Author Archives: Jürgen

New research on eucalypt dieback

Area of severe stringybark dieback, with drooping she-oaks (Allocasuarina verticillata) being the only living trees. Photo: G. Keppel.

Dieback of trees due to drought is becoming increasingly common: Climate change is producing droughts that are hotter and more intense, and this can push trees beyond the limits of what they can tolerate. However, we still know little about the ultimate causes of tree mortality and how dieback progresses through time. Led by researchers Gunnar Keppel, MSc student Udo Sarnow and Stefan Peters from UniSA, in collaboration with Chief Botanist Michelle Waycott, State Herbarium of South Australia molecular botanist Ed Biffin, as well as Greg Guerin from The University of Adelaide, dieback of an isolated population of red stringybark (Eucalyptus macrorhyncha) in Spring Gully Conservation Park was investigated.

What will happen to this isolated population of eucalypts as droughts intensify under climate change? It’s not looking good but there is hope! Read more about the findings of this project on the Biodiversity in Oceania BLOG and in this research paper, published two weeks ago:

G. Keppel, U. Sarnow, E. Biffin, S. Peters, D. Fitzgerald, E. Boutsalis, M. Waycott & G.R. Guerin (2023). Population decline in a Pleistocene refugium: Stepwise, drought-related dieback of a South Australian eucalyptScience of the total Environment  876: 162697.

New journal articles: Mar. 2023

The State Herbarium of South Australia published two articles in the online version of its journal Swainsona today, 24 Mar. 2023. The first article was published in Vol. 30, the special volume to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the State Herbarium; the second paper is the first to be published in this year’s regular volume, Vol. 37.

(1) J.A. Gardner & K.L. Delaporte, Waite Arboretum – An enduring gift (3.5mb PDF).

The article explains the history of the Waite Arboretum from its establishment in 1928, through pivotal developments as a rain-fed scientific collection, with expanding educational and community outreach programs, to the digital technology making the information embodied in this significant collection available to the widest possible audience.

Dragon’s Blood Tree (Dracaena draco) at the Waite Arboretum. Photo: E. Harvey.

(2) T.A. Hammer, Description of Hibbertia hesperia (Dilleniaceae), a new species from the Kimberley region, and a new regional key to species (0.9mb PDF).

After evaluating all available specimens of Hibbertia from the Kimberley region, W.A., one collection from Sale River was clearly separable from all other species in the genus. The author compares this specimen to its presumed close relatives and formally describes it as the new species H. hesperia. An identification key to all Hibbertia taxa currently known to occur in the Kimberley is also presented.

Hibbertia hesperia, the new species from the Kimberley region. Part of type specimen.

To access content of all volumes of Swainsona and the Journal of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens since Vol. 1 (1976), please visit the journal’s web-site at or the Swainsona back-up site.

Moss news

Adelaide’s micro-gallery Flaneur at the corner of Gawler Place and Fisher Place, Adelaide. Photo: A. Thornhill.

Last October was a big month for moss and at the State Herbarium of South Australia we “officially” renamed the month Soft Moss Rocktober. It began at the start of the year when I was asked if I could come up with a potential trivia night for the Nature Festival. Almost instantly I came up with the name Mosstermind and so the spores of the world’s first moss-based trivia night were released. A week later I was asked if I could create a moss art exhibition to be housed in Gallery Flaneur during Nature Festival week. I approached an artist I know who wished to remain unknown and so the An.Annie.Moss project was born.

Over the winter months I began working on different art pieces with An.Annie.Moss and gathered ABC Radio Drive host Jules Schiller to be the mosster of ceremonies for Mosstermind. At the same time our student volunteer Bonnie was spending time in the Adelaide Hills making new collection records of mosses for both the Adelaide Hills region as well as the State.

Fast forward to the start of spring and the artwork and trivia night question were almost done. To complement An.Annie.Moss art I found a second-hand dolls house to convert into a minature art gallery building. I completely dismantled it, sanded off all of the original paper and then bought new wallpaper, roofing and floor to make it look like a proper gallery. An.Annie.Moss also began sculpting moss and the exhibit kept expanding. On 7 Oct. 2022, An.Annie.Moss was launched in Gallery Flaneur and stayed there for three weeks. It was complemented by little terracotta pots filled with the moss that was in the paintings.

Jules Schiller (left) and Andrew Thornhill (right) on stage during Mosstermind. Photo: A. Thornhill.

Then, on the 12 Oct. 2022, we held Mosstermind at The Gov to a sold out audience of 160 people. The night was a great success and many of the contestants soon realised that not all of the questions were about the moss plant. Jules, the mosster of ceremonies, wowed the crowd with his moss knowledge and the puns flowed all night. There have even been requests for a Mosstermind 2 for the 2023 festival but we will have to wait and see how things unfold before we can say it will be back.

Small terracotta pots filled with mosses for the An.Annie.Moss exhibition. Photo: A. Thornhill.

While Soft Moss Rocktober is long over, the moss-events are continuing. An.Annie.Moss is now on display in the Museum of Economic Botany all through summer. If you missed the chance to see it during the Nature Festival then you have another chance to go and enjoy the macro-micro art.

Compiled by botanist Andrew Thornhill
(State Herbarium of South Australia
& The University of Adelaide)

New Journal articles: Dec. 2022

Spyridium cordatum from Western Australia, first described by Russian botanist Turczaninow in 1858 from collections by James Drummond.

The State Herbarium of South Australia published two articles in Vol. 36 of its journal Swainsona today, 1 Dec. 2022.

(1) J. Kellermann, S.L. Mosyakin, C. Clowes & F. Udovicic, Australian species of Rhamnaceae published by Turczaninow, their types, current names and synonyms (6..7mb PDF).

Holotype of Spyridium villosum at KW, described by Turczaninow as Cryptandra villosa.

The authors clarify the typification of eight names of Australian taxa of Rhamnaceae, described by the 19th century Russian botanist Nicolai Turczanionow (1796-1863). APNI lists 521 names of Australian genera and species published by Turczaninow, of these almost 200 are still current and used today (according to APC).

Holotypes or lectotypes of these names can be found in Turczaninow’s personal herbarium (KW-TURCZ), which is preserved in the National Herbarium of Ukraine, Kyiv. The herbarium KW houses over 2 million specimens and important historical collections, among them many type specimens of Australian taxa. It is part of the M.G. Kholodny Institute of Botany, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, which also publishes two well-known taxonomic journals: the Ukrainian Botanical Journal, since 1921, and Algologia, since 1990.

For information about the current conditions at the M.G. Kholodny Institute of Botany and the National Herbarium of Ukraine see an article by Sergei Mosyakin & Natalia Shiyan, Ukr. Bot. J. 79: 339-342 (2022).

(2) T.A. Hammer, Updated nomenclature and identification key for Hibbertia subg. Pachynema (Dilleniaceae) and description of a new species from the Northern Territory (2.4mb PDF).

Flower of Hibbertia triquetra, a new species from the Northern Territory described by Tim Hammer (type specimen).

The eleven species and three species groups of Hibbertia subg. Pachynema are discussed in this paper, and an identification key and the first formal synonymy for the subgenus are given. Additionally, the phrase name Hibbertia sp. Marrawal (K.G. Brennan 3194) from the Northern Territory is finally assessed and formally described as Hibbertia triquetra.

To access content of all volumes of Swainsona and the Journal of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens since Vol. 1 (1976), please visit the journal’s web-site at or the Swainsona back-up site.

New publication on NZ fossils

View overlooking Foulden Maar showing the now infilled crater and mining pit. Photo: J. Conran.

Next week, the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Adelaide is hosting the Australian launch of a new publication on of New Zealand’s best known (and controversial) fossil localities, co-authored by State Herbarium Research Affiliate Dr John Conran (The University of Adelaide).

D.E. Lee, U. Kaulfuss & J. Conran (2022). Fossil treasures of Foulden Maar: A window into Miocene Zealandia. (Otago University Press: Dunedin, NZ).

Foulden Maar in Otago, New Zealand, a now infilled former lake, is home to an amazing record of life on Earth and is a paleontological site of international significance. Formed by a violent one-off volcanic eruption 23 million years ago, it comprises tens of thousands of undisturbed annual layers that record the changing life and ecosystems in and around a small, deep volcanic crater lake that existed for more than 130,000 years at the very beginning of the Miocene. The site is unsurpassed in the Southern Hemisphere.

Fossils in Foulden Maar include abundant plant remains, represented by leaves (including two rare fossil orchids), fragile flowers with pollen (including the world’s only fossil Fuchsia), fruits, seeds, wood and bark, together with pollen grains, fern, moss and fungal spores and billions of diatoms.

Fossil leaves from Foulden Maar, one showing extensive insect damage. Photo: J. Conran.

Animal fossils from the freshwater lake and surrounding rainforest abound and include the oldest known galaxiid (whitebait) fish on Earth, the first freshwater eel found in the Southern Hemisphere, sponges and myriad insects and spiders, virtually all new to science. Fish larvae still have their patterned skin, insects their eyes, antennae and wing patterns and some have retained their colour.

Ecological interactions are also captured: scale insects may be seen in life position on leaves, fish have the remains of their last meal in their stomach, and insect damage on plants is common. Evidence for waterbirds on the lake is seen in the abundance of fossilised sandy coprolites in the diatomite layers.

Most remarkable of all, Foulden Maar preserves a record of the climate fluctuations, year by year, through the life of the lake. Detailed analyses of core samples taken from the diatomite deposit have revealed temperatures, rainfall, global climate cycles (including ENSO cycles) and changing carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in a world 23 million years ago.

This unparalleled archive of past life and climate shows that the mean annual temperature in the area was 8°C warmer than today – a marginally subtropical climate. The increased temperature was connected to higher CO2 levels of 450 parts per million (ppm) – approaching those that Earth will reach in the next few decades.

Example fossils from Foulden Maar: (A) A Fouldenia flower with preserved pollen; (B) Metrosideros (rātā) fruit; (C) galaxiid (whitebait) fish larva; (D) chrysomelid (leaf beetle) wing cases with colour still preserved; (E) a winged male Myrmecorhynchus ant. Photos: J. Conran & U Kaulfuss.

The authors are:

  • Daphne Lee (University of Otago), who has been a coordinator of the research team at Foulden Maar since 2003 and in 2017, Daphne received the McKay Hammer from the Geoscience Society of New Zealand, the premier award for geological research in New Zealand. She is currently an Honorary Associate Professor in the Geology Department.
  • Uwe Kaulfuss (University of Göttingen, Germany) completed his PhD focusing on the sedimentology and palaeontology of Foulden Maar and received the Harold Wellman Prize in 2009 for the discovery of fossil insects at Foulden Maar. Uwe continues to work on the biogeography and evolution of New Zealand fossil insects, funded by the German Research Foundation.
  • John Conran (The University of Adelaide) is a botanist and paleobotanist who joined the Foulden Maar research group in 2006. He has co-supervised several University of Otago and University of Adelaide Honours and postgraduate student projects on aspects of the Foulden Maar biota and is still working on the flora and palaeoecology of the site.
  • The foreword was written by Paul Selden, palaeontologist and arachnologist and Gulf-Hedberg Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Kansas.

The book is available officially from the NZ distributors, Nationwide Books, as well as John Reed in Australia.

Compiled by Research Affiliate John Conran.