conservation biologists, the plant taxonomists, the fire ecologists, the land managers and the environmental policy makers of the future.

On behalf of those involved in running the Intern Program, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Friends for the generous support they have provided to the students over the years. The book vouchers provided by the Friends to each student, as part of their graduation at the end of the Program, is much appreciated.

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What's in a Name?

Bernard Fennessy , Volunteer Guide

Eucalyptus nova-anglica

(Addendum to item in June Newsletter)

Judith Wright Memorial Grove is in Civic Park, in the heart of Armidale, and was dedicated by her daughter, Meredith McKinney, on 24 March 2004. The Grove was created by the voluntary Judith Wright Memorial Grove Community Group.

The Eucalyptus nova-anglica are underplanted with Lomandra longifolia and a focal group of granite rocks from Judith Wright's family home, Wallamumbi Station. The largest rock has a plaque with the first verse of her poem, "South of my days". Also, her words "Country that built my heart" are carved into a log by sculptor, Stephen King.

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 Grasses in the Gardens

Austrodanthonia species : Wallaby Grass

John Wilkes , Member of the Friends of the ANBG

Austro :       southern
danthonia :   after Etienne Danthoine, an 18th century French botanist.

Until recently Australian 'Wallaby grasses' belonged to the genus Danthonia comprising about 100 species found in Australia, New Zealand, the Americas, N.E. Africa and in Asia. In 1996, the distinction between the Australasian species and those occurring in the rest of the world was recognised. The Australian species were placed in four separate genera, with the majority (24 species) comprising the new genus of Austrodanthonia.

Austrodanthonia are perennial grasses which grow mainly in spring and autumn and therefore tend to be green throughout the year; this contrasts with Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra) which is noticeably green only in the summer. In early spring an Austrodanthonia grassland is unremarkable, but as it matures the grassland takes on a distinctly feathery fluffy appearance. This is because the flowerheads have numerous fluffy seed dispersal units (florets or propagules) which are white or pale at maturity, but in some species may often be streaked with purple.

The floret, which separates easily from the flower head, comprises the seed enclosed by two bracts known as the lemma and the palea. The backs of the lemmas are always rounded and carry the hairs which give Austrodanthonia their fluffy appearance. The hairs in different species can vary from numerous to sparse, long or short or mixtures of both and may be arranged in tufts, transverse rows, or rows of tufts. The apex of the lemma is deeply divided by a sinus into two lobes, each of which ends in a fine bristle. Arising from the sinus is an elongated bristle, or awn, that may be longitudinally twisted and have knee-like bends. These morphological characteristics of the awn, plus its ability to straighten when it becomes damp and to twist or bend when it dries out, may move the floret along the soil surface. It is also probable that the angled hairs on the floret anchor it in the soil, so placing the seed in a suitable position for germination to occur. Paradoxically, the combination of bristles, hairs and awns make Austrodanthonia propagules difficult to sow on a large scale.

Austrodanthonia species have both male and female parts in the same inflorescence, and therefore are capable of wind mediated cross-polination with other plants of the same species; however, it is believed that they may be predominantly self-fertilising. This probably results in a balance between self- and cross-fertilisation which ensures that a range of genetic individuals is produced fit for different ecological situations.

Wallaby grasses are among the most valuable native grasses in pastoral areas of Australia, due to their persistence and productivity; however, they are very sensitive to glyphosate herbicides such as RoundupŠ, so the process of spray topping with glyphosate, which is used to remove annual grasses or clover from a pasture, cannot be used in pastures dominated by Wallaby Grass.

These images show, from left to right :

A. carphoides old and young;   A. monticola old and young;
A. eriantha
old and young; A. pilosa old and young

Images : John Wilkes

In the ANBG the following Austrodanthonia species grow in the sections cited :

Section 175   :   A. carphoides,   A. eriantha,   A. penicillata

Section 240   :   A. fulva,   A. pilosa

Section 8       :   A. caespitosa,   A. Fulva

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A New (Photographic) Friend

Julie Lindner, Member of the Friends of the ANBG

I recently became a Friend of the Australian National Botanic Gardens. For many years I have visited the Gardens and always enjoyed the peace and tranquility and the unique beauty it offers. Having visited many botanic gardens around Australia, for me it would have to rate as the best. I mean, who wants to view exotic plants when there are so many beautiful native species.

I was educated in Canberra in the fifties and there was no teaching about Australian flora and fauna. Everything else but our own environment was taught to us. I have since tried to remedy this by reading and observation and have grown to appreciate the beauty and resilience of the native species. Certainly they have not been given a 'fair go' but still seem to thrive and survive in the most inhospitable places.

While visiting the Gardens during April and May (taking advantage of my free parking permit) I decided to snap a few of the flowering species. Having to decide what to include for this article was hard because there were so many flowering, and they were all lovely. Finally, on a backing of Scribbly gum, I included Melaleuca fulgens, Hakea suaveolens, Epacris longiflora, Brachyscome multifida, Actinotus helianthi and Hibbertia longifolia.

Photo : Julie Lindner

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Friends Briefs

Friends of the ANBG Public Fund

The Friends have recently established a Public Fund to receive tax-deductible donations from members of the public for the development of the Gardens. The Fund has obtained the approval of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage and has been entered into the Register of Environmental Organisations. The Fund is established exclusively to support the ANBG in the protection and enhancement of the natural environment through the conservation of a significant collection of the Australian flora, in its research programs and in the provision of information and education.

Already the Fund has received substantial donations, and details of the first project to receive its support will soon be announced. Friends are warmly encouraged to contribute to the Fund and can do so by contacting the Treasurer, Beverley Fisher. Donations of $2 and above are tax-deductible.

Projects to be funded will be in accordance with the ANBG Plan of Management and will require the approval of the Director of the ANBG.

(The brochure, outlining details, can be viewed at :


Welcome Carolyn

Carolyn Parsons has recently taken up the position of Manager Public Programs and Marketing at the Gardens. She is only the third person to do this job under its various names, following Murray Fagg and Rod Harvey. Carolyn has had wide experience in communications and public programs, including at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Kosciuszko National Park, and Screensound Australia.

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Compiled March, 2004 by Shirley McKeown   -  email :