In the Australian National
Botanic Gardens, about five metres downhill from the Nancy Burbidge
Amphitheatre, is a large tallowood, Eucalyptus microcorys. In
the shade of that tree, on its lower side, in the adjacent bed (Section
37), is a plaque commemorating Dr Colin Barnard MBE, DSc (1912-1977).
He spent almost the
whole of his working life with CSIRO. In 1927 he joined what was
then the Division of Economic Botany of CSIR and was seconded to
the Commonwealth Research Station at Merbein, Victoria, and later
transferred to Canberra. He studied growth and production in grape
vines and developed a system for forecasting yield. He also worked
on decline and dieback in apples.
In 1935 he assisted
Dr B T Dickson with his report proposing the establishment of a
botanic gardens in Canberra, and took the photos included with that
During World War II
Dr Barnard was in charge of the production of exotic plants by CSIR
to supply drugs such as morphine, hyoscine, strychnine and quinine.
Later his group investigated native plants, such as Duboisia,
of pharmacological and insecticidal value as possible substitutes
for, or alternative sources of, imported drugs. L J Webb, later
an authority on rainforest ecology, was appointed to expand the
collection of native plant species.
In 1944 Dr Barnard approached
the CSIR Division of Industrial Chemistry for assistance in research
on the alkaloids from Australian native plants. Dr J R Price who
was appointed for this work later became Chairman of CSIRO. When
the war was over and the urgency for drug production was reduced,
it was accepted that exploring the chemical and pharmacological
potential of the flora of Australia and Papua and New Guinea was
a worthwhile contribution to the mapping of Australia's natural
resources. Hence a collaboration between CSIRO and chemists in universities
developed into the Australian Phytochemical Survey. It continued
for about 25 years to the early 1970's.
In 1951 Dr Barnard had
turned his attention to a detailed study of the growth of floral
parts in wheat plants and later to a systematic study of all the
monocotyledons. He established the Herbage Plant Registration Authority
and as its Registrar was responsible for preparing authoritative
descriptions, origins and identification of all herbage plant cultivars
registered in Australia.
In 1964 Dr Barnard edited
the book Grasses and Grasslands which covered the accumulated
knowledge of Divisional research staff on the biology of grasses
and on the problems of pasture establishment, maintenance and improvement.
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I visited the Gardens, I used to look over the wall at the far side
of the car park to admire the plant of Lomatia tincotoria.
It had luxurious growth, much larger than seen in the bush here
in Tasmania. I hope it is still there. As well, when I was collecting
Tasmanian plants for the Gardens, I sent up a number of different
leaf forms of this species: they may be dispersed around the beds.
(There are several plants of L. tinctoria and other species
of Lomatia mentioned below in and adjacent to the Tasmanian
Garden (ed)). Here at Penguin, in Tasmania, I have about six different
forms planted in a group, and it is quite a sight. Well, I think
tincotira is in the family Proteaceae, with a close relationship
to Telopea sp. The Flora of Australia states that
there are twelve species of Lomatia, three in South America
and nine in Australia. This genus is a classic example of a Gondwanan
plant group. Tasmania has three species, all endemic. Lomatia
tinctoria is the most widespread, being found in most parts
of the island. It
has shiny leaves that range in shape from pinnate with lobes to
bipinnate, with the width of the divisions varying as well. White
flowers in an elongated cylindrical grouping are produced in spring.
polymorpha is found mostly
in the west coast and south-west regions, extending to Mt Wellington
and Cradle Mountain. It has simple leaves without divisions or lobes;
they are dull above and densely hairy below. The white flowers tend
to be in a more rounded arrangement and can be strongly perfumed.
rarest species is Lomatia tasmanica, found only in a few
remote gullies in the south-west. It has glossy divided leaves,
the divisions then having pointed lobes. Its flowers are red. The
species never sets seed, propagating itself from underground rhizomes.
The live material is thought to be a 40,000-year-old clone. Lomatia
ferruginea of South America has some similarities.
two common species also hybridise; it is this hybrid that should
be called 'polymorpha' because the leaves vary in shape from having
a few lobes to bipinnate. The flower head is often larger than those
of the parents.
Close up of Lomatia tinctoria (Photo by R
tinctoria (Photo by R Hotchkiss)
tasmanica would be a magnificent garden plant but is extremely
hard to grow outside its specialised environment. I collected material
twice for Canberra. Cuttings root easily but the young plants mostly
die. I have a photo of one planted in the Tasmanian Gully of ANBG,
but next time I visited the gardens, it was gone. The Hobart Royal
Botanical Gardens had great success, but after a few years, their
potted material started dying off. It can be grafted on to L.
name Lomatia is one of the prettiest plant names. But it
nearly didn't make it. The name was developed by Robert Brown, the
botanist who travelled with Matthew Flinders on his famous voyage
of exploration and mapping. The seeds of Lomatia sp. have
papery wings and there is a ridge forming a border around the wing
and seed. The Greek word for a border is loma. Brown launched
the name in a paper he read to the Linnaean Society of London in
1809. Later in the same year, another botanist, Salisbury, published,
with Joseph Knight, a description using the name Tricondylus
as the name for the genus. Brown published his paper in 1810. The
rules of botany nomenclature state that the first-published name
has to be accepted. The rule seems to have been bent this time,
thankfully. I think there should be a rule against ugly names.
much for the word Lomatia. The species name tinctoria
comes from the Latin word for 'used in dyeing'. (Many of us as kids
had tincture of iodine painted on cuts.) Wrigley and Fagg state
that this refers to a powder found in the fruit, that produces a
red colour. I didn't know this when I decided to try out the tinctoria
bit, and used leaves to dye wool. Using iron mordant, I got a good
fawn colour, but with chrome mordant I ended up with a rich chocolate
concerning the common name, Guitar Plant, Baines suggests it is
linked to the fern-like leaf, but I'd agree with Wrigley and Fagg,
and link it to the shape of the fruit. Lomatia fruit is a
hard follicle that opens flat. It reminds me more of a lute than
long straight stems and interesting different foliage make Lomatia
tinctoria an excellent plant for the garden, and for flower
arrangements. Oh, and if you hadn't guessed, it is one of my favourite
plants, in the garden and in the Tasmanian bush.
E Orchard (executive editor) Flora of Australia, Vol. 16
Proteaceae 1, Melbournhe
A Baines, Australian Plant Genera, SGAP, 1981
W Wrigley and Murray Fagg, Banksias, Waratahs and Grevilleas,
Collins Australia, 1989