SALA 2016 at the Wine Centre

SALA 2016 logo

As part of this year’s SALA South Australia’s Living Artists Festival, the National Wine Centre of Australia is hosting an exhibition featuring art inspired by the nature of Kangaroo Island.

How do we love thee? Let us count the ways…
KI grass tree & green carpenter bee

Cath Canlon, Burrowing. Photo: Fine Art KI

Fine Art Kangaroo Island presents exciting new work by exceptionally talented, celebrated and emerging artists, interconnected by an extraordinary sense of place. 21 artists combine fascinating art with pristine natural environment to depict the vulnerable native bee and its reliance on the enigmatic, slow growing Xanthorrhoea. Remarkable for large areas of remnant vegetation, the island hosts a diversity of unique ecosystems, which provide refuge for this beautiful endangered buzz pollinator and rare tufted grass tree.

A wide variety of media are exhibited, ranging from jewelry and sculpture, to prints, painting and photographs.

The exhibition runs until 28 August 2016. Opening hours are: Mon–Fri 8am–9pm, Sat & Sun 9am–9pm.

On Tuesday, 23 August, 11:30am, Fleur Peters from Fine Art Kangaroo Island will give a brief exhibition talk for staff, Hon. Associates, volunteers and friends of the State Herbarium of South Australia (meeting point is at the café).

New Journal article: Aug. 2016

Today, the State Herbarium of South Australia published one paper in the online version of the Journal of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens.

G. Kantvilas, A synopsis and key for the lichen genus Caloplaca (Teloschistaceae) on Kangaroo Island, with the description of two new species (10MB PDF).

Gintaras Kantvilas (Tasmanian Herbarium, Hobart) provides an overview of the cosmopolitan lichen genus Caloplaca Th.Fr. (orange lichen) for Kangaroo Island. Species of Caloplaca are a prominent component of the southern Australian, maritime lichen flora, especially in lower rainfall areas. Species of the genus are responsible for the orange, red and yellow banding of coastal rocks, but they are also found away from the littoral zone on bark, wood, calcareous and siliceous rocks, and consolidated soil in open forest, woodland and heathland, as well as in areas disturbed or modified by man.

Caloplaca gallowayi growing on coastal rocks. This species is usually the dominant contributor to the orange-red zonation of the littoral zone. Photo: G. Kantvilas.

The paper gives a synopsis of the 32 taxa on Kangaroo Island, as well as an identification key. Two further new species are also described, one of which honours the work of Sergey Kondratyuk, the world-authority of the genus and the lichen family Teloschistaceae, and architect of the current Australian Caloplaca taxonomy.

To access content of all volumes of the Journal of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens since Vol. 1 (1976), please visit the journal’s web-site at (the Journal is also available through JSTOR).

Vale Enid Robertson

Staff and volunteers at the State Herbarium of South Australia and botanists and conservationists in the Mount Lofty Ranges have been saddened by the news of the passing of Enid L. Robertson, botanist and conservationist.

Born in 1925, Enid celebrated her 90th birthday late last year. She was born into the Ashby family and following Grandfather Edwin, who established Wittunga Botanic Garden in 1902, and father Keith, inherited the family interest in native plants.  Her Aunt Alison was an artist who rendered hundreds of watercolour paintings accurately, invariably vouchered by herbarium specimens.

Following studies for her B.Sc. at The University of Adelaide (1944-1946), where she was awarded the John Bagot Scholarship in 1944 for her results in Botany 1. Enid was appointed in 1947 as a systematic botanist at the Waite Institute, South Australia. Subsequently with the awarding of a Senior Research Fellowship by the University of Adelaide from 1953‒55, she completed the revision of the fourth volume of the second edition of J.M. Black’s, Flora of South Australia following Black’s death in 1951. In 1967, she took up a key position supporting Bryan Womersley’s world-leading phycological studies at the Botany Department, The University of Adelaide.  She managed the research infrastructure which included a major herbarium and an algal culture facility. During this time, she focussed on seagrasses, writing them up as a Chapter in Womersley’s exemplar, The Marine benthic flora of southern Australia.

On retirement in 1987, Enid spent her many remaining years passionately focussed on conservation in the Mount Lofty Ranges, both in the protection of the native flora and also in the identification and eradication of the ever-growing number of invasive plants.  Such was her presence and passion that she was singular in her ability to stimulate conservation groups in these pursuits and in recruiting many helpers from the general community, particularly in the eradication of weeds.  She took great care in verifying the identity of plants, and with new weeds, often collected vouchers with the note that she had eradicated the plants she had come across. In all, she lodged about 1,250 specimens in the State Herbarium.

Womersley1 (small)Enid was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1997 for services to botany and to the community, particularly the conservation and management of native vegetation in South Australia. She and her Aunt Alison before her, were both honoured with Australian Natural History Medallion for Botany in 1992 and 1975, respectively.

Enid will be remembered as a capable, passionate botanist who made significant contributions to her field. She was a person of integrity who took a genuine interest in others. Her care and support were appreciated by many staff and students of the Botany Department, The University of Adelaide, and the State Herbarium.

Contributed by State Herbarium Manager Peter Canty.

Plant of the Month: Aug. 2016

Drosera praefolia, buds. Photo: P.J. Lang.

Precocious little early bloomer

The plant of the month for August 2016 is Drosera praefolia, a rare South Australian endemic sundew with the peculiar trait of flowering before its leaves appear.

It is one of an amazing six sundew species found in Onkaparinga River National Park, which is the DEWNR Park of the Month for July. The other sundew species recorded there are the pink-flowered Drosera auriculata (tall sundew), the tiny D. glanduligera (scarlet sundew), D. hookeri (pale sundew), D. macrantha subsp. planchonii (climbing sundew) and D. whittakeri (scented sundew). This is a good time of year to see most of the species. Try the easy 5 km Sundews Ridge Hike or the steeper, more challenging 6 km Sundews River Hike.

Sundews (Drosera spp.) are insectivorous plants bearing stalked glands which produce a sticky mucilaginous material to attract and trap insects. These glandular hairs are responsive to pressure when an insect gets caught and bend in towards it to make further contact. Enzymes are secreted to digest the prey and release nutrients that the plant can absorb. The new treatment of the Flora of South Australia (5th edition) covering all the State’s Drosera species is available here as a pdf file (Conran & Marchant 2011; 3MB PDF).

Drosera praefolia, flowers. Onkaparinga River National Park. Photos: P.J. Lang .

Drosera praefolia resembles the more widespread and common Drosera whittakeri: both species are geophytes with their leaves arranged in a rosette that regrows each year from an underground tuber. Having this underground energy store from the previous season’s growth makes it possible for D. praefolia to flower much earlier and in advance of leaf production. Drosera praefolia flowers April to May and often produces mature seed before its leaves appear, in contrast to D. whittakeri which flowers July to October from fully-formed leaf rosettes.

Drosera praefolia, two typical rosettes. Photo: J.G. Conran.

Evolution of precocious flowering in D. praefolia may have been driven by natural selection to “beat the rush” and catch earlier pollinators in the face of strong competition during winter and spring when conditions are optimal for plant growth and subsequent flowering. Precocious flowering is also a feature of a number of late-summer and autumn flowering lilies, for example Calostemma, as featured in an earlier blog, and Crinum.

Pioneering South Australian botanist and entomologist Johann Gottlieb Otto Tepper described Drosera praefolia in 1892 (in German) drawing on collections and observations he made at Clarendon in the Onkaparinga River Valley ten years earlier while stationed there as a teacher.

Drosera whittakeri. Photo: L.M.B. Heard.

However, D. praefolia was either disregarded or treated merely as an early-flowering variety of D. whittakeri for over a hundred years, until it was reinstated as a species by Bates (1991) (230KB PDF). This is despite its many other differences from D. whittakeri, including smaller flower size, a white (rather than orange) tuber, and leaves with shorter, non-ribbed petioles. For a full account, see the review of the Drosera whittakeri group by Lowrie & Conran (2008) (2.7MB PDF).

Contributed by State Herbarium botanist Peter J. Lang.

Life at the beach: Look what the storms brought in

Sargassum decurrens. Photo: B. Baldock.

Adelaide shores have recently been battered by high winds and waves, and we generally concentrate on the damage they cause to landscape and property. But storms may also wash in the unusual and unexpected.

A volunteer from North Haven, who works in the State Herbarium of South Australia‘s Phycology Unit, brought in a brown alga, Sargassum decurrens (R.Br. ex Turner) C.Agardh, cast up by the rough weather. Sub-tropical, generally found in Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland, this species has only occasionally been found growing in northern Spencer Gulf of South Australia at depths of 6 to 10 m. It’s probably a relict from a time when local seas were warmer, got trapped in the larger of our gulfs when the climate changed and now survives precariously, together with several other sub-tropical species, in areas of high summer temperatures — other relict species include the brown alga Hormophysa triquetra (C.Agardh) Kützing and the red alga Asparagopsis taxiformis (Delile) Trevisan.

How did it get to Adelaide? We have past records of drift plants at Port Stanvac and Marino, but no plants actually attached to rock, so wind and currents presumably have carried them west and north into Gulf St Vincent. Will climate change mean that in the future we might see this species growing on local rocky shores?

Sargassum decurrens, close-up. Photo: B. Baldock.

Sargassum decurrens is dark brown and tough, the main branches are strap-like with characteristic wings, flat-branched and end in thin, “leaves” and gas floats with fine, relatively long stalks. Our specimen is a particularly fine one and will be a welcome addition to the Herbarium’s collections.

Contributed by Hon. Research Associate Bob Baldock.