THE BOTANIC GARDENer SUMMER 2020/21 – Botanic gardens – stories of recovery and regeneration

Page 1

THE BOTANIC GARDENer The magazine for botanic garden professionals

Theme: Botanic gardens – stories of recovery and regeneration ISSN 1446-2044 |


55 SUMMER 2020/21

Editorial Committee REBECCA HARCOURT Managing Editor DALE ARVIDSSON Curator, Brisbane Botanic Gardens ALAN MATCHETT Botanic Garden Manager, Dunedin Botanic Garden TOM McCARTER Wildlife Garden Manager, The Natural History Museum, London JANET O’HEHIR Vice-President, Camperdown Botanic Gardens and Arboretum Trust Inc. EAMONN FLANAGAN Chief Executive Officer, BGANZ SIOBHAN DUFFY Graphic Designer

DISCLAIMER: Please note the views expressed in articles are not necessarily the views of BGANZ Council. We aim to encourage a broad range of articles. Feedback and comments on the newsletter and articles are welcome. Please email:

COVER: The fire as seen from the front entrance of the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah at 9 pm. Photo: Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah.

CONTENTS 2 President’s view Chris Russell, BGANZ President

4 Editorial insights Rebecca Harcourt, Managing Editor

Feature Interview 6 A serial entrepreneur with a conscience Eric Ralls, founder and CEO of PlantSnap

What’s New? 13 Botanic news: from home and abroad 18 Revision of ex situ plant conservation guidelines Dr Amelia Martyn Yenson, ANPC Project Manager (Germplasm Guidelines)

19 Climate risk assessment tool project (Climate Change Alliance of Botanic Gardens) Peter Symes, Curator Horticulture, Melbourne Gardens, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria

Pollinating Great Ideas 21 San Francisco’s trees: an experiment in diversity Mike Sullivan, Jason Dewees and Richard Turner

25 Kids explore Bundaberg Botanic Gardens with new activity book Roana O’Neill, Co-ordinator Communication and Engagement, Bundaberg Regional Council

The Hort. Section 28 Interview: After the fires – where we are now and where we’re going


Feature Articles 36 Handy hints on what to do when your botanic garden burns down Michael Anlezark, Manager, Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Garden

41 Mount Tomah and the Goblet of Fire: a summer I’ll never forget Greg Bourke, Curator Manager, Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah

46 Mount Tomah and the Order of the Phoenix: the garden rises from the ashes Ian Allan, Supervisor of Arboriculture and Natural Areas, Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah

52 Botanic gardens: a refuge during times of stress and disaster. Notes of the experience at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens Wolfgang Bopp, Director of Botanic Gardens and Garden Parks and Bede Nottingham, Team Leader for Operations Support, Christchurch Botanic Gardens

Feature Garden 56 Rain on the Gardens’ birthday parade Julie Akmacic and Toby Golson, Australian National Botanic Gardens

The theme of the next issue of The BOTANIC GARDENer is Plant Science: Research in Botanic Gardens. The deadline for contributions is 12 April 2021. Please contact the Managing Editor at if you are intending to submit an article or have a contribution to other sections.

Professional Networks 60 BCARM – BGANZ Collections and Records Management: Care for the Rare update John Arnott, Manager Horticulture, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria Cranbourne Gardens

64 BGEN –­ Get involved with the Botanic Gardens Engagement Network Julia Watson, Botanic Gardens Engagement Network Convenor

65 Plant Health Australia – Networks and digital communications for botanic gardens communities Daniela Carnovale, Project Officer and David Gale, Manager, Data Management and Surveillance Communities, Plant Health Australia

70 BGCI’s Directory of Expertise Brian Lainoff, Head of Membership Strategy and Services, BCGI

71 Australian Seed Bank Partnership – ex situ seed conservation for bush fire recovery Damian Wrigley, National Coordinator, Australian Seed Bank Partnership

76 Calendar of conferences and events THE BOTANIC GARDENer | ISS 55 SUMMER 2020/21


President’s view Chris Russell, BGANZ President

Botanic Gardens — stories of recovery and regeneration As the global pandemic continues to rage unabated in some

Chris Russell.

parts of the world, the importance of our public green spaces has never been more apparent. Restrictions on indoor gatherings and social distancing have made parks and gardens even more important as places to seek refuge and solace in a safe and ‘clean’ environment. Prolonged periods of isolation at home and restrictions on movement have meant that local gardens have been critical for the wellbeing of local communities, providing clean air, physical space and spiritual upliftment in our time of need. What may have been taken for granted by some is now becoming cherished by all as our perception of the fundamental importance of nature connection is fully realised. We simply cannot live fulfilling, healthy lives without exposure to nature, and for many people the local park or botanic garden is the only option. The seismic shift brought about by COVID-19 brings opportunities for botanic gardens to develop new audiences — not only the locals who might not have appreciated until now what is on their doorstep, but also opportunities to host new events and activities previously the domain of indoor venues. COVID-19 has turned many things on their heads and botanic gardens need more than ever to be agile to the changing needs of our communities. Welcome to another edition of the BOTANIC GARDENer. From the outset I would like to acknowledge and thank our recently retired managing editor Helen Vaughan who oversaw the creation of five vibrant editions, and to welcome Rebecca Harcourt to the role. From humble beginnings, the magazine has evolved to become one of the most valued components of BGANZ membership (as indicated in the recent member survey), and all credit goes to the dedication of our creative editors, contributors, and CEO Eamonn Flanagan. This edition we hear some inspiring stories of recovery and regeneration, from fires to pandemics and beyond. While all of this has been happening, your council has been working hard on the strategic review of BGANZ so that we can position ourselves to be even more relevant for you, our members, and in a position to grow sustainably into the future. The response to the online members’ survey and workshop has provided clarity and ideas to take us forward, which along with satisfying the governance requirements of achieving deductable gift recipient (DGR) status, will set us up for an exciting next chapter. In brief, DGR is about improving our ability to attract sponsors and strengthen our income stream, but we are also focussed on making our structure more efficient and effective at achieving our strategic goals including serving our members’ needs. We are working with consultant Leanne Muffet of Strategic Matters and receiving legal advice from TLC Lawyers to guide us through the process. Once we have a preferred model, we will come back to you with next steps in the process. 2


While talking about sponsorship, we are very excited to have entered a partnership with Plant Health Australia (PHA). PHA is the national coordinator of the government-industry partnership for biosecurity in Australia and has been collaborating with BGANZ for some time on the important role that botanic gardens play in pest surveillance. It is not only about protecting our living collections but also drawing on our biosecurity expertise and building capacity for the benefit of the environment and broader plant industries. The plant records database project being led by Tex Moon and John Arnott in Victoria is progressing well, with tenders received currently being assessed. Our aim in the longer term is for BGANZ to facilitate an affordable, user-friendly plant records system across our entire network. This will help improve our understanding of the plants we hold in our living collections and give us a much better ability to share this information with each other and other botanic garden and plant conservation agencies. On a final note, as a member of the 7th Global Botanic Gardens Congress organising committee, I can report that we have been closely watching the progress of the global pandemic and doing our best to predict how it might impact international travel to Melbourne. Clearly, we are still a fair way off from a vaccine being widely available and international borders reopening. We have explored the notion of holding a totally online forum, but the strong consensus is that there is primary and significant value in delegates physically experiencing the gardens and flora of the host region, as well as the important networking opportunities that are most effective face-to-face. With this in mind, we decided to delay the congress by 12 months with the new dates being 26 to 30 September 2022. This is an important global event for BGANZ working with hosts Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria and Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) and we are committed to making it a great success. Stay connected by registering your interest at Stay well in nature.

Seasol is proud to be supporting the Botanic Gardens Australia & New Zealand



Editorial insights Rebecca Harcourt, Managing Editor

Welcome to issue 55 of THE BOTANIC GARDENer, and my first issue as Managing Editor. I must say that I am very impressed with the quality and content of the articles I have had the pleasure

Rebecca Harcourt.

to read. First, a little about me. I love nature, and especially plants. As a teenager, I wanted to be the female equivalent of my hero, David Attenborough. Rather than a general science degree, I was persuaded to study a more practical version, agricultural science, which surprisingly, for a city-bred girl, I really enjoyed. I went on to do a PhD at the University of Cambridge, England in wheat breeding and genetics and worked for many years in labs in the UK and Australia. I worked not just with wheat but with other cereals, and even eucalypts at CSIRO in Canberra. I visited the ANBG many times on a professional level to sample their Eucalyptus globulus leaves, as well as on a personal level for pure enjoyment. Over the years, I discovered that I preferred communicating about the research more than practicing it, and had a bit of a knack with words. Fast-forward to now, where I get to immerse myself in the glorious world of botanic gardens and their stories. In this edition, I chat to fellow David Attenborough fan Eric Ralls, founder and CEO of PlantSnap, with whom we have very recently partnered. In the Feature Interview, Eric describes how in PlantSnap, a plant identification app for mobile devices, he has merged technology with a love for nature and our planet. Our Feature Articles perfectly address this issue’s theme, ‘Botanic gardens: stories of recovery and regeneration’. Greg Bourke gives a harrowing first-hand account of protecting the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah throughout last summer’s bushfires, while Ian Allan describes how this remarkable garden is recovering from such a destructive event. Michael Anlezark provides us with some handy hints on what to do when your botanic garden burns down in a fascinating and very human account of the fires that impacted the Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Garden on New Year’s Eve. Last, but not least, Wolfgang Bopp and Bede Nottingham tell us how Christchurch Botanic Gardens has survived within the last decade, not just a devastating earthquake but the disruption and uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.



In our Pollinating Great Ideas section, we hear from three self-admitted tree geeks who are creating COVID-safe, self-guided tree tours throughout San Francisco. We also hear about another self-guided activity, designed for children, from Roana O’Neill at Bundaberg Botanic Gardens. In the Hort section, Ariana gets in touch with the newly appointed Director of Horticulture at the Botanic Gardens Greater Sydney, John Siemon, and Director Research and Chief Botanist, Dr Brett Summerell at the new Australian Institute of Botanical Science. Our Feature Garden this issue is the ANBG, where Julie Akmacic and Toby Golson describe how nature got in the way of the gardens’ golden anniversary this year. I think nature might have interrupted more than a few anniversaries and celebrations this year. Let’s hope that 2021 is a bit less disruptive. I’d love to hear from you with any feedback on this issue or suggestions for future themes. Please feel free to email me at

Alive with celebration Fifty years and growing Be captivated by Australian plants, flowers and landscapes from the Rainforest to the Red Centre. Visit the new Banksia Garden to discover the diversity of iconic Australian Banksia.

Photo: Steve Rogers




A serial entrepreneur with a conscience Rebecca Harcourt interviews Eric Ralls, founder and CEO of PlantSnap

A self-confessed science nerd and nature lover, Eric Ralls developed the app PlantSnap with the goal of reconnecting people to the world around them. I recently caught up with Eric via Zoom at his home in the US to find out more about him, the app and the partnership between PlantSnap and BGANZ. Eric, how did your journey begin? I grew up in East Texas in an oil and real estate family.

Eric Ralls. Photo: PlantSnap.

I’m a long way from home now, both geographically and ideologically. I live in a little ski town in the southwest corner of Colorado. I escaped East Texas to Nashville where I studied Japanese and psychology and then went to grad school in Arizona to study business. Back then Japan was doing well, and I had a Walkman and a Sega console. In hindsight, I think I should have learned Chinese! I got out of grad school and discovered the Internet. It was the early days of the Internet. I was really interested in space and the universe at that time. There was no website about space, so I decided to build one, called Cosmiverse. It was 1999 and that was my first Internet company. It was just a big media portal, with a bunch of writers. You went to Cosmiverse to read about space like you go to CNN or News Online to read about politics and showbiz. It was fun, and successful, and I realised that I could do my job from anywhere in the world. My job was learning about things that interested me and teaching people what I had learned, and I loved it. My aim has always been to get people to understand science by making it easy and fun to learn. With my current website,, there’s six million pages of content, one for every plant and animal species on the planet. We also publish about 10 news articles every day about earth, nature and the environment. This is the only earth we’ve got, and we’re not taking care of it. 6


PlantSnap is your latest app: what took you into the world of plants? I was never a plant person. I was just a science nerd. I was having beers with a friend, and in his backyard there was this really pretty flower that no one could identify. At the time, in 2012, there was no easy way to identify it. That’s when the idea of a plant-identifying app was born, and when I filed the first patent. I couldn’t build it, however, as the technology just wasn’t there. I became a bit obsessed with it and then, in 2017, I heard about a branch of artificial intelligence called Machine Learning that was just what I needed. I found some technology that would scale too, on a global level. My obsession could finally become a reality. PlantSnap is a small team, only about 20 of us in total. My skill is hiring people smarter than me. That’s the key to having a successful business — put your ego away and hire people that are a lot smarter than you. They’ve been able to bring what’s in my head into reality. Our development team is based in Bulgaria, our customer support team and our botanists are spread around the world, and we have about five people in the US. We’re a truly global operation, which allows us to have people working on PlantSnap 24/7/365. We have been a virtual office since day one, using all the tools that people who have been forced into remote working are now learning to use. Most importantly, PlantSnap is not a company built solely to make money. If I had known how hard and expensive it would be to develop PlantSnap, I may not have done it! My #1 goal is to help the planet by partnering with scientists around the world to help combat and alleviate the damage being done to the ecosystem by climate change. We have also partnered with Snapchat, with PlantSnap being integrated directly into the Snapchat app, which is getting a younger demographic interested in nature and plants. If they carry that along with them into adulthood, then this planet’s got a chance.

Image: PlantSnap. THE BOTANIC GARDENer | ISS 55 SUMMER 2020/21



Image: PlantSnap.

What does PlantSnap do? It’s really simple. It’s an app for your mobile phone that allows you to identify plants. Hold the app up, snap a photo of a plant. And in about five seconds, depending on your connection speed, it returns the result. You get the plant’s name and information, like its taxonomy, habitat, care and uses, as well as toxicity information and its endangered or threatened status. If you like the plant, you click a button and are taken to a website to buy it. Here in America, Amazon sells plants online. During the pandemic, it’s really taken off in a big way. Plant delivery in the US is a huge market and it’s booming. One positive thing to come out of the pandemic is that people are discovering gardening. In Australia, we’ve partnered with Bunnings and in New Zealand, with Kings Plant Barn. We currently have about 650,000 plants in our database, including hybrids and varietals. If the plant is in our database, and the photo is a nice clear close-up of a flower, it’s 96% accurate. It also works on leaves, but they are a lot harder because they’re very similar across all species. It’s easy to identify plant leaves on the genus level, but once you get to the species level it makes it a lot more difficult, so the accuracy on leaves alone is probably 85%. We have also developed a global, social community inside PlantSnap called PlantSnappers. People can share their photos, see photos taken by millions of other people around the world, and discuss gardening tips. Right now, it’s a very basic, niche social media platform targeted solely to people with an interest in plants and nature. We’re currently adding many new features that will greatly enhance the user experience, hopefully enticing PlantSnappers to engage with fellow plant and gardening enthusiasts on a daily basis. Another cool thing about PlantSnap is that it is constantly improving — the more images it has, the better it gets at identifying them. We re-train the identification algorithm every month with the images that users have taken during the previous month, so the algorithm is constantly getting smarter. 8


As the Internet becomes more pervasive around the world everyone will have access to it, and to PlantSnap. You can see on our website how PlantSnap is spreading around the planet already in the Explore Map tab. You can zoom in to any place on the planet and see what people have been snapping during the past 30 days.

PlantSnap brings nature from every part of the world into the palm of your hand.

You partnered with BGCI and BGANZ. How important are these partnerships to the success of PlantSnap?

Image: PlantSnap.

The main goal of PlantSnap is to map and catalogue every plant species on earth by 2022. PlantSnap users are participating in a Global Citizen Scientist project to do this. This database will be offered as an open-source system to scientific organisations, NGOs, and universities around the world to help them study and address the impact of climate change on every plant species in every country and town on Earth. This is something that would have been unheard of just a few years ago — imagine the manpower and the organisational nightmare. Now, all people have to do is walk around and snap photos of plants. Having said that, it’s more the partnerships with BCGI and BGANZ that will really make the difference, as well as the one we have with the American Public Gardens Association here in North America. We have partnered with about 1200 botanic gardens world-wide, and those gardens have 700 million unique visitors. This was supposed to be the year we launched the app in about 500 gardens in North America and Europe, but unfortunately 95% of those gardens never got to open, or they did so on a very limited basis due to COVID-19. Because of this, we’re launching in Australia and New Zealand, on 1 December 2020. So far, we’ve got all the main plant species from Australia and New Zealand in our database. The ANBG has given us 18,000 images of native plants in Australia. We’re aiming to get some more from Kings Park WA and also the native list from New Zealand. We hope to have them all by the end of November. We tested the app in about 25 gardens in the US last year, but its use in Australian and New Zealand gardens will be the biggest yet. We’ve got lots of users in the northern hemisphere, but not nearly enough in the south, and hopefully this relationship is going to make us a truly global app instead of a seasonal northern hemisphere app. It’s going to be really fun to watch the social community when people from Australia and New Zealand start posting plant photos — plants like the bottlebrushes and all the amazing banksias will look like alien creatures to people in the northern hemisphere. That will encourage them to use the app year-round because they’re able to log on and see these plants in different parts of the world that they probably never have and never will be able to visit.



I’m also hoping that these partnerships will help our Global Citizen Scientist project. Anyone going to a botanic garden clearly cares about nature and enjoys plants and should want to participate in helping us with this massive scientific initiative. We’ll be able to track the movement of species across regions or territories as the planet warms or cools in certain places. We’ll be able to track whether or not a plant flowers, and when. If there’s a species not flowering as much as it should in a certain area, then the app will trigger that maybe this plant is endangered or threatened, and that’s when BGCI kicks in and can investigate. Having the gardens on board is the best way to get the message out. Our planet is in trouble and we’ve got to do something. We can all play a role just by taking a few photos.

How will PlantSnap benefit botanic gardens and their visitors? Gardens don’t have the resources to track who’s coming to the gardens, what part of the gardens they’re visiting, and what plants they’re looking at — or not looking at. This type of information is collected through the app and allows gardens to understand how people are using them. Visitors also have a fun, interactive experience. They can learn about the unlabelled plants — a huge benefit, as many gardens don’t have all their plants labelled. Every plant in the garden will be listed and geolocated in the app. Eamonn told me that the BGANZ members are excited at the thought that they won’t have to be asked to identify a plant ever again, because the time they spend on that is enormous. Another huge benefit with the app is that the gardens get to keep the photos. Surprisingly, most gardens don’t have photos of their own plants, as well as not having any demographic information about their visitors. The gardens also get to keep the photos that are taken with the app when people leave the garden. Every garden has a unique download link and that attributes the download to that particular garden. The app also helps more people discover gardens, as app users are notified about their nearest PlantSnap‑partnered botanic garden.

BGANZ partner with PlantSnap — commences 1 December 2020 BGANZ will receive revenue from EVERY PlantSnap download in Australia and New Zealand. The app can be downloaded from links provided at your garden, on the BGANZ website and direct from Google Play and Apple App Stores in Australia and New Zealand. BGANZ will receive 10% from either the ad revenue associated with the free version of the app, or 10% from the cost of the premium app. This revenue will be used, in part, to fund plant conservation projects with member gardens.



FEATURE INTERVIEW What does the future hold for PlantSnap? We’re about to launch a new website. The website will have a page for every plant that we have in our database, and we’re also doing blogs and articles. is going from 100 pages to over 650,000 pages. There’s also a couple of huge partnerships that we’ll be announcing either before the end of the year or in January 2021, and also a new version of the app that takes the technology to a level that is unheard of. The main problem anyone has in the app is framing and taking a good photo. We’re removing the possibility of user error. We’re also developing a new app. It’s called

Image: PlantSnap.

PlantCatch. I live in the mountains where I was on nature hike with my little nephews who were playing Pokémon Go, looking for invisible monsters. I thought, instead of looking for invisible monsters, how about looking for plants and learn something while you’re at it? It’s a bit like Pokémon Go for plants. It’s another fun way to get kids interested in and understanding nature and the environment.

What’s been your biggest challenge with PlantSnap? In the beginning, the biggest challenge was getting enough plant images to train the algorithm. We had to go out and get photos ourselves. Now that we’ve got hundreds of millions of images, it makes our job lot easier. Right now, the hardest part is getting the app to the number of users that we need to achieve the goal of mapping all the plant species on the planet. Now it’s just about growth. The algorithm is just going to get better and better on its own every month, and we just need more people using it. I’ve got 40 million installs so far around the globe. I want that to be at 200 million by 2022. Our partnerships with the gardens will be a big boost to hitting that number.

What are you reading, listening to, or watching at the moment? I just read this amazing book called Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult. I like to read fiction that has a story based around real science. This book is about elephants. The protagonist studies elephants, so I’ve learned more about elephants through her studies woven throughout this novel than I’ve ever known before. I highly recommend this book. I also like documentaries, anything about space.



FEATURE INTERVIEW PlantSnap benefits botanic gardens and their visitors • Gardens can track who is coming to their garden and identify which part of the garden people are visiting, or not visiting. • Every plant will be listed, with information about the plant. • Gardens can add unique information about the plants held in their garden. • All plants are geolocated. • Gardens can keep the images of every plant taken in their garden — an instant photo collection. • Garden staff won’t have to answer, ‘What is that plant?’ ever again!

Finally, what is your favourite plant? Banksias and bottlebrushes. I haven’t seen them in person yet so maybe that’s why they’re my favourites. Otherwise, my favourite is the hibiscus. This was the flower no one could identify in the backyard back in 2012, where it all began. I think they’re just beautiful.

Garden staff won’t have to answer, ‘What is that plant?’ ever again!

Photo: Rebecca Harcourt.

The BGANZ Partnership with PlantSnap commences on 1 December 2020. Any member garden wanting to find out more about the PlantSnap app and how their garden can sign up, please contact Sam Moon, BGANZ Marketing and Communications Officer




Botanic news: from home and abroad Save the dates 6th Botanic Gardens Day (last Sunday in May) 30 May 2021 In 2020, Botanic Gardens Day met the coronavirus challenge head-on as we realised many gardens would be closed to visitors due to COVID-19. The month of May leading into the Botanic Gardens Day online forum saw the inaugural #PlantChallenge take place. Sam Moon, Tim Uebergang, Emma Bodley and John Lloyd Fillingham created a wonderful series of botanic garden videos to promote the botanic challenge. Over 50 botanic gardens members from across Australia and New Zealand took part in the inaugural Plant Challenge, a video challenge to tell a story around their favourite plant. We’re planning to do even better in 2021. We’ll have all the information and a campaign you can contribute to by the end of January 2021.

10th BGANZ Congress and 7GBGC (Global Botanic Gardens Congress): 26–30 September 2022, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Melbourne, Australia BGANZ congresses are increasingly popular events, and the 10th BGANZ Congress is a joint BGANZ/BGCI Congress to be held in Melbourne, Victoria. Put a note in your diary and get planning, Monday 26 to Friday 30 September 2022, with the final day currently a ‘technical tours’ day.

BGANZ members: professional development opportunities BGANZ council encourages all members to look out for these awards, and many other non-BGANZ annual awards each year. If you are looking for professional development opportunities, there is a list of awards and secondment opportunities on the BGANZ website. We aim to keep it updated as new professional development opportunities become available.



2020 award winners BGANZ received no applications for any of its awards in 2020. This may have been due to COVID-19. Council will offer the same awards in 2021 and will review the program after applications close.

BGANZ awards — objectives The objective of the BGANZ awards is to acknowledge the efforts, and contribute to the ongoing training and development, of BGANZ members through research or work experience with like organisations, which will bring a benefit to the applicants, BGANZ members and the wider industry.

2021 BGANZ award applications BGANZ council is delighted to announce the BGANZ Awards for 2021. Applications will be called for in early 2021. Sign up for the BGANZ newsletter or check the website for the latest information. • BGANZ Professional Development Award 2021 (closing date 31 July 2021) value AUD$2,000 • BGANZ Young Member Award 2021 (closing date 31 July 2021) value AUD$500 • BGANZ/American Public Gardens Association Award 2021 (closing date 28 February 2021) value USD$800

BGANZ member benefits 1. BGANZ partner with Seasol BGANZ has recently signed a 3-year partnership with Seasol Ltd. BGANZ institution and associate members can take advantage of a fantastic offer to purchase Seasol products at significantly reduced prices. Conditions apply. For the confidential price list please email:



WHAT’S NEW 2. BGANZ partner with Plant Health Australia BGANZ is delighted to announce it has recently partnered with Plant Health Australia (PHA) for two years. BGANZ members will have great opportunities to attend PHA biosecurity briefings and workshops through webinars held online. You can find dates for PHA Biosecurity Workshops, and additional workshops and PHA information in the BGANZ weekly newsletters.

3. BGANZ partner with Augusta Golf Cars BGANZ members have a great opportunity to discuss all their transport requirements with Augusta Golf Cars. BGANZ encourages all members to contact Augusta Golf Cars to discuss future purchasing opportunities. More information about Augusta is available on the BGANZ website and in this edition of THE BOTANIC GARDENer.

4. BGANZ partner with PlantSnap (app) BGANZ has partnered with PlantSnap, the plant photo ID app, and the app will be available for all gardens to use. Gardens will be able to add information about their plants to the app, and also gain demographic and visitor information captured when people use the app at their garden. The Australian National Botanic Garden will launch the app this month. Be sure to read the Feature Interview with Eric Ralls, CEO, PlantSnap, in this edition. BGANZ will receive income every time the PlantSnap app is downloaded in Australia and New Zealand, and also every time the free version is downloaded or used. BGANZ members can join at any time. If you or your garden would like a presentation of the app, via the BGANZ Digital Workshop, to assess its value for your garden, please send an email to Sam Moon and Sam will organise a time.

5. Get a great new car deal! For the exclusive benefit of BGANZ members, BGANZ has entered into a partnership with Autotender. BGANZ members can now get great prices when purchasing their new car through Autotender. For more information on how members can get better car prices check out the information page here.



WHAT’S NEW BGANZ member news Vacancy: BGANZ Web Content Manager (volunteer position) An opportunity exists to join the BGANZ Communications Group as BGANZ Web Content Manager. Brad Crème has recently stepped down from the position after leading the BGANZ website team. This is a volunteer position. BGANZ website uses the Wordpress content management system, and full training and support will be given. The position is not onerous — usually only an hour a week once you are familiar with the system. The BGANZ Web Content Manager works closely with Eamonn, BGANZ CEO, and Sam Moon, Social Media Coordinator. Join your professional network and help your member organisation have the website members deserve. Contact for more information. We look forward to hearing from you.

BGANZ network staff changes Mastermind behind stunning gardens retires The mastermind behind the world-class Hamilton Gardens (New Zealand) Dr Peter Sergel is retiring at the end of this year. Dr Sergel has been a driving force at Hamilton Gardens since 1979 when he was asked to develop a concept plan for the park. He had just joined Hamilton City Council and this was one of the first jobs he was given. The seeds of success were sown for the award-winning gardens and Dr Sergel went on to develop the gardens’ unique concept of telling the story of gardens throughout civilisation. Dr Sergel was appointed Director of Hamilton Gardens in 1995, but he has been at the forefront of the gardens’ development and operations for the last four decades, meticulously designing more than 20 gardens at the site.

BGANZQ has a new chair Michael Elgey, Rockhampton Botanic Gardens, has stepped into the role of BGANZQ chair as Prue McGruther takes maternity leave. We thank Prue for her work to date and look forward to her return. Welcome Michael. You can contact Michael at



BGANZ council: how do I get elected? Several members have recently asked: ‘how do I get on to Council?’ Council membership is explained on the website here, but if you have further questions please contact Eamonn Flanagan

BGANZ returning and new members (financial year beginning July 2020) The overwhelming majority of returning members paid by direct credit card, and prior to 30 June 2020. This is greatly appreciated and has contributed to increased efficiency and time to attend to other BGANZ matters. We welcome all new and returning members. Thanks for your support and we look forward to your involvement in BGANZ. Institutional members

Individual members

Geelong Botanic Gardens (Vic)

Paul Robinson

National Arboretum (ACT)

Amelia Martyn Yenson

Wellington Botanic Gardens (NZ)

Gretel Hamilton

Western Downs Regional Council (QLD)

Rachel Robertson Annie McGeachey



Revision of ex situ plant conservation guidelines Dr Amelia Martyn Yenson, ANPC Project Manager (Germplasm Guidelines) The Australian Network for Plant Conservation and The Australian PlantBank, Australian Institute of Botanical Science, Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan The third edition of the publication Plant Germplasm Conservation in Australia — strategies and guidelines for developing, managing and utilising ex situ collections is currently in production, coordinated by the Australian Network for Plant Conservation (ANPC) and funded by The Ian Potter Foundation. With ongoing threats to the flora of Australia and New Zealand, and increasing numbers of species being listed as threatened, ex situ conservation provides insurance against loss of species and populations. Ex situ collections are a source of plant material to support retention and restoration of wild plant diversity. Also known as the ‘Germplasm Guidelines’, this publication is a science-based guide for the best‑practice management of ex situ (off site) collections of seeds, plant tissue and whole plants. The guidelines are focussed on conservation, particularly of threatened plant species, using a range of methods such as seedbanking, living collections, tissue culture and cryopreservation ( Hence, the publication will be essential reading for all those involved in ex situ plant conservation. More than 50 scientists, seedbank staff, horticulturists and botanic gardens staff are contributing to the third edition, providing a wealth of knowledge and information gained since the second edition was published 12 years ago. This edition will feature new chapters and dozens of new and updated case studies from Australia and New Zealand, showcasing conservation in practice. It will complement the ANPC’s Guidelines for the Translocation of Threatened Plants in Australia (Commander et al. 2018) and FloraBank Guidelines for best-practice native seed collection and use (also currently being updated;, which together provide practical information for restoring native plant species and communities throughout Australia.



WHAT’S NEW The Germplasm Guidelines will be available for download from the ANPC website in mid-2021 and will be accompanied by hands-on workshops and online training materials. Be sure to subscribe to the ANPC’s free e-newsletter ( to stay up-to-date with the launch of the Germplasm Guidelines and associated professional development opportunities. Reference: Commander L.E., Coates D.J., Broadhurst L., Offord C.A., Makinson R.O., Matthes M. (eds) (2018) Guidelines for the Translocation of Threatened Plants in Australia, 3rd edn, Australian Network for Plant Conservation, Canberra. Available for free download at:

Climate risk assessment tool project (Climate Change Alliance of Botanic Gardens) Peter Symes, Curator Horticulture, Melbourne Gardens, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria Dear Colleague, The ‘climatic world’ in which many of our botanic gardens and landscapes were created is already gone and profound challenges confront us into the future. It has been estimated that ‘in the next 50 years, 20–50% of plants in botanic and urban landscapes will face temperatures never experienced before’ (Dr Dave Kendal, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Management, University of Tasmania). To respond to these risks, the Climate Change Alliance of Botanic Gardens (Alliance), is working with Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria and the University of Tasmania to develop a Climate Risk Assessment Tool for listings in BGCI’s PlantSearch database, and initially focusing on the approximately 20,000 tree species grown in the world’s botanic gardens. This tool is expected to provide support for botanic gardens to evaluate and manage the climate change threats faced by their living collections. Australia is one region of the world considered to have database gaps on information for trees in botanic gardens collections. We will need your input and involvement through the provision of your expertise and data. In the meantime, please consider joining the alliance. Membership is free and there are no demanding requirements — just a commitment to climate change actions (large or small) for safeguarding the legacy of our plant collections, landscapes, and biodiversity for future generations.



WHAT’S NEW Importantly for those gardens which have not yet started adaptation planning, even sharing your initial questions, needs, or concerns can be a valuable contribution to this emerging community, as these can help guide the work ahead. Your organisation’s unique capabilities, experiences and perspectives are essential to fully support the botanical community of arborists, botanists, horticulturists, and scientists who protect plants and landscapes worldwide. Benefits of alliance membership include access to: • climate risk assessment tools and resources • a global pool of diverse expertise and support • increased community profile • enhancements to skills and techniques to identify and manage climate change impacts. Please see links below for free membership and further information: Climate Change Alliance of Botanic Gardens membership page The Alliance Charter can be found at We look forward to welcoming you to the global movement that is the Climate Change Alliance of Botanic Gardens. On behalf of the CCABG Secretariat Peter Symes Curator Horticulture, Melbourne Gardens, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria



Pollinating great ideas San Francisco’s trees: an experiment in diversity Mike Sullivan, Jason Dewees and Richard Turner

The authors and perpetrators of the tree walks are three self-admitted tree geeks: Mike, author of The Trees of San Francisco and webmaster at; Jason, horticulturist and author of Designing with Palms (and the only native-born San Franciscan in the group) and Richard, editor emeritus of Pacific Horticulture and co-editor of The Trees of Golden Gate Park and San Francisco. Home to the native Muwekma Ohlone people, San Francisco harboured few tree species before 1776, when the Spanish established a frontier military outpost called the Presidio. Most of the land was covered in sand dunes — the largest expanse on the California coast — on which grew low scrub, dune, prairie and marsh vegetation, marbled with riparian corridors of Red Alder Alnus rubra and several willows Salix spp. In the more stabilised dune areas, sheltered hollows and on rocky slopes grew small groves of Coast Live Oak Quercus agrifolia, California’s most common coastal tree and a major source of food for the Ohlone people, along with California Buckeye Aesculus californica, California Bay Laurel Umbellularia californica, and scattered specimens of Madrone Arbutus menziesii, Douglas Fir Pseudotsuga menziesii, and Big-Leaf Maple Acer macrophyllum. San Francisco’s cool, windy mediterranean climate (550 mm of rain per year, with 90% falling during the cooler months from November to April) is largely responsible for the subtle but rich native flora. On most summer afternoons, wind-driven fog races through the Golden Gate, gallops over the city’s hills and blankets the bay and its surrounding cities overnight. Such conditions favour scrub or grassland and discourage the growth of trees. In the eyes of mid‑19th century Yankee immigrants from forested eastern North America (with cultural roots in the British Isles and Northern Europe), our land was bleak — and needed trees. Beginning in the 1870s, a project to turn 400 hectares of sand dunes into Golden Gate Park gave planners and horticulturists a testing ground to determine what sorts of trees might thrive in San Francisco. THE BOTANIC GARDENer | ISS 55 SUMMER 2020/21

Mike and Richard admire a fine specimen of Blackwood Acacia Acacia melanoxylon after chalking its label on the sidewalk. Photo: Jason Dewees. 21

They experimented with a wide array of trees from around the world. With early irrigation and significant fog drip, a few trees soon showed their eminent adaptability to the setting: Southern Blue Gum Eucalyptus globulus, Monterey or Radiata Pine Pinus radiata, and Monterey Cypress Hesperocyparis macrocarpa. None were native to San Francisco, but all were so successful that the park is now dominated by them, and the US Army soon established vast plantations of all three in its 600-hectare Presidio military base. Numerous other successful trees from the park’s trials became common trees in private gardens, public parks and along the city’s streets. More recent efforts by home gardeners, urban forestry planners, the San Francisco Botanical Garden, and adventurous nurseries have resulted in even more tree species becoming established in the city. While San Francisco’s tree canopy remains measurably less than in most large American cities, the diversity of the city’s trees is exceptional: a recent tally showed that well over 500 distinct taxa (species, subspecies, hybrids, and cultivars) could be found along San Francisco streets. For the past seven months, we have been sharing information about this remarkable diversity of trees in an unusual way: by scrawling information about trees on nearby sidewalks and creating COVID-safe, self-guided tree tours throughout the city’s neighbourhoods. The idea began in early April, when Mike saw a blog post about a Londoner who was chalking tree descriptions on sidewalks in her neighbourhood. In a normal spring, Mike would be leading neighbourhood tree tours for the San Francisco Friends of the Urban Forest (a nonprofit that facilitates the planting of street trees). With COVID-19 restrictions in place, such group tours became a thing of the past. Sharing information on sidewalks seemed to be a pandemic‑adapted alternative, since walking was one of the few outdoor activities permitted at the time. Mike duplicated the London idea in his own neighbourhood, randomly chalking nearby trees with their names and places of origin. Reaction was positive, and word began to spread on social media (and, more importantly, to Jason and Richard).


Bunya-bunya Araucaria bidwillii, the largest specimen in San Francisco. Photo: Mike Sullivan.

Spotted Gum Corymbia maculata in a San Francisco park. Photo: Mike Sullivan.


POLLINATING GREAT IDEAS We decided to chalk San Francisco’s Noe Valley neighbourhood, where Richard lives, and to turn the chalked trees into a self-guiding tour in a loop that starts and ends near the same point.

We decided to chalk San Francisco’s Noe Valley neighbourhood, and to turn the chalked trees into a self-guiding tour in a loop. Chalk arrows on the sidewalk guide the tour-taker from tree to tree. Each tree gets at least three facts chalked on the sidewalk: the tree’s common name, its scientific name, and its place of origin, along with a circled number. We occasionally throw in other information to intrigue the stroller, noting such features as the spongy bark of the paperbarks Melaleuca spp., the powerful floral fragrance of Pittosporum undulatum, or the aerial roots of Metrosideros excelsa. We so enjoyed that several-hour outing to create the first tour that we decided to do a second tour the following weekend in another neighbourhood. It has now become a standing appointment: as long as all three of us are available on a Saturday or

Red Flowering Gum Corymbia ficifolia, now one of San Francisco’s most iconic trees. Photo: Mike Sullivan.

Sunday morning (and the air quality is not affected by nearby wildfires), we head out to chalk a new neighbourhood tour. We have completed 19 tours as of 16 November 2020 and have no plans to stop. Of course, even with hairspray as a fixative, chalk fades on the sidewalk and rarely lasts more than a week (much less after rain, though that was not an issue during the dry summer). We came up with a solution to this issue of impermanence: immediately following each chalking day, Richard types up the tour, complete with street addresses for each numbered tree. Mike

A chalked label on the sidewalk, treated with hairspray as a fixative. Photo: Richard Turner.

then uploads the itinerary (embellished with his own photographs) to his tree blog at The number of ‘hits’ to the blog has risen with each new tour. In addition, Jason and Mike frequently add content from the tours to Instagram, using the hashtag #covidtreetour, and occasional postings to social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Nextdoor, help spread word of the tours.



POLLINATING GREAT IDEAS One of the most common reactions to the tours has been surprise at the number of trees on San Francisco’s streets that originate in Oceania. A 2017 street tree census tallied and identified every one of the 125,000 street trees in the city. That census showed that 36% of San Francisco’s street trees hail from Australia or New Zealand, including the second, fourth, fifth, and seventh most common trees, in order: New Zealand Christmas Tree or pōhutukawa Metrosideros excelsa; Water Gum Tristaniopsis laurina; Brisbane or Brush Box Lophostemon confertus, and (what we call) Victorian Box Pittosporum undulatum. Based on more recent planting records, Tristaniopsis laurina has become the most planted tree (by far) in San Francisco in the last decade. San Francisco’s unusual marine-influenced climate does seem

The golden flowering form of New Zealand Christmas Tree or pōhutukawa Metrosideros excelsa ‘Aurea’. Photo: Mike Sullivan.

to favour trees from parts of New Zealand and Australia. The city’s moderate climate can be compared to that of Hobart or Wellington, with a narrow temperature range (average summer highs of 20 °C and winter lows of 7 °C), complicated by occasional outbreaks of dry continental air spiking temperatures as high as 37 °C or as low as -2 °C. At the same time, the city’s summer dry season is more extreme in length and dryness than that experienced in the mediterranean climates of Perth and Adelaide. The notably erratic weather of Australia, particularly in the eastern parts, may have resulted in plants, and particularly trees, that are readily adaptable to the annual summer dry season in California. Among those at home here are more than a few that naturalise in unirrigated areas, such as Myoporum laetum, Coprosma repens, and various acacias, eucalypts, and pittosporums. All these species are now street trees planted in sidewalk wells and the city’s few planted medians and parkway verges. With modest summer irrigation, dozens more Australian and New Zealand trees have become popular in gardens, parks, and the San Francisco Botanical Garden. There are also numerous trees that thrive on winter rainfall and ambient soil moisture as street trees and park trees (once established with deep irrigation for a few years), but that tend not to naturalise, including Lophostemon confertus, Tristaniopsis laurina, and Corymbia ficifolia. While we three take great pleasure in creating these walks, our primary goal is to educate the community about the trees in their midst, in the hope that a better informed citizenry will take a more active role in promoting, planting, and supporting the city’s urban forest. Based upon the positive comments on social media and in person while tours are being chalked (we have become minor celebrities in town), that appears to be happening. Our further hope is that communities around the country and the world will be inspired to begin creating similar tours of their urban forests. Perhaps cities in New Zealand or Australia can lead the way. 24


Kids explore Bundaberg Botanic Gardens with new activity book Roana O’Neill, Co-ordinator Communication and Engagement, Bundaberg Regional Council A kids’ activity trail booklet, designed to get kids exploring and investigating the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens, was launched in the June 2020 school holidays with much success. The self-guided activity trail features 20 stops around the gardens’ top lake. Each stop is identified with a numbered sign indicating where to complete the activity in the booklet. The booklet includes opportunities for drawing, matching activities, measuring, sketching, a word find, and decoding words. Activities range from identifying a plant and making a sound map, to animal spotting and measuring a tree. The kids’ activity trail booklet.

Gardens Curator Cody Johnson and I were discussing ways that we could provide an engaging educational activity for children, close to visitor amenities. The trail allows families to work together, providing a fun outdoors activity, especially during times of social distancing. The Botanic Gardens are founded on scientific research, conservation, display and education, so it’s important that we communicate the significance of the gardens to all members of the community. I wrote the booklet for ages approximately eight to 13 years, however, it has proved suitable for a wider age group and for kids with a range of abilities. Kids can do the trail in any order, at their own pace and at any time of the year, and they don’t have to do the activity in one go — they can come to the gardens multiple times to complete the booklet. We hope this initiative opens children’s eyes to their environment, and connects them to plants in the gardens they may previously have walked past. The gardens are a community facility so we want to encourage that feeling of community ownership.

The Kids Activity Trail showcases some of the diverse plants and animals in the gardens, including the Brazilian Silk floss tree and the King fern, the largest fern in the world, through to the Australian brush turkey and eastern water dragons.



The booklets are provided free to the community and are made available at the gardens’ attractions, including the Hinkler Hall of Aviation, Café 1928 and the Bundaberg and District Historical Museum. I thoroughly enjoyed writing the book for children and Dana Maggacis, graphic designer at Bundaberg Regional Council, did a wonderful job of bringing the activities to life. In keeping with the theme of ‘caring for our environment’, the booklets have been printed on

From left to right, Tamika Spies, Blake Arnold and Cr Wayne Honor on the kids’ activity trail.

recycled paper. The day before we released the booklet to the community, Bundaberg North Primary School, which is located right next to the gardens, brought some of their senior students to help us with a promotional video for the booklet. This can sometimes be a tough age group to engage, so we were really happy to hear their honest feedback that this was fun and that they were learning things about plants that they didn’t know. The students were very enthusiastic, and the teachers said that the booklet was fabulous and could be used as part of their studies. We printed 3,000 copies, and after the school holidays we were left with around 500 booklets, so the response from the community was fantastic. We then produced another activity booklet for our younger visitors for the September/October 2020 school holidays. Other initiatives in the gardens include: • the development of a new brochure for visitors • re-development of the website • provision of a large whiteboard to keep visitors up to date with what is flowering and fruiting in the gardens • a movable board that can be placed next to key plant species to provide a more detailed explanation • the production of videos about the plant collections • the development of fact sheets on key plant species that are often enquired about • the provision of additional plant labels • new activity sheets for younger visitors each school holidays • showcasing of the latest flowering plant in the café.



POLLINATING GREAT IDEAS Through these initiatives we hope to grow the community’s connection to and appreciation of the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens. To download the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens booklet go to To see the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens booklet in action head to Bundaberg Now For more information on the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens visit

ENOUGH POWER TO SILENCE THE SCEPTICS Ditch the petrol ... ditch the diesel. The Cushman Hauler Pro and Hauler Pro X feature a 72 volt electric ba�ery pack that is not only more environmentally friendly than that of compe�tors, but also more powerful. With a 680 kg towing capacity - these vehicles know how to work.


Contact Graham Janson for more info 0488 166 993



The hort. section Compiled and edited by Ariana Potamianakis Senior Gardener, Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha

First word While COVID-19 has consumed what feels like most of our lives

Ariana Potamianakis.

during 2020, it’s important to reflect not only on its impact in highlighting just how essential our green spaces are to us day-to-day, but why they are so valuable, not only for our sanity, but for the bigger picture. If this global pandemic has taught us anything (including good hygiene, of course) it has taught us just how much we rely on — and almost default to — nature. It wasn’t long ago that Australia’s bushfires and the climate crisis were saturating our screens and thoughts. Fast-forward a year on, and although the global focus has shifted to finding our way through this pandemic, on the ground, the effects and efforts following the bushfires are still real and ongoing. I got in touch with the newly appointed Director of Horticulture at the Botanic Gardens Greater Sydney, John Siemon, and Director Research and Chief Botanist, Dr Brett Summerell at the new Australian Institute of Botanical Science, at the gardens to find out how nature has responded and what the future looks like for the protection of our native landscape.

Interview: After the fires — where we are now and where we’re going The bushfires we are experiencing are unprecedented. Have they changed the future of the natural landscapes already or is it too early to tell? Brett Summerell: It is really too early to be sure and there is no one answer to this question. It depends on the nature of the ecosystem, the type of vegetation and the intensity of the fires that went through. It is also important to remember that many areas were suffering extremely badly from prolonged drought prior to the fires and this had a very detrimental effect on many plant species. Ecosystems like rainforests and alpine regions that were burnt will take a very long time to recover and are of great concern — these areas may be fundamentally changed but it will be necessary to monitor and record changes and to increase protections for these systems.



Photos: Courtesy of Botanic Gardens Greater Sydney.

One of the most important things to ensure will be to prevent fires recurring too rapidly in areas that were burnt. It is critical that the plant species in an area have time to grow, flower, set seed and re-establish healthy populations before fire again occurs in those areas. If this does not happen then these populations will be headed towards extinction.

Which species have been the quickest to return after the bushfires? How have they done so? Are Australian plants unique in this regeneration ability? BS: In those areas where the plant species are well adapted to recover from fire, and the intensity of the fire has not been too great, the recovery and regeneration is proceeding at a great rate. Fortunately, this has been favoured by good rainfall and the projections for follow-up rain are very encouraging. The eucalypts, banksias, wattles, etc. are all either growing from epicormic buds, lignotubers or from seed — our flora has many, many species that are well adapted to fire. It is always wonderful to be reminded of the resilience of many Australian plants to fire — spring and summer 2021 should be spectacular from a floral perspective. However, our collectors and scientists have visited some sites where clearly the fire was very extreme and the lack of regeneration very distressing. It will be necessary to monitor these sites and document the recovery, assuming it occurs, over the next

Photos: Courtesy of Botanic Gardens Greater Sydney.

few seasons.



The Australian bush is renowned for its resilience and diverse responses to climate hardships. What plants and/or responses have surprised you? BS: So many plants surprised me — tree ferns and Blechnum ferns so lush and green so soon after the fires, an array of different species of orchids flowering within weeks, new seedlings of wattles, indigofera, etc. popping up so quickly… I could go on. Our collectors are also starting to observe the never-before-seen responses of populations of threatened species to fire. Hopefully, these populations will produce seed, some of which can be collected for the seed banks in 2021.

What resources do you employ to undertake such vast propagation projects? How much of a role will natural regeneration play? BS: Across most of the fire grounds natural regeneration will be the most important process to re-establish healthy vegetation and it will be critical to carefully and scientifically monitor the recovery and the response of different species. Revegetation should be done carefully and only if needed, but there may be some species, especially threatened species, that require some intervention. This will need to be done carefully, taking into account the use of accurately identified species, genetically diverse propagation material and ensuring that weeds, pests and diseases are not introduced.

Fungi, mycorrhiza, etc. are the unsung heroes of our notoriously poor soils. What have been the impacts in this area? BS: Soil-borne fungi were well protected during the fires and the soil is an amazing insulator. As a consequence, there were relatively little changes in soil temperature below ground and mycorrhizal fungi, and most soil-dwelling organisms, were well protected. These types of fungi are important in ensuring that plants can respond quickly, and assist in the uptake of nutrients and regeneration. There were many diverse species of pyrophilous fungi observed very quickly after the fires — the ability of these species to so quickly take advantage of the

Photo: Courtesy of Botanic Gardens Greater Sydney.

changed environment was amazing.



THE HORT. SECTION The Wollemi Pine is a species that is well represented in botanic garden collections worldwide. Have these fires highlighted a need for other key species to be safeguarded in a similar manner? John Siemon: The Wollemi Pine Wollemia nobilis is the poster child and role model case study for how a species, thought to be extinct, can be conserved through a concerted conservation effort. While the pines are now safe from extinction, by being grown in backyards across the globe, the fires nearly destroyed the wild population and severely damaged the wild translocation site, intended to provide a backup. The fires have ultimately highlighted that a multipronged approach, including in situ and ex situ conservation actions, is required to ensure at-risk plant species are conserved through a range of conservation strategies. Ultimately organisations such as botanic gardens will be under increased pressure to host a growing number of threatened flora and will need to consider a range of conservation strategies from seed banking to tissue culture, in-ground and potted living collections, and distributing germplasm to other botanic gardens so that all our eggs aren’t in the one basket. We do need to remember that while a whole suite of species is now at an increased risk of extinction, as a result of the scale of recent bushfires, other threatening processes, such as myrtle rust, haven’t gone anywhere and those species affected still remain in decline, without significant intervention.

Has there been any collaboration with local Indigenous groups with specialised knowledge of the affected areas? JS: We have been actively discussing, even prior to last year’s bushfires, the re‑introduction of cultural burning techniques to our botanic gardens. Now, this seems even more important — that we recognise the value, and reinstate the land management practices, of the traditional custodians. Through this process we aspire to work more closely with local Aboriginal groups to relearn and share cultural burning practices as well as obtaining exceptional ecological outcomes for the natural areas we manage.


Photo: Courtesy of Botanic Gardens Greater Sydney.


THE HORT. SECTION We saw the bushfires unfold before our eyes on social media — do you feel social media has changed the community’s response/relationship towards protecting our environment? BS: Yes, I do think so, in a generally positive way. But we have struggled to get recognition of the impact on plants as the focus has very much been on affected fauna. We are still suffering from the general community’s plant blindness even though all the affected fauna need healthy plant communities in order to survive. I believe that with the fires and with COVID-19 people are starting to better value nature and the green environment — we need to keep pushing and promoting the importance of plants for the wellbeing of us all.

Photo: Courtesy of Botanic Gardens Greater Sydney.

How has technology and social media changed our response to bush regeneration and conservation? Has there been new technology that you have employed to assist in work of this scale? JS: The immediacy and accessibility of digital and social media has really highlighted the impact and scale of the bushfires to a global audience. The same social media network has also supplied a great deal of misinformation. In some instances, poorly informed individuals have contributed to concepts such as fire-resistant plants. Ask anyone close to one of these mega fires and they will argue ‘if it is made of carbon it will burn’. The rise of technology, or accessibility to previously cost-prohibitive equipment, does bring the promise that land managers can be better informed in decision making to plan for or manage post‑bushfires. Despite the inherent ability for ecological processes to repair burnt ecosystems, recent media stories have spruiked the promise of replanting forests through drone‑based technology firing pellets, loaded with seeds, into the ground. In the absence of robust scientific studies only time will tell if this method of restoration is appropriate for broad acre landscape‑level restoration. In the case of our own fire-impacted living collection at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah, we have relied on the accuracy of our living collection database and mapping systems to verify damage and loss of specimens. We are also using detailed notes and records, GIS technology, drones and commissioned updated aerial imagery to map the extent of the fires and recovery, both visually and in terms of species diversity, in our living collection and natural areas.



How do other botanic gardens interact and support each other in times like this? JS: The botanic gardens network across Australia and New Zealand is driven by passionate and dedicated plant conservation-oriented individuals and teams. Each botanic garden is far more powerful working in tandem with our plant networks and there are some wonderful projects being worked on by botanic gardens across the country, including collaborative cross jurisdictional projects such as the Tropical Mountains Plant Project or the Care for the Rare program, a BGCI initiative strongly adopted in Victoria. Networks, such as the South East NSW Bioregion Working Group (SENBWG), really foster much stronger conservation outcomes, especially where they jointly tackle threats to biodiversity. When SENBWG members met for the first time in 2020, post-fires, we were challenged by two harrowing and emotionally charged stories from the curators of the only fire-affected botanic gardens in 2020, Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Garden and the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah [see the feature articles in this issue]. The SE NSW Bioregion members, and botanic gardens and other plant conservation agencies across the globe, have reached out to lend support, offer resources or to propagate and restore lost specimens from the living collections.

Photo: Courtesy of Botanic Gardens Greater Sydney.

A significant benefit of our shared plant conservation mission is achieved through the ability to distribute the biological diversity that each garden holds. Regardless of a garden’s skill, capacity or level of infrastructure, each contributes meaningfully through the sharing of its knowledge or expertise and the living collection — a genetic repository of ex situ collections — be it derived from a seed bank holding thousands of seeds of varying species or a solitary threatened species growing in a botanic garden.

What are some things readers can do to help protect their local biodiversity, especially in times of crisis? JS: Risks to biodiversity have placed many species at the brink of extinction and while humans are a primary driver, they will also play an active role in finding solutions. Funding, or the lack thereof, for plant conservation remains a key challenge for most plant conservation-oriented organisations. Finding donors and corporate sponsors that don’t suffer from plant blindness, the underappreciation or inability to recognise plants in one’s environment, will certainly help to increase the funding available for collecting, researching, displaying and conserving biodiversity.



Dr Brett Summerell | Director Research and Chief Botanist As the Director Research and Chief Botanist at the Australian Institute of Botanical Science, Dr Brett Summerell is championing the conservation of plants and all life that depends on them. He has been performing vital scientific research for the last 30 years and leading a team of world-class plant scientists for the last 15 at Australia’s oldest living scientific institution. Photo: Courtesy of Botanic Gardens Greater Sydney.

Dr Summerell is a fungi expert and has helped describe over 120 new species and published over 150 journal articles, books and book chapters. He is considered one

of the world’s foremost experts on the deadly Fusarium pathogen, which can wreak havoc on our food crops and native plants. In his role as Director Research and Chief Botanist, Dr Summerell is building on the garden’s legacy of studying, documenting and protecting plant life in Australia for over 200 years by advocating for plant conservation and highlighting the importance plants have in our lives. He also provides senior scientific advice to the gardens and to government and is mentoring and inspiring the next generation of plant scientists.

Harcourt Editing Services

ABN 63 721 784 293

Rebecca Harcourt, PhD Editing and writing for the life sciences +61 (0) 423 623 360



THE HORT. SECTION John Siemon | Director of Horticulture at the Botanic Gardens Greater Sydney John is a horticultural scientist and was the Curator Manager of the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan for six years before he was appointed to the role of Director of Horticulture for the Botanic Gardens Greater Sydney in 2020. John’s interest in horticulture started at a young age, growing up in the leafy suburbs of Brisbane where he was fascinated by the world around him, and how the tallest trees could grow from the smallest seed.

Photo: Courtesy of Botanic Gardens Greater Sydney.

Having worked for CSIRO and the University of Sydney, John has been with the Botanic Gardens Greater Sydney since 2002. First managing laboratories and science infrastructure, he then had oversight of the largest botanic garden in Australia focussed entirely on native flora at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan before taking on the role of Director of Horticulture responsible for the management of all three botanic gardens in Greater Sydney — the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah and the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan. As a horticultural scientist, John has worked predominantly in plant physiology, plant breeding, tissue culture and germplasm conservation. He has worked on a range of horticultural and agricultural crops including rice, tomatoes, soybeans and probably Australia’s most famous export after Paul Hogan, macadamia nuts. John’s most significant achievement to date has been a project managing the Australian PlantBank, including securing $19.8 million in fundraising, and the architectural design and construction of this national repository for native plant seeds.

See Brett Summerell in the field: The latest Branch Out podcast episode covers bush regeneration in the Blue Mountains




Handy hints on what to do when your botanic garden burns down Michael Anlezark, Manager, Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Garden

On 30 December 2019, bushfires on the New South Wales South Coast threatened local communities. At Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Garden we knew that there was serious potential for fire to impact the garden within the next couple of days. We worked frantically to do what we could to improve the chances for the garden and many of its buildings. Outdoor furniture at the new café was quickly brought inside and the steel shutters were pulled down over the doors and windows of the recently renovated visitor centre. In the nursery precinct anything combustible was removed, gutters were given another clean and areas were swept clear of leaves. At the last minute, computers, files and art works from offices were relocated into the new herbarium, the building most likely to survive. Books, the laptop and important files were loaded into the work vehicle. Staff left and I had one last look around, took some final photos of our freshly redeveloped visitor centre, locked the gate, and crossed my fingers. The very next day, just after 7.30 am, New Year’s Eve, intense fire crossed the Princes Highway and roared through the garden. The intensity and speed of the fire was shocking and in less than 30 minutes, the entire site was engulfed — flora, fauna and infrastructure would never be the same again.

Flora, fauna and infrastructure would never be the same again. In no time at all we had lost every bridge, walkway and retaining wall, kilometres of path and garden edging, a residence, workshops, depots, vehicles, every tool, gazebo and rotunda and most of our historical records. There was significant damage to play equipment, irrigation systems and nursery infrastructure, picnic and BBQ facilities and, worst of all, the majority of our wildlife was now gone. Against all odds and without fire fighters our freshly upgraded visitor centre, new herbarium building and much of our upgraded nursery complex survived reasonably intact. This gave us hope and a starting point for recovery.



This terrible experience and the ongoing implications have given us unique insights into recovery and resilience that may help others, and with this in mind I offer the following top 10 handy hints on what to do when your botanic garden burns down. 1. Cry a lot while still focussing on priorities You are allowed to be upset considering how much work has been put into making your botanic garden so great. We cried bucket loads, seemingly at every opportunity and, with more thought, should have considered harvesting tears to top up half-empty rainwater tanks! It is essential to get focussed and quickly produce a site assessment and emergency action plan and to implement this regardless of frequently blurred vision. You will find this plan vital in helping to stay on track and not be overwhelmed by the mammoth task ahead. 2. Be proactive and creative when you have no electricity, water or phones Proceed to your nearest hardware retailer as quickly as possible and join a queue to obtain the largest generator you can find. You may have to visit the store several times depending on local demand, which will likely be high. To reduce queueing times, you might consider including a section in future management plans on cultivating friendships with hardware staff prior to disasters. Jerry cans and fuel will also very quickly be in high demand so make sure you get what you need to run the generator and any surviving work vehicle. Encourage staff to bring in their own drinking water and buckets to assist with toilet flushing. Install waterless urinals in any future upgrade or development. Become your own IT department and use mobile phones to hot-spot laptops. You may have to position your mobile phone on top of an upturned bucket, propping open a door, to maximise your signal. 3. Look after your precious survivors This means plants and animals. Utilise your local council’s environment team to help set up feeding and watering stations for birds and animals and stay in contact with your local WIRES group. Nurture any plants that reshoot, as they will be the basis of your new living collection. Contact other botanic gardens in your state or network and alert them to the fact you might need help from them down the track. Be prepared for heartbreak and more losses post-fire and refer back to ‘Cry a lot while still focussing on priorities’ whenever necessary. Be sure to include you, your staff and volunteers in the precious survivor category and try to look after each other.

Garden residence. Photo: Michael Anlezark. THE BOTANIC GARDENer | ISS 55 SUMMER 2020/21

Children’s Forest Walk. Photo: Michael Anlezark. 37

4. Be thankful your weed and pest problems are solved (for now) Hooray, no more weeds, rabbits and bugs. Be sure not to celebrate too much or throw out your herbicides and pest control preparations. Be mentally and physically prepared to battle with new weeds on a scale you never thought possible. Focus on your most public areas first and heed the bush regenerator’s rule ‘work from good to bad’. Remember whatever eucalypt and acacia seedlings you leave in now will undoubtedly become a curse for all that come after. Take this opportunity to replace all of your tired and ineffective destroyed fencing with shiny new ones fit for purpose. 5. Mulch, mulch and more mulch Your site will now be covered in hundreds of dangerous, unstable, and burnt-out trees. These trees will need to be removed urgently so that staff and volunteers can work safely throughout your site. Everyone will be sad that so many trees need to be cut down while at the same time wanting to dance about drunk on the seemingly unlimited supply of the finest quality mulch. You will need as much mulch as you can get, and spread as quickly as humanly possible, to protect your now very denuded and vulnerable garden beds. Remember that wood chip mulch in garden beds around your buildings will catch fire so replace it with something much safer — we used recycled crushed brick. 6. Keeping a hundred volunteers busy when they can’t work at your botanic garden After a fire everyone will be chomping at the bit to get in and help in your recovery; however, your site will still be dangerous so it may be best to phase in selected volunteers for critical work only. Although the workload may seem overwhelming, without your full contingent of volunteers it will be easier to manage smaller teams doing emergency recovery, both physically and emotionally. Think of ways your volunteers can help without being on site. Like us, you may have lots of surviving plants in your nursery that you are unable to care for properly because of your damaged and lost infrastructure.


Botanic garden Manager Michael Anlezark and Council General Manager Dr Catherine Dale handing out foster boxes. Photo: Michael Anlezark.


FEATURE ARTICLES You can develop a ‘foster a box’ program like we did and allow your volunteers to come in and take boxes of plants home so that they can care for them properly until your infrastructure is back on track. There is a slight risk that you may discover some of your volunteers actually have black thumbs and their charges may be keener to take their chances back on site. We managed to foster out around 4,500 plants and the car park pickup day gave our volunteers a chance to get a glimpse of the site and see that all was not lost. With your gates locked the community will be desperate to find out what is happening in their garden so your Friends group can play a key role in getting updated information out there. 7. Look at your landscape in a completely new light You will now have a rare opportunity to completely redesign your entire garden display, reinstate the things that worked or ditch the things that didn’t. You might decide that you like seeing most of your 100 acres from just about anywhere or that previously unseen highway now seems to bring a special vibrancy right into the heart of your once green haven. Now is the time to develop new thematic and interpretation plans (particularly as just about every sign you had is now melted, rusted or just not there anymore). This will be very daunting so don’t rush into it, allow at least six months to re-establish infrastructure and facilities while keeping an eye on natural regrowth and regeneration.

Sole surviving walkway dumped and broken after a flood. Photo: Michael Anlezark.

8. Turn misery into magic Demolish that ugly and now burnt-out old toilet block and replace it with a contemporary architectural masterpiece with matching picnic shelters, gazebos, pavilions, rotundas and pergolas. Be sure to develop a good relationship with your insurance company and be warned that the insurance term ‘betterment’ actually means ‘computer says no’. Before talking to the insurance company practise saying the following: • it will not be better, just different • it is exactly the same size, just taller • the new materials are not better; they will just stop it from burning down again.


Walkway and gully just two weeks before. Photo: Michael Anlezark.



If everything goes exceptionally well, you might see new facilities being started in as little as 12 months’ time. In the meantime, if you advise your insurance company that your staff and volunteers are getting headaches from petrol fumes and lawnmowers stored in the lunchroom, a shipping container or two may turn up as quick as a flash. 9. Be patient and lower your expectations, but not your standards It will not be easy to rebuild your botanic garden in the time frame you would like; after all, it may have taken at least 30 years to get it to where it was before the fire. You will need to ensure that you set achievable gaols, resist offers of unhelpful help and make sure that everything you rebuild or replace is better than before. Improve standards by doing things like replacing those old burnt timber frames in bridges and platforms with steel as this means if your botanic garden burns down again you will have less to worry about. 10. It’s not the end of the world If your botanic garden burns down it is not the end of the world and you can now make a much better one. If you take on board the handy hints presented here, your organisation, Friends and community will know that you and your team are doing the best they can. They will appreciate your efforts and want

Visitor centre 10 months after the fire. Photo: Michael Anlezark.

to celebrate every achievement and milestone with you. As soon as they are allowed to do so your community will flock back to your botanic garden and continue to offer their help and support at every opportunity and in whatever way they can. Embrace your community and let them embrace you (from a 1.5 m-safe distance). Last of all, I hope you have found these handy hints helpful and recommend you look out for the next in the series: Handy hints on what to do when your botanic garden gets washed away in a flood.



Mount Tomah and the Goblet of Fire: a summer I’ll never forget Greg Bourke, Curator Manager, Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah

The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah is unique in many ways. Not only is it one of the few botanic gardens within a world heritage area, but it is also surrounded by large areas of national park, much of which is prone to bushfire. The garden is considered remote by many, yet it’s just two hours’ drive from the Sydney CBD. There is only one road that passes by the garden (Bells Line of Road) and it winds through the foothills of the Blue Mountains, through the small town of Bilpin, up to the 1000-metre peak of Mount Tomah, then on to the town of Lithgow. Bells Line of Road is both scenic and treacherous. It is regularly closed in both directions due to car and motorbike accidents as motorists speed along its picturesque but winding way, and occasionally by snow, black ice and, of course, fire. During my first week as Curator Manager at the garden in October 2013, I was confronted with the challenge of managing operations as a fire approached from the west. The State Mine Fire travelled 25 kilometres in just a few hours, burning over 55,000 hectares of bush to the north of the garden. We were fortunate that winds slowed after the second day and that the wind’s direction didn’t push the blaze into the garden’s land. It was an incredibly valuable experience for me though, as it gave me the opportunity to build critical relationships with emergency services, local residents (of which I was one), and members of my own team, which would help us prepare for future events. At least, that’s what I thought at the time… In August 2019 I had my first meeting with the Mount Tomah Rural Fire Service (RFS) regarding the season ahead of us. We knew it was going to be a bad one — our annual average rainfall is over 1400 mm but 2018 saw just 976 mm and 2019 was predicted to be much dryer. Working with the RFS, we cleared fire trails to the west of the garden and cut backburn lines. The garden’s team cleared around assets, prepared and tested fire suppression systems and performed evacuation drills. By October, I was satisfied that we were well placed to evacuate, should the need arise.



Gospers Mountain fire as seen from the garden’s deck two hours prior to impact. Photo: Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah.

On the 26 October 2019, a lightning storm ignited a tree on the remote Gospers Mountain, 50 kilometres north of the garden. Throughout November we monitored its progress, meeting regularly with the RFS to discuss the details. By this time, there were dozens of active fires along the east coast of Australia. In early December, backburning commenced to the northeast of the garden with the aim of protecting the western suburbs of the Sydney basin. This increased the risk of cutting access to the garden and became my sole focus. If access was to be cut in one direction, I was not prepared to have the public in the garden. The conditions were like none I had experienced or even heard of. The ground was incredibly dry, and the usually resilient eucalypts were both wilting and dry. On Friday 13 December, following a meeting with the RFS where it was confirmed a backburn was to be implemented to the west of the garden the following day, the decision was made to close the garden to the public. We had a single horticulturist on site on Saturday morning to water some critical plants but besides that, the garden was empty. Mid-afternoon on 14 December I was advised that the backburn to the west had failed and fire was expected to impact the garden within the next two days. The road was to be closed to the west of the garden and residents were advised they should prepare to evacuate.



FEATURE ARTICLES At approximately 10 am on the 15 December, I received a phone call from the captain of the Mount Tomah RFS requesting the garden be re-opened as a place of refuge for local residents as the fire was progressing more rapidly than anticipated and was expected to impact the garden in a few hours. As I headed to the garden, my family headed in the opposite direction and to the safety of Sydney’s suburbs. I arrived at the garden, opening gates, toilets and the visitor centre, and isolating fuel tanks, and began briefing the various RFS crews that were staging in the garden’s main carpark. This may seem odd, but the reality is that local RFS crews know the garden well, where to find hydrants and how to navigate the estate’s internal roads, but visiting crews do not. While a plan can be provided with critical assets and hazards such as fuel tanks marked, emergency services are often appreciative of local knowledge to ensure their effectiveness. This was to prove critical in saving areas of the garden and the local community. By mid-afternoon, the fire had progressed through the valley just to the north of the garden, placing my private residence directly in its line. This was inconvenient to say the least as I had to leave the site to protect my home before I could return to the garden. By the time I was able to return some four hours later, the road was strewn with fallen, burnt and burning trees so access was only possible with an RFS escort. I arrived to find a few residents, including one staff member (Chris), and several cats and dogs sheltering on site and RFS crews fighting fire in and around the garden. Sprinkler systems and fire crews had little effect on the progression of the fire front — it was simply too intense to slow in some areas. Chris had done additional work to prevent embers blowing under doors and had put out several spot fires around key assets. Not part of the job description but as many of you will understand, when you’re passionate about plant conservation, you’ll do what you can to protect them. By sundown, the main front had passed the garden but there was still much to do. The garden provides the only reliable water supply to fire trucks who were filling from a hydrant near our entrance gate. Water tankers usually ferry water to these trucks but by this time, the road was blocked in both directions. We were the only water supply for several hours that night. The fire front as it enters a neighbouring property. Photo: Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah.



FEATURE ARTICLES As the night progressed, Chris and my roles varied from that of cooks feeding fire crews, to tour guides, visitor entertainment, fire fighters, and worried onlookers. The view from the garden deck was incredible with seemingly countless glowing spots from inside the garden to beyond the horizon. I think it was about midnight when Chris tried to get some sleep. We had decided to work shifts with me taking the first night shift. It was at this point I took the opportunity to grab the camera and walk the site to see just how much had burned. I walked most of the 2-kilometre perimeter of the garden, much of which was burnt, taking notes and photographs of damaged infrastructure and plants. Needless to say, it was not a good sight. Returning to the works depot around 2 am, I thought it wise to get some rest. Everything seemed pretty quiet and there was at least one RFS truck in the car park. I’m not sure if I dozed off or not, but at 3 am I was alerted to the noise of fire burning close by. Sure enough, a section of the garden was ablaze and there were no fire trucks to be seen. With one of the garden’s utes fitted with a 1000 L tank, it’s easy for us to get around the site and deal with small fires and after two tanks, I had the fire under control, or so I thought. The area to the south and west of the depot was to be the source of flare-ups for a further 45 days. It wasn’t long after the depot fire was contained that I was alerted by a member of the RFS that there was no water to fill their trucks. The communications line that controls our dam pump had been burnt through. This meant I had to go to an area surrounded by active fire to manually reinstate the pump. This was possibly the only time I really felt uncomfortable, as 35-metre trees all around were burning, and strangely, despite the RFS needing to wait for me to reinstate the water supply, there were no staff available to assist me. Once the supply was reinstated, still no water! Of course, a dead possum had been sucked into the main intake in the header tank. This has NEVER happened before so of course it’s going to happen now! With a milk crate taped to a pole saw, I eventually retrieved the body and water was once again flowing. But of course, there was more,

Eucalypt on fire. Photo: Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah.

much more, to come.



Throughout day two Chris and I repaired several fire abatement lines and tackled flare-ups across the site. I lost count of how many tanks of water we emptied out that day. I was able to get two additional staff in on day three, and for 15 days straight, we rotated shifts day and night to contain flare-ups across the site. It’s worth noting that none of us are trained fire fighters so fighting fire is not part

View from the garden’s deck as the moon rises. Photo: Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah.

of our usual role. In the case of this fire, and most bushfire situations, residents often play a vital role in managing spot fires and what’s often referred to as ‘mopping up’. This is what we did, and I think I can confidently say that had we not been there to do so, the outcome for the garden’s living collection would have been quite different.

The last day of fire in the garden was the first day of February 2020. Just six days later we received our first rain and 9 February saw half of 2019’s rainfall come down in one event. Of course, there is much to share with regards to how the garden’s infrastructure performed, the lessons learned and how the garden’s living collection and strategic direction may change as a result of the fire. As Ian Allan recounts in the following article, the garden has risen from the ashes. The review process is, as of November 2020, ongoing, but will be communicated to member gardens once complete.




Mount Tomah and the Order of the Phoenix: the garden rises from the ashes Ian Allan, Supervisor of Arboriculture and Natural Areas, Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah

You’d be forgiven for forgetting about all that came before ‘the rona’. The omnipresent crisis and the 24-hour news cycle have made the bushfires that ravaged Australia’s east coast last summer seem like a distant memory for many, yet for the team at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah, the reminders are ubiquitous and there is still a lot of work to be done. You’d also be forgiven for thinking; ‘not another bushfire story!’, but never fear, we too were suffering from bushfire media burnout (pun intended), so here’s a story on the positive side of things and on what makes our road to recovery different from that of an average garden. The basalt rocks had no sooner cooled amongst the ash, nor had all the fires been extinguished, before we were busy planning the recovery effort. Trees needed to be assessed and areas made safe, essential infrastructure needed repair or replacement, staff needed support and stories needed to be told. All those things are common to anyone whose property has been burnt, and much has been written about that side of things; however, what is less obvious is what we needed to do as highly qualified horticulturists, arborists and scientists. And what was different about the response required by a botanic garden. It would have been easy to rush straight in and start ‘cleaning-up’ all the burnt areas. The desire to remove the visible reminders of the fire and to focus on aesthetics may have helped us all move on, yet botanic gardens are first and foremost a horticultural and scientific institution. We manage and care for a living collection of rare plants from around the world, as well as 240 hectares of our World Heritage Wilderness area. We keep records on every one of the plants in the collection, not just for posterity’s sake, but for scientific research and to improve the global knowledge base for each species in our care. Our conservation area doesn’t exist just to lock-up a parcel of land like a national park; it is an essential piece of high-quality wilderness that can be studied, and where we can carefully refine our management techniques.



With 90% of the wilderness area burnt and hundreds of living collection specimens directly impacted by the fire, there was essential research to be done so we could better understand exactly what had happened and how the plants would respond. To miss the opportunity to assess the plants, collect data and establish baseline information for monitoring plant and ecosystem recovery would have been folly. It would also have robbed us of a sense that there are silver linings to such a catastrophe. Thankfully, we had immense support from our directors, who allowed us to lead the direction of this work. Some of you may also recall Greg Bourke, our Curator Manager, speaking about the value of plants at the last BGANZ congress. Well, the background to that talk was that we had already been discussing the value of our living collections, not just to science and conservation, but also its dollar value. To have potentially lost hundreds of plants, many of which had been wild-sourced, imported via complex and costly quarantine processes, and which may be incredibly rare, meant that we quickly engaged with our insurers to discuss the possibility of recouping some of that value. This of course meant that we needed to develop a quick and effective method of assessing the plants to confirm which were in fact lost to the fire. The method also needed to be transparent and able to withstand scrutiny. This went hand‑in‑hand with a scientific assessment, so we simply incorporated the insurance assessment into the process.

To have potentially lost hundreds of plants meant that we quickly engaged with our insurers to discuss the possibility of recouping some of that value. The assessments of the living collection and the natural bush were very separate tasks. For instance, we needed to assess individual items in the living collection, whereas the scale of the natural areas meant that we would be assessing plant communities, not individuals. One method of assessment would not fit both, so we planned to first assess the conservation areas, then refine our methods for assessing the collection.

View of the lower garden after the fire. Photo: Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah.



There was lots of research and expertise out there on assessing bushfire impacts on the bush, but less for assessing bushfire impacts on botanical collections of exotic and rare species. First, we needed to determine the varying intensities of the fire that had moved through the different areas so we could then assess the impacts those fire types had on individual species and the array of ecological plant communities found across the estate. Whether the fire had been an intensely hot ‘canopy’ fire, or a cooler ‘trickle’ burn is one of the most significant factors influencing both the response of individual species, and ecological recovery. Contrary to the reductive reporting in the media of ‘fire-storms’ and wholesale ecological disaster, the few of us who had been on-site during

The wilderness area. Photo: Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah.

the fire event and its aftermath had observed a far more complex situation and some ground-truthing of what had occurred was required. This was even more apparent when we found that the Light Detecting and Remote Sensing technology (LiDAR) mapping of the fire-affected areas done by the New South Wales government spatial information service indicated that much of the rainforest we manage was unburnt even though our first forays into those areas told a different story. This baseline information would also be essential if we were to monitor short- and long‑term plant responses. Luckily for us, we have a wide network of experts to call upon, and our involvement in the Wollemi Pine Wollemia nobilis Recovery Plan meant that we were straight into discussions with the team of scientists

A melted tree label. Photo: Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah.

tasked with assessing the wild populations of the ancient trees. Our own scientists also had a pre-established monitoring plot in our conservation area, so we roped them in too! After several meetings to determine the best method of assessment and set up our systems, our Natural Areas team set to task.



FEATURE ARTICLES One of the first tasks was assisting Dr Heidi Zimmer, Senior Scientist (Ecosystems and Threatened Species) with the Department of Planning Industry and Environment, to assess the Wollemi Pine translocation site that we manage. Heidi did her PhD on the translocation site and assisting her with the post-fire assessment was vital in our planning of the living collection assessment and our learnings informed the method of assessment used for the wild trees. Sadly, the entire translocation population was burnt, and while the results are yet to be published, we were thrilled to find that some of them had re-sprouted and appear to be recovering well. We had already learned from our research and meetings that an essential element of bushfire assessment was speed. The ephemeral nature of a few key indicators of fire intensity, namely scorch and char height, and canopy foliage remaining, meant that we needed to be quick. After a quick review and research phase, we confirmed our method and dove on in. We broke the natural area down into zones based on known pre-fire ecological communities and obvious differences in fire intensity (canopy fire versus ground fire) and topography. In these zones we then established assessment and monitoring plots, photo-monitoring points and soil sample locations. This ended up consisting of 10 x 50 m transects with 5 x 1 m2 monitoring plots on each. For each of these transects we then recorded observations on average scorch and char heights relative to the height of the dominant stratum, canopy damage, shrub-layer damage and the soil O-horizon condition. Each of these elements interpreted in isolation may not give a true indication of fire intensity, yet when understood collectively, they paint an accurate picture of the fire intensity and its impacts. We are still finalising our report on this initial impact assessment and won’t truly understand the ecological impacts until we have analysed at least 12 months of monitoring data on the species regenerating in the 50 monitoring plots. In general, however, it appears that there are some ecological communities that will never be the same again, while a couple of others were burnt at just the right intensity to see a possible increase in plant biodiversity and hopefully a strong recovery. While the Natural Areas team continued with that immense task, the team inside the cultivated garden re-jigged the methods slightly, added the insurance element and set out to assess hundreds of fire‑affected accessions. View of the garden after the fire. Photo: Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah.



FEATURE ARTICLES We were all still relatively new to the nuances of IrisBG, the software used for managing our collection records. The limited experience we had, however, suggested it would be possible to utilise its report and mapping functions to set up an assessment method we could perform using a combination of the Floria app and Microsoft Excel on tablets in the field. This was all the more important given that many of the tags and labels on the fire-affected plants had melted, leaving only our ID skills (not much good on charred, leafless plants!) and GPS coordinates to confirm which plant was which. Again, drawing from our consultation with experts and the method used for the Wollemi Pines, we devised a quick impact assessment method with a few extra observations to help build the global knowledge base of each affected species’ response to fire. These included whether there was recruitment from seed, if there was basal or stem re-sprouting, scorch and char height relative to the plant height, and if the plant was alive or dead. We also reserved the determination of alive/dead for many of the deciduous tree species until new spring growth could be observed.

Natural Areas horticulturist Stuart Allan, and horticultural apprentice Laura King assessing Wollemi Pines. Photo: Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah.


Arborists Chris Crottey and Matt Coyne admire the felling skill of senior arborist Antony Rivers. Photo: Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah.


To assist in compiling accurate costs for recovery works we also recorded the melted tags and labels, and the work required, such as pruning or removals. With a second round of assessment due in late spring 2020 we are yet to finalise the numbers of plants lost, but to date, 567 individual living collection items have been assessed as being

View of the lower garden after the fire. Photo: Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah.

directly impacted by fire (burnt or scorched), with 235 assessed for removal and 147 additional removals to be confirmed. Over a third of these items are trees predominately in our North American Woodland and Conifer Cultivar collection. Inside the fences surrounding the cultivated garden, a large section of the naturally occurring Blue Mountains Basalt-cap Forest threatened ecological community bore the brunt of the fire. Within this community almost 500 trees with a diameter at breast height (DBH) of more than 150 mm were assessed as fire-affected and were added to our database. While negotiations with the insurers continue, the assessment and database records have been provided to an independent expert who is developing a valuation methodology and valuing the lost items. Contractors are being engaged to clear assessed trees and we are commencing the long road to re-designing burnt areas, sourcing replacement plant material and ensuring that the story of what happened is interpreted throughout the garden. There’s still a lot to do: we continue to assess tree risk, manage the significant weed incursions into the wilderness areas and gradually re-open areas to the public, but it’s starting to feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. The way we have handled our response, the things we’ve learned and the little unexpected discoveries, such as the abundance of native terrestrial orchids we are finding, make the task all the easier to bear.

There’s still a lot to do, but it’s starting to feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.




Botanic gardens: a refuge during times of stress and disaster. Notes of the experience at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens Wolfgang Bopp, Director of Botanic Gardens and Garden Parks and Bede Nottingham, Team Leader for Operations Support, Christchurch Botanic Gardens

At the start of the year, most of us had no idea that ‘lockdown’, ‘contact tracing’, ‘quarantine’ and ‘self-isolation’ would ever be part of our daily life, other than when visiting remote habitats as a special holiday. Nine months later this is the reality with which we must deal. How has Christchurch Botanic Gardens fared during this time and how does this compare to what happened a decade ago in Christchurch? September 2010 was the month when the city of Christchurch was rocked by a strong earthquake. It caused considerable damage and although residents were busy with clearing up their homes and businesses, they also found time to visit their botanic gardens. Surprisingly, figures show that we had more visitors during this time compared to the long-term average. To many, it was a place of safety and solace, away from any buildings, and immersed in plants and nature, it was somewhere to take respite from the stresses of the day. The strongest aftershock occurred on 22 February 2011, centred close to the city during the middle of the day. Sadly, this was more destructive, and 185 people lost their lives. People in the city centre rushed to the gardens, the only large open space of safety. Parts of the inner city, including the area around the gardens, were declared a red exclusion zone, with the army patrolling access to these areas, and visitation dropped, as many thought the gardens were off-limits. There was also liquefaction, where the ground turned to liquid, affecting about a third of the city area. Within about six months visitor numbers were close to average again, even without the normal influx of tourists as the city was severely damaged and there were few hotel beds still available.



Come March 2020, lockdown Level 4 was imposed throughout New Zealand, despite the relatively low COVID-19 infection rate. By the end of lockdown on 27 April, there had been around 1500 confirmed and recovered COVID-19 cases across the country’s population of five million. Staffing at the gardens during this time was limited. We were allowed up to four staff to do essential works such as watering, safety checks and emptying bins. We mostly worked half days with two teams working over a two-week shift, with no cross-over to reduce risks if staff from one or other of the teams were to contract COVID-19. The use of disinfectant and personal protective equipment went through the roof. In Level 3 lockdown the gardens opened to the public but not the buildings, not even the toilets, to reduce any risk of infection to the public. Playgrounds were kept shut, mostly taped off, but two large facilities required two-metre‑high security fencing to be installed, as the public continued to use them. During Level 2 the playgrounds remained closed, and monitoring visitors over a few days found that people overall were well behaved and keeping their distance. Subsequently, we are fortunate to have spent so much time in Level 1 with few restrictions, although always ready to move alert levels at very short notice if required. Visitor numbers to the gardens have been the same as the longer-term average from May onwards, and considering that we had lost all international tourists, these are strong numbers.

Liquefaction following the aftershock 2011. Photo: Christchurch Botanic Gardens.



FEATURE ARTICLES The red line shows the increase in visitors to the garden after the September 2010 earthquake, in contrast to the blue line which shows a decrease after February 2011. Image: Bede Nottingham.

The blue line shows the drop in visitors during lockdown (April 2020) and the increase in numbers (local visitors only) in May, in contrast to the red line which shows the average numbers for the last 10 years. Image: Bede Nottingham.

We are seeing more families visiting, with people enjoying the gardens even in winter, out in the open, a place to relax and explore. Our catering team have found it to be almost as busy as usual, although the pattern of purchase has changed. Many customers come for a takeaway, with entire groups supplied so they can enjoy their refreshments outside, reducing any risks. Anecdotally, it seems that where caterers, like ours, can offer coffee with a bonus garden setting, they are more successful. If we ignore the time when the alert level did not allow full operation, the revenue seems to be about the same as the previous year. Sadly, for the catering team, it does not mean they make the same profit as they are running a different service, one which is more labour intensive but easier for the public to adjust from Level 1 to Level 2 when required. Our events and functions sector experienced the biggest drop in revenue. We are seeing very few corporate events, weddings have plan Bs; however, with each week of Level 1 we see more confidence in the market, and the catering team are predicting as many, if not more, event bookings for the coming Christmas period. All in all, this has been another demonstration, if it were needed, that botanic gardens don’t just grow a wide range of plants and support education and conservation — their social function and support of our health and wellbeing cannot be underestimated as an integral part of the community they serve.



Great For All Plants, All Seasons! SPRING: Enhances flowering & fruiting.

SUMMER: Helps protect against heat & drought.

AUTUMN: Great for planting & strong root growth.

WINTER: Helps plants cope with the cold weather including frost. THE BOTANIC GARDENer | ISS 55 SUMMER 2020/21



Rain on the Gardens’ birthday parade Julie Akmacic and Toby Golson, Australian National Botanic Gardens

When Prime Minister John Gorton opened the Australian National Botanic Gardens on 20 October 1970, he probably didn’t anticipate bushfires, hazardous smoke, hailstorms and a global pandemic interrupting the gardens’ golden anniversary in 2020. The gardens’ 50th anniversary was geared up to be a year of reflection, a year of celebration and a chance to pay tribute to five decades of scientific research, horticultural excellence and recreational enjoyment — but sadly, nature had other plans. Like many buildings and landscapes across the nation’s capital, the gardens fell victim to the destructive hailstorm that swept through Canberra on 20 January 2020. The summer storm, with hail as big as golf balls, ripped through the gardens smashing skylights and glasshouses, littering paths and garden beds with barrels of debris and tearing through the Rainforest Gully — one of Canberra’s much-loved treasures. It was this gully that helped the gardens develop into one of Canberra’s major national attractions 50 years ago — a gully that continues to take visitors on a journey through the rainforests of Australia’s eastern coastlines from Tasmania to Queensland. Back in the 1970s a misting system was installed in a dry gully near a standard public carpark. A careful selection of plants, along with artificially increased humidity, saw the development of the Rainforest Gully — a significant horticultural achievement as well as an avenue for raising public awareness about rainforests. 1967 – overlooking the car park and the portion of the gully that now represents the Tasmanian rainforest. Photo: Australian National Botanic Gardens.



Despite Canberra’s burning summers and icy winters, the gardens’ expert team of horticulturalists have kept the gully alive and thriving by keeping on top of watering. This was made easier with the transition to recycled water over the last decade. Maintaining the integrity of the tree canopy means continuous succession planting to replace the fast growing but rapidly senescing acacias and eucalypts, planted in the 1970s and 80s, with hardy rainforest species. Specific pruning techniques are

2010 – visitors in Rainforest Gully with mist. Photo: ©M. Fagg 2010, Australian National Botanic Gardens.

also used to encourage straight trunk growth in canopy trees and to minimise sub-canopy shading from shrubs, allowing the ground storey to thrive. All leaf and twig litter, as well as larger limbs, is retained where possible to assist in mimicking the nutrient recycling and abundant soil fauna that occur in a natural rainforest. Having transformed this incredible rainforest from car park to lush green canopies, 50 years of work was seriously compromised in just five minutes of violent hail. The hail shredded the foliage in what resembled a canopy fire, letting full sunlight into parts of the gully that had not seen the sun for decades. There was extensive scarring to the cambium layer of almost all shrubs, and many small specimens planted in spring 2019 died.


The lush Rainforest Gully and boardwalks. Photo: Australian National Botanic Gardens.



January 2020 – the damaged rainforest canopy immediately after hailstorm. Photo: Australian National Botanic Gardens.

January 2020 – the littered Rainforest Gully after hailstorm. Photo: Australian National Botanic Gardens.

Over the last few months gardens’ staff have worked hard to restore the damage to the gully. A major cleanup was undertaken by staff and volunteers, pruning out badly damaged foliage and shredded tree fern fronds as well as rescuing buried plant material. A severely damaged tree had to be removed by crane. Fortunately, most of the hard landscaping and infrastructure such as boardwalks were unscathed. Today the rainforest is a picture of good health thanks to dedicated staff and volunteers. Mother Nature has also played a valuable part by breaking the drought, quenching the thirst of the gully with natural rainwater, and bestowing a mild Canberra winter.

Today the rainforest is a picture of good health thanks to dedicated staff and volunteers. Mother Nature has also played a valuable part by breaking the drought, and bestowing a mild Canberra winter.



The gardens are a sanctuary in the heart of Canberra and have grown into one of the capital’s most cherished institutions — where scientific excellence works to conserve our nation’s beautiful and unique flora in an elegant space that welcomes people from across the country and around the world. During COVID-19 and with the ongoing social distancing regulations, the gardens have become a source of comfort for many Canberrans seeking outside activities. Unlike other institutions that rely on interstate visitors, the gardens have been packed with visitors enjoying the fresh air and wide-open spaces.

The gardens support a living collection of more than 70,000 native plants, representing over 6,200 species and about one-third of Australia’s known native plants. More than half-a-million visitors come to the gardens each year to relax in its tranquil setting, explore Australia’s floral heritage and enjoy the wonderful events and activities. Even though many of these have been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, the gardens are still celebrating their 50th anniversary by paying tribute to the dedicated staff and the achievements of the last 50 years. The gardens have marked their 50th year by adding a new garden dedicated to an Australian floral icon, the banksia. The new Banksia Garden, officially opened on 21 October, hosts more than 70 different types of banksias from around Australia. In 2015, a Master Plan was released. It will guide the gardens’ infrastructure development to support enhanced visitor experiences, horticulture and research capabilities through to 2035. This long-term vision will ensure that the gardens remain at the forefront of contemporary gardens world-wide. The two biggest projects under the Master Plan are the development of a new National Seed Bank and the Ian Potter National Conservatory. The Ian Potter National Conservatory will be a national and international showcase of some of Australia’s most beautiful and unusual tropical native flora. Featuring tropical plant species from Kakadu National Park, the wet tropics of northern Queensland, Christmas Island and other exotic locations, it is expected to be a major tourism draw card while also operating as a world-class research facility for rare and threatened Australian tropical plants.




Care for the Rare update John Arnott, Manager Horticulture, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria Cranbourne Gardens

Care for the Rare is a Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria (RBGV) and BGANZ initiative to support regional botanic gardens in Victoria to actively participate in ex situ plant conservation and display. The program has three main objectives: • A sector capacity building project: while Victoria has a large network of botanic gardens (42), a 2018 survey of Victorian regional botanic gardens identified that many gardens self‑perceived a ‘lack of skills and resources’ necessary to manage rare and threatened species in their collections. Gardens staff and volunteers specifically cited their major impediments as ‘difficulties in accessing plant material and information about their cultural requirements’. • Establishment of a multi-site conservation collection of Victorian rare and threatened species across a range of regional botanic gardens across the State. • Communication, through well-considered interpretation, of the importance of plant conservation, the role that botanic gardens play and local conservation stories/messages.

Olearia pannosa subsp. pannosa. Grown at the Cranbourne Gardens Nursery for a heathland bed at the Colac Botanic Gardens. Photo: Kaishan Qu.


Stock at the Cranbourne Gardens Nursery being prepared for delivery to Colac. L-R Mandy Thomson Team Leader Cranbourne Gardens Nursery and Maja Zweck Care for the Rare propagator. Photo: Kaishan Qu.


Australian Botanic Gardens Shepparton. One of these design squares will hold a conservation seed orchard of the endangered Turnip Copperburr Sclerolaena napiformis. Photo: Jenny Houlihan.

The Care for the Rare working group. L-R Chris Russell RBGV, Tex Moon Parks Victoria, Justin Buckley National Trust of Victoria, John Arnott RBGV. Photo: Chris Russell.

Through the generous support of the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust (HMSTrust) the RBGV forwarded an invitation to lodge an expression of interest to the BGANZ Victoria network, resulting in an overwhelming positive response from 24 gardens. The HMSTrust grant funding is supporting the RBGV to undertake a pilot program for the following six gardens: • Australian Botanic Gardens Shepparton (Greater Shepparton Shire) • Ballarat Botanical Gardens (City of Ballarat) • Colac Botanical Gardens (Colac Otway Shire) • Dandenong Ranges Botanic Gardens (Parks Victoria) • Sale Botanic Gardens (Wellington Shire) • Wilson Botanic Park (City of Casey). Care for the Rare working group members undertook a series of site inspections of each garden to further explore specific factors to guide the formation of collections. This led to the development of Conservation Collection Plans, which articulate the broad approach, aims and objectives for the development of a conservation collection for each garden, including detailed species lists and a planting schedule. The HMSTrust funding has enabled the RBGV to employ a dedicated plant propagator to source, propagate and produce the living plant stocks identified in each Conservation Collection Plan, and for these plants to be delivered to each participating garden. Plant production is underway at the Cranbourne Gardens Nursery and plants are scheduled to be dispatched during 2020–2021.



Production is complete for three of the six gardens, Shepparton, Dandenong Ranges and Colac. In October 2020 over 2,000 plants, made up of 115 taxa, were delivered and subsequently planted. Plants for the additional three gardens are currently in production and will obviously add to these numbers. It is pleasing to note that there is quite a bit of diversity in the first three collections in terms of species grown, collection objectives and display design. The Australian Botanic Gardens Shepparton has focused on displaying plants you might see if you ‘set out from Shepparton on a day trip and went for a bush walk’. The landscape designer for the collection, Melissa Stagg (Stagg Design Landscapes), cites that ‘despite the straight lines of the beds, the design style has been worked in a loose, flowing, wild-kind of manner. I did this because all the plants

Colac site inspection. L-R Ed Riches Colac Botanic Gardens, John Arnott RBGV, Laurence Towers Colac Botanic Gardens. Photo: Chris Russell.

in the design can be found growing out in the wild in our very own region. Some of the plants are found in woodland areas, some in grasslands, some in floodplains, some in rocky outcrops in the hills, but all are hardy and beautiful. There are 55 different species planned for the garden overall, including the 22 rare and threatened species, and 33 other nonthreatened species.’ The Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden has an established garden of Victorian alpine, subalpine and montane forest species. The Care for the Rare holdings will be integrated into this existing area. The Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden, alongside our other cool climate gardens at Mt Tomah and Mt Lofty (and others) are especially important gardens as ‘sanctuaries’ for precious high-country flora. As such, it is the perfect ‘host’ for a Care for the Rare collection of selected Victorian rare and threatened

Care for the Rare Inspection, Shepparton. L-R Melissa Stagg Stagg Design Landscape Architecture, Sally Mann Friends of Australian Botanic Gardens Shepparton, John Arnott RBGV, Lindy Harris Karwarra Gardens, David Roberts RBGV. Photo: Jenny Houlihan.

species from the Victorian mountains.



PROFESSIONAL NETWORKS The approach at the Colac Botanic Gardens was to work with existing collection themes and areas. In the 1990s the gardens established collections of heathlands plants from the Otway Plains and a cool temperate rainforest garden with a range of species from the Otway Ranges. Care for the Rare plants have been incorporated into these collections as well as enhancing an existing acacia collection with a broad range of species with conservation significance. Each garden has assumed the costs of garden bed developments, but again funding has supported technical elements of this step, including support and advice around plant set-out, elements of garden design and ongoing collections maintenance and management. We are also very excited to kick off the interpretation component of the Care for the Rare project. To support each participating garden with the interpretation of their rare Australian plant collections, RBGV has engaged interpretation specialist Toni Roberts (Hatchling Studio) to scope the needs, capacity and opportunities within each garden. From this we will develop a strategy for providing interpretation support for the diverse contexts, stories and sites of the six participating gardens.

Melissa Stagg, Stagg Design Landscape Architecture, setting out plants at the Australian Botanic Gardens Shepparton. Photo: Jill Grant.


Front page of Shepparton Advertiser, 30Â September 2020. Image: Jill Grant.



Meet your botanic gardens engagement colleagues — virtually! Julia Watson, Botanic Gardens Engagement Network Convenor The Botanic Gardens Engagement Network (BGEN) runs online forums every two months and all BGANZ members are welcome. If you are involved with interpretation, education, events, social media, volunteer management or any other form of visitor engagement, these online meetings are for you. Just one hour long, the virtual networking opportunity is a great way to learn what others are working on in botanic gardens across Australasia, and to meet colleagues during the ‘round table’ section of the meeting where everyone can share their projects and ideas, or resources that are of interest to the group. Beginning in September 2020, BGEN has run three of these meetings, which have been very well attended and enjoyed. Topics covered include how COVID-19 has affected our work, the role of digital engagement in education and how to tell our conservation stories. If you missed the meetings, you can watch a recording on the BGEN blog, and get links to all the resources shared at the meetings: BGEN online meetings start up again in February 2021. If you’d like to receive information and links to join the meetings, simply email Julia Watson (BGEN convenor) and you’ll be added to the list: On behalf of the BGEN committee, we would like to wish you a happy and safe festive season and we look forward to seeing you in the new year.



Networks and digital communications for botanic gardens communities Daniela Carnovale, Project Officer and David Gale, Manager, Data Management and Surveillance Communities, Plant Health Australia In this period of COVID-19 restrictions many of us have struggled to connect with our usual audience and have had to look for ways to engage with a new and broader audience. This article from Plant Health Australia provides some examples of how the Botanic Gardens Biosecurity Network have tailored their activities to adapt to the changing circumstances to continue delivering positive biosecurity outcomes for botanic gardens, the broader community and the environment.

Using a network approach to achieve biosecurity outcomes in botanic gardens The living plant collections found within botanic gardens are a unique resource that can provide vital information about plant health. Botanic gardens are visited by millions of people each year, creating a risk of new pests or diseases entering on clothing or footwear. The way the living collections are organised and the movement of staff and visitors means botanic gardens can be especially vulnerable to the impact of invasive plant pests and diseases. The staff and volunteers who work in gardens are knowledgeable and passionate people who, with training and awareness of current threats, can become additional ‘eyes and ears’ for the detection of new plant pests and diseases. People who work in botanic gardens generally care about safeguarding not only the plants they work with, but also plant species in the wider community and environment. Staff and volunteers who work with plants in collections daily are well-positioned to recognise, monitor and record changes in plant health quickly and accurately. This set of unique characteristics has led to the establishment of the Botanic Gardens Biosecurity Network (BGBN) which includes anyone who has an interest in preserving the heritage value of botanic gardens, and the Botanic Gardens Surveillance Network (BGSN) which at the moment primarily involves staff of the larger botanic gardens. The development of these networks has been identified as a significant opportunity to improve Australia’s biosecurity system, benefiting commercial production, amenity landscapes and plantings, and the environment.



The BGBN was initially established as a pilot network with friends, guides and visitor experience officers of the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Melbourne and the Australian National Botanic Gardens but has developed into a network relevant to all gardens. By working together, the involved friends, guides and other volunteers are learning how to look out for exotic plant pests in their botanic and home gardens and how to keep gardens safe from new pests. The network is supported by a website (the BGBN extensionAUS™ site) which provides practical information and advice to staff of botanic gardens, community interest groups and members of the public to develop the awareness, knowledge and skills to contribute to general biosecurity surveillance activities.

COVID-19 restrictions: an opportunity The digital revolution has provided alternative routes to disseminating information and keeping up-to-date on activities within botanic gardens. More and more we are seeing botanic gardens across Australia using digital platforms like websites and social media to communicate with those interested in botanic gardens. Friends groups are developing strong followings on Facebook and major events in gardens are being promoted via websites, Twitter and Facebook. Now with the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions the use of digital platforms is vital to build networks within botanic gardens and share information. Due to COVID-19, the BGBN like many other organisations had to cancel many of the planned face-to-face events for the year, and alternative communication methods had to be used. This has included establishing a BGBN Facebook presence, hosting a botanic webinar series and running pest surveillance blitzes.

Social media

Screenshot of the BGBN Facebook page.

The ease of use of social media platforms for communicating and disseminating information makes them attractive. Engaging botanic garden communities using Facebook has enabled the BGBN to build networks and foster communication and collaboration between those interested in botanic gardens regardless of their geographical location. Through Facebook the BGBN have been able to extend the reach of the network further than the three initial target gardens. AÂ social media presence has also led to increased collaborations with other organisations.



PROFESSIONAL NETWORKS This collaboration has included the cross-promotion and sharing of information. One significant collaboration is that between the BGBN and BGANZ. By working together, the BGBN has been able to use the audience and professional relationships that BGANZ has developed and vice versa.

Webinar series During times where social distancing is becoming the norm, alternative ways of sharing knowledge to build interest and maintain engagement with those who have an interest in botanic gardens are needed. A webinar series was established for the autumn-winter period of 2020, consisting of eight fortnightly webinars. Each 30- to 45-minute webinar featured an expert delivering a presentation and responding to audience questions. The series included several informative presentations on general biosecurity surveillance and a series of case study-type webinars presented by the three participating gardens, the Urban Plant Health Network and the Peri-Urban Environmental Biosecurity Network. Hosting online events allowed the network to present to a larger target audience than would have been possible with face-to-face activities. The ability to record webinars and make them available as a permanent resource is a great benefit of digital communication and has increased the potential reach of the BGBN. Each webinar is now housed on the PHA YouTube channel and posted onto the BGBN extensionAUS™ site. One of the benefits of conducting digital communication and extension is the ability to obtain metrics. The metrics obtained can then guide future communication and extension activities.

BGBN webinars series recordings.



PROFESSIONAL NETWORKS The success and reach of the BGBN webinars were measured through various Facebook and website metrics. While there was a high level of registrations, with 89 to 137 for each webinar, the number of attendees at each of the webinars ranged from 39 to 80, with most from Australia (82%). This is a fantastic outcome which would not have been achievable though face-to-face activities without a large financial investment. Promotion of the webinar series was though various avenues including social media, the BGBN website, emails and promotion in existing e-newsletters such as friends’ and BGANZ newsletters. The highest percentage of viewers (31%) found out about the webinars via email including e-newsletter recipients. After the distribution of information though e-newsletters, including those of the friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens, and BGANZ, there was a spike in website views and registrations. Only a small percentage of webinar viewers indicated that they learnt about the webinars via social media (8% Facebook, 5% Twitter). This is a surprising result considering the large amount of social media promotion of the webinar series. It illustrates, however, that social media may not necessarily be the best method of promotion with the target audience. This is supported by earlier discussions with friends of gardens who indicated that they did not have an extensive social media presence. The high percentage of attendees hearing about the webinar via word of mouth (19%) highlights the importance of establishing and building networks to achieve biosecurity outcomes within botanic gardens.

Pest surveillance blitzes The BGBN called on visitors, friends, volunteers and staff of botanic gardens to take part in three targeted biosecurity pest blitzes between September and November 2020. The biosecurity pest blitzes were a way to raise awareness and conduct surveillance for plant pests and diseases within the bounds of COVID-19 restrictions. These biosecurity blitzes were for myrtle rust, brown marmorated stink bug and Tree of Heaven. Each blitz ran over nine days and encouraged participants to get out and about to look for these pests in their own home garden or local botanic gardens, or as they took a walk. Reporting for each blitz was through the MyPestGuide™ Reporter app. As no face-to-face workshops on surveillance and reporting could be held, a series of articles on the BGBN website was provided in the lead-up to each blitz. Detailed information on how to identify each target and instructions on how to make a report using the MyPestGuide™ Reporter app was provided. Promotion of each blitz was primarily though Facebook and e-newsletters.



Three images of myrtle rust received during the myrtle rust blitz. Photos: Glen Proctor.

While limited reports were made, metrics indicate that the information prepared for the promotion of the blitzes had a large reach with good engagement with social media posts. While there are many benefits of digital communication, there can also be limitations. Despite good engagement with social media posts, this did not necessarily translate into engagement in the webinar series or the surveillance blitzes. While digital engagement is a very useful tool for communication and awareness, we should not forget about the benefits of face‑to‑face communication and building non-digital networks.

More information For more information about either of these networks please email Visit the Botanic Gardens Biosecurity Network website at Follow the Botanic Gardens Biosecurity Network on Facebook at



BGCI’s Directory of Expertise Brian Lainoff, Head of Membership Strategy and Services, BCGI BGCI’s Directory of Expertise is designed to enable experts within botanic gardens let other people know about their own skills and knowledge and, if possible, help them solve a problem or challenge related to botanic gardens or plant conservation. As a membership benefit exclusively for BGCI Institutional Members, staff associated with these institutions can apply to be listed in the directory. The directory currently includes 11 areas of expertise: Botanic Garden Conceptualisation and Design, Conservation Assessment, Conservation Horticulture, Ecological Restoration, Exceptional Species, Plant Health and Biosecurity, Policy, Public Engagement, Seed Conservation, Sustainability, and Tree Conservation. These have all been selected because our experience at BGCI suggests that there is a strong demand for such expertise both within the botanic garden community and in other sectors. Further disciplines will be added in the future. BGCI’s purpose in creating this directory is twofold: first, to share the knowledge and skills in the botanic garden community with broader society to solve problems or save plant species, and second, to give staff of BGCI Institutional Members opportunities to broaden their experience and make a contribution that might not come their way in day-to-day work. Experts in the directory do not commit to providing their expertise wherever it is required but agree to be contacted for help, whether that be through partnership or paid services. Those experts included in the directory agree to adhere to BGCI’s Code of Conduct. All applications are reviewed by BGCI’s own experts. We also reserve the right to reject applications.

Be listed as an expert To be included in BGCI’s Directory of Expertise, an individual must be a staff member of a BGCI Institutional Member. Applicants are required to complete a short questionnaire and upload an up-to-date curriculum vitae. The application is reviewed by BGCI staff before the expert is added to the directory. To learn more and apply for inclusion in BGCI’s Directory of Expertise, please visit




Ex situ seed conservation for bush fire recovery Damian Wrigley, National Coordinator, Australian Seed Bank Partnership The Partners and Associates of the Australian Seed Bank Partnership (ASBP) have been concentrating on developing a diverse range of projects and activities to support seed science and ex situ conservation responses to the bushfires, as well as contributing to improving sector‑based knowledge and skills. Following this year’s unprecedented bushfires, the ASBP has welcomed the opportunity to contribute to discussions about prioritising species and locations for flora conservation. We have worked closely with governments, academics, local communities, volunteers and funders to prepare projects and develop strategies to support recovery efforts across the southern and eastern parts of the country. The ASBP has spent much of the year discussing the constantly evolving response to managing seed banks through disasters like fire and COVID-19, and supporting one another and sharing information about the impacts on field, lab and storage operations as well as concerns for the impact on regional flora that require conservation interventions.

Bushfire projects — saving seeds across the country The ASBP has been fortunate to secure funding from the Australian Government under Tranche Two of the Wildlife and Habitat Bushfire Recovery Program and through Greening Australia’s Project Phoenix. Both projects are supporting the ASBP to secure seed collections from bushfire-affected species and increase the number of species with established germination protocols. This will help inform whether taxa currently held in seed banks require further prioritisation for re-collection if current storage methods are identified as insufficient for that particular collection. As part of these projects, the South Australian Seed Conservation Centre will be undertaking rapid flora assessments and if possible, seed collecting on Kangaroo Island for threatened taxa such as Kangaroo Island Phebalium Leionema equestre and Hindmarsh Correa Correa calycina var. halmaturorum. The Western Australian Seed Centre, Kensington, will undertake germination trials of existing collections such as Xyris exilis, an endangered member of the yellow-eyed grass family, to determine whether current storage methods are providing long-term viability for previously collected seeds. While many of the germinants will be used for restoration of the



PROFESSIONAL NETWORKS species in situ, some, like Xyris exilis, will be used to engage the next generation of botanical and conservation scientists at the Woodlupine Primary School in Perth. In the south-east, the Victorian Conservation Seedbank will be undertaking germination trials and propagation of Forrester’s Bottlebrush Callistemon forresterae and Betka Bottlebrush C. kenmorrisonii for reintroduction activities in eastern Victoria. In NSW, the Australian PlantBank will be collecting across several areas including the Lowland Rainforest of Subtropical Australia

Seedling emergence for Leionema equestre underneath the burnt parent plant, Kangaroo Island. Photo: Dan Duval.

ecological community to secure data and germplasm from the endangered Manning Yellow Solanum Solanum sulphureum. The National Seed Bank will be targeting flora of the Australian Capital Territory with a focus on securing new collections of Shining Westringia Westringia lucida and Dwarf Violet Viola improcera, while in Queensland the Brisbane Botanic Gardens will be attempting to collect seeds of the endangered wattle Acacia porcata and Granite Boronia Boronia granitica, while the Tasmanian Seed Conservation Centre will be doing rapid flora assessments and collecting seeds from Dainty Bitter-Cress Cardamine tryssa and Miena Cider Gum Eucalyptus gunnii ssp. divaricatus. The ASBP has also been fortunate to secure support from the United Kingdom Government and Millennium Seed Bank Partnership through funding for two bushfire-related emergency seed conservation projects. This support will enable our partners to visit more fire-affected areas throughout the southern and eastern parts of the country, determine the impacts of the bushfires and secure collections of seed from priority native flora. The funding comes from a direct UK Government to Australian Government offer of support following the bushfires. As the country’s peak body for long-term ex situ seed conservation we have been tasked with delivering this important body of work and we thank the UK Government for providing this significant support for seed conservation and bushfire recovery in Australia. Our long-term collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, was instrumental in helping the ASBP secure this funding and clearly demonstrates the value of our national and international botanic garden and seed bank networks. While the partners plan and deliver projects this season, they are ensuring their target lists are closely aligned with the recently updated priority flora identified by the Australian Government’s Bushfire Expert Panel. It is important that we continue to ensure our efforts are complementary to the other bushfire projects tackling priority flora across the sector, while also ensuring we focus some effort on regionally important flora identified as a priority for local areas.



Rapid flora assessments — capturing data for future recovery Throughout this year many of us have been involved in discussions with experts about what the fires mean for the recovery of our native flora and its ability to recover and remain viable in situ in the longer term. Part of the ASBP’s contribution to the ongoing assessment of flora recovery is through the delivery of rapid flora assessments of priority taxa. The partners have been working collaboratively on the Jenny Guerin undertaking assessments for Kangaroo Island Daisy Achnophora tatei. Photo: Dan Duval.

metadata required for rapid flora surveys, building on an incredible amount of work already undertaken by New South Wales.

Gavin Phillips at the Australian PlantBank at the Australian Botanic Gardens Mt Annan, worked with colleagues across the ASBP to refine a field‑friendly approach to rapid data capture. The information collected will feed directly into the work being done by Dr Rachel Gallagher for the Australian Government’s Bushfire Expert Panel, and the desktop analysis conducted for the preliminary and recently updated assessment of priority flora. Understanding the recovery of native flora post-fire will need significant data

Site ID ………………………

DATE .…….../……....../…………..

Date of Fire/Time Since Fire …………………………………………...

and it is hoped these

Species ………………………………………………………………….

FIRE Severity Class

Observer(s) ……………………………………………………………

Remaining Canopy Cover

rapid flora assessments

LOCATION ……………………………………...………………………

Scorch Height Above Ground


% Trees Apparently Dead

will provide this critical

State ……………………… Subdivision …………………………......

Strata Scorched

canopy sub-Canopy shrubs ground Cover

Special Geographic Unit …………………………………………........

Strata Consumed

canopy sub-Canopy shrubs ground Cover

information. We hope

Lat ............°………’……..….”S Long …….…°…...…’..……….”E


canopy sub-Canopy shrubs ground Cover

that this information can inform future species

Altitude ……………m Datum ………....... Precision ± ……….m


2 <30% <30%

3 30-70%


5 >70%

c. ………………… m 30-70%


Reshooting Species Present …………………………………………...

Vegetation Type …………………………………………......................


Landform …………………………………………………………........

Seedling Species Present ……………………………………………… …………………………………………………………………………...

Target Species Present on Site



collection and restoration

Habit ……………………………………..

Size ………………….m

efforts, particularly as

Abundance: Locally – dominant abundant frequent common

Other Threats pest herbivory erosion drought/dry pathogens roadworks/infrastructure native herbivory



Habitat Niche …………………………………………………………... uncommon occasional rare

bushfires are expected to

Population Size c. ………………………………………… individuals

increase in both intensity

Percent Live Mature Individuals c. …………………………….. …. %

Local Area of Occurrence c. ……………… x ……………… m / km Estimated Fire Affected c. …………………………… % of population

and severity as a result of

Life History Type (if known)

obligate seeder


Recruitment Type epicormic



climate change.

Reproductive State

sterile buds flowers






Coll No. …………………………...




Photo Points



Photo Point 1: Lat ........°…..…’……..”S Long ..…...°…......’...…….”E Direction ………. degrees Time …………… am / pm Photo Point 2: Lat ........°…..…’……..”S Long ..…...°…......’...…….”E Direction ………. degrees Time …………… am / pm Image File No. ………………………………………………………….. OTHER INFO …………………………………………………………..... ………………………………………………………………................... …………………………………………………………………………...

Rapid flora assessment methodology used by the partners this season to assess recovery of native flora. Images: Gavin Phillips.




Conservation guidelines to support conservation During the cooler months of this year when our partners were not so busy undertaking reconnaissance and collecting in the field, many were contributing their substantial expertise towards the Australian Network for Plant Conservation’s update of the Florabank Guidelines and the Plant Germplasm Conservation in Australia, otherwise known as the Germplasm Guidelines. These two sets of guidelines are critical strategic documents for the sector and are undergoing an update to align their concepts and techniques with the latest advances in seed science and conservation. These guidelines will serve as valuable tools for those working in the collection, management and use of native germplasm and the restoration of the Australian native flora. We are very grateful to the Australian Network for Plant Conservation for including the ASBP in the development of these important pieces of work and look forward to their release and subsequent workshops next year. More information about both projects to update the guidelines is available on the ANPC website,

The next chapter for ex situ seed conservation As this year draws to a close and the next decade of the Global Biodiversity Framework is negotiated by the parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity, the ASBP will develop its strategic direction for the decade ahead. We will continue to support native seed conservation through ex situ conservation, storage, research and knowledge sharing, with the aim of aligning our work with the anticipated new set of targets under an updated Global Strategy for Plant Conservation. With an increase in fire frequency and severity predicted for Australia in future years, as well as more intense droughts, storms and damaging weather events, it is without doubt that the role of botanic gardens and ex situ germplasm conservation will continue to play a significant role in supporting the recovery and survival of our native flora. We hope you can join us next year at the Australasian Seed Science Conference from 5 to 9 September 2021 where we will be sharing the latest developments in seed science. Updates on the program will be announced on the ASSC conference website in the coming months,

Reference Gallagher R.V. 2020. National prioritisation of Australian plants affected by the 2019–2020 bushfire season — Report to the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment.



Influence & ActIon botanic gardens as Agents of change Influence and Action: Botanic Gardens as Agents of Change will explore how botanic gardens can play a greater role in shaping our future. With accelerated loss of biodiversity across the globe, increased urbanisation, population growth and climate change, our need to work together to find new solutions for the future has never been greater.

Hosted in the glorious city of Melbourne, Australia, the 7th Global Botanic Gardens Congress (7GBGC) will run from 26–30 September 2022. Explore our most liveable city and Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria’s stunning and contrasting landmark gardens at Melbourne and Cranbourne. Together we will celebrate Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria’s 175th anniversary at this important international gathering.

7th global botanic gardens congress 26–30 September 2022 Melbourne Australia

Join inspiring speakers, fascinating workshops, panel discussions, and symposia, in addition to a specially curated evening cultural program focusing closely on Australian aboriginal culture and the vibrant contemporary creative and food scenes for which Melbourne is globally renowned.

With a focus on influencing the future, for the first time in the history of the Congress, 7GBGC will deliver a Youth Program for future Gardens’ leaders aged 18–24 – young people actively involved in horticulture, ecology, environmental and conservation science, and land management.

Register your interest at THE BOTANIC GARDENer | ISS 55 SUMMER 2020/21



Calendar of conferences and events 7th Global Botanic Gardens Conference now September 2022. Date change. Due to the global impacts of COVID-19, we are moving 7GBGC to the Australian spring. Join us in Melbourne, 26–30 September 2022, the perfect time to visit Victoria. For more details:

8th Global Botanic Gardens Conference 2024. Host wanted. BGCI is inviting Expressions of Interest from botanic gardens or arboreta interested in hosting the 8th Global Botanic Gardens Congress in 2024. The Global Botanic Gardens Congress, held once every three years, is traditionally hosted by a BGCI botanic garden member, with Congress activities centred around the host botanic garden. For more BGCI Conference details: For more American Conference details:



Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.