The Birth of a Friends' Group

Vibrant Volunteer

Parrots in the Gardens

What's in a Name

Birthday Candles


Birth of a Friends Group

Ever wondered how the Friends of the Botanic Gardens came into being? We asked Anne Joyce, currently the Gardens' Public Relations Officer and Liaison Officer for the Friends.

It seems way back in 1985, Rod Harvey, then Interpretations Officer, had the idea that a community group would be beneficial both to the Gardens and to the public. As a result of canvassing visitors to the Information Centre over a period of time, it became evident that people would welcome the development of a Friends group. By 1989, 300 names had been added to a list in support of the idea. But someone had to establish the Friends association.

With a background in professional theatre and fundraising/event co-ordination for Lifeline Canberra. Anne Joyce fitted the bill!

We all know she's no shrinking violet, but Anne claims a combination of all her past experiences and a firm belief in divine guidance let her to be selected for the position, which she assumed in May 1990.


Anne Joyce (photo by Anne Phillips)

She soon discovered the Gardens had an extensive wish list. Apart from the establishment of a Friends Group, there was a real need to develop an environmental education program; extend the Rainforest Gully to include a covered tropical area; develop a higher profile and increase public visitation.

The plan was to officially launch the Friends group during the weekend of 13 - 14 October and a steering committee was set up consisting of members of the community with a combination of appropriate skills prepared to commit themselves initially to a six-month development period. The majority of this steering committee chose to remain involved after the launch. Chairperson was Dr Geraldine Gentle, who became the first President; Arthur Court, retired director of the Herbarium, who became Treasurer; Nancy Stackpoole who became Activities Co-ordinator; Geoff Clarke representing the interests of SGAP; David Young, media adviser; Anne Burhop, who became Secretary; Margaret Hendry who was the first to join the Friends; John Henze (Dec.) who became Membership Secretary; Sally White, who subsequently contributed to the development of the Guides' Service. The staff was represented by Director Dr Roger Hnatiuk and Rod Harvey, with Anne Joyce co-ordinating the project.

By September, the steering committee had finalised the infrastructure and were ready to seek the support of the community. Letters of introduction were sent to the original contact list of 300 names sourced from the Visitor Centre and a public information session announced for 15 September. The response was inspirational. The car park was overflowing, with cars parked all along Clunies Ross Street. One hundred and sixty nine memberships were sold. The Friends was becoming a reality! On Sunday, 14 October at the Nancy Burbidge Amphitheatre, Professor Lindsay Pryor (dec.), an entertaining guest speaker, with Dr Gerry Gentle presiding as the first President, formally declared the inauguration of the Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens.

Members were treated to regular monthly meetings providing guest speakers on a variety of subjects; outings to areas of interest like Jervis Bay Botanic Gardens (then an annexe of the ANBG); received quarterly newsletters; discounts at the Café and Bookshop and the exclusive opportunity to purchase Australian plants at the Friends' plant sales organised by the Growing Friends.

Co-ordinated by Malcolm Fyfe, the Growing Friends have produced hundreds of plants through the years and public plant sales have become a valuable source of fundraising for the Friends. The Growing Friends have their igloo adjacent to the Banks Centre and use the building for their meetings and working bees.

With the help of an ACT Events grant, Spring Fling 1991 was introduced and continued annually until 1996, after which the Friends felt they needed to diversify and offer other ways for community involvement. A great deal of credit must be paid to Beverley Fisher who co-ordinated the later Spring Flings. Her enthusiasm was responsible for the development of the photographic competition for students of the ACT. As Treasurer, she has overseen the allocation of funds for staff bursaries, vouchers for Herbarium interns, gifts of outdoor furniture and the sundial at the Rock Garden. Bev's commitment to attracting a diverse membership let to her support of the Craft Group, initiated by Liz Baker. With extended hours of opening during January and February (made possible with Friends sponsorship), we were able to increase the musical program and by 1998 Twilight Jazz and Sunday Serenade were beginning to attract sizeable audiences. Bev enlisted the help of her husband, Ron, and together they instigated the sale of wine and other soft drinks and organised the collection of donations with the help of volunteers.

These summer concerts have become a major source of fundraising with a total attendance of 40,000 for the 2000 season. In addition, the Friends have financed one-off concerts such as the Hall Village Brass Band and the concert band of the Royal Military College, Duntroon.

Volunteer programs have blossomed, with members of the Friends participating in programs in the Herbarium, the Education Centre, the Seed Store, the Library and as Volunteer Guides. For the first time, our Guides will host the National Conference of Guides in Botanic Gardens in 2001.




Ron and Bev Fisher at the RMC Band recital, 1995


Bernard Fennessy, volunteer guide,
at Mt Annan, 1994

Spring Fling

Tim Richmond, Liz Baker and Bev Fisher at the
Spring Fling in 1995



Spring Fling

Nancy Dunn and Liz Baker at the Friends' booth, Spring Fling 1995

Spring Fling

Anne Joyce checking out the Friends' booth at the
Spring Fling, 1994




Professor Lindsay Pryor cutting the cake at the 25th birthday celebration of the ANBG,
October 1995




Vibrant Volunteer

Anne Phillips, Volunteer Guide


She was called 'vibrant' in the March 1991 Newsletter, and she is still 'vibrant' in 2000. I spoke with Barbara Daly about what she remembers of the early days of volunteer activities. Barbara is known for writing In Flower This Week and has been producing this page for the last 10 years.


Barbara Daly (Photo by Anne Phillips)

Joyce England was the first person to write In Flower This Week. It had to be hand-written then. From a sheet dated 8 January 1988, Joyce says, Lambertia formosa is more familiar to me as the mountain devil bush I knew as a child in Katoomba. We dressed the horned fruit with red felt and pipe cleaners as a holiday pass-time.

Leon Horsnell then took over In Flower This Week and Barbara began sharing this with him in 1991. Rod Harvey was editor. In 1993 Barbara mastered the computer using various machines and helped by various staff members. So In Flower This Week took on a 'typed face'.

Before she became involved in the weekly flower report, Barbara helped John Pike who ran a program at the Banksia Centre for intellectually and physically handicapped people from Koomarri School. They propagated lots of Brachyscome and Bracteantha from seed, potted them up and planted them out, grew vegies, went on walks, hugged trees and learnt some names of plants. The grass tree was a favourite.

At about this time an electric wheelchair was purchased and Barbara road-tested this around the Gardens.

Even before becoming a volunteer, Barbara remembers (in the late 1960's) her lunchtimes spent strolling along the terrace of Leptospermum, one metre high and bursting with flower. In those days there was no café but instead a caravan which sold meat pies that were 'up to standard'.

Parrots in the Gardens

Denis Wilson, Volunteer Guide

 Of all our wonderful native birds, parrots are some of the most spectacular and also some of the most cooperative birds of all. Cooperative is not a word that always springs to mind with parrots. Certainly not for a person such as myself, who grew up banding birds, for there are few things harder to handle than a cranky parrot. But I think of the parrots in the ANBG as being very cooperative in the way they display themselves to us. Is it so we may appreciate their beauty? Sometimes I think they like to just show off. Other times I feel they are totally unimpressed with humans, and just go on with the important business of being parrots.

Within the ANBG we have a wonderful display environment for the native parrots - a natural setting, abundant wild food and a rich natural population of parrots. Three species of Cockatoos, two Rosellas, the King Parrot, the Grass Parrot are all regulars, and occasional visits may be experienced from the mighty Black Cockatoos, and even an occasional nomadic Lorikeet.

The Rosellas are the most obvious group of parrots in the Gardens. They are resident all year long, and are abundant. The Crimson Rosella is the most common Rosella in the Gardens, and may be found anywhere. The Eastern Rosella has a preference for the more lightly timbered habitat on the lower slopes of the Gardens. It may frequently be seen perched in trees along the lowest edge of the Gardens, and also feeding around the grassed area between the boundary fence and Clunies Ross Street.

In early Spring when the Tree Ferns (Dicksonia and Cyathea spp.) are unfurling their young fronds or crosiers, the Crimson Rosellas may be found munching through them, just as we might treat a succulent salad. Then the Rosella's vibrant crimson and blue colours are shown at their best, contrasting with the deep green of the Rain Forest Gully. When the Gymea Lilies (Doryanthes excelsa) are in flower, Crimson Rosellas love to perch atop the flower stalks - a symphony of scarlet flowers and crimson feathers together. During the peak of summer heat, Crimson Rosellas will be found lurking in the trees along the creeks, in shady areas such as the lower end of the Sydney Region Flora (Section 191). Through the winter months they find their food amongst the seeds of wattles (Acacia), bottlebrush (Callistemon), Melaleuca and Eucalyptus.



In very simple terms, the Crimson Rosella is the red and blue Rosella we see here commonly. The Eastern Rosella is familiar as the icon from the old biscuit tins - for those of you old enough to remember. It has a green body, speckled with black on its back, a red 'hood' covering its head and chest. And it has a distinctive light lime-green rump patch as it flies away from you. However there is a problem. While an Eastern Rosella always looks like an Eastern Rosella, a juvenile Crimson Rosella is a changeling. In the very early stages it is nearly green all over - a drab, dark green. It looks to be a different bird from its parents. However, it will already be a large parrot, heavy in build, and as parrots are social creatures it will almost certainly be associating with crimson coloured adults.

But there is one totally foolproof way of distinguishing a young Crimson Rosella from an Eastern Rosella and any other similar sized parrot in the Canberra region. If you look at the bird's head, it always will have blue cheek patches, as an adult or as a juvenile. In the illustration, the adult bird's cheek marking is clearly visible. As a juvenile, nearly all green, it would still have the same blue cheek patches. This distinguishes it instantly from an Eastern Rosella, which always has white cheek patches.

This marking also helps distinguish it from the other large green parrot we are blessed with in the Gardens, which is the King Parrot. So even if you find yourself looking at a bottle green, mid- to large-sized parrot, you can identify it as a Crimson Rosella from these markings. We might talk about the spectacular King Parrot another day.




What's in a Name?

Bernard Fennessy, Volunteer Guide

 Grevillea willisii


Grevillea willisii, a rare species, occurs in north-eastern Victoria in the Upper Murray River system.

It is named in honour of Dr James H Willis (1910 - 1995), who had a long and distinguished career at the National Herbarium of Victoria. He was Assistant Government Botanist when he retired in 1972. For his research and publications (more than 800) he received the Research Medal of the Royal Society of Victoria, the Australian Natural History Medallion, and a Doctorate of Science from the University of Melbourne. He was an Honorary Life Member of the Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1998.

Jim Willis, as he was universally known, was born in Oakleigh, Victoria. He spent his early childhood in north-west Tasmania, then moved to Melbourne for high school education, and to Creswick, Victoria, for a forestry course. He was a forestry officer until 1937 when he began his 34-year career as a taxonomic botanist with the National Herbarium of Victoria. While there he studied part-time at the University of Melbourne for a science degree. During 1958-59 he was Australian Botanical Liaison Officer at Kew Herbarium, England.

He developed a very detailed knowledge of the flora of Victoria, and this culminated in 1962 and 1973 in the publication of his two-volume A Handbook of Plants in Victoria. The previous Flora of Victoria, by Professor A J Ewart, had been published in 1931.

He had many and wide interests in natural history. He produced a book Victorian Toadstools and Mushrooms. In 1982 he produced the 5th (revised) edition of Shrubs and Trees for Australian Gardens by the late E E Lord. For the ten volumes of The Australian Encyclopaedia he wrote 452 separate entries, chiefly botanical. His meticulously compiled files on botanists, collectors, explorers, colleting localities and the handwriting of collectors and botanists are a valuable resource for taxonomists. His own handwriting was exquisitely neat.

Eight plant species with the species epithets willisii, willisiana and jamesiana have been named in his honour. In his taxonomic role he described 42 new plant species himself, and a further 22 species with co-authors.

The prodigious energy of Jim Willis and the breadth of his scientific work was truly remarkable, but his admirable personal qualities and his assistance to voluntary natural history organisations really distinguished him. Because of his phenomenal memory and capacity for meticulously compiled biographical, historical and floristic data he had a vast storehouse of knowledge which he cheerfully made available to professionals and amateurs alike. He was unstinting in giving his time and knowledge to those seeking help. Only a few weeks before his death he had delivered the opening address to the National Conference of the Society for Growing Australian Plants. He was one of the great men of Australian botanical and natural history science.

Return to "What's in a Name" Index



Birthday Candles

(Sir Joseph Banks, born Westminster, London, 13 February 1743; died London, 19 June 1920)

June Foster, Volunteer Guide


Banksia 'Birthday Candles', a dwarf variety from B. spinulosa var., spinulosa.
(Photo by Andrew Walker)

 On the Endeavour, with Cook, in 1770, month of May
Came Joseph Banks, twenty-seven, plant collecting, at Botany Bay

See him standing now on 'Banks Walk' at the ANBG;
Bronzed head on a pedestal. He smiles fearlessly.
From saw-leafed banksias peer May Gibbs' Big Bad Men
Knife-armed, bold faces stare, purse-lipped and wooden.

Banks' statue faces south, his wavy hair neat, ribbon-tied
A Hairpin Banksia, 'Birthday Candles', grows by his side. Today, pause here, count burnt orange flower heads, make no mistake
Twenty-seven candles glow brightly atop this birthday cake.

Of this new south land, Banks enthusiastically wrote:
See him here portrayed on our five-dollar note.
Naturalist, and patron, he helped make Australia great.
On this special birthday year, ANBG Friends celebrate.

ANBG Friends inaugurated on 14 October, 1990, just ten years ago
Long may friends walk here, pause to count candles where banksias grow.



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Compiled 14 February, 2002 by Shirley McKeown wombats1@tpg.com.au