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November, 2003


 Grasses in the Gardens

Dryopoa dives   (Giant Mountain Grass)

Merren Sloane,   Member of the Friends

Dryopoa :  from the Greek dryos tree and poa grass
dives :       Latin for rich, plentiful

This very large native grass, several metres tall, has a somewhat restricted range, ocurring in wet open forests on clays and loams in the montane areas of southeast Australia - New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. It is uncommon and tends to be short-lived but is often abundant after fire or other disturbance.

It forms a perennial tussock from one to three metres tall with flat, dark green, very rough leaves. The leaf sheath is pale and smooth and the blade may be 50cm long and 2cm wide. The inflorescence (sometimes as much as 5m high) is an open pyramidal panicle, comprised of many spikelets, each of which has several (3-6) fertile florets enclosed by two unequal glumes. Dryopoa is a spring/summer flowering grass and at maturity the florets enclosing the grain drop, leaving the glumes behind.

Dryopoa is a genus endemic to Australia containing just this one

  Dryopoa dives     Photo by Murray Fagg

species. The flower structure is very similar to that of Festuca and Poa though larger and without the Poa 'web'. Some botanists consider that the genus Dryopoa should be included in Festuca.

There are three subspecies recognised :

D. dives subsp dives, which occurs in the South and Central Coast and the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales, and the highlands of eastern Victoria;

D. Dives subsp A, which has stiffer leaf blades and a distinctly purple colour. It occurs only in the east coast ranges of Tasmania; and

D. Dives subsp B, which has generally larger spikelets and occurs in the Grampians of Victoria.

In the ANBG an impressive example of Giant Mountain Grass may be seen at the rainforest gully end of Section 210, a short way up the stairs leading to the Herbarium building. This plant material was collected in the Budawangs. Other plants may be seen in Section 65, further up on the same side of the rainforest gully. None of these have (yet?) grown to the 5m size found in the wild but they are still very large grasses.

Though uncommon, the large size of this grass should make it easily recognised in the wet forests of the Southern Tablelands and the South Coast and in view of its habit of coming back readily after fire, Dryopoa dives may be more noticeable in these fire-affected areas in the next few years.

Tangly, Cool and Private

Anne Phillips , Member of Growing Friends

The ANBG Sydney Basin area evokes wonderful memories of my childhood near Oatley Park on the Georges River, south of Sydney, and picnics to the Royal National Park and the Blue Mountains.

The Sydney Basin garden is located just below the Nursery. In the 1980's this area had lots of Angophora costata and pea flowers, and some years later when the dreaded Armillaria luteobubalina, a fungal root parasite, struck, the trees died and they had to be cleared along with the pea undergrowth. A sign on the main path gives some facts about this invasive fungus.

Sifting through the Gardens' Library archives, I read that in 1991 discussions were held on how to improve the Sydney Basin area. From a report by Peter Shumack, March 1991 : "It was decided to make a field collecting trip to the Blue Mountains and that scientific botanical collecting be combined with landscape aesthetics and ecological habitat investigation." The trip was made by Andrew Lyne, chief field botanist, Gino Corsini, horticulturalist, and Peter Shumack, landscape designer. This was just one of numerous collecting trips made by Gino, who looks after this garden

Hibbertia dentata                      Photo by D. Greig

With a picnic lunch, camera, binoculars, lens, sketchbook and dictionary of botanical names, let's begin on the north side of the gully and take the tanbark path at Section 191k Budawangs. The garden is rambly, tangly, cool and private and a great place on a hot day. The large yellow flowers of Hibbertia dentata clamber over and under everything, forming an interesting yellow spotted carpet. Doryanthes excelsa, Gymea Lily, and Cyathea australis, Rough Tree-fern, line the gully. The eye-catching red and white tubular flowers of Epacris longiflora straggle here and there. Acacia bulgaensis, Bulga Wattle (from the Bulga district of central coastal NSW), should be a picture in early December.

While passing the Angophora costata feel the cool smooth bark. These trees are similar to eucalypts but without the operculum, the cap covering the flower bud. Platylobium obtusangulum and Bossiaea lenticularis are two of the peas in flower nearby.

Ceratopetalum gummerifum, the NSW Christmas Bush
Photo by D. Greig

Past the sandstone steps descending to the little creek and past the Ceratopetalum gummerifum, New South Wales Christmas Bush, is a wooden bench where one can sit and look through the tree ferns to where Platycercus elegans, the Crimson>Rosellas, bathe. Ceratopetalum gummiferum was nearly wiped out in the early 1800's when Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, introduced the decorating of a tree at Christmas from Germany to England, thence to Australia. By 1860 C. gummiferum had been harvested so extensively for Christmas decoration that efforts had to be made to preserve it in the wild.

Also near the bench, the waratahs, Telopea speciosissima (Telopea meaning able to be seen from afar), display their bold red flowers and further up the path a large old Banksia serrata shows its scarred knobbled bark.

Across the track and onto the paved path in Section 191d Wet Forest can be found the scattered chewed fruits of Hakea constablei. Calyptorhynchus funereus, the Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, homeless from the January fires, have found plenty to eat in the Gardens.

Next on the right is Section 191c the Blandfordia Swamp, bordered by sandstone blocks and clumps of Gleichenia dicarpa, Pouched Coral Fern. Blandfordia grandiflora, Christmas Bells, will be showing their yellow-tipped red flowers in December. There are lots of precious little plants in this wet area, some caged to deter pesty nibblers.

The path gently rises, coming to three Ceratopetalum apetalum, coachwoods, the wood suitable for shaping coach wheels and tennis racquets in the past. Then there is Ficus coronata, the Sandpaper Fig. There are not many figs left in the wild nowadays, and so many animals and birds depend on the fruit.

Heading down the other side of the gully, join the serpent-like path (constructed around 1996 as part of the no-steps main path) at the circular seating which was donated by the Friends of ANBG. Actinotus helianthi, Sydney Flannel Flowers, with those sage-tipped bracts will be a show soon, along with more Blandfordia grandiflora. Three large mounts of bright green Scleranthus biflorus look like mossy cushions. Look up this interesting Caryophyllaceae family. Most of the plantings have labels, and according to Gino, too many, as he often gets spiked in the rear-end when he's tending this large area (not his words!).

There is an interesting feature lower down the path at the semi-circular wall surrounded by Prostanthera ovalifolia, Common Mint Bush, and P. rugosa. A small wall of fossils, 250 million years old from the Sydney Basin, depicts leaves of the fossil seed-fern, Glossopteris.  Enjoy !!

What's in a Name?

Bernard Fennessy , Volunteer Guide

In the rainforest at the Australian National Botanic Gardens, in the section labelled McPherson Range Rainforest, the boardwalk along the floor of the gully is edged by numerous 'stream lilies'. These are not lilies but Helmholtzia glaberrima, a rhizomatous perennial with tough linear leaves up to 2m long and 7cm wide. It has a tall (1-2m) flower spike with a plume-like head of small white to pale pink flowers in summer. It flourishes in shady, damp positions and occurs in rainforests of Queensland and northern New South Wales.

This genus, in the family Philydraceae (plants of aquatic or damp habitats) is named in honour of Professor Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz (1821-1894). The name was conferred by his compatriot Ferdinand von Mueller, Government Botanist of Victoria.

Von Helmholtz, one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century, made fundamental contributions

Helmholtzia glaberrima
Photo by R Hotchkiss

to physiology, optics, electrodynamics, mathematics and meteorology.
He is known for his statement of the law of the conservation of energy : the sum total of energy in the universe remains unchanged no matter what events take place, i.e. energy cannot be created or destroyed.

He was born at Potsdam near Berlin, and because of his delicate health was confined to his home for his first seven years. His father was a teacher of philosophy and literature, and his mother was descended from William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania. Von Helmholtz received a free medical education in Berlin on condition that he serve eight years as an army doctor. His obvious scientific talents led to his release from military duties. He became a teacher in anatomy at the Academy of Arts in Berlin and was appointed Professor of Physiology and Anatomy at Koenigsberg in East Prussia.

In 1842 vol Helmholtz first demonstrated that nerve fibres rose from ganglion cells. In 1850 he was the first to measure the speed of electrical transmission of the nerve impulse. In the same year he invented the ophthalmoscope, an instrument for viewing the interior of the eye or examining the retina. In 1867 he published Handbook of Physiological Optics.

He was a founder of the scientific study of music and in 1856 first demonstrated that tone, colour and the concept of music are related to the ordered mathematical arrangements of harmonies in scales and chords. In 1863 he published On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music. Thus the genus Helmholtzia commemorates someone of many talents.



The Association of Friends of Botanic Gardens

Pauline Wicksteed, Member of Growing Friends

The Association was incorporated in Victoria in 1993 as the result of a meeting held by the Friends of Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. Its aim is to provide support and encouragement for small regional botanical gardens being set up or restored from the neglected remnants of earlier public gardens. Membership initially was for botanical gardens within Victoria, though as time went on gardens from areas close to Victoria, such as Albury Botanic Garden and the Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra, were invited to attend the weekend conferences (generally held annually) when they were initiated in 1993.

The Friends of ANBG has sent representatives to each conference since 1993 and this contact with other Friends' groups has been stimulating as well as providing the opportunity to promote our own botanic gardens.

In 2001 the Association made the decision to broaden its membership to become an Australia-wide body and Friends of the ANBG has now joined officially as a member. At present there are 35 member gardens.

Some of our members have been able to visit the range of gardens represented in the Association membership, from the great botanic gardens of the capital cities and the cities of Geelong and Ballarat to the small regional gardens such as Portland Botanic Gardens; Queen Mary Gardens, St Arnaud; Wilson Botanic Park, Berwick; the Tasmanian Arboretum, Devonport. So many of these smaller gardens have wonderful old trees and rare shrubs planted in the early years of settlement, and now in majestic maturity they are heritage listed. The strong support of their Friends' groups will ensure the enduring care and management of these gardens for the enjoyment and enrichment of their communities.

The ANBG is one of the few member gardens that is completely devoted to Australian flora, but many of those early gardens also have significant Australian trees and shrubs, and several have special sections featuring Australian plants.

At the last conference, which was held in Ballarat in 2002, the Friends of the ANBG were asked whether we would host the next conference. The Council agreed and we have set the date for April 16-18, 2004. We have arranged a program of speakers, garden visits and a conference dinner on Saturday evening with guest speaker Jennie Churchill, ABC Gardening, Australia.

We are looking forward to showing our conference delegates the beautiful plantings and landscape effects of the Australian National Botanic Gardens.

Members who would like a preliminary brochure for the 2003 conference should contact the Secretary of the Friends :

          Phone : 6250 9548             Email : friendbg@ozemail.com.au

William Dampier - a Man of Parts

Catherine Blakers, Volunteer Guide

Dampiera rosmarinifolia
                        Photo by R Hotchkiss

Dampiera, with their colourful purple or blue flowers, have become well known as attractive garden plants. They are mainly West Australian in origin, and their name commemorates that of the quite remarkable man who first added them to his Australian collection of plants about a hundred years before Australia (as New Holland) was first officially 'discovered' by Captain Cook.

William Dampier, naturalist, privateer, navigator, hydrographer, explorer and the first Englishman to visit New Holland, was born in 1651 in the village of East Coker, Somerset. His parents had both died before he was 14, but guardians made sure that h had a good Latin-based schooling. In 1669 at age 18 he was apprenticed to a shipmaster in Weymouth, and from then to 1711 most of his life was spent at sea in a variety of colourful occupations. Among these were service in the Royal Navy fighting the Dutch and considerable other periods seizing ships and sacking towns in company with privateers who, unlike buccaneers, were officially licensed to prey on enemies of Britain, particularly the Spanish.

In between, he managed to spend varying amounts of time working on sugar and tobacco plantations and in the timer industry, exploring uncharted waters, being shipwrecked in the South Atlantic, and making a name for himself in the world of science as a naturalist and navigator. He married in 1678 but was at sea again six months later. His voyaging throughout the years took him round the world three times and covered most of the known world and some of the unknown; beginning with the Caribbean and the Americas and further to Africa, India and the lands bordering the China Sea and the Indian Ocean, including the west coast of New Holland.

Throughout, Dampier kept copious notes on whatever interested him, and his interests were wide indeed. From the data he collected during his many voyages, he published five books between 1697 and 1709. One, in 1699, Discourse of Trade Winds, Breezes, Storms, Seasons of the Year, Tides and Currents of the Torrid Zone through the World became a best seller and a basic manual for later explorers including Cook, Baudin and Flinders. His four accounts of his voyages included detailed observations of the terrain, and of the people, plants and other animals which inhabited the land, sea and air.

New Holland obviously interested him greatly from the time of his first visit on the Cygnet in 1688 where they made landfall on the coast north of what is now Broome and, sailing north round the (now) Dampier Peninsula. In the weeks they were there repairing the ship, Dampier was able to spend time ashore recording what he saw and collecting specimens to take back to the Royal Society. He noted in his journal that it was not certain whether this large tract of land was an island or a main continent; he described the dry sandy soil and such trees, animals, fish and birds as he came across in a fairly inhospitable region.

Once back in England, Dampier managed to persuade the British Admiralty to provide him with a ship to explore New Holland and seek commercial prospects. He was given the Roebuck, a 290-ton, three-masted, square-rigged barque, carrying 50 crew and 12 guns. They left England on 2 January 1699 and on 10 August came within sight of the coast of New Holland somewhere between the present towns of Geraldton and Carnarvon. Continuing north along the seaward coast of Dirk Hartog Island, they rounded its northern point, Cape Inscription, where the Dutchman Dirk Hartog in 1616 and Wilhelm de Vlamingh in 1697 left pewter plates to record their visits. Sailing round the Cape into Shark Bay they finally anchored about 5 km south at a place now called Dampier Landing where Dampier used the time to explore Dirk Hartog Island. Here he collected many species of plants, including Diplolaena, Acacia, Hannafordia, Halgania, Solanum, Dampiera and Brachyscome, noting that they were unlike any he had seen anywhere else.

After further exploration in Shark Bay, they sailed north and then east through the (now) Dampier Archipelago to Lagrange Bay (near Broome), anchoring there on 9 September in time to witness a partial eclipse of the moon. Throughout, Dampier continued his records and his collections. They left Lagrange Bay on 15 September, sailing north to Timor and then (at the end of November) east to New Guinea and its islands. From this point, Dampier had intended to sail south to find the east coast of New Holland, but the poor state of the ship and unknown currents and reefs made this far too risky. So they headed for home, leaving the east coast to be discovered by Captain James Cook about a century later.

The wisdom of their decision was borne out by the fact that the Roebuck developed a leak in the southern Atlantic off Ascension Island, and sank. Essential items, including Dampier's journals and specimens, were taken ashore and for about six weeks they all lived on turtles and goats. They were rescued on 14 April by four British ships which had anchored in the bay, and Dampier finally arrived home in August 1701.

Dampier made two further voyages round the world: the first (1703-1707) as captain of a privateer vessel; the second and final voyage (1708-1711) as pilot and adviser on a very lucrative privateering expedition with a booty valued at about 150,000 pounds stirling. Litigation delayed the full sharing of the booty before Dampier's death. He died in April 1715 at age 63 and his burial place is unknown.

Ellis Rowan Garden

The plants displayed in this garden bed, outside the Friends' Lounge in the Ellis Rowan Building, were selected by Gardens' horticulturists to suit cool climate home gardens. They were all purchased from local suppliers.

The shrubs are planted in groups to accentuate the flower and foliage effects. Most plants grow to less than one metre tall, but taller shrubs and dwarf eucalypts are used to provide some height variation.

The garden bed includes areas of
built-up soil to provide good drainage and an interesting change to the surface level. A simulated dry creek bed acts as natural drainage, creating ideal locations for those plants that occasionally need extra moisture. A sandy gravel mix has been used as mulch. It does not break down like organic mulch and allows good moisture penetration. The light colour of the mulch tends to highlight foliage - an effective technique to emphasise small plants in dark or shady places.

Tetratheca thymifolia  
 'Bicentennial Belle"     
                                             Photo by B Molyneux

Gardens' staff constructed the Ellis Rowan Building Garden in 2003 with financial support from the Friends of the Gardens.

A comprehensive list of the plants in this bed can be found on the Gardens website : http://www.anbg.gov.au/anbg/sections-anbg/sect-131.html

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Compiled November, 2003 by Shirley McKeown   -  email : wombats1@tpg.com.au