International Volunteer Day 2016

International Volunteer Day is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly and is held each year on December 5. It is a day for volunteers and volunteer based organizations to celebrate their efforts, to share their values, and to showcase the difference they make in their communities.

volunteers-deh037-400x600International Volunteer Day once again provides the opportunity for the State Herbarium of South Australia to recognise and reflect on the huge contribution that its volunteers and Honorary Research Associates make to the success and reputation of our institution.

As a gauge of how significant that contribution is, last financial year the Herbarium’s volunteers contributed 12,843 hours of their time. The Honorary Research Associates’ efforts made up 8,623 of those hours.

The ten Honoraries continue to play a major part in providing the taxonomic research that underpins our fundamental knowledge about native and introduced plant and fungal diversity. To single out some projects, significant contributions were made to weed research by Hellmut Toelken with his work on native and introduced pigfaces, Carpobrotus species (a joint project with the Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges Natural Resource Management Region and Birdlife Australia that has been nominated for a DEWNR Green Globe award), Bill Barker with his work on weedy and native broom-rapes (Orobanche) and Laurie Haegi contributing his expertise to help determine if a biological control for a weedy Solanum species can be introduced to Australia without threatening our diverse native Solanum species.  All three are recognised as national and international experts in their fields and we are very fortunate to have their and our other Honoraries skill and experience available to us.

Communicating our knowledge is also a vital part of our work. The efforts of Honorary Bob Baldock in providing beautifully photographed Algae Revealed fact-sheets to help describe and identify our State’s mega-diverse marine algae flora are creating an invaluable addition to our identification aids.  Bob is also an excellent communicator and his blog articles and stunning images of marine algae have set a high bar.

Our general volunteers numbered almost 30 this year and ranged from enthusiastic botany students and graduates to our very senior and experienced long-term volunteers. Once again we are very fortunate to have such a loyal and dedicated volunteer workforce who play a major role in keeping the vital routines of maintaining a collection of over one million specimens in good order.

Contributed by State Herbarium Manager Peter Canty.

New paper published

ASBv29n3_cvrs_Cover24(2)A team from the State Herbarium of South Australia and The University of Adelaide have just published a research paper in Australian Systematic Botany. This journal issue combines several papers presented during the Australasian Systematic Botany Society Conference in Canberra in 2015.

The authors show in three examples, how Next Generation Sequencing can provide numerous tools for population and systematic studies. These tools are helpful for researchers working with non-model and poorly characterised organisms where little or no genomic data exist.

The case studies discuss the genetics of Acacia pinguifolia, the relationships of Acacia pycnantha at and above species level, as well as relationships in Myrtaceae: within eucalypts and at higher level.


The art of Ferdinand Bauer


Truth & Beauty

The Australian botanical works of Ferdinand Bauer

Ferdinand Bauer (1760 – 1826) was an Austrian born botanical illustrator. At the turn of the 19th century he was one of six scientists selected to join Capt. Matthew Flinders in the scientific expedition that would chart Australia’s coastline and document its flora and fauna. Robert Brown was the botanist of the expedition. Bauer returned to England in 1805 with sketches of more than 1500 plants.

This exhibition draws on the McCarthy Collection of prints from the Flinders University Art Museum, illustrated publications by and about Bauer and plant specimens from the State Herbarium of South Australia to explore the fusion of art and science in his remarkable work.

Please drop in at the Flinders University City Gallery on the ground floor of the State Library of South Australia. The exhibition runs from 3 Dec. 2016 to 5 Feb. 2017. Opening hours are: Tue.–Fri. 11am–4pm, Sat. & Sun. 12am–4pm. Note also the public lecture by Prof. David Mabberley on 3 Dec. 2016, 2pm (see exhibition poster below).

This is a Flinders University Art Museum exhibition in partnership with the Santos Museum of Economic Botany, Botanic Gardens of South Australia, co-curated by Fiona Salmon & Madeline Reece (Flinders University) and Tony Kanellos (Botanic Gardens of South Australia).

Top banner & exhibition poster: Ferdinand Bauer, Banksia coccinea from Illustrationes florae Novae Hollandiae, stipple engraved on copper, hand-coloured 1813, published 1989 by Alecto Historical Editions in association with the British Museum (Natural History), London. Acquired by Flinders University with the support of the University of the Third Age in commemoration of Flinders University’s 50th Anniversary.

Plant* of the Month: Dec. 2016

State Herbarium staff member Chelsea Novice holding a specimen of Sarcothalia radula. Photo: B. Baldock.

DEWNR‘s last Park of the Month for 2016 is Canunda National Park on the South Australia’s south-eastern shore. Fittingly, the State Herbarium has chosen an alga, Sarcothalia radula (Esper) Edyvane & Womersley, as Plant* of the Month (even though technically speaking, red algae are not plants).

[* = and other organisms traditionally studied by botanists]

Bigger and bolder at Canunda

The South East of South Australia − including Canunda N.P. shores − is rich in algal species, particularly red algae. An upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich bottom waters occurs in summer, producing both a large diversity and large sizes of some algae (see Butler et al. 2002, 900kb PDF). For example, the Giant Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) and Bull Kelp (Durvillaea potatorum), are common big browns along rocky parts of the Canunda N.P.

But the reds can be big, too.

Sarcothalia radula, base of alga with holdfast. Photo: B. Baldock.

Sarcothalia radula is a bright-red-purple alga looking like a filmy, plastic sheet that reaches 1½ m in height in calm waters. It can be paper-thin, and not surprisingly gets damaged, with holes appearing in the blade. Remarkably for such a large plant, this alga is fixed to rocks at depths of 1-10 m by the tiniest of holdfasts.  How it withstands being swept from its substrate by the surge of water in its habitat is difficult to imagine.

Smaller plants may be lance-shaped, or even appear slashed into narrow strips, possibly a response to depth of water, light and ferocity of waves.

A descriptive common name, giant pimply-sheets, coined in the Algae Revealed fact-sheet  (960kb PDF) on eFloraSA, highlights the strange texture present when a female plant is fertile. Thousands of small, pimply (papillose) bumps on very short stalks are scattered on the surfaces and edges of blades. The common name found on Algae Base, is tongue weed, but fertile female blades must resemble pretty furry tongues when fertile!  In fact, the specific epithet radula, Latin for “rasp” or “scraper” more aptly describes them.


Sarcothalia radula: cross-section through blade (left) and surface view of the “pimply” female blade margin (right). Photos: B. Baldock.

Internally, the microscopic structure of blade cores (image above) shows many-armed cells separated by an extraordinary amount of space. Surface layers consist of compact, outward-facing chains of small cells.

We have some 60 specimens of Sarcothalia radula in the collection of the State Herbarium of South Australia. Globally, the species is found in cold waters across the southern hemisphere.

Perhaps after local storms you may come across this impressive red washed up on Canunda beaches.

Contributed by Carolyn Ricci and Bob BaldockPhycology Unit, State Herbarium.

2012 Bush Blitz report now available online

In November 2012, five staff members of the State Herbarium of South Australia participated in a two week survey on Hiltaba Station and Gawler Ranges National Park. These staff collected vascular plants and cryptogams as part of the Bush Blitz program.

The detailed report prepared for Bush Blitz is now available on Enviro Data SA:

  • Lang, P.J., Kellermann, J., Bell, G.H. & Cross, H.B. (2013). Flora survey on Hiltaba Station and Gawler Ranges National Park: vascular plants, macrofungi, lichens, and bryophytes. Report for Bush Blitz, Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra. (Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, South Australia: Adelaide). 5.9mb PDF.

Area of outcropping granite dominated by the Gawler Ranges endemic shrub Grevillea parallelinervis and by Melaleuca uncinata and Triodia irritans; hill NW of Mt Hiltaba, Hiltaba Station. Photo: J. Kellermann.

A summary of the results was published in:

  • Bush Blitz (2015). Hiltaba Nature Reserve and Gawler Ranges National Park SA 2012: a Bush Blitz survey report. (Australian Biological Resources Study: Canberra). 5.8mb PDF.

The primary survey effort was focussed on Hiltaba Station, which had been recently acquired by Nature Foundation SA, and records were made at 134 sites. Across the two properties the survey resulted in the collection of 782 plant specimens, plus a further 524 plant sighting records. The collections were supplemented by 136 vascular plant tissue samples collected in silica gel desiccant for future DNA analysis.

A total of 88 plant taxa were newly recorded for the Hiltaba Nature Foundation property during the 2012 Bush Blitz Survey. This comprised 36 vascular plant taxa and 52 cryptogams (26 bryophytes, 22 lichens, and 4 macrofungi). In the Gawler Ranges National Park, 21 plant taxa were recorded for the first time, comprising 12 vascular plant taxa and 9 cryptogams. These surveys have made a significant contribution to our knowledge of the flora on both properties.

Extensive area of intact Maireana sedifolia (Pearl Bluebush) Low Shrubland on open plain SW of Peeweena Bore, Hiltaba Station. Photo: P.J. Lang.

The results of the survey and the problems encountered when revising and compiling flora lists were discussed in a presentation at the Bush Blitz Symposium in July 2013 (Old Parliament House, Canberra). Recordings of all presentations from the Symposium are available online.

  • Kellermann, J., Lang, P.J. & Waycott, M. (2013). To the hilt: tackling flora lists for Hiltaba Station and Gawler Ranges National Park.  Recorded presentation (15 mins) by Jürgen Kellermann.

More information on the 2012 Bush Blitz:

BushBlitzLogo_orangeBush Blitz is an innovative partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities and Earthwatch Australia. It is the world’s first continent-scale biodiversity survey, providing the knowledge needed to help us protect Australia’s unique animals and plants for generations to come.