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Herbarium News

SEPTEMBER

2011

Outgoing ‘floraphobe’ praises Herbarium’s collection It’s the best collection he’s worked with – and, for that matter, is ever likely to work with. This month, the Herbarium’s one-time Data Entry Operator, some-time Data Entry and Interpretations Officer, Timm Newlands, flew the botanical coop, having spent ten fruitful and fulfilling years pecking at a keyboard. In that time, he has come to know the Herbarium’s collection pretty well. ‘It isn’t the biggest in the land,’ he admitted, ‘nor is it the prettiest. In terms of quality, though, it’s by far the finest.’ And he’s not talking about the Herbarium’s collection of plants. ‘Don’t get me wrong,’ he said, ‘I like a good herbarium as much as the next floraphobe, but the fact remains: dead plants can’t bake cakes or laugh at my jokes.’ ‘To me, it’s the Herbarium’s living collection that really matters.’ Living collection? ‘The people, you fool – what I call the Kantvilas Collection.’ During his twenty-year tenure as the Herbarium’s Head, Dr Gintaras Kantvilas has gathered colleagues as he has lichens – in far fewer numbers, of course, but with no less care. In doing so, he has assembled a rich assortment of treasures. Lyn Cave and Dalia Howe were acquired in the early 1990s.

‘Lyn is the epitome of good humour and good sense,’ Timm said. ‘Dalia, too, is terrific – thoughtful, caring and worldlywise. They’ve both helped me out in their different ways.’ Lyn and Dalia were joined, a few years later, by Alan Gray and Jennifer Cooke. ‘Alan is a rare gem, always good for a practical tip or a bawdy quip, while Jennifer’s interest in everything from birds to bards is especially endearing – as is her impish wit.’ In 2001, Matt Baker and Kim Hill (and Timm himself) entered the collection.

Timm and two of his Herbarium ‘firsts’: his wife, Andrea, and son, Angus

‘Matt’s the genuine no-nonsense kind of bloke you’d like to have as a brother, if only he didn’t pull your leg so much,’ Timm said. ‘Over the years, he’s given me heaps.’

permanent loan to another institution (the Buchanan clan), while Jean is altogether impossible to account for.

‘As for Kim, she’s a brick: an earthy freespirit whose do-it-herself ethos is no less than inspiring, and whose sense of humour is as perverse as my own – or so I’d like to think.’

‘Alex is Alex – unhurried, unflappable, unlikely to change. His penchant for puns never fails to amuse,’ Timm observed. ‘Jean, alas, is Jean. She plays at being prickly, but is really quite lovable.’

In recent years, the collection has gained four other assets: Rod Seppelt and Miguel de Salas, Penny Tyson and Genevieve Gates.

This, then, is the Kantvilas Collection; person-by-person, Gintaras pieced it together; day-by-day, he keeps it together.

‘There’s not much of the planet these four haven’t seen, and not much they haven’t done, whether it’s cheese-making or manning a lighthouse,’ Timm said. ‘Working with them is an education in itself.’

Which, according to Timm, explains its excellence.

Of course, the collection also contains two irrecoverable curios: Alex Buchanan and Jean Jarman. These days, Alex is on

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‘A collection is only as good as its keeper, and ours is very, very good. As a scientist, Gintaras has discovered dozens of rare plants; as a person, though, he’s discovered something rarer still: the art of living, no less.’


‘It seems so simple,’ Timm went on, donning his psychologist’s beanie. ‘He just gives himself fully to every experience, be it one of the body, the heart or the head. Each has free play within him, and yet, astonishingly, he is seldom – if ever – at odds with himself.’ ‘As a consequence, Gintaras gets the best out of himself, and his best is no less than exceptional in any number of areas, from story-telling to animal husbandry. This rubs off on us all and brings out our best.’ By his own admission, Timm owes a great deal to Gintaras, but it is this he is most grateful for – having his best brought out. ‘That said, our long conversations about the things that matter – books, footy and friendship – are something special, as were our many joint efforts – the news stories and displays at work, and the ducks and book launches away from it,’ he said. So, why is Timm leaving this remarkable keeper and his priceless collection? ‘Because I’m a curiosity,’ he said, ‘in that, owing to my gross botanical limitations, I’ve never really belonged – in this regard, at least. As everyone knows, my heart lies elsewhere, in the arts, and it’s into that arena I finally feel capable of throwing myself, if only to feed a few lions.’ ‘Anyway, I’ve got real responsibilities now, so I can’t afford to be having fun at work.’

Not the biggest nor prettiest, but certainly the finest – the Kantvilas Collection circa 2011: (left to right) Timm and Angus, Lyn Cave, Dalia Howe, Alan Gray, Matt Baker, Miguel de Salas, Kim Hill, Gintaras Kantvilas and Timm’s successor, Maria MacDermott (absent: Jennifer Cooke, Jean Jarman, Alex Buchanan, Rod Seppelt, Penny Tyson and Genevieve Gates)

During his time at the Herbarium, Timm ‘databased’ a veritable forest of specimens, produced a dvd and several botanical displays, and even penned a news story or two, although never about himself. What’s more, he chalked up some personal ‘firsts’, marrying his first wife, Andrea, buying his first house, and having his first child – a boy called Angus.

He will be remembered, though, as ‘the man who knew Spencer Marks’. ‘For a place so full of dead plants, the Herbarium is overflowing with life,’ added Timm. ‘I’ve been lucky enough to live a little of that life.’


Herbarium News

MARCH

2011

Botanist’s hidden legacy comes to light at the Herbarium When Alex Buchanan retired after twenty-five years as a botanist at the Tasmanian Herbarium, he took a lot with him – not least of all his encyclopaedic knowledge of Tasmania’s plants.

While many of the surveys were commissioned by companies planning to lay or run cables through bushland, some were requested by individuals, often in response to proposals to subdivide certain areas.

And yet he left a lot behind too.

As well as lists of species, the reports feature Alex’s charming hand-coloured maps and distinctive yellow covers.

There are his 17,000 plant specimens – a crucial component of the state’s collection – and the Census, a comprehensive catalogue of Tasmania’s flowering plants, of which Alex produced several editions. Then there is his hidden legacy, the extent of which is only just becoming clear. Lyn Cave is the Herbarium’s Registrations Officer. ‘Even though Alex retired almost two years ago, we’re only just getting to the bottom of the things he left behind,’ she said. Among them are two curious collections which highlight more than Alex’s propensity to hoard. The first is a pile of reports – almost one hundred in all – containing the results of vegetation surveys Alex prepared for various clients. ‘For many years, Alex was the man to see if you wanted to know what plants grew in your area and how they might be affected by a development,’ said Lyn. ‘This wasn’t surprising given his extensive knowledge of the flora and his willingness to help.’

‘The Herbarium is still asked to do surveys like these,’ Lyn said. ‘Only last year the Head of the Herbarium, Dr Gintaras Kantvilas, and his colleague, Dr Jean Jarman, catalogued lichens and bryophytes on Bisdee Tier, the site of the University’s new observatory.’ Tucked away in a cream-coloured filing cabinet, the second collection is one of papers – sheets and sheets of notes, references and photocopies, all related in one way or another to plant collectors and botanists of the past. ‘Our work involves verifying the details that accompany our specimens, and this is hard to do with older collections whose hand-written labels might be unclear, incomplete or even misleading,’ Lyn explained. ‘A resource like this makes our detective work a little easier.’ One of Alex’s ‘suspects’ is Daniel Bunce, a nurseryman thought to be responsible for several mysterious collections made in the 1830s, and who – worryingly – was accused of fabricating plant names.

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A peacock and two swallows: the lighter side of Alex’s legacy

Amongst other things, Bunce’s file contains a copy of an advertisement printed in the Hobart Town Courier of 24 August 1838: ‘Shortly will be Published… A Guide to the Flora of V.D.L.’ – a work so heavily criticised that all copies but one were destroyed. Inexplicably, Alex’s legacy also includes two avian-inspired objects – one a bookmark bearing two amiable swallows, the other a letter-opener crowned with a swanning peacock – and the October 1903 edition of Australian Culturist (the one with the accordion on the cover). And what of Alex’s coffee cup? Gone – unlike his extraordinary collections.


Herbarium News

MARCH

2011

Eternal life on offer at the Tasmanian Herbarium Believe it or not, there is life after death – if you’re a plant, that is, and if you end up at the Tasmanian Herbarium.

Wrong! Only recently has this specimen risen from the dead to set the botanical record straight.

Not convinced?

Its agent was the Herbarium’s Flora Writer, Alan Gray, a man with a microscope and a mission: to document Tasmania’s flowering plants for the ongoing Flora of Tasmania Online project.

Timm Newlands is the Herbarium’s Data Entry and Interpretations Officer. ‘The Herbarium holds over 250,000 plant specimens,’ he explained. ‘Although they are strictly speaking dead, they are nonetheless a potent source of information, and it is this information – in the form of the specimens and their data – that endures.’ ‘In this sense the plants live on.’ Take, for example, a specimen of woodsorrel collected on Deal Island in May 2005 and lodged at the Herbarium soon thereafter. According to Timm, it got the usual treatment. ‘First, we pressed and dried it to within an inch of its life,’ he said. ‘This prepared the specimen for a long and fruitful existence.’ Well-preserved plant specimens last for centuries – as have the Herbarium’s oldest examples, which include two ferns collected in 1769 on Cook’s First Voyage. ‘After being glued to card and having its identity checked, the specimen was digitised, with its details being recorded in our database,’ said Timm. ‘It was then labelled before being filed away in the Herbarium’s vault.’ Never to be seen or heard of again, right?

‘I was writing an account of the family that includes this plant,’ Alan explained, ‘which meant consulting the Herbarium’s collections.’ ‘When I studied the specimen and others like it, I realised they were not what we thought, and that they belonged to a species hitherto unknown in the state.’ And so Tasmania gained a new plant – Oxalis rubens.

Dead plant talking: Herbarium botanist, Alan Gray, studies a specimen of the new Tasmanian plant, Oxalis rubens

An inhabitant of coastal areas on mainland Australia and in New Zealand, this small herbaceous perennial is native to Tasmania (unlike some of its infamous cousins), and is difficult to distinguish from its closest relative, Oxalis exilis.

Such, then, is a ‘day in the (after)life’ of a specimen at the Herbarium.

‘Without good specimens to refer to time and time again, we would be hardpressed to separate and describe species like these,’ Alan said.

‘Growthless, they contribute to the growth of our knowledge; lifeless, they live on in our understanding of Tasmania’s plants.’

‘What’s more, our ongoing attempt to document and catalogue the state’s plants would be doomed to failure.’ In fact, the Herbarium’s collection is routinely consulted by many botanists – its own and others, be they visitors or recipients of loans.

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‘As this episode shows, our specimens might be dead, but they are by no means buried,’ said Timm.


Herbarium News

FEBRUARY

2011

Tasmania home to marine marvels above and below water Tasmania’s remarkable range of seaweeds – over 500 species in all – can be glimpsed in two places: in the state’s waters, of course, but also at the Tasmanian Herbarium, whose 250,000-strong plant collection includes 13,000 specimens of these marine marvels. Dr Gintaras Kantvilas is Head of the Herbarium.

Like its collection as a whole, the Herbarium’s pool of seaweeds continues to grow – thanks, in part, to the ongoing exertions of one researcher, Fiona Scott. In her thirty years as a botanist Fiona has collected some five thousand specimens, the majority of which are held by the Herbarium.

‘As a record of the state’s seaweeds, this collection is unequalled,’ he said. ‘It offers a series of snapshots in time of our marine flora and is therefore critical in assessing changes in the marine environment.’

It also features collections assembled by lesser-known botanists like Florence Perrin, a Hobartian who gathered over a thousand specimens between the wars, and who went on to work with the renowned Australian phycologist, A.H.S. Lucas. Not all of the Herbarium’s seaweeds hail from Tasmania, though; in fact, a quarter of them were collected elsewhere – most in and around mainland Australia, and some from places as far afield as Sweden and South Africa.

‘I am investigating the suite of physical and environmental factors associated with these multiple numbers.’ Australia is home to over two thousand species of seaweeds, about 140 of which are considered rare. ‘In Tasmania thus far I’ve collected eight rare species from various locations on the north and south-eastern coasts,’ Fiona said.

‘Understanding these changes is particularly crucial in Tasmania, given our reliance on marine resources.’ The Herbarium’s collection spans 170 years and contains sets of seaweeds accumulated by some of Tasmania’s bestknown botanists – Ronald Gunn (1840s), Leonard Rodway (early 1900s) and Winifred Curtis (1950s and 60s) among them.

‘In my current project I’m surveying selected areas for rare species,’ said Fiona. ‘Interestingly, there are areas along the coasts of southern Australia that seem to be centres of rarity – places where multiple numbers of rare species co-occur.’

A fine specimen of Schizoseris perrinae, showing the delicate membranous blades of the species (F. Scott)

‘I’ve always had a love of the sea and a love of plants,’ she explained. ‘I combine the two by specialising in marine plants – particularly those slippery, slimy seaweeds that come in an amazing array of colours, forms and textures.’ After attaining her Master of Science at the University of Melbourne, Fiona went on to study seaweeds in various places around the world. She has recently undertaken further studies at the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies in Hobart.

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‘Of these, the “stars” are Schizoseris perrinae, Pterothamnion aciculare and Zonaria spiralis – the last of which, for example, is typically a mainland Australian species, but was recently found at Lady Bay in southern Tasmania.’ As the project is still underway, Fiona is yet to identify the factors that encourage the growth of certain rare seaweeds. According to Dr Kantvilas, research of this kind has a twofold effect: it improves both our knowledge and the Herbarium’s collection itself. ‘The specimens associated with Fiona’s research are being lodged at the Herbarium,’ he said. ‘This not only makes them available to other researchers, but updates our collection as well.’ ‘Fiona’s specimens are our latest snapshot of Tasmania’s seaweeds.’


Herbarium News

NOVEMBER

2010

Spring brings a botanical bonanza to the Herbarium Last month, our knowledge of the state’s flora – which is growing steadily all the time – put on a growth spurt. Four species new to Tasmania were identified from recent or existing collections, as were two species new to science.

Their field work also resulted in the discovery of new populations of the daisy. ‘What was interesting was that we saw a single clump at Cape Hauy,’ Andrew said. ‘So we extended our knowledge of the distribution of the species significantly.’

It’s a veritable botanical bonanza, according to the Tasmanian Herbarium’s Senior Curator, Dr Marco Duretto.

Unlike the other records, these are of introduced species: Malva linnaei, an erect herb with pink flowers, and Moraea spathulata, a yellow-flowered iris-like plant.

‘What’s more, it sheds light on how we learn about our flora.’

‘Both species are native to Europe and naturalised on the Australian mainland,’ Matthew explained. ‘But this is the first time they have been found growing wild in mainland Tasmania.’

Botanists do this in two ways: by making new collections of plants and by reassessing those they already have.

Dr Andrew Rozefelds and Alex Buchanan are both former curators at the Herbarium. (Andrew is now the Museum’s Deputy Director, Collections and Research, and Alex is one of the Herbarium’s honorary botanists.) While reviewing the Herbarium’s collections of Craspedia, Andrew and Alex confirmed something other botanists had suspected: that Tasmania is home to eight species of this daisy, not six. Excitingly, the two previously unknown species are new to science. A visit to the Tasman Peninsula by Andrew and James Wood of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens put the icing on the cake; at the Tessellated Pavement, they collected a ‘type’ specimen of one of the species.

While Andrew, Alex and Alan were poring over existing collections, other botanists were gathering fresh ones – hence the remaining new records. Two were collected by the Herbarium’s Weed Taxonomist, Matthew Baker, during a visit to north-west Tasmania.

‘New records usually arrive in dribs and drabs,’ said Marco, ‘so to have this many appear in the space of a month is very exciting.’

Three of the new records are a result of the latter – botanists looking again at their existing collections.

As a consequence, we now know that Oxalis rubens, a yellow-flowered coastal plant, occurs in Tasmania.

A fern ends this parade of new records. Now we know: one of the new species of Craspedia (A. Rozefelds)

Now, he and Alex are about to make their findings official, by publishing descriptions of the two new species in the next edition of the Museum’s research journal, Kanunnah. Andrew and Alex aren’t the only botanists revisiting ‘old’ collections. The Herbarium’s Alan Gray does so on a daily basis. As a Flora Writer, he contributes to the Flora of Tasmania Online, a growing collection of up-to-date botanical descriptions that will one day encompass each and every plant species found in the state. Last month, while revising the family Oxalidaceae, Alan discovered that the Herbarium holds Tasmanian collections of a species thought to be confined to the Australian mainland and to New Zealand.

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Doodia aspera occurs in rainforests and open eucalyptus forests in New Zealand and just three states of Australia: Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria – or so we thought. Recently, Matt Taylor of the Tasmanian Land Conservancy came across a small population growing beside a creek at Ironhouse Point, east of St Marys, prompting botanists to adjust their views on the species. ‘This is a good example of one way our knowledge grows,’ said Marco. ‘A collector finds an unfamiliar plant and lodges a specimen of it in the Herbarium’s collection.’ ‘We identify the specimen and, if it is of a species new to Tasmania, publish its name in the state’s Census of plants, which is available to everyone.’ ‘This Spring, our collections really have borne fruit.’


Herbarium News

OCTOBER

2010

Spectacular display solves Huon Pine mystery Why did it take botanists almost two centuries to correctly name one of the state’s most celebrated trees? The answer to this intriguing question was on show at this month’s Wildflower Spectacular, in a display mounted and manned by staff of the Tasmanian Herbarium. The display attracted the attention of almost six hundred people, many of whom wanted to know more about this ‘matter of much curiosity’.

‘This is why the first botanical account of the Huon Pine, published by the English botanist, Joseph Hooker, in 1845, was only partially correct – it was based on those early inadequate collections.’ Hooker named the tree Dacrydium franklinii, writing that he was ‘much gratified in being able to attach the name of the late excellent Governor of Tasmania [Sir John Franklin] to so remarkable a tree.’ Amazingly, this name stood for almost 140 years – until 1982, in fact, when the Tasmanian botanist, C.J. Quinn, decided it was time to take another look at the tree. ‘By then, of course, many more and much better collections of the Huon Pine had been made,’ said Timm. ‘Quinn studied these collections and their cones, and made a surprising discovery – that the Huon Pine wasn’t a Dacrydium after all.’

Alan Gray and Dalia Howe man the Herbarium’s display (Brent Blackburn)

Timm Newlands is the Herbarium’s Interpretations Officer. ‘It all boils down to the collections,’ he explained. ‘The earliest specimens of the Huon Pine had either no cones, like the collections made by Robert Brown in 1804, or poor cones, like Allan Cunningham’s collections, made in 1819.’ Cones are used by botanists to distinguish one conifer from another.

‘Actually, he realised it wasn’t like any other genus of conifer at all, so he described a new genus just for it.’ ‘Which is appropriate, really, for such an extraordinary tree.’ Quinn named the genus after the characteristically ‘lazy’ (lagam in Greek) open nature of the Huon Pine’s female cones (strobili). It is by this combination of new and old names – Lagarostrobos franklinii – that the Huon Pine is known today. ‘This story highlights the importance of collections,’ Timm said. ‘In this case, the early specimens help us understand how the tree was misnamed, while the later ones help us correct the mistake.’

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The first botanical collection of Huon Pine: made in 1804 by Robert Brown and now held by London’s Natural History Museum

The Tasmanian Herbarium holds a large number of Huon Pine collections (over one hundred in all), and four of these appeared in its display, as did photographs of the early collections made by Brown and Cunningham (the collections themselves being held by herbaria in the uk). The Herbarium’s eye-catching images – featured in a slideshow and on a series of free postcards – also proved popular. A biennial event organised by the Australian Plants Society, the Wildflower Spectacular ran for three days at Hobart’s City Hall, and attracted a steady stream of locals, tourists and school children. As always, most people took something away from the event: a native plant, perhaps, and even the solution to a homegrown botanical mystery.


Herbarium News

SEPTEMBER

Weedbuster Week urges Tasmanians to nip weeds in the bud There are two ways to stop weedy plants taking over Tasmania: the hard way and the easy way. Waiting until a weed has well and truly established itself before telling someone about it, and then trying to eradicate it – that’s the hard way. Reporting unusual plants and having them removed before they spread – easier by far. Hence the theme of this year’s Weedbuster Week, ‘Prevention and Early Detection’. Weedbuster Week is a series of activities held in the first week of September every year, and is part of a national program that seeks to raise awareness about the damaging effects of weeds. This year’s activities highlight the importance of finding weeds before they get out of hand, and they send a simple message: keeping an eye out for weeds is something everyone can do. This is the idea behind the Tasmanian Weed Alert Network (twan), which held its own Weedbuster Week activity on Tuesday. Matthew Baker is the Tasmanian Herbarium’s Weed Taxonomist, and a member of twan. ‘The Network was established to help volunteers recognise and report new weeds,’ Matthew said.

‘It does this by publishing a list of target weeds, and a fact sheet on each one, and by telling volunteers how to collect and report the plants they find.’ The Network’s activity was held at the Herbarium, in Sandy Bay. Using weeds collected from the banks of an adjoining creek, the participants completed a mock Weed Report. Later, they inspected a number of target weeds, in the form of dried specimens held by the Herbarium. Matthew led the tour, and pointed out the obvious features of the plants in question. ‘The aim was to make it easier for people to recognise these plants in the field,’ said Matthew. But not every plant is what it seems – which is why those collected by the Network’s volunteers are forwarded to the Herbarium for identification. ‘Correct identification is crucial,’ Matthew said. ‘Only by accurately determining the name of a plant are we able to decide if it is really a weed or not.’ ‘If it is, and if it has been detected early, then we can nip it in the bud.’ For details of other Weedbuster Week activities, visit www.weedbusters.info. If you would like to become a Tasmanian Weed Alert Network volunteer, email matthew.baker@tmag.tas.gov.au.

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Participants in a Weedbuster Week activity inspect specimens at the Herbarium

2010


Herbarium News

AUGUST

2010

Herbarium answers call to counter ‘stowaway’ weeds Every day, plants in gardens across Tasmania make a bid for freedom. Some do it the hard way, by casting their seeds to the wind or squeezing through fences; others get a helping hand from an obliging host, be it a bird or beast, or – as often as not – a human being. Irresponsible contractors and landowners are often the culprits, and green waste – cuttings, soil, debris and the like – is usually the medium in which these ‘stowaways’ lurk. It’s nothing new to Matthew Baker of the Tasmanian Herbarium. ‘Most people do the right thing and take their garden waste to the tip,’ he said. ‘Some, though, take the easy way out and dump their rubbish at the first secluded spot they find.’ ‘Usually they’ve had a few garden plants along for the ride, and it’s these stowaways that take root and turn into weeds.’ As the Herbarium’s Weed Taxonomist, Matthew is responsible for identifying and cataloguing the state’s troublesome plants. He receives dozens of reports and collections of new weeds every year – many of ornamental plants that have made their escape in garden waste. This month, three stowaway weeds have been brought to his attention: two in Tasmania, and a third on the verge of sneaking into the state. The first two plants – identified by Matthew as Yucca aloifolia and Helleborus foetidus – were found growing in native bushland near the East Tamar Highway. Both had arisen from dumped garden waste.

A native of Mexico, Yucca aloifolia is a popular garden plant both here and elsewhere. Its distinctive leaves radiate from the stem, and are thin and pointed – hence its common name, Spanish Bayonet. Like Yucca, Helleborus foetidus is popular with gardeners, although more for its green bell-shaped flowers than its unprepossessing common name (Stinking Hellebore). It too is exotic, having originated in Europe. ‘Yucca is thought to be growing wild in some places on the mainland, but this is the first we know of it – or of Helleborus – doing so in Tasmania,’ Matthew said. ‘Because both species spread mainly by suckers from their roots, the plants were unlikely to spread far; that said, they were a blight on the native bushland in this one place.’ Whereas these two plants came from domestic flower beds, the third – and more sinister – stowaway was the inhabitant of a commercial garden. Early this year, the exotic fungus, Uredo rangelii (Myrtle Rust), was discovered for the first time in Australia, at a nursery in New South Wales. Uredo is known to deform, stunt and even kill plants in the family, Myrtaceae – our much-loved eucalypts, tea trees and bottlebrushes among them. As a stowaway on these plants, it is also capable of spreading to other parts of the country. In response to the outbreak, the Tasmanian Government put restrictions on imports of plants, cut flowers, seed, fruit, pollen, foliage and tissue culture from all Myrtaceae species.

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Matthew Baker inspects a specimen of Helleborus foetidus

In doing so, it published a full list of the prohibited plants – no easy task. ‘There are many hundreds of species in this one family,’ Matthew explained. ‘And, like any plant group, the family is being revised as our knowledge grows, so it can be hard for the non-specialist to know what’s what.’ Which is why the Herbarium lent a helping hand. ‘It’s our job to know – and often to determine – the current name of every Tasmanian plant, and to publish the Census, which is a list of these names,’ said Matthew. ‘It was easy enough for us, then, to provide the information that was needed.’ As yet, there have been no reports of Uredo in Tasmania – this stowaway, at least, has been nipped in the bud. ‘It’s no surprise that we’re called upon to help deal with a problem like this,’ Matthew added. ‘After all, knowledge is power.’


Herbarium News

JULY

2010

Bush Blitz helps Herbarium to fill botanical gaps They came, they saw, they collected. Earlier this year, five botanists from the Tasmanian Herbarium raided some of the state’s newest reserves, in a daring operation code-named Bush Blitz. Seven hundred plants were captured and now, after months of interrogation, their secrets are finally known. Dr Gintaras Kantvilas is Head of the Herbarium. ‘Believe it or not, three-quarters of Australia’s plant and animal species are yet to be identified,’ he said. ‘Bush Blitz is about finding as many of these species as we can, as soon as we can.’

Bush Blitz is a three-year project aimed at documenting the plants and animals protected by Australia’s National Reserve System. Of the nine thousand reserves covered by this system, eleven are in Tasmania. Over several weeks in March and April, Cathy and her colleagues scoured six of the reserves: Seventeen Mile Plain and the Vale of Belvoir in the north of the state, and Chauncy Vale, Murphys Flat, Porter Hill and the Egg Islands in the south. In all, more than a thousand specimens were collected, and the past few months have been spent identifying and curating them.

‘Most are largely weed-free,’ Matthew reported. ‘That said, I did find New Zealand Flax on the Egg Islands, and plenty of Boneseed on Porter Hill in Hobart.’

Bryologist, Lyn Cave, collected three hundred mosses and liverworts – the bulk of the Herbarium’s Bush Blitz collections.

‘I also noted that the reserve at Seventeen Mile Plain is under threat from Spanish Heath, which grows in adjoining plantation forests.’

‘Bryophytes like moisture, so the Vale of Belvoir, as the wettest area, was best for me,’ Lyn said. ‘The rainforest there provided a good range of habitats – tree trunks, rocks, shaded soil – and thus had the greatest diversity of species.’ The moss, Leucobryum candidum – a new record for the Vale of Belvoir (Lyn Cave)

The botanists were part of a team of scientists representing the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (tmag), the University of Tasmania and other local and interstate institutions.

Blitzing Porter Hill: Matthew Baker captures Vinca major (Blue Periwinkle), an escapee from a nearby garden

‘The bryophytes I collected are known from elsewhere, but this is the first time many have been found in these areas – if only because no other bryologist has ever visited some of the places.’ Matthew Baker is the Herbarium’s Weed Taxonomist, and he is now much wiser about the state of the reserves.

The team was led by tmag’s resident entomologist, Dr Cathy Young.

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Matthew went on four of the trips, while Lyn went on three. Fellow botanists, Marco Duretto, Alan Gray and Alex Buchanan also joined in. Although the trips yielded no new plant species, they did serve another purpose. ‘Very few plants had been collected in some of these areas prior to them being made reserves,’ Lyn explained. ‘This meant the Herbarium had gaps in its collection.’ ‘Now, thanks to Bush Blitz, we’ve filled those gaps.’


Herbarium News

JUNE

2010

Globe-trotting lichenologist travels in time The Head of the Tasmanian Herbarium, Dr Gintaras Kantvilas, is no stranger to travel. In his thirty years as a lichenologist he has made dozens of journeys to destinations around the world. Even so, his latest two trips have taken him further than usual: back in time to Mt Wellington before the fire of ’67 and forward to a world in which every living species has its own page on the internet.

As luck would have it, these had been collected on Mt Wellington (and elsewhere) by the British lichenologist, Peter James – four years before the fire.

‘For centuries, scientists have worked to describe the world,’ Gintaras explained. ‘Until now, though, the results of their work have never been available to all.’

Having found the specimens and convinced himself of their worth, Gintaras began the daunting but essential task of identifying them.

The three-day meeting in Chicago was sponsored by the eol.

On his latest visit – his eleventh to the nhm – he all but finished the job.

Gintaras and his colleagues are specialists in the family of lichens known as the Parmeliaceae, which comprises over two thousand individual species, 150 of which occur in Tasmania.

He went first to London, where he spent the best part of four weeks studying lichens at the Natural History Museum (nhm). And not just any old lichens.

‘This is one of the largest and best-known lichen families in the world, so it is a good group to add to the Encyclopedia at this early stage,’ Gintaras said.

Three centuries after the Great Fire of London, Mt Wellington had a blaze of its own, one which destroyed most of its plant-life; at a stroke, a rich and much-loved flora was erased, never to return in its original form. All, however, was not lost. ‘Many plants were collected on the mountain in the years before the fire,’ Gintaras explained. ‘From them we were able to piece together a picture of what was lost.’ ‘For years, though, we lacked good collections of lichens, which meant this picture was far from complete.’ Not any more. On earlier visits to the nhm, Gintaras had come across dozens of neglected boxes, the contents of which promised to fill the gap in our knowledge. ‘The boxes were tucked away in corners, on tops of cupboards and even in one of the towers,’ he said. ‘They were filled with hundreds of unidentified Tasmanian lichens.’

‘Science is collaborative, and one of the virtues of a project like this is that it brings scientists together.’

Old Man’s Beard – a lichen soon to have its own web page (J. Jarman)

‘It took me back,’ he admitted. ‘Each branch, clod and rock supported specimens of the lichens that had once grown there.’ Anxious to make this treasure available to other researchers, the nhm provided the critical funding for Gintaras’ journey; it has also agreed to donate its duplicates to the Tasmanian Herbarium. Next, Gintaras travelled to Chicago, where he and twenty-five other renowned lichenologists worked on a project hailed by some as the future of scientific knowledge. The brainchild of America’s leading scientific institutions, the Encyclopedia of Life (eol) promises to make information on every living species accessible online.

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‘It includes many of the most conspicuous species – from the shrubby Old Man’s Beard (Usnea) to the leafy green Xanthoparmelia that covers rocks and even colonises bitumen roads.’ At the meeting, the lichenologists discussed the taxonomy of the family as a whole, with a view to revising its classification and producing a global checklist of current knowledge. ‘The energy and enthusiasm generated around the table was infectious and inspiring,’ Gintaras said. ‘We did in a few days what would normally have taken us months to do.’ Nevertheless, it will be some time before Parmeliaceae has its own web pages. Having travelled so far, Gintaras is glad to be home. ‘Botany knows no boundaries,’ he said. ‘Like plants themselves, it cuts across borders and even transcends time.’


Herbarium News

FEBRUARY

2010

Edith tracks down her trail-blazing great-uncle Moore Just as her great-uncle blazed a trail across western Tasmania a century ago, Edith Cutcliffe this week journeyed from her home in Geelong to the Tasmanian Herbarium in Hobart. Well, not quite. Whereas Edith sailed in comfort across the waves, Thomas Bather Moore fought his way through virgin bush. A prospector and perhaps the last of Tasmania’s true pioneers, Moore came to know the west of the state like no European before him. Over a thirty-year span in the late 1800s, he thoroughly explored the area, opening tracks, improving the rough maps of his day, and describing its natural features in his many diaries. A keen naturalist, Moore also took specimens of the local flora, many of which have found their way into the collection of the Tasmanian Herbarium. Hence Edith’s visit. ‘I knew his daughters and granddaughters quite well,’ she said. ‘We used to spend every Christmas together.’ A Tasmanian by birth, Edith is the great granddaughter of Moore’s brother, John Anthony. Even as a child, she knew her great-uncle was no ordinary man, but only lately has she sought details of his remarkable deeds. Her journey began with the discovery of Thismia rodwayi (Fairy Lanterns) in Victoria’s Otway Ranges.

‘I associated Rodway’s name with T.B. Moore and looked them up on the internet, where I found out a lot about Moore’s interest in plants.’ As it happens, Edith shares this interest (she is an active member of the Geelong Field Naturalists Club), so she was keen to see her great-uncle’s specimens for herself. Lyn Cave, a bryologist at the Tasmanian Herbarium, showed her the collection. ‘We hold over a hundred of Moore’s specimens,’ Lyn said. ‘Most are mosses which he sent to William Anderson Weymouth, a local amateur bryologist.’ ‘They include specimens of Pleurophascum grandiglobum, an endemic Tasmanian moss – the only one, in fact, to carry its spores in distinctive ball-shaped fruiting bodies.’ ‘Some, though, are higher plants like the native fern, Gleichenia abscida. Actually, Moore is credited with collecting the “type” specimen of this species, so it is on his collection that the description of the whole species is based.’ Another recipient of Moore’s collections was Leonard Rodway (of Thismia rodwayi fame), an early authority on Tasmania’s plants, and the first director of the Herbarium. ‘Edith’s visit reminds us of the value of collections such as these,’ said Lyn. ‘It highlights the role the Herbarium plays in preserving the past.’

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Thomas Bather Moore’s collection of the remarkable moss, Pleurophascum grandiglobum

Moore’s contribution to botany is commemorated in the scientific names of several plants, Coprosma moorei and Actinotus moorei among them. Today, we have only to drive along the Lyell Highway (which takes a route marked by Moore) to track this trailblazing Tasmanian. Or, like Hansel and Gretel, we can follow his collections – as Edith has done.


Herbarium News

FEBRUARY

2010

Botanical all-rounder praised for Brooker beautification Do you have trouble choosing plants for your front garden? If so, imagine trying to smarten up a fifteen-kilometre stretch of Hobart’s Brooker Highway. This was the challenge faced by Alan Gray, a botanist at the Tasmanian Herbarium, and a veritable botanical all-rounder. ‘The area had all been planted many years ago following the construction of the Brooker Highway,’ Alan said. ‘In latter years, though, it had become a hotchpotch of plants.’ ‘It needed complete rejuvenation to give the highway colour, form and interest.’ For twenty years, Alan has worked on and off as a consultant with Barwick and Associates, the landscape architects hired to plan the beautification of the Brooker Highway, from Risdon Road to the Bridgewater Bridge. ‘I was asked to select plants that would require little in the way of maintenance, and that would look ornamental.’ One thing made his task harder: he had to retain any established exotic plants that looked good and were not out of place. ‘With the Tasmanian plants there were not a great deal of species from which to choose, so it did become a difficult task.’ In the end, Alan selected a number of native acacias and eucalypts; the acacias for their colour and density, and the eucalypts because they once grew or still grow in the district. ‘Generally, I chose a range of hardy Tasmanian natives,’ Alan said. ‘When I couldn’t find a Tasmanian native, I chose a mainland native plant.’ Plants were only one aspect of the project. The roadside ‘furniture’ and other features

designed by Alan’s colleagues also reflected the history and usage of the highway. According to Alan, the area will not look its best for several more years. ‘At the moment it looks nothing more than rows of plastic bags with sticks poking out of the top of them because the plants haven’t grown yet.’ The Australian Institute of Landscape Architects was more complimentary. It presented its 2009 Tasmanian Planning Award to Barwick and Associates, praising the planning excellence, functional quality and environmental responsibility of the project, to which Alan contributed in no small way. His latest achievement comes as no surprise, for Alan has spent a lifetime working with – and learning about – Tasmania’s plants. In 1888, his maternal great-uncle established Chandler’s Nursery, in the Hobart suburb of Sandy Bay. Sixty years later, a young Alan Gray called it home. ‘Naturally enough, it was my playground,’ he said. ‘Much to the concern of my uncles.’ There the seed of his love of plants was sown. It took him to the University of Tasmania, where, in the 1960s, he worked with the legendary Bill Jackson, the professor who inspired a generation of Tasmanian botanists. ‘From early times there, eucalypts fascinated me,’ Alan said. ‘Having worked with Bill and the projects he was engaged in, they became one of my passions as well.’ This passion found an outlet at the Forest Research Institute in Canberra, where Alan worked for several years in the mid-1970s.

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After returning to Hobart, Alan held various botanical positions, before serving for a decade as an education officer on Greening Australia’s One Billion Trees Program. This ended in 2000, when funding ran out. ‘Not wanting to sit on my bottom, I decided to volunteer,’ Alan said. Not surprisingly, he chose to do so at the Tasmanian Herbarium, the home of botany in the state, and he has been a fixture there ever since. Today, vegetating (highways, that is) is just one of the strings to Alan’s botanical bow. He also conducts botanical surveys for landholders and holds workshops in which he imparts his hard-won knowledge of Tasmania’s acacias and eucalypts. Much of Alan’s work is done at the Herbarium, which holds almost two thousand of his plant specimens. There he curates the public reference collection and studies the main collection – to good effect, for Alan is credited with the discovery of two species of eucalypt. ‘Plants to me are extremely important,’ Alan said. ‘In the great scheme of things, if it wasn’t for the plants, there wouldn’t be much of human life.’ Now, Alan is faced with another challenge. Having been reappointed as the Herbarium’s Flora Writer, he has resumed the mammoth task of formally describing Tasmania’s higher plants (almost two thousand species in all) for the Flora of Tasmania Online project. It’s a challenge that puts the Brooker Highway somewhat in the shade.


Herbarium News

OCTOBER

2009

Extinction no death sentence for long-lost species For many years the first Tasmanian collection of Hibbertia rufa seemed destined to be the last. In October 1892, the forester and botanical explorer, William Fitzgerald, collected a small wiry shrub at Georges Bay, in northeastern Tasmania.

The Herbarium is responsible for preserving and studying specimens like those collected by Fitzgerald and Skabo. Its collection of 250,000 specimens is the world’s most comprehensive record of the Tasmanian flora, past and present.

For over a century his collection remained the sole Tasmanian record of Hibbertia rufa – a fact that eventually led to the species being listed as Extinct in Tasmania.

‘The area is one I have visited several times a year since I first saw it about ten years ago,’ Roy said. ‘As I wandered around, a small Hibbertia plant caught my eye. It was new to me, so I took a sample.’ Roy sent his collection to the Tasmanian Herbarium where, to the surprise of all concerned, it was formally identified as the long-lost species. As Roy later put it, ‘Hibbertia rufa was very much alive after hiding for nearly 120 years!’ It is a good story, and one that sheds light on the role of the Tasmanian Herbarium, a division of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, and the home of botany in the state.

So how did Hibbertia rufa go undetected for so long? In his report, Mark tries to answer this obvious question. He begins by ruling out two simple explanations: that the species is uncommon or hard to access.

But extinction, it seems, is no death sentence. In December 2008, the amateur botanist and sometime resident of Binalong Bay, Roy Skabo, went for a walk in wet heathland not far from St Helens.

‘We found it to be relatively widespread between Priory and Thomas Creeks [near St Helens], often occurring in massive numbers over tens to hundreds of square metres.’

The elusive Hibbertia rufa (R. Skabo)

The first director of the Herbarium was Leonard Rodway, an early authority on Tasmania’s plants. Without him, Fitzgerald’s collection – and an important chapter in the history of the species – might have been lost to the state. As it turns out, Hibbertia rufa is doing surprisingly well for an extinct species. This is the unexpected finding of a survey recently conducted by Mark Wapstra, a botanical consultant and an associate of the Tasmanian Herbarium. ‘Hibbertia rufa is one of fourteen species of Hibbertia present in Tasmania,’ Mark said. ‘It also occurs in Victoria, New South Wales and apparently Queensland.’

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‘Hibbertia rufa occurs at several sites and is often locally abundant and widespread,’ he observed. ‘What’s more, virtually all sites supporting this species are readily accessed from public roads and occur on public land.’ Mark concludes that luck had a lot to do with it. ‘It seems that we missed Hibbertia rufa simply by a combination of “near misses”, and that its serendipitous rediscovery was waiting for the right person at the right time at the right place.’ As a result of this lucky break, botanists are planning to change the status of Hibbertia rufa from Extinct to Rare in Tasmania. This steadfast species has come a long way in 116 years. It is now set to feature in ‘Recent Acquisitions’, a display opening this month at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.


Herbarium News

JUNE

2009

Honorary botanist draws praise for illustration In some areas, people still manage to outdo machines. Take, for example, botanical illustration, a field in which the human eye and hand are capable of distinguishing and delineating details that a camera cannot. Enter Professor Rod Seppelt, a research scientist with the Australian Antarctic Division (aad), an honorary botanist at the Tasmanian Herbarium – and an illustrator extraordinaire.

Over forty entries were received from around the world, mostly from professional illustrators and artists. They were judged on four qualities: botanical accuracy, technical and artistic merit and reproducibility. Unlike many of the entrants, Rod is first and foremost a botanist. An expert in the flora of Antarctica and the subantarctic islands, he has made countless visits to these remote places and to the Arctic, amassing an impressive collection of plants – one of the best of its kind. Amazingly, he has still found time to hone his drawing skills, which are by no means newly acquired.

Professor Seppelt at work

Rod’s work has appeared in scientific publications (his book, Moss Flora of Macquarie Island, alone features over one hundred plates) and in exhibitions at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens and the National Herbarium of Victoria. Now Rod has added another credit to his name. This year, his entry in the prestigious Margaret Flockton Award for Botanical Illustration has been highly commended by the judges, who deemed his drawing of the moss, Calyptopogon mnioides, to be a work of an exceptionally high standard.

‘I first became interested in art at an early age,’ Rod said. ‘At college I learnt landscape techniques from artists like Udo Sellbach, Lawrence Daws, Charles Bannon and David Dridan. Later, while studying science at the University of Adelaide, I started to draw plants.’ Illustrations are an important part of any plant description, so it was almost inevitable that Rod’s attention would turn from landscapes to botanical portraits. ‘I now focus on mosses, lichens and liverworts,’ he said. ‘These plants are tiny and their features are too small to be seen with the naked eye – hence our reliance on good illustrations.’ On average, Rod takes about thirty hours to complete an illustration. He works first in pencil, viewing his subject through

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microscopes; later, at home, he composes the illustration and inks it in using a drawing pen. ‘The smallest plant I have drawn was less than a millimetre high. Being a botanist and having artistic skills certainly helps me to interpret the finer details of my subjects.’ Rod made his drawing of Calyptopogon for publication in two forthcoming books on Australian and New Zealand mosses. The moss itself was collected from an old apple tree. When moist, the species is fairly nondescript; when dry, however, its leaves have a distinctive crinkled look. This is not the first time Rod has won the praise of the award’s judges; two of his works were selected for inclusion in the first Margaret Flockton Award Exhibition in 2005. Sponsored by the Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, the award commemorates the contribution made to Australian scientific botanical illustration by Margaret Flockton, the first and longest-serving botanical illustrator at Sydney’s Botanic Gardens. The award is highly coveted by botanical illustrators everywhere. A selection of the best entries (including Rod’s illustration) is on display at the Red Box Gallery at the National Herbarium of New South Wales until mid-July. All seven prize-winning and commended works can be viewed online at www. rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/science/Our_resources/ margaret_flockton_award.


Herbarium News

MARCH

2009

Upgrade of Herbarium’s public collection gets a boost Found a plant you think you know the name of? Want to check it without troubling a botanist? Well, the Tasmanian Herbarium has just the thing for you. It’s called the Public Reference Collection, and it contains a specimen of almost every Tasmanian fern, conifer and flowering plant known today. For the past eight years, the Herbarium’s Alan Gray has been a botanist on a mission: to upgrade this invaluable resource.

‘A fertile, well-preserved and correctly named specimen; a simple map showing its distribution in the state, and, if we have one, a photograph of the plant in its habitat.’ ‘It is slow work and there is still much to do.’ Now, thanks to three of the Herbarium’s closest associates, Alan’s task has been made a bit easier.

‘Our collecting gets us out and about, which we love,’ Annie said. ‘We work on our specimens in the living room, but they have to be moved out when the grandkids visit.’

‘Using the collection, visitors to the Herbarium can compare their plant samples with typical correctly named specimens.’

Lately, Alan has been writing plant descriptions for the Herbarium’s Flora of Tasmania Online project; even so, he has still found time to attend to the reference collection. So far he has reorganised and expanded the collection so that it reflects the latest classification of the state’s flora; he also continues to work his way through the collection, improving it as he goes. ‘Ideally, each sheet should contain three basic aids to identification,’ Alan said.

Having decided to explore the flora group by group, the duo started with the orchids, which happened to be poorly understood in Tasmania at the time. Decades later, they set this to rights by helping to publish Orchids of Tasmania, a complete and current survey of the group. Like his parents, Mark is well-qualified to tackle Tasmania’s plants. An experienced ecologist, he worked for over ten years at the Forest Practices Board, and now runs his own environmental consulting firm.

‘The reference collection is a boon to amateur botanists and novices alike,’ said Alan. ‘It enables them to try and identify their specimens themselves.’

The reference collection comprises over two thousand dried plant specimens, each mounted beside a label on a sheet of card. The specimens are arranged in family groups, and kept in ring binders for easy access.

‘At first we knew only the weeds,’ said Annie. ‘Like us, they were European.’

The reference sheet for Caladenia tonellii, an endangered orchid

Early this month, Hans and Annie Wapstra and their son, Mark, presented the Herbarium with an addition to the collection: over two hundred beautifully curated specimens of Tasmanian orchids, each accompanied by a distribution map and photograph. The gift boosts the number of new or upgraded specimens in the collection to well over a thousand. It is no flash in the pan for Hans and Annie, who have been interested in the state’s plants since arriving from the Netherlands in 1970.

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The Wapstras consider the Herbarium’s reference collection an important resource, and are pleased to contribute to its improvement. ‘It pays to learn to recognise plants yourself, because help might not always be there when you want it,’ Annie said. Having dealt with the orchids, the duo is now assembling a collection of charophytes (green algae) for a specialist in Victoria and the Herbarium. So far they have gathered more than 130 specimens. The Wapstras’ contribution to both the reference collection and the work of the Herbarium in general was celebrated at a morning tea.


Herbarium News

MARCH

2009

Botanical visit benefits herbaria big and small Their trip made the news – on King Island, that is. Last month, two botanists from the Tasmanian Herbarium spent four days on ‘KI’, inspecting and collecting the flora, and sharing their expertise with interested islanders. Weed Taxonomist, Matthew Baker, and Dr Marco Duretto were invited to the island by members of the King Island Herbarium.

‘At the Herbarium, we work to assemble and maintain a collection of plant specimens,’ Marco said. ‘One that accurately reflects the state’s flora.’ ‘Some places, however, are poorly represented in our collection, usually because they are isolated or remote. King Island is one such place, and this trip was an attempt to add to our holdings from there.’

They also explained the basics of plant identification, and identified various specimens submitted by locals. ‘One of our briefs as botanists is to share our knowledge, so we welcomed the opportunity to meet these out-of-the-way enthusiasts,’ Matthew said. ‘Their new skills will be put to good use in their herbarium.’ When it opens, the King Island Herbarium will be located at the museum in Currie, and its collection will be available to the public. The botanists had a second reason for visiting King Island.

‘The ivy is so thick and heavy that it brings down fully grown trees,’ Matthew said. To Marco’s dismay, Matthew insisted on seeing some of the island’s unheralded attractions – sewage settling ponds and a rubbish tip among them. ‘These are often the best places to find weeds,’ he explained. Meanwhile, Marco concentrated on native species, and was pleased to see two in particular: Hedycarya angustifolia (austral mulberry) and Elaeocarpus reticulatus (blueberry ash).

‘This herbarium is a new addition to the island,’ said Matthew. ‘Its small but growing collection is tended by a band of active enthusiasts, all keen to learn what they can about the plants of King Island.’ At a casual information session held in Currie, the botanists outlined the role of the Tasmanian Herbarium, demonstrated some of their techniques, and discussed the island’s flora.

English ivy (Hedera helix) is smothering a stand of melaleuca and blackwood trees.

‘King Island is the only place where these species occur in Tasmania,’ he said. Berkheya rigida (African thistle), a weed growing near Currie

While on the island, the botanists investigated various sites: at Currie, Naracoopa and the mouths of Yellow Rock and Sea Elephant Rivers, and in two private conservation reserves. ‘There was no shortage of weeds,’ Matthew said. ‘We confirmed the presence of Berkheya rigida [African thistle] near Currie, and discovered that Pittosporum crassifolium, a native of New Zealand, has escaped from gardens across the island.’ ‘Both species are not known as weeds on mainland Tasmania.’ Matthew encountered an especially virulent infestation in a forest near Currie, where

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‘All in all, our visit was well worth it,’ Matthew added. ‘This was due in large part to the generosity of our hosts, Graeme and Margaret Batey, to whom we extend our thanks.’ The botanists collected hundreds of specimens on the trip, and these are now being dried and curated. While most will be retained by the Tasmanian Herbarium, the duplicate specimens will become part of the King Island Herbarium’s promising collection. Similarly, dozens of specimens collected by the locals were sent back with Matthew and Marco to be lodged at the Herbarium. By continuing to cooperate in this way, the two herbaria – one big, one small – hope to illuminate King Island’s shadowy flora.


Herbarium News

FEBRUARY

Herbarium helps to breed new botanists At universities everywhere the botanists of tomorrow are busily learning their trade – and Herbarium staff are there to help them. This year, botanists at the Tasmanian Herbarium will again impart their knowledge and expertise to students of science at the University of Tasmania (utas) in Hobart. In fact, one such student has just completed her studies. Ateeka Othman, a postgraduate student supervised by the Herbarium’s Dr Marco Duretto and Dr Greg Jordan (utas), has recently had the distinction of attaining her Master of Applied Science. ‘Ateeka is a science tutor at Malaysia’s University of Technology Mara,’ Dr Duretto said. ‘Her aim, however, is to become a botanical taxonomist.’ ‘Her new qualification and the experience gained while studying the Herbarium’s collection bring Ateeka closer to achieving her goal.’ A student in the University’s School of Plant Science, Ateeka has spent the last year investigating both the evolutionary development (phylogeny) of Correa, and variation in the forms of Correa lawrenceana. A common sight in Tasmania and most other states, Correa (native fuchsia) grows as a shrub or small tree, and sports drooping tubular or bell-shaped flowers.

Ateeka’s thesis will be written up as two scientific papers; the first, on Correa lawrenceana, will describe a new variety endemic to Tasmania; the second will outline her molecular research on the phylogeny of Correa. Dr Duretto is an expert on Rutaceae (the family which contains not only Correa, but the familiar citrus species). In his fifteen years as a botanist, he has described scores of new species in scientific papers. The Herbarium’s Weed Taxonomist, Matthew Baker, is also heavily involved in the training of university students. ‘The School of Agricultural Science offers a series of plant identification classes,’ Matthew said. ‘I help to run these, and to assess plant collections.’ ‘Last year, for example, I identified 700 specimens submitted for assessment by second-year students.’ The Herbarium’s contribution to education does not end there. Its botanists routinely curate ‘voucher specimens’ cited in theses and papers, and lead classes on tours of the Herbarium, its collection and facilities. Mostly, though, they are asked to help answer the question which bedevils all botanists, be they green or well-seasoned: What plant is this, and why?

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The fetching flowers of Correa lawrenceana

2009


Herbarium News

FEBRUARY

2009

Tasmanian lichenologist opens eyes abroad He was a doctor, a poet, and an expert on the history and design of gardens. He was an authority on lichens, and founded the British Lichen Society and its journal. He was Thomas Douglas Victor Swinscow, the man for whom the Dougal Swinscow Lecture is named. This year, a Tasmanian lichenologist, Dr Gintaras Kantvilas, had the rare honour of presenting this prestigious lecture. He did so at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, before a sizable gathering of members of the British Lichen Society and the public. ‘Dougal Swinscow is an inspirational figure,’ said Dr Kantvilas, the Head of the Tasmanian Herbarium. ‘He was largely responsible for the revival, in the early 1960s, of British lichenology.’ ‘What’s more, he was the quintessential enlightened enquirer – a man who approached nature with both rigour and sensitivity.’ In his talk, ‘An Antipodean Odyssey – The Lichens of Tasmania’, Dr Kantvilas took his audience on a tour of his home island: its geographical features; its geological and botanical history; and, of course, its impressive lichen flora.

‘That year I made my first, rather scrappy collections,’ said Dr Kantvilas. ‘I sent them to Peter James in London, and he subsequently became my PhD supervisor, mentor and close friend.’ ‘Since then my work has been an exciting odyssey, though perhaps not one as fraught with danger as Homer’s original.’ Dr Kantvilas was overwhelmed by the wholehearted response of his audience. ‘It was very gratifying,’ he said. ‘My attempt to shed light on Tasmania and its lichens was much appreciated.’ ‘To most of the audience, this place is a poorly known, remote speck on the map. Apart from the fascination the talk inspired, many listeners expressed a determination to visit our island.’ The talk was illustrated by dozens of images, all prepared by Dr Kantvilas’ longtime collaborator, Dr Jean Jarman. Whilst in Europe, Dr Kantvilas also paid a visit to Paris, where he was struck by the grandeur of the art and architecture. ‘In many ways, the trip was a real eyeopener,’ said Dr Kantvilas.

In doing so, he described something of his own journey as a lichenologist, which began in 1980.

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Dr Gintaras Kantvilas, Head of the Tasmanian Herbarium and presenter of the 2009 Dougal Swinscow Lecture


Herbarium News

DECEMBER

2008

Technical officer keeps the wheels of science turning As the saying goes, behind every good lichenologist there is a good technical officer.

‘This technique isolates chemical compounds in lichens,’ Dalia explained. ‘It helps us to identify unfamiliar specimens.’

Enter the Herbarium’s Dalia Howe, the ‘right-hand man’ of Tasmania’s resident lichenologist, Dr Gintaras Kantvilas.

‘The components of these specimens are separated in solution and exposed to a medium. How they react to it reveals their identity, and hence the identity of the lichen.’

This month, Dalia is doing what she has done for the last fifteen years: facilitating the study of Tasmania’s cryptogams (lichens, mosses and fungi). ‘I work with specimens in a couple of ways,’ Dalia said. ‘I curate them and I analyse their chemical composition.’

‘They are a bit like fingerprints which are used to identify humans.’ Recently, another aspect of Dalia’s work has been on show. Following the receipt of a parcel from Sweden, she has been registering and updating the details of its contents: 112 specimens of the remarkable lichen genus, Caloplaca. Caloplaca is the common orange lichen that vividly colours seashore rocks, although certain species also occur inland on rocks, trees and shrubs.

The remarkable lichen, Caloplaca, on coastal rocks in Tasmania

‘As we gather or receive specimens, I curate them by verifying and recording their data, and by preparing the packets in which they are stored.’ Her work with chemicals, while equally routine, has a more impressive name: thin-layer chromatography.

‘Despite being very conspicuous and widespread, this lichen is poorly understood,’ said Dr Kantvilas. ‘And because it grows on coastal rocks it is on the frontline when it comes to climate change.’ The specimens were lent to a researcher at the Botanical Museum in Lund, whose work promises to shed light not only on Caloplaca in Tasmania, but on the genus as a whole.

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Dalia Howe, technical officer at the Tasmanian Herbarium, registers specimens returned from the Botanical Museum in Lund, Sweden

‘It is a difficult group to identify, but by cooperating with researchers elsewhere in the world we have secured the best expertise to help solve our Tasmanian problems,’ Dr Kantvilas said. ‘By incorporating these specimens – and the latest knowledge they represent – into our collection, Dalia is keeping the wheels of science turning.’


Herbarium News

NOVEMBER

2008

Herbarium takes Tasmania’s flora to the world Tasmanian botanists are by no means the only people interested in studying the state’s flora.

‘This sort of cooperation is part-andparcel of what we do,’ said Head of the Herbarium, Dr Gintaras Kantvilas.

Every month, staff of the Tasmanian Herbarium receive requests from Australian and international researchers: some simply ask to borrow specimens from the Herbarium’s collection, while others seek a collaborator with whom to collect and study particular plants.

‘By collecting material for other botanists, we help to deepen their understanding – and often our own – of Tasmania’s plants.’

In November, for example, Herbarium botanists assisted two interstate researchers, and collaborated with several others. Curator, Alex Buchanan, collected samples of Bedfordia linearis (blanket bush) for Dr Joe Brophy, a chemist at the University of New South Wales. ‘Dr Brophy specialises in the chemistry of essential oils,’ Alex explained. ‘He’ll use these specimens to explore the link between the oils and the botany of the species.’ Flora Writer, Alan Gray, accompanied another researcher, Karen Muscat of La Trobe University, on a short trip to Mt Wellington, where they collected Dianella tasmanica – one of Tasmania’s native lilies. ‘Karen is investigating what she thinks might be a new species of Dianella,’ Alan said.

Dr Marco Duretto is Senior Curator at the Herbarium. Lately, he has collected and despatched plants for several joint projects, including a special study of the genus Boronia and its close relatives. ‘I’ve teamed up with Dr Michael Bayly of the University of Melbourne to investigate the evolutionary relationships of these plants using molecular data,’ said Dr Duretto. ‘Challenging projects like this are made possible by collaboration.’ Dr Duretto hopes to publish the results of the study next year. In the meantime, botanists will keep working together to learn more about plants. ‘Tasmania’s flora is unique,’ said Dr Kantvilas. ‘It has a lot to tell us about plants elsewhere.’ ‘Part of our role is to take it to the world.’

His involvement does not end there. Alan will collect another batch of specimens in coming months, when the plants begin to fruit.

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Dianella tasmanica, just one Tasmanian plant being studied by interstate researchers


Herbarium News

OCTOBER

2008

Herbarium on show at Wildflower Spectacular The Herbarium took itself to the people on the weekend, when it presented a botanical display at the Australian Plant Society’s Wildflower Spectacular. ‘The display was well-attended and received,’ said the Head of the Herbarium, Dr Gintaras Kantvilas. ‘A steady stream of visitors kept us busy answering questions, identifying specimens and talking about plants.’ ‘The enthusiasm and admiration for Tasmania’s plants was obvious, and we appreciated the opportunity to explain our work, and to share our knowledge of the state’s magnificent flora.’

The poster was accompanied by dried and fresh specimens. Herbarium staff took turns to man the display, so that two of them were on duty at any one time. ‘We were approached by an assortment of people,’ said Timm. ‘Each one seemed to be attracted by something slightly different – the name on a book, perhaps, or a familiar – or unfamiliar – plant.’

a former Spitfire pilot. As a result, I now know more about flying, and the pilot – a sprightly nonagenarian – knows more about us.’ Held at Hobart’s City Hall, the Spectacular featured plant sales, craft and an art exhibition. Its theme this year was ‘native plants for every garden style’. The Herbarium plans to present another display at the next Spectacular, to be held in 2010.

‘One conversation in particular took my fancy. On Saturday I had a long talk with

The Herbarium’s display was produced by Timm Newlands, and it featured publications, dried and fresh plant specimens, and Lyn Cave’s eye-catching array of botanical photographs. ‘The display also included a poster investigating the status of two Tasmanian plants – are they native or not?’ Timm said. ‘Hardenbergia violacea – the “happy wanderer” of many gardens – is now considered a Tasmanian native, following the discovery of a reference to it in a nineteenth-century newspaper.’ ‘The second plant – a lichen called Xanthoria parietina – is thought not to be native here, despite its prevalence around the world. This is because it is confined, in Tasmania, to artificial sur­ faces and introduced trees.’

Pause for thought: Lyn Cave mans the Tasmanian Herbarium’s display at the 2008 Wildflower Spectacular

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Herbarium News

AUGUST

2008

Head of Herbarium survives unusual conference In his twenty years as a lichenologist, Dr Gintaras Kantvilas has had his fair share of trying experiences, most of them in the bush. Snow, heat and thirst – he has endured them all in his quest to collect and classify Tasmania’s lichens. This month, however, he faced a trial of a different kind, when he attended the 6th Symposium of the International Association for Lichenology (ial) in California.

At the conference, Dr Kantvilas presented a lecture entitled ‘Tasmania and its lichens: Antipodean hot-spot or just a nice place to work?’, in which he showcased research being undertaken at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. He also attended other lectures, discussed a number of current and prospective projects with colleagues from around the world, and, at a meeting held during the conference, was elected a member of the ial’s Nomination Committee. The symposium featured several excursions, and Dr Kantvilas took part in two of them: one into the swamps of Louisiana, and another into the Monterey area, where he studied radiata pine, the species upon which much of Tasmania’s forest industry is based.

Pinus radiata forest visited by Dr Kantvilas at Monterey, California

In most respects, it was a normal conference – albeit an important one. ‘This symposium is held every four years, and is the major international gathering of lichenologists,’ Dr Kantvilas, the Head of the Tasmanian Herbarium, said. ‘This year it was attended by 350 or so people from more than fifty countries.’

‘Pinus radiata is native to the Monterey area,’ Dr Kantvilas said. ‘I found it particularly helpful to observe the tree and its flora in its natural habitat.’ While in the field, he gathered a number of lichen specimens for the Herbarium’s collection. The symposium was unusual in one respect. ‘Our accommodation was described as a retreat, and it certainly felt like one,’ Dr Kantvilas said. ‘I’ve attended dozens of conferences, but never one that had a ten o’clock curfew and a ban on alcohol.’

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Dr Gintaras Kantvilas inspects a lichen, Cryptothecia rubrocincta, in a swamp in Louisiana


Herbarium News

JULY

2008

Herbarium staff shift 70,000 specimens By all accounts, it was a moving experience. For the past week, staff of the Tasmanian Herbarium have found it hard to keep their hands off the Herbarium’s collection of plant specimens. In a matter of days they have moved about 70,000 of them – a remarkable 3,312 boxes in all. It’s an effort that Senior Curator, Dr Marco Duretto, thinks deserves cake. ‘We’ve been making do for quite a while,’ he said. ‘The Herbarium receives and acquires thousands of specimens each year, and for some time we’ve been fitting them in as best we can.’ ‘Lately, the squeeze has become extreme, so we decided to make one of the few remaining compactuses available for storage.’

And that’s where the Herbarium’s Registration Officer, Lyn Cave, came in. She not only calculated how much space was needed in each bay, but also coordinated the move. ‘I had no shortage of volunteers,’ Lyn said. ‘There is, however, a shortage of space between the bays, so we had to work in shifts.’ One team proved extremely hard to shift, claiming that, after an hour or so of work, they’d only just ‘found the rhythm’. ‘The results are fantastic,’ said Marco. ‘The move gives us breathing room for the next couple of years. Beyond that, we’ll need to acquire and install more compactuses in order to cope.’ The weight lost by Herbarium staff during the move was replaced at a morning tea held on Friday.

‘This meant moving forward almost half our collection of vascular plants – a massive task.’

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Planning her next move: Lyn Cave, Registration Officer at the Tasmanian Herbarium, counts specimens


Herbarium News

JUNE

2008

Weed taxonomist identifies alien species Of all the things that enter Tasmania, weeds are among the least welcome. Yet, despite our best efforts to keep them at bay, foreign plants continue to arrive. Matthew Baker is often the first botanist to identify and record these alien intruders. As the Tasmanian Herbarium’s Weed Taxonomist, he receives – and collects – specimens from around the state. ‘Some plants are particularly good at multiplying and spreading,’ said Matthew. ‘We do our best to keep them out, but sometimes they are impossible to stop.’

Needless to say, the plant was destroyed. The second intruder – Dysphania glomulifera (red crumbweed) – is less of a loner, having infested a dry dam near Bothwell. ‘This mainland native is suspected to be extremely poisonous to cattle,’ said Matthew. ‘Fortunately, it seems to be confined to this site.’ It is not known how these species entered the state. Some plants need not even cross our coastline to be considered a threat. Recently, the Herbarium received its first records of the ‘red menace’ – Grateloupia turuturu. The specimens of this invasive red seaweed had been collected in waters along the Tasmanian coast. As is the usual practice, specimens of all three plants – and the information associated with them – are kept at the Herbarium for research and record-keeping purposes.

An orange carpet of the weed, Dysphania glomulifera, in an empty dam near Bothwell

Last month, Matthew identified two new trespassers. The first was found loitering on a footpath in Lenah Valley. ‘A botanist came across this plant on his morning stroll,’ Matthew said. ‘Armed with its fruit, we identified it as Chenopodium capitatum or strawberry blite, a native of North America.’

‘Collecting and identifying unfamiliar plants is the first step in dealing with weeds in the state,’ Matthew said. It has been estimated that every year weeds cost the Australian agricultural industry over $4 billion, and Tasmanian farmers at least $58 million.

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A specimen of the ‘red menace’ – Grateloupia turuturu – collected in Tasmanian waters


Herbarium News

MAY

2008

Head of Herbarium receives Skemp Medallion Dr Gintaras Kantvilas and John Skemp have three things in common: life in Tasmania, work in museums and a love of nature. Fittingly, Dr Kantvilas is the latest recipient of the Launceston Field Naturalists Club’s Skemp Medallion, which he received at an event held in Launceston last week.

Established in 1967, the lecture commemorates the life and labours of John Skemp, a founding member of the Launceston Field Naturalists Club, and an active naturalist and social historian. Born in Launceston in 1900, Skemp worked as a science teacher, and as an education officer at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery. The author of several books on nature and local history, he died in 1966. Dr Kantvilas is the latest in a long line of recipients, the first being H.J. King, a prizewinning photographer known for his images and collections of Tasmanian plants.

Dr Gintaras Kantvilas (centre) accepts the Skemp Medallion from Noel Manning (right) and Al Pegler of the Launceston Field Naturalists Club

‘I am gratified to accept this award,’ said Dr Kantvilas, the Head of the Tasmanian Herbarium. ‘Since its inception, the Launceston Field Naturalists Club has in no small way contributed to our appreciation of the flora and fauna of northern Tasmania.’

An eminent lichenologist, Dr Kantvilas has collected almost 11,000 specimens of Tasmanian lichens and studied many more. In so doing, he has rewritten the taxonomy of the state’s lichens and discovered dozens of new species. His publications include numerous scientific papers and several books. In his hour-long illustrated lecture, ‘A Glimpse into the World of Lichens’, Dr Kantvilas described the structure and form of lichens in general, and the beauty and diversity of those found in Tasmania.

Each year the club invites a worthy local naturalist to deliver the John R. Skemp Memorial Lecture, and duly awards the medallion to the speaker.

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The 2008 Skemp Medallion


Herbarium News

MARCH

2008

Global network keeps botanists busy Before people had the world wide web, botanists had a global network of their own, one as active today as it ever was. Developed by herbaria over many years, it enables botanists to move plant specimens around the world with relative ease. ‘This cooperative network facilitates our work as botanists,’ said Head of the Tasmanian Herbarium, Dr Gintaras Kantvilas. ‘By its very nature, botany is a global activity. Because any plant we study is related to other plants – many of which may be located elsewhere – we need to be sent specimens so we can compare them to our own.’ ‘The network also enables us to expand our collection of Australian and overseas plants, and to distribute worldwide the duplicate specimens of Tasmania’s flora, thus ensuring that our natural heritage is kept doubly safe,’ he said. ‘In this way the Herbarium continues to be the window through which the world sees our flora, and through which Tasmanians see the flora of the world.’ Kim Hill is responsible for loans and exchanges at the Tasmanian Herbarium. Last year she despatched almost one thousand specimens to borrowers, and processed another 1,600 specimens sent or received as exchanges.

‘The work involves registering the specimens, then wrapping and packing them. The material is fragile, so I go through quite a few newspapers and boxes,’ Kim said. ‘Quarantine regulations must also be met. These require me to freeze all incoming specimens for several days, and to properly certify and label all outgoing parcels.’ ‘We also comply with international legislation known as cites [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species] when sending endangered species.’ While the network itself copes well with so many specimens, botanists sometimes struggle to match it. The Herbarium still awaits the return of specimens it lent to one botanist in 1976. The Herbarium exchanges specimens with institutions in cities as close as Melbourne, and as far away as Krakow and Chicago. At last count, it had more than 15,000 of its specimens on loan to over fifty institutions throughout the world. Kim continues to send and receive specimens at a steady rate.

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Kim Hill registers one of 439 Olearia specimens destined for the National Herbarium of Victoria


Herbarium News

MARCH

2008

Herbarium curator rediscovers a ‘living fossil’ Alex Buchanan and his namesake, a rare moss called Ambuchanania leucobryoides, go back a long way. In 1987 Alex, a curator at the Tasmanian Herbarium, first discovered the moss while collecting plants at Port Davey, in south-western Tasmania. His find was greeted with great excitement by bryologists who, in trying to identify the curiosity, soon found themselves describing not only a new species, but a whole new family – a rare occurrence in itself.

Now Alex and botanists from the state’s Threatened Species Unit have rediscovered it, a feat that sheds new light on this so-called ‘living fossil’. ‘Ambuchanania is a unique plant,’ said Alex. ‘Unlike its close relatives, it has survived for millions of years and retained its primitive characteristics – hence the title “living fossil”.’ ‘It was also considered a rare plant, having been collected only twice. However, our latest discovery suggests that it is less scarce than we thought, and just very hard to see.’ Ambuchanania is small – typically no longer than a centimetre or two – and grows in damp sand with only the tips of its tiny leaves visible above the surface. It is confined to the small ‘sandy washes’ that dot the buttongrass moorland areas of Tasmania.

The diminutive moss, Ambuchanania leucobryoides, the leaves of which are barely two millimetres long (L. Cave)

Then, several years later, Alex chanced upon the moss again, this time in the Herbarium’s collection, where it lay nestled in the roots of a sedge collected by his colleague, Dr Jean Jarman.

‘On this trip we found it growing in a number of washes,’ Alex said. ‘Even so, it took us a few attempts to realise that those washes which appeared to have measles actually had Ambuchanania instead.’ The latest collections of the moss have been prepared and lodged at the Tasmanian Herbarium, where they will be studied in more detail.

For the next twenty years Ambuchanania was not seen again.

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Alex Buchanan washes sand from the newly collected specimens of Ambuchanania


Herbarium News

FEBRUARY

2008

Herbarium’s new Flora set to flourish Plant enthusiasts know that when it comes to identifying Tasmanian plants the Student’s Flora of Tasmania is an essential resource. For almost half a century, professionals and amateurs alike have relied upon this venerable text for identification keys and descriptions of the state’s higher plants. But not for much longer. ‘Its early volumes were written by Drs Winifred Curtis and Dennis Morris over forty years ago,’ said Dr Marco Duretto, Senior Curator at the Tasmanian Herbarium. ‘Since then our knowledge of the state’s plants has increased markedly, which means the Flora is in need of a major overhaul.’ The Herbarium’s botanists began this enormous undertaking several years ago, and are still some years from its end. To date they have written new accounts for almost a quarter of Tasmania’s higher plant families.

‘This grant has enabled us to appoint Alan Gray to the new position of Flora Writer,’ said Dr Duretto. ‘Alan has been collecting and studying Tasmania’s plants for almost fifty years. His knowledge is extensive and of real benefit to the project.’ Significantly, the new Flora will be primarily web-based, and better suited to the needs of plant enthusiasts. It will be available both as web pages and as free downloadable documents. ‘The Flora will be updated as new information comes to hand,’ said Dr Duretto. ‘For the first time Tasmania’s primary botanical resource will grow as our knowledge grows.’ In future, print editions of the entire Flora will be generated from the online Flora. Flora of Tasmania Online will be launched later this year.

Now, thanks to a grant from the Australian Biological Resources Study, progress has greatly accelerated.

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Dr Marco Duretto and Alan Gray inspect specimens of Linum marginale while redescribing the species for Flora of Tasmania Online


Herbarium News

FEBRUARY

2008

Head of Herbarium talks up lower plants When it comes to managing forests, little plants such as lichens and bryophytes hold a big message. This was the theme of a talk given by the Head of the Tasmanian Herbarium, Dr Gintaras Kantvilas, at a five-day scientific conference held in Hobart. The Old Forests, New Management conference has brought together leading international forest scientists to discuss the future of the world’s old forests. Since 1997, Dr Kantvilas and his colleague, Dr Jean Jarman, have been investigating the impact of harvesting methods on cryptogams (lichens and bryophytes) in forests at Warra, a research site in southern Tasmania. Their research has been conducted in conjunction with a range of studies directed and supported by Forestry Tasmania.

‘The sheer diversity of cryptogams in these forests is staggering,’ said Dr Kantvilas. ‘They are able to colonise every conceivable habitat in a forest, from dead wood to living leaves.’ Dr Kantvilas and his colleagues observed the recovery of lichens and bryophytes following different methods of logging and regeneration. They documented which species recovered, which did not, and which logging methods improved recovery and minimised damage to the flora. ‘Our research has made one thing abundantly clear,’ said Dr Kantvilas. ‘The changes we make to a forest can potentially change, perhaps permanently, the plants that occur there.’

Dr Kantvilas’ talk, which was co-authored by Dr Jarman and Dr Peter Minchin of Southern Illinois University, outlined the results of their research.

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Peltigera, a lichen that recovers quickly after fire


Herbarium News

FEBRUARY

2008

Herbarium helps to spread blackberry facts A group of dedicated land managers and weed professionals learnt how to tell one blackberry plant from another at a series of workshops held in Hobart and Launceston recently. The workshops dispelled the popular belief that, as the saying goes, a blackberry is a blackberry is a blackberry.

‘Most people know that the blackberry is a highly invasive and destructive weed,’ said Matthew. ‘But they aren’t aware that no less than twelve species of Rubus – the blackberry genus – currently occur in the state.’ Participants in the workshops learnt of the importance of correctly identifying blackberry plants. ‘Tasmania is home to two species of native Rubus. Because one of them resembles a weedy blackberry, it is sometimes targetted unnecessarily. Correct identification prevents this,’ Matthew said. Participants used an interactive cd-rom to identify blackberry plants. In so doing, they discovered how hard it is to tell the species apart.

Participants in a recent blackberry identification workshop compare the real thing to a description on cd-rom

The workshops were conducted by staff of the crc for Australian Weed Management, who were assisted by the Tasmanian Herbarium’s Weed Taxonomist, Matthew Baker.

To people who are unable to identify a plant – blackberry or otherwise – the Tasmanian Herbarium offers a free identification service. ‘Blackberries are among our worst weeds,’ Matthew said. ‘Spreading the facts about them is one way of stopping their spread.’

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Matthew Baker, Weed Taxonomist at the Tasmanian Herbarium, takes a closer look at a specimen of blackberry


Herbarium News

DECEMBER

2007

Maydena hosts a bevy of bryologists The IXth Australasian Bryophyte Workshop has concluded following five days of botanising in and around Maydena. Fifty bryologists from as far afield as North America and Europe participated in the workshop, which included field trips, laboratory sessions and seminar presentations.

‘The first of these workshops was held in Hobart in 1988,’ Lyn said. ‘Since then they have become a fixture on the bryological calendar.’ ‘The workshops enable us to discuss, in person, recent advances in bryology, and to observe and collect bryophytes in unique areas like Tasmania’s South West National Park.’ ‘They also serve to consolidate and foster the spirit of collegiality that is the hallmark of the bryological community,’ Lyn said. During the workshop, participants collected specimens in the Florentine and Styx Valleys, and at Mt Sprent and Serpentine

Dr Niels Klazenga of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne stalks a moss at Condominium Creek

The workshop was organised by staff of the University of Tasmania, the Tasmanian Herbarium and the Australian Antarctic Division. Head of the Herbarium, Dr Gintaras Kantvilas, gave the workshop’s opening address, and the Herbarium’s Lyn Cave and Alex Buchanan helped to plan and run the event.

Bryologists try to concentrate on bryophytes during a collecting trip to the summit of Mt Sprent

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River. These they studied in the afternoons, before attending presentations in the evenings. Bryophytes are better known as mosses, liverworts and hornworts. In all, over 18,000 species occur throughout the world, with about 800 of these being present in Tasmania. The Tasmanian Herbarium’s collection contains almost 35,000 specimens of bryophytes. The Xth Australasian Bryophyte Workshop will be held in Manjimup, Western Australia, in 2009.


Herbarium News

NOVEMBER

2007

New collection sheds light on the workings of science The Tasmanian Herbarium has recently acquired the papers of the late Dr Jocelyn Townrow, a botanist who researched and taught at the University of Tasmania in the 1960s and 70s. Made up of material that Dr Townrow gathered and prepared while studying Stipa, a group of grasses, the collection gives a valuable insight into the work of a respected botanist.

graphs and pen-and-ink drawings, and three large hand-drawn maps. ‘Dr Townrow drew on this great mass of material to publish five scholarly papers,’ said Alex. ‘One paper served as the sole scientific guide to the state’s grasses for almost twenty years, and the findings of others are still reflected in the taxonomy of the state’s plants.’

‘Dr Townrow was an intelligent and industrious researcher,’ said Curator at the Herbarium, Alex Buchanan. ‘As such, she made a modest yet indispensable contribution to our understanding of Tasmania’s grasses.’

The collection, which is being considered for public display, was donated to the Herbarium by Dr Townrow’s daughter, Deborah, following the death of her mother last year.

As well as teaching hundreds of young botanists, Dr Townrow spent countless hours studying the state’s grasses.

An article on Dr Townrow and her collection, along with a number of photographs, will be published in a forthcoming edition of 40° South.

Her labour is evident in this collection of papers, which comprises over 300 pages of detailed notes, hundreds of photo-

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Jocelyn Townrow’s drawings of Austrostipa plumigera, a grass that occurs on the Australian mainland


Herbarium News

NOVEMBER

2007

Head of Herbarium visits home away from home Fifteen years ago, Dr Gintaras Kantvilas made his first working visit to the Natural History Museum (nhm) in London.

During his stay, Dr Kantvilas also spent time in the nhm’s library, where he studied the original diaries of Alan Cunningham.

Last month, this eminent lichenologist and Head of the Tasmanian Herbarium made his tenth visit to what he has come to regard as his herbarium away from home.

‘Cunningham was a leading British botanist and collector who, during a visit to Tasmania in 1820, made extensive observations on the flora and landscape of Mt Wellington and Macquarie Harbour,’ he said.

The trip was made at the invitation of the nhm, which holds a large number of unidentified and uncurated specimens of Tasmanian lichens. It was on these that Dr Kantvilas worked during his five-week stay. ‘The nhm’s collection contains many specimens of historical and scientific significance to Tasmania,’ said Dr Kantvilas. ‘Unfortunately, most remain practically untouched, owing to the vastness of the whole collection.’ ‘Over time, I have brought to light an increasing number of the lichens, including, on this occasion, collections made from Mt Wellington and the Hartz Mountains in the early 1960s – before bushfires changed the flora of these areas forever.’

‘In fact, there is now a chance that the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and the nhm will collaborate to bring this long-overlooked work to publication.’ Whilst studying the nhm’s collection, Dr Kantvilas discovered two new species of lichens, and another that is new to Tasmania. His visit, however, was not without relief. He also found time to climb Ben Nevis, to punt through Cambridge and to inspect, in Somerset, the graves of thirteenth-century templars. He even watched Norwich beat Southampton over a pastie and a pint – or two.

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Dr Gintaras Kantvilas (left) and his friend and colleague, Peter Crittenden, pose for a photograph on the misty (and haunted?) summit of Ben Nevis


Herbarium News

OCTOBER

Herbarium’s weed profiles released on website Profiles of Tasmania’s worst weeds have been published on the internet as part of a national project aimed at better informing the public about weeds. In August, the Tasmanian Herbarium and other state and territory herbaria produced profiles of 160 invasive plants for the Australian Government’s Department of Environment and Water Resources. The profiles have now been added to the Weeds in Australia website (www.weeds. gov.au), which brings together accurate and up-to-date information on weeds and their management. ‘This is an important step,’ Head of the Herbarium, Dr Gintaras Kantvilas, said. ‘At the Herbarium, we work to learn as much as we can about Tasmania’s plants, including its weeds.’ ‘The publication of these profiles gives land managers and users direct access to the results of our work, and therefore to some of the most reliable information and advice about Tasmania’s weeds.’

The Tasmanian Herbarium’s Weed Taxonomist, Matthew Baker, prepared a number of the profiles. ‘Each contains a thorough description of the weed in question – its form, habitat, distribution and the like – and even the details of similar species,’ Matthew said. ‘Each profile outlines the status of a weed, and the means of controlling it. It also includes photographs and links to other resources.’ The profiles can be accessed at the Weeds in Australia website by searching an online database or by browsing a list of names. ‘Weed managers now have better access to the information they need to combat some of our worst weeds,’ said Matthew. It has been estimated that, every year, weeds cost Australian farmers over $4 billion, and the Tasmanian economy at least $58 million.

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The Weeds in Australia website features profiles of some of Tasmania’s worst weeds

2007


Herbarium News

JUNE

2007

Herbarium’s weed effort goes national in new project The Tasmanian Herbarium, the home of information about Tasmania’s weeds, is set to make a significant contribution to the national war against weeds following the launch of a major new project. Along with other state and territory herbaria, the Tasmanian Herbarium has been contracted by the Australian Government’s Department of Environment and Water Resources (dewr) to help produce profiles of 160 destructive weeds. ‘This is a real achievement,’ Head of the Herbarium, Dr Gintaras Kantvilas, said. ‘It not only enables us to play a part in a national programme to combat weeds, but it also illustrates and consolidates the close working relationship that exists between Australian herbaria.’ The Tasmanian Herbarium’s Weed Taxonomist, Matthew Baker, is preparing the Herbarium’s quota of profiles. ‘At the Herbarium, we work to learn as much as we can about Tasmania’s plants,

including its weeds,’ he said. ‘As a result, we hold much information of use to weed managers. This project will give them better access to this information.’ As part of the project, the Herbarium will profile some of Tasmania’s worst weeds, including Spanish heath, Paterson’s curse and heather. ‘For each of these species we will provide a description, as well as information about distribution, preferred habitats and overall impact,’ Matthew said. ‘These details will be used by dewr to create a searchable database, one that will give weed managers access to the information they need to halt the spread of – and hopefully eradicate – some of our worst weeds.’ It has been estimated that, every year, weeds cost Australian farmers over $4 billion, and the Tasmanian economy $58 million.

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Spanish heath (Erica lusitanica), an invasive weed set to be profiled by the Tasmanian Herbarium in a new national project


Herbarium News

JULY

2006

Herbarium updates key botanical resource The latest edition of A Census of the Vascular Plants of Tasmania has been made available on the internet by the Tasmanian Herbarium. An indispensable aid to students, plant enthusiasts and professionals alike, the Census lists all the currently known vascular plants that are native to, or naturalised in, the state. It also serves as an index to the five volumes of the widely-used Student’s Flora of Tasmania. ‘This edition replaces the 2005 version,’ said Herbarium Curator, Alex Buchanan, who edits the list. ‘Since then, both the

flora and our understanding of it have changed enough to warrant an update.’ In all, the new census lists 2,674 accepted names, 1,880 of which apply to native plants, and 794 to introduced plants. It includes fifty new names. ‘One notable revision has occurred in the genus Epacris, where Dr Ron Crowden has described three new species,’ Alex said. The Herbarium publishes an updated electronic version of the Census annually, and a new printed edition every four or so years. To download a copy, visit the Herbarium’s website at www.tmag.tas.gov.au/Herbarium.

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This drawing of Eucryphia lucida, taken from Leonard Rodway’s The Tasmanian Flora, graces the cover of the latest edition of the Census


Herbarium News

MARCH

2006

Australia’s Virtual Herbarium closer to reality Imagine using your computer to help identify a plant, show where a species of plant occurs, or list plants that occur in your area. This dream is now closer to reality following the completion of the first stage of Australia’s Virtual Herbarium (avh) by staff of the Tasmanian Herbarium.

To complete the first stage of the project, staff of the Herbarium ‘databased’ almost 150,000 specimens of vascular plants. The second stage of avh will include the incorporation of enhancements such as images and identification tools.

Conceived in 2001, avh is a collaborative project of the Australian herbaria, and will provide immediate access to the continent’s dispersed data and information for over six million specimens of all types of plants. Head of the Tasmanian Herbarium, Dr Gintaras Kantvilas, believes avh benefits not only botanists, but anyone wanting to learn more about the state’s flora. ‘We hold the largest and most extensive collection of Tasmania’s vascular plants in the world,’ Dr Kantvilas said. ‘For the first time, information for all of these specimens is available on the internet.’

Australia’s Virtual Herbarium provides online access to the data of over six million plant specimens

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A short video introducing avh has been produced to mark this milestone. Located at avhtas.tmag.tas.gov.au, Australia’s Virtual Herbarium gives internet users a glimpse of an exciting and not-too-distant future.


Herbarium News

MAY

2005

Native dodder fights back in northern reserve A Tasmanian Wildcare group has an unlikely ally in the fight against one of the state’s worst weeds.

north of the state. A parasitic plant, it grows in a tangled mass over shrubs and small trees, eventually killing its host.

A native twining plant known as ‘native dodder’ is smothering a stand of gorse in the Kate Reed Reserve near Launceston.

Matthew Baker, Weed Taxonomist at the Tasmanian Herbarium in Hobart, is responsible for monitoring and studying the state’s weeds. He saw the situation in the Kate Reed Reserve for himself during a Community Weed Forum held by the Friends of the Reserve in March.

The Friends of the Reserve have been observing dodder on the eastern side of the reserve for over two years, in which time it has colonised two hundred or so square metres of gorse-infested bushland, reducing the height of the gorse from three metres to one.

‘It’s unusual to find native dodder on an exotic species,’ Matthew said. ‘It normally parasitises native species.’ ‘As far as other native plants crowding out weeds, it possibly does happen, but I have no firm examples.’

The power of one: a dead gorse plant entwined in native dodder

‘The dodder is certainly having an impact,’ said a member of the Friends, Rod Milner. ‘It has stopped the spread of the gorse and reduced its vigour.’ Rod said that the dodder is killing the gorse, which is putting out some new growth but is not flowering.

Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is a dense spiny shrub capable of growing high enough to shade out most native plants. A Declared Weed under Tasmania’s Weed Management Act, gorse has invaded bushland throughout the state, and is proving very difficult for land managers – if not native dodder – to control. ‘It’s doing a good job of managing the gorse,’ Rod said. Even so, it is unlikely that dodder will be used elsewhere to combat gorse. ‘I don’t think there’s been a lot of work done on using parasitic plants to control weeds,’ said Matthew. ‘At the moment it’s a novelty.’

Native dodder (Cassytha melantha) is native to Tasmania and common in the

Depar tment of Economic Development, Tour ism and the Ar ts

Native dodder (Cassytha melantha) smothers an infestation of gorse in the Kate Reed Reserve

Profile for Timm Newlands

Herbarium News  

A series of news stories and articles I designed, researched and wrote for the Tasmanian Herbarium (2005–2011)

Herbarium News  

A series of news stories and articles I designed, researched and wrote for the Tasmanian Herbarium (2005–2011)

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