News from your Gardens - Winter 2016

  • Rare plants added to the Gardens' collection

    The Gardens has successfully propagated over 700 plants from cuttings collected during a Bush Blitz field trip to Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, NSW. The majority of the plants are some of the region's rarest species, including several that grow nowhere else in the wild.

    • Joe McAuliffe, the Gardens' Nursery Manager said "It has been an outstanding result with a high percentage of success from the range of plant cutting material that we collected. It is difficult to predict the outcome of plants collected in the wild as we are often dealing with the unknown, especially when we try growing species for the first time."

      David Taylor, the Gardens' Curator of Living Collections explained, "The rare plants are secure here at the Gardens, but more importantly they have been collected using specialised techniques to make them suitable for future release back into the wild.

      Propagation by cuttings has other advantages over the typical seed based collection techniques. If seed is not available when field work is taking place, plant cuttings are an ideal alternative as they can be taken most of the year. In the case of one species we collected, Grevillea guthrieana, this was particularly critical as the species had suffered the loss of many mature plants in a recent fire and the regenerating seedlings had yet to flower and set new seed. We now have a back up of over 300 Grevillea guthrieana plants in our collection."

      The Gardens has maintained strong links with NSW National Parks staff, the Office of Environment and Heritage threatened species officers and senior botanists in the Oxley Wild Rivers region to continue to look for opportunities for securing and re-introducing the plant species. It promises to be an enduring partnership that will deliver positive outcomes for some very rare Australian plants.

      This research was undertaken through Bush Blitz, a partnership project between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton and Earthwatch.

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  • The mystery of the Scribbly Gum's Scribbles

    The smooth bark of the Scribbly Gum tree, decorated with its unique and delightful scribbles, is undoubtedly and iconically Australian. On Tuesday 16 June, the Gardens was thrilled to unveil an interpretive panel in honour of Canberra Centenarian, Dr Max Day for his work unravelling the mystery of these fascinating scribbles.

    • Since Dr Day began studying Scribbly Gums at the Gardens, his research has helped scientists discover at least 15 moth species responsible for these decorative additions to the bark of Scribbly Gum trees.

      Dr Day and his colleagues have shown that the scribbles are the feeding tracks of the larvae of minute moths which lays their eggs between the old and new bark. When the old bark peels away, the tracks are exposed, giving the Gum trees their fascinating appearance. Furthermore, each of these 15 species of moth leaves its own distinctively unique scribble.

      The work of Dr Day is a prime example of how the Gardens has been, and continues to be a valuable resource for scientists. It is wonderful for the Gardens to have the opportunity to share some of this knowledge with the public through the new signage.

      Dr Day is a well respected ecologist and entomologist whose scientific publications span 74 years. The last of his papers on the biology of the Australian scribbly gum moth was published when he was 97 years old and now, at 100 years of age, he is the Australian Academy of Science's oldest living Fellow. Dr Day worked with the CSIRO national insect collection and was the first Chief of the CSIRO Division of Forest Research.

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  • Helping revegetate Christmas Island

    The Gardens is home to the National Seed Bank and staff recently visited Christmas Island to gather seed to grow plants for the Gardens' new Conservatory. During the visit, Garden's staff assisted the Christmas Island National Park staff with improving their seed collection techniques and storage protocols to help them become more efficient in their seed collection and revegetation efforts.

    • The Christmas Island National Park staff undertake extensive revegetation projects across Christmas Island and rely on collected seed to sow in their nursery. They currently produce about 30 species of plants for revegetation and while the volume and hardiness of the plants they produce is impressive, they would like more diversity amongst the species they produce.

      Knowledge of how long various species of seed will remain viable in storage allows the staff to direct more of their resources to collecting short lived seeds, while retaining a seed bank of longer lasting seeds in cold storage. This frees up time to expand the diversity of species they are collecting, propagating and ultimately using for revegetation.

      This project was made possible with collaboration from the Gardens', the Australian Seed Bank Partnership and Millennium Seed Bank, Kew 1000 species Field Work Funds and the Christmas Island National Park.

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  • Dinosaurs roam the Gardens during Prehistoric Garden Week

    Visitors to the Gardens stepped back in time during Prehistoric Garden Week when 19 life-sized dinosaurs were on display. Even Canberra's winter chill (and snow!) couldn't keep people from meeting the dinosaurs and exploring the self-guided prehistoric trail, kid's activities and adventurous night-time events.

    • During the 16-day long event, the Gardens saw an increase of 20,000 in visitor numbers.

      The Gardens would like to send a special thanks to the National Dinosaur Museum for their partnership in this popular event.

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  • What's in flower?

    Acacia myrtifolia, often known as the Red-stemmed Wattle or Myrtle Wattle, flowers throughout most of winter and can be seen flowering close to the Gardens' Visitors Centre. This attractive and unusual wattle has bright red new growth and stems, with green foliage and cream balls of flowers.

    • It is well worth considering for the home garden, being a moderate size, appealing to the eye (even when not in flower) and tolerant of most soils as well as moderate frosts.

      Acacia myrtifolia grows to 1-2 metres high and is found in open forests and woodlands of all States except the Northern Territory. It performs best in a full sun position and will benefit from a light prune after flowering to maintain its naturally bushy habit. In addition to Section 174, you can also find this plant displayed in Sections 44, 107 and in the Sydney Region, 191a, 191e, and 191s.

      Other small species wattles for the home garden are Acacia acinacea, Acacia argyraea, Acacia cremiflora, Acacia flexifolia, Acacia genistifolia (local), and Acacia glaucoptera. There are also many cultivars of Acacia cognata, for example 'Bower Beauty', 'Green Mist', 'Limelight' and 'Mincog', some of which may be frost sensitive.

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