Category Archives: News

Grasses keys online

Several years ago, the State Herbarium of South Australia published Grasses of South Australia by J.P. Jessop, G.R.M. Dashorst & F.M. James in collaboration with Wakefield Press. This is the well-known standard work on the grass family Poaceae for the State and can also be used in adjacent regions of other States.

KeyBase is a database and web application for managing and deploying interactive pathway keys. It presents traditional dichotomous keys in a new way online. In addition to standalone keys, KeyBase also delivers identification keys to the new  online Flora of Australia and VicFlora.

Keys to the South Australian Flora are currently being added to Keybase. Last week, Kat Ticli from the State Herbarium completed the conversion of the keys to species in Grasses of South Australia and uploaded them to KeyBase. Poaceae is one of the largest plant families in the State. Having this key and others online will enable easy access to this information and be helpful to anyone wanting to identify the native and naturalised grasses of South Australia.

Click here to enter the Grasses of South Australia KeyBase project.

Our botanical bunker

Recently, Chief Botanist, Prof. Michelle Waycott, was interviewed by The Adelaide Review about the history of the State Herbarium of South Australia and its holdings. The resulting article is now available.

Couper, S. (2019). Inside the bunker safeguarding South Australia’s rare plants and botanical history. The Adelaide Review (posted 9 Apr.).

As mentioned in the article, during South Australia’s History Festival, the State Herbarium will also offer guided tours through the old Tram Barn building. Please note that the dates in the above articles are not correct. The tours will take place on Sat., 25 May & Sun., 26 May 2019.

Please go to the History Festival’s website for more information.

The State Herbarium also published the following brochures, which are accessible online:

  • Canty, P. (2012). The old tram barn: A short history of the Tram Barn A, now housing the State Herbarium of South Australia. (1.1mb PDF)
  • Bell, G. (2012). One million and counting: History and special collections of the State Herbarium of South Australia. (0.5mb PDF).

New eucalypt phylogeny

Last month, Dr Andrew Thornhill started working at the State Herbarium of South Australia.  Originally from Melbourne, Andrew studied and worked at Monash University (Melbourne), the Australian National University, Australian National Herbarium and CSIRO (all Canberra), the Australian Tropical Herbarium (Cairns), the University of California (Berkeley, USA) and the federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (Canberra). In his current position, he is working for both, The University of Adelaide and the State Herbarium on a variety of projects, including the analysis of molecular data-sets and re-organisation of the Herbarium’s bryophyte collection.

In 2011, Andrew started a project on creating a complete species level phylogeny of the eucalypts (which include the genera Eucalyptus, Angophora and Corymbia). The idea was to sample DNA for as many eucalypt species as possible, combine that data and see how all of the species were related to each other. This week, over seven years later, the project was published.

Thornhill, A.H., Crisp, M.D., Külheim, C., Lam, K.E., Nelson, L.A., Yeate,s D.K., Miller, J.T. (2019). A dated molecular perspective of eucalypt taxonomy, evolution and diversification. Australian Systematic Botany 32: 29-48.

Eucalyptus porosa. Photo: Clive M. Chesson.

There are over 800 described eucalypt species in the world and we are close to soon having 900. Around 1/8th of the total number of eucalypt species are native to South Australia and they grow in the arid and forest areas in an array of habits, be it mallees or trees up in the hills.

The paper presents a dated phylogeny of the Australian eucalypts and a diversification analysis to show if any parts of the eucalypt phylogeny have had accelerated diversification. What Andrew and his colleagues found was that many of the species that grow in the arid and forest areas of southern and south-eastern Australia have only evolved in the last two million years, this includes many of the eucalypt species that grow in South Australia. Their origin comes due to a divergence with Western Australian eucalypts, but that’s not to say that Western Australia is where eucalypts originated. There are even deeper splits in the history of eucalypts that suggests that either south-west Western Australia or south-east Queensland could be the source of origin. One way to find this out may be by finding new ‘oldest’ fossils in either of these places, which would help provide evidence that eucalypts grew there in the deep past.

The results of this research are also discussed by Andrew in an article in The Conversation. The treatment for eucalypts in the new, 5th edition of the Flora of South Australia is also available (33.7mb PDF).

High ranking output

Two scientists from the State Herbarium of South Australia have recently collaborated with colleagues to produce research papers that were published in well-known Nature Research journals during the last week.

(1) T. Varga, et al., Megaphylogeny resolves global patterns of mushroom evolutionNature Ecology & Evolution (16 Mar. 2019), DOI: 10.1038/s41559-019-0834-1.

Hon. Research Associate Pam Catcheside is among 62 authors, collaborating in this global effort to produce a phylogeny of 5,284 species of Agaricomycetes. These mushroom-forming fungi have the greatest morphological diversity and complexity of any group of fungi. They have radiated into most niches and fulfill diverse roles in the ecosystem, including wood decomposers, pathogens or mycorrhizal mutualists. This ground-breaking, first comprehensive phylogeny of mushroom-forming fungi reveals large-scale patterns of their evolutionary history.

Phylogenetic relationships and diversification across 5,284 mushroom-forming fungi. A maximum-likelyhood analysis of nrLSU, rpb2, ef1-a sequences.

(2) J.M. Kalwij, et al., Vagrant birds as a dispersal vector in transoceanic range expansion of vascular plantsScientific Reports (15 Mar. 2019), DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-41081-9.

Some years ago, State Herbarium botanist Jürgen Kellermann was contacted by Jesse Kalwij (now working in Germany) to identify an unknown shrub that was discovered about 25 years ago on sub-Antarctic Marion Island, one of the two Prince Edward Islands (South Africa). This evolved into a study examining the pathways that lead to the establishment of the plant, which turned out to be Ochetophila trinervis, a shrub in the family Rhamnaceae (see also this article). The species is native to southern South America, the closest population being over 7,500 km away. Dr Kalwij involved colleagues from South Africa, Australia, Argentina and Germany in this research, identifying the barn swallow as the most likely vector dispersing seeds of the plant to this sub-Antarctic island.

Ochetophila trinervis on Marion Island. (a) The single shrub, c. 25 years after establishment. (b) Close-up of branch of the plant. Photos: J.M. Kalwij.

Mind the Gap in Brisbane

This week, the annual conference of the Australasian Systematic Botany Society (ASBS) is held in Brisbane. The theme of the conference is Mind the Gap and aims to highlight gaps in the field of systematics (be they biogeographic, taxonomic, data, funding, etc.). It is organised by the Queensland Herbarium and held at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha, Toowong. About 110 delegates from Australia, New Zealand and overseas are meeting to hear 55 presentations. From the State Herbarium of South Australia, Bill Barker and Francis Nge are giving talks on the genus Lindernia and the diversification of Australia’s temperate flora, respectively.

Queensland Herbarium.

The Proceedings of the Conference with abstracts of all presentations are available for download [1.73mb PDF] from the website. Before the Conference, a workshop was held on on how to referee taxonomic manuscripts. A field trip to Springbrook and to the precipice of the remains of the Mt Warning caldera is organised for Friday.

Information on previous meetings can be found on the ASBS website. The last Conference was held in Adelaide and the 2016 meeting took place in Alice Springs. Proceedings of both meetings were published as Swainsona Supplements and can be downloaded from our journal website.