Author Archives: Michelle

Fascination of Plants 2020

International Fascination of Plants Day, 18th May, has been celebrated since 2012 and has provided a focus for plant enthusiasts to share their interest and passion for the amazing world of plants. Last year events across 51 countries were held. While we are still primarily working from home the Staff and Honorary Research Associates of the Science and Conservation programme at the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium (South Australia) decided to celebrate by sharing some of the plants they find fascinating!
Enjoy!
Michelle Waycott
Chief Botanist

Griffithsia monilis, a small, annual alga with delicate chains of ruby coloured cells, looking like sweets good enough to eat, spectacular under the microscope—Bob Baldock
Cephalotus follicularis (Albany Pitcher Plant), is a single species in its own family and endemic to near where I grew up in south Western Australia. These carnivorous plants are fascinating because they are not closely related to any of the other carnivorous plants such as Drosera (sundews)—Michelle Waycott
Ginkgo biloba, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, on its 250th anniversary in 2012, with admiring cohort of ‘geriatric teenagers’—Pam Catcheside
Capparis spinosa ssp nummularia, I’m fascinated by the way the flowers change from bright white (to attract pollinators at night) to pink once its too late—Helen Vonow
Rhizanthella gardneri, an underground orchid. These fascinating plants flower where no-one can see them and only some animals can find them—that’s not an orchid! —Robyn Barker

CC BY 2.0 Fred Hort

Ptilotus sp. (mulla mulla), amazing combination of texture, colour and shape in this smoky pincushion—Teresa Lebel
Two bearded orchids from Mark Oliphant Reserve. One is Calochilus robertsonii, a bearded orchid. The other is Pterostylis plumosa, a bearded greenhood. Both are trying to trick insects into pollinating them. I like the thrill of the hunt of trying to find them 🙂 —Andrew Thornhill

Reflections—an ordinary little stump can be turned in to an intriguing complex pattern—Teresa Lebel
Acrotriche fasciculiflora (Mt Lofty Ground-berry) is fascinating for its cauliflory, with flowers packed around the base of its main stems, an adaptation for pollination or fruit dispersal by small vertebrates perhaps?—Peter Lang
Washingtonia robusta (Cotton Palms), native to Mexico, can be seen emerging from the skyline in older suburbs and rural towns in drier districts. An occasional though generally benign weed, it appeared in gardens and parks in the later 19th and early 20th centuries—Laurie Haegi
Tillandsia ‘Houston’ (T. stricta x T. recurvifolia) are fascinating because of their novel growth habit (air plants) and because they lend themselves so readily to decorative use around the home—Manfred Jusaitis
Hakea aenigma, found only on the western lateritic sands of Kangaroo Island, is sterile and unable to fruit. It resprouts after fires from suckers over distances of more than 30 km. A single plant that is an evolutionary dead-end but surviving for perhaps thousands of years—Bill Barker
Nuytsia floribunda, The West Australian Christmas Tree, is a parasitic plant that is actually a mistletoe! It has a unique way of parasitising the roots of nearby plants, a set of hard and sharp ‘shears’ cuts through the root so Nuytsia can attach feeding points to enable it get water and minerals from its hosts—Ainsley Calladine

 

 

Happy National Eucalypt Day 2020!

Eucalyptus pimpiniana​, growing in front of the State Herbarium. Photo: A. Thornhill.

March the 23rd marks National Eucalypt Day (see fact sheet from 2018, 360kb  PDF) in Australia. Prior to COVID-19 the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium had been preparing for two different eucalypt themed tours at Adelaide Botanic Gardens with State Herbarium and Botanic Gardens staff on the 22 and 23 March 2020. Unfortunately we have been forced to cancel them.

We will reschedule these tours sometime in the future but until then we will share some thoughts about this interesting group of plants that marks the occasion.

The eucalypts are actually three genera of predominantly Australian plants: Angophora, Corymbia and Eucalyptus (see also Australian Plants Society fact sheet, 4.5mb PDF). There are over 800 named species of eucalypts. While the majority of eucalypts are purely native to Australia there are a handful of species that have escaped the continent to the north and are native to Timor, New Guinea, Indonesia and the Philippines. The revised Flora of South Australia treatment for eucalypts was published in 2014 (33.8mb PDF).

May Gibbs Stamp, 2016

The living species that occur outside of Australia have fossil ancestors. In fact, the oldest known eucalypt fossil comes from Patagonia and is 52 million years old. Eucalypt fossil leaves have also been found in New Zealand, estimated to be about 20 million years old. We know though that eucalypts are not now native to either South America or New Zealand so at some point they became extinct in those countries and left Australia with an iconic plant group. An article on The Conversation last year discussed how the eucalypts came to dominate Australia.

The eucalypts gained great popularity through the creative works of May Gibbs in 1920s. These artworks have also been celebrated in Australian Stamps.

May Gibbs Stamp, 1985

It is poorly known that when May Gibbs first came to Australia as a child she first lived in South Australia, including in Norwood for a short time. Her family then moved to Western Australia where she spent most of her formative years. May Gibbs’ most famous characters, the gumnut babies Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, use various parts of eucalypts for their clothes. The most well-known pictures of the gumnut babies sees them sitting in big gumnuts which in fact are Corymbia fruit and not of Eucalyptus, most likely Corymbia ficifolia a native tree of Western Australia, and also a common street tree all around Australia. The hats that the gumnut babies wear are the calyptra (cap) of a eucalypt — petals that have evolved to form a protective bud cap. When a eucalypt flower opens the bud cups are pushed off and hundreds of anthers pop out. To raise public awareness for the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1919 May Gibbs painted a scene of a Kookaburra and a gumnut baby both wearing gum leaf facemasks — apt for our times.

On that note we want to say — Happy Eucalypt Day!

We hope that you stay safe and tucked away in your gumnuts until it is safe to come out.

Compiled by Andrew Thornhill, State Herbarium of South Australia & The University of Adelaide.

The next 10 years — a new vision for taxonomy and biosystematics in Australia and New Zealand

It is so exciting!! Last Friday (27 April) we launched “Discovering Biodiversity—a decadal plan for taxonomy and biosystematics in Australia and New Zealand 2018–2027”. A small group of South Australians joined around 50 others to attend the launch at Parliament House in Canberra and a follow-up meeting to discuss the future implementation of the plan at The Shine Dome.

Artwork Decadal Plan by David Stacey

Since late 2012 dedicated and committed people from Australia and New Zealand worked together to get the plan underway. Following a grass-roots startup, we are fortunate that in last 18 months Kevin Thiele has coordinated a wide range of engagement and consultation. Teleconferences, online discussions, workshops at conferences and online writing sessions were held. Kevin also launched a taxonomy blog site noto|biotica, through which some big ideas, concepts and discussion was facilitated. Supported by the Working Group and an Advisory Committee the generation of the plan was highly collaborative and yet benefited from the unified voice Kevin gave the overall process.

Kevin was a champion at getting us to all share ideas, opinions and also to listen and convey to the community of ideas and to form a biosystematics community driven mission for the next decade. The professionalism of the Australian Academy of Science and the New Zealand Royal Society Te Apārangi, helped elevate the decadal plan Discovering Biodiversity to give us all a chance to see a way forward. The plan covers biodiversity from the bottom of the ocean to the tops of the mountains and will pave the way for coordination of new initiatives and to consolidate the immense body of work we already deliver…

I want to encourage everyone to read the plan, and also to enjoy the document itself, a great visual piece of work and well illustrated with images of the biodiversity of Australia and New Zealand! Also enjoy the artwork commissioned for the cover, Abundance by David Stacey. [Download full resolution (19MB) or smaller version (4.2MB)]. The forward by David Attenborough emphasises not only the role of taxonomy and biosystematics but the importance of recognising and valuing our biodiversity…

Also checkout the short video with David Attenborough to grab your interest!

Contributed by Michelle Waycott

Happy 40th Birthday to the Friends of the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide

Friends preparing to Enter Government House

Congratulations to the Friends of the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide on their 40th birthday which has been celebrated over the last week or so. The Friends, are a volunteer organisation having an impressive membership of more than 900. Members are passionate about the importance of plants which they share during their popular daily guided walks and other volunteering. Volunteers enrich the work we do, the lives we lead and create an amazing connection between the community and out institution.The Friends also contribute to the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium of South Australia by helming find support for projects and to encourage the next generation of horticulturalists through awards.

Today, at a reception held at Government House, hosted by friend Patron and Governor, His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le AC and Mrs Le, the work and commitment of these volunteers was recognised and in the words of the Governor, should continue for another 40 years! Members of the Friends enjoyed afternoon tea and the chance to visit in Government House.

Governor Le, Judy Potter, Mrs Le

Governor Le, Judy Potter, Mrs Le at Friends of the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide 40th Birthday Reception

Support by our Friends—formal, informal and by any means—is something we value highly, and I wish to express my thanks to all of you.

Michelle

Chief Botanist, Professor Michelle Waycott, State Herbarium of South Australia, Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium.