Select Page

Western Australia


Western Australia was established in 1827, partly to discourage further French interest in New Holland’s south west, when a small British settlement was established at King Georges Sound (Albany) under the supervision of Major Edmund Lockyer. Then in 1829 the Swan River Colony (Perth Region) was proclaimed under Governor Captain James Stirling. Charles Fraser, Colonial Botanist for New South Wales, had botanised in the area in 1827 when he accompanied James Stirling in HMS Success on a reconnaissance to assess the Swan River as a possible area for future settlement and making an enthusiastic positive recommendation in 1830. HMS Beagle had put in to King George Sound in 1836, the fatigued and unimpressed Charles Darwin who noted the potential of the nearby inland plains for future agricultural development. The colony was declared a British penal settlement in 1849 and the first convicts arrived in 1850.


The main coastal collectors prior to settlement had been (see Coastal navigators and explorers): Dampier in HMS Roebuck in 1699; Menzies with captain Vancouver in HMS Discovery in 1791; Labillardière with D’Entrecasteaux in the Recherche and Esperance in 1792; Leschenault, Guichenot in 1801; Brown with Captain Flinders in HMS Investigator in 1801; Gaudichaud (1817, 1820), Cunningham with Captain King in HMS Mermaid and HMS Bathurst (1817-1822); Baxter (1823-1825), Fraser (1827).

Most pre-settlement collections were at the safe anchorages of King George Sound, Esperance, Swan River and Shark Bay.

Apart from the exploratory samples possibly taken by Vlamingh in 1697 when he made observations on the region and noted how his crew had become sick when feasting on the poisonous seeds of zamia palm. It is likely that the fern-like specimens of Acacia truncata and Synaphea spinulosa native to New Holland and described by Dutch botanist Nicholaas Burmann in 1768 as ferns from Java, were collected on this voyage. However there can be no doubt about Dampier’s 1699 collections, after which the first substantial botanical collections in the West were those of Robert Brown, naturalist with Matthew Flinders in the Investigator’s circumnavigation of Australia.

Robert Brown

Between December 1801 and January 1802 (with a brief re-visit in 1803) Brown, together with gardener-botanist Peter Good who concentrated on seeds, bulbs and cuttings, made over 600 collections and eventually in his Prodromus … (1810) and later publications described about 800 species also commemorated French botanical exploration through the genera Dryandra and Lechenaultia and Captain Phillip Parker King and his father Philip Gidley King, Governor of NSW, through the genus Kingia which he collected in 1801.[1]

It is perhaps the scale of Robert Brown’s collections and the descriptive output of Bentham and Mueller that stand out in the exciting history of West Australian botany.[2]

Labillardière & Leschenault

Labillardière, botanist with the French Entrecasteaux expedition, had collected in Esperance in December 1792 and in 1801-1803 collections were made by Leschenault, gardeners and other naturalists on Baudin’s expedition in the Geographe and Naturaliste (commanded by Hamelin). West Australian collections on Baudin’s expedition included those in Geographe and Shark Bays as well as, later, King George Sound in 1802 (Leschenault and gardener Guichenot each made more than 200 collections, Guichenot with 68 plants now growing in pots).[3] Many Western Australian species were described by Labillardière in his Novae Hollandiae Plantarum Specimen, volume 1 published in 1804 (including some specimens returned on the Naturaliste) and the second volume in 1807, 105 of these species still recognized today.[4] Collections returned in the Geographe did not arrive until 1804 and were not written up by Labillardiere, the task being left to De Candolle whose massive Prodromus commenced publication in 1817.[5]

A further expedition was undertaken by the French government, the Uranie arriving in Shark Bay on 12 Sept 1818 with surgeon naturalist Jean Quoy and apothecary-botanist Charles Gaudichaud-Beaupré, a student of Laurent de Jussieu, collecting for a fortnight. Tragically all the specimens were lost when on the return journey the ship was wrecked on the Falkland Islands in 1820.

Other collectors preceding settlement include: surgeon-naturalist Archibald Menzies, botanist with the Vancouver expedition collecting in King George Sound in 1791; Alan Cunningham botanist for King on his coastal surveys between 1817 and 1822 extended collections in the tropics, mostly in the north-west and Kimberley regions; finally, Charles Fraser the Colonial Botanist of New South Wales who collected plants in the Swan River area in 1827 while accompanying Captain Stirling on his pre-settlement reconnoitre when he made the first collection of Banksia menziesii named in 1830 by Brown to commemorate the botanist on the Vancouver expedition.

Salisbury possibly stole Brown’s Proteaceae: ?Brown stole Solanders Flora.

Schoobert, J. (ed.) 2005. Western Australian Exploration. Volume 1. December 1826 – December 1835. Hesperian Press: Carlisle.

Settlement and early colonial exploration (1827–1850)[6][7]

Following settlement at collectors ventured further inland,[8] prominent among these pioneers were Karl von Huegel (1833), James Drummond (c.1829–1851), Ludwig Preiss (1838–1842), and Georgiana Molloy (1805–1843), John Septimus Roe and algologist William Harvey.

From the early collections, mostly those of Drummond, John Lindley described 453 south-western taxa, 270 still remaining in the genera and species where he had put them. But these early collections were well distributed across Europe and other European botanists to describe plants from these south-western collections included Swiss Meisner (477 taxa still recognized today), Ukrainian Turczaninow (336 currently accepted taxa), De Candolle (317 taxa)and Endlicher (277 current names),[9] the whole culminating in the massive Flora Australiensis of Bentham and Mueller.

Early settlement collectors

James Mangles, George Maxwell & Georgiana Molloy

Botanical collectors included early settlers like George Maxwell from Albany who eeked a living as a professional collector of natural history specimen, joining both Drummond and serious botanical collector Ferdinand Mueller on their collecting trips[10]), and Georgiana Molloy who collected seeds and plants for London nurseryman James Mangles (who was also Director of the British East India Company) from which many Australian plants were cultivated in England. Mangles, a retired naval commander, had visited the Swan River colony for three months in 1831 as guest to his cousin Lady Stirling the Governor’s wife. He was a man of considerable wealth, a Fellow of the Royal Society, friend of the famous horticultural chronicler J.C. Loudon and a great promoter of New Holland flora, distributing seed sent to him from New Holland to prominent British horticulturists and nurserymen.[11] Specimens also went to John Lindley the foundation professor of botany at the University of London who used these in his A Sketch of the Vegetation of the Swan River Colony (1839-40) which may be regarded as a second attempt to provide a flora for the colony following Stephan Endlicher’s 1837 Enumeratio plantarum. Using mostly Drummond’s specimens Lindley described 283 new species.

von Huegel & Ludwig Preiss

Then there were the new wave of German visitors like the aristocratic von Huegel keen to see the strange flora for himself and Ludwig Preiss a natural history bounty hunter.

It was, however, the contrasting personalities of bushman James Drummond[12] and meticulous gentleman academic Ludwig Preiss that stand out among the earliest settlement collectors.[13] Though occasionally collecting together the two fell out over the cause of stock poisoning on the Avon River, Drummond’s contention that it was a pea (Gastrolobium calycinum) eventually proving correct.

James Drummond & sons

As the first major collector to settle in WA James Drummond (1784-1863) proved the most productive of the Swan River Colony’s pioneer collectors, working in the Perth region for over 30 years and making six substantial forays inland. His career gives us an insight into this early period of settlement.[14] Scottish-born Drummond was trained as a nurseryman and became Curator of the botanic gardens in Cork, Ireland, from 1808–1828.[15]

In 1829 James had sailed to the Swan River Colony with his wife, five children and nine boxes of useful plants donated by the English Horticultural Society (supplemented by more plants he had picked up at the Cape of Good Hope); his fellow passengers included the new Governor, James Stirling, and the Government Surveyor General John Septimus Roe.[16] As an associate of the Linnaean Society who had published several papers on Irish plants, he was soon established as Government Naturalist and Agricultural Advisor (without pay) and he pursued horticultural interests including establishing a garden for Government House to, among other things, produce vegetables and fruit for the new colony. Three short-lived acclimatization gardens were established in the first years the first fledgling Botanic garden in Perth (not present-day Stirling Gardens) being incorporated into the Government House grounds in 1834.

By this time Drummond had decided to supplement his income by farming which was handed on to his family while he continued with his botanical interests. ?Up to 1832 he received a salary of £100 as Superintendent of the government gardens. In about 1835 he began collecting seeds and plants for sale in England and from 1836-38 collected plants at Swan River, Darling Range, Avon Valley, the Guangan (sandplains to the east of Toodyay valley), Salt River (east of Northam), and the Albany and Vasse River districts. He mentions how, with little paper, he often dried the specimens between layers of Xanthorrhoea leaves. His specimens, like those of later collector Molloy, were sent to Mangles in London. Mangles forwarded the 1837 collection to John Lindley, who commissioned Bentham to distribute the plant specimens as sets. From these collections hundreds of new species were described but botanists complained about their poor condition and lack of associated records and the confusing numbering system that Drummond had used. Criticism was an incentive to start collecting again, first on Rottnest Island in 1839 which he visited with Ludwig Preiss, then in 1840 visiting Albany and Cape Riche, sending fifteen sets of 1,000 numbered species back to England in 1842, one set being delivered to Sir William Hooker at Kew. Collecting multiples of the same species he sent an estimated 50,000 pressed specimens to England, comprising close to a quarter of the known WA species, distributing these between James Mangles, John Lindley and William Hooker. Hooker was Drummond’s patron and, with Robert Heward, Hooker in 1845 distributed many of Drummond’s specimens charging £2 per set of 100 to eager botanists in Austria, England, France, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, and the Russian botanist Turczaninov who described about 400 species from specimens now housed in Kiev.[17]

Letters describing Drummond’s expeditions were received by William Hooker in London and published in the London Journal of Botany and Kew Garden Miscellany: they also appeared in colonial newspapers like Perth’s Inquirer and The Perth Gazette.[18] With poor resources on-hand Drummond named less than ten species himself, one being the spectacular Hakea victoriae, but he was clearly botanically astute and corresponded with Charles Darwin on the outcrossing mechanism of Lechenaultia flowers. Without his collections the Western Australian flora would have been poorly covered by George Bentham and Mueller’s Flora Australiensis.[19]

Drummond next moved to Victoria where, between 1841 and 1844, he worked with his sons. His youngest son, Johnston, who had discovered the unusual Black Kangaroo-paw Macropidia fuliginosa, acted as collector of birds and animals for the renowned [?John Gould (offering them in exchange for copies of Gould’s books). They pioneered the Victoria Plains, where he collected widely, as well as at Moora, Wongan Hills and Augusta, published journals of his travels including the plants he had seen. In 1843, after two excursions to the interior, the pair collected for three months in the Stirling Range and Albany. Some of these specimens were placed in his 2nd Collection; the remainder were included in the 3rd, most of which was gathered during a journey in 1844 to Walyormouring (Wallemarra), thence eastwards beyond salt lakes as far as a river they incorrectly called the Arrowsmith. This 3rd Collection brought the total number of species sent to his subscribers to 2000.]

In 1845 Johnston was killed by an Aboriginal at Moore River and for a while James lost interest in collecting until he received an honorarium of £200 from the Queen’s Bounty for services rendered to botanical science. He then set off on another expedition (his 4th collection) through the Stirling Range to Cape Riche (repeating a previous trip), then east beyond Salt River on the south coast to West Mount Barren. His 5th Collection, in 1847-48, resulted in fourteen sets of 550 species from two later journeys. In 1847 when heading for Lucky Bay overland from Toodyay he had to turn back when beyond Mount Caroline. In 1848 he collected to the east of Albany. After reaching Middle Mount Barren he turned north to unknown parts (Ravensthorpe). The 6th Collection of 225 numbers was made in 1850-51 when, with sons James and John to the Champion Bay district they explored the pastoral potential of the Murchison River, later brought sheep into the area.

The Australian Biographic entry on Drummond also reports how the old James Drummond was a popular figure in the colony distinguished by his two white packhorses and trailing kangaroo dogs. He was usually walking, the horses fully laden with stores (when he set out) and specimens (when he returned). After his knapsack and pockets had filled with specimens he would resort to his hat. In 1855 he was offered the post of botanist in wheat and owning a steam flour-mill, assisting the settlement of poor migrant families and ‘ticket-of-leave’ men into cottages associated with small farming lots. He was elected to the colony’s first representative Legislative Council in 1870 but died at the peak of his career on 8 February 1873 while battling a bushfire at Hawthornden. Fortunately before his death he had sent his father’s herbarium collection to the Melbourne Herbarium.</p> <p>The third son became a legendary figure for his extraordinary skill with a gun and his unsurpassed knowledge of Aboriginal language and customs. In 1849, when hostile Aborigines at Champion Bay jeopardized the new settlement, John was sent to conciliate them and keep order. His daughter Euphemia was the WA botanical authority on orchids.</p> <p>His younger brother Thomas was a well-known collector of North American plants. In the 1830s James set up a seed exchange with the nurseries of Captain James Mangles and Conrad Loddiges in London. [read AGH 8(4): 24.]</p> <p>James Drummond was a prodigious collector. His specimens can be found in twenty-five herbaria; seven in the British Isles, twelve in other parts of Europe, three in the United States, and three in Australia at Melbourne, Perth and Canberra. He must have collected tens of thousands of specimens and is credited with naming 23 species from the south-west[Hoppeer 2004 p.153] and 119 named after him.[20]</p> <p><b>Johann Ludwig Preiss</b><br /> Drummond’s failure to record his collection localities contrasted with the habits of Ludwig Preiss who, between 1838 and 1842, travelled widely in WA s south-west, mostly in the region from north of Perth to Cape Riche east of Albany, his collections possibly including an amazing 200,000 specimens including 2,800 species of flowering plants, algae, fungi, lichens and bryophytes.[21] These collections were recorded in meticulous botanical detail (they included locality, date of collection, flower colour, Aboriginal usage, soils and habitat)[22] that was to prove invaluable for future research. He amassed more than 2,500 species from 850 genera including about 200 species of seaweed.[23] This remarkable botanical haul was described in the two-volume publication <i>Plantae</i> <i>Preissianae</i> published between 1844 and 1848, dedicated to William Hooker, and compiled under the editorship of Johann Lehmann a Hamburg natural history professor who was a founding Director of the Hamburg Botanical Garden (now <i><a title=” href=””>Alter Botanischer Garten Hamburg). As happens, many of the species described in these volumes had already been described by Lindley’s 1840 A Sketch … from Drummond’s earlier collections. Plantae Preissianae served as a standard early reference on the plants of WA (along with the descriptions of Drummond’s plants). who collected specimens which he would sell to his clients: his collections totaled more than 2,800 species including algae, fungi and lichens which were the foundation of the authoritative 2-volume Plantae Preissianae published from 1844-1848 by Johann Lehmann a] His seed collections of more than 300 species were distributed throughout Europe.[24] Carl Meisner, Prof. Botany at Basel, Switzerland also described many of the plants sent to Europe by Preiss and Drummond.

In 1839 Preiss offered a set of natural history specimens to the British Government. It included 1,500 plants (non-flowering as well as flowering) but the asking price of £3,000 was considered excessive and the offer declined.[25]

It was Preiss’s glowing reports at a chance meeting with Ferdinand Mueller in Hamburg lauding both the botany and healthy climate in Australia that lured the sickly Mueller and his sister to the new land. Preiss returned to Europe in 1842 after falling out with the local inhabitants, finding difficulty in taking out British citizenship, and failing to obtain adequate payment from the British Government for his specimens.[26]

Preiss, following Huegel’s horticultural forays, stimulated German interest in Australia and its natural history over the period 1830-40. About 100 plants have been named after him.


Following the first officially recorded visit to the Kimberley by Abel Tasman in 1644 there was those of Dampier (1688, 1699), Baudin (1801,1803), King’s four charting trips from 1818 to 1822 which included Cunningham’s botanical forays made during King’s coastal surveying trips of 1819-22 leaving, at Careening Bay, a boab engraved “Mermaid 1820”, then Stokes in the Beagle.

George Grey

The first land exploration was by George Grey in 1837-1838 at Camden Harbour and the Glenelg River. Much later, in 1879, Alexander Forrest led an expedition from Beagle Bay across the Fitzroy Plains to Darwin and his collections were sent to Mueller.[28] Aboriginals accompanied his several expeditions, his main assistant being Tommy Windich, commemorated in the name of a cultivar of barley in 1989.Clarke The lust for pasture saw more exploration – by Joseph Bradshaw in 1891 (Mueller records 161 different species sent to him by Bradshaw’s collector William Allen[29]), Frank Hann in 1898 with six Aboriginal assistants, this phase being closed with the expedition of Frederick Brockman in 1901.

Georgiana Molloy (1805-1843) was a religious lady who in 1830 settled with her husband Captain Molloy in Augusta where she in 1830 was a keen gardener at first being wary of the bush and caring for her ‘European’ plants before coming to an appreciation of the native flora. During her short life she was, from 1836, botanical collector for collecting both pressed specimens and seed for James Mangles (who was cousin to Governor Stirling’s wife). Her beautifully prepared and numbered specimens are now housed in English herbaria at Kew and Cambridge University.

Late colonial consolidation 1850-1900

William Harvey (1854–5), George Maxwell (1858–1875), John Gilbert, Augustus Oldfield, and Ferdinand Mueller (1855, 1867, 1877­78).[30]

William Harvey

Irish botanist William Harvey (1811–), Professor of Botany and Keeper of the Herbarium at the University of Dublin, spent 8 months in WA in the period 1854–1855 when he made Australia’s first substantial collection of marine algae published as Phycologia Australica (5 vol., 1858–63).

Mueller & his eponymous Society

Mueller visited Western Australia in 1855 on the Gregory expedition to the Kimberley (commemorating Gregory with the name for the Boab, Adansonia gregorii), then again in 1867 and 1877-8, his last visit the result of a request to review the colony’s forests resources. Mueller’s report, ahead of its time but following overseas sentiments, strongly exhorted sustainable forest management. He had collected widely, publishing his results and showing a thorough appreciation of the colony’s spectacular plants “more purely Australian than any other on the continent”. There are 1,122 species first described by Mueller that occur in WA, a total that eclipses the works of Robert Brown and George Bentham.[31]

As usual on his travels Mueller had inspired the settlers and local officials with his passion for botany and in 1897 a Mueller Botanic Society was formed in Western Australia comprising amateur collectors, naturalists and botanists which became, in 1913, the Royal Society of Western Australia.

Twentieth century

Ludwig Diels and Ernst Pritzel (1900). Further significant botanical collections in the Kimberleys were made by J Tepper (1889-91), F House (1901), W Fitzgerald (1905-6), H Basedow (1916) Charles Gardner (1920-1960).

All the early collections were sent to Europe, the First Australian herbarium to hold WA specimens being Mueller’s collections held in Melbourne along with Drummond’s private collection which on Drummonds death in 1863 had been passed on to Melbourne.

Diels & Pritzel

At the turn of the century Ludwig Diels and Ernst Pritzel during a privately funded botanical expedition from Germany collected for 14 months through 1901-1902 taking advantage of the new rail system to explore the goldfields north of Kalgoorlie and making nearly 6,000 collections (Diels 4,700, Pritzel 1,016). On his return to Germany Diels was to be appointed Director-General of the Botanical Museum in Berlin (which included the Berlin Herbarium) in 1929 and maintained correspondence with the Government Botanist Charles Gardner. An account of the plants encountered on the expedition was published by the pair but perhaps of greater significance in the long term was Diels’s insightful and landmark biogeographic observations of vegetation patterns including the first vegetation map of Australia published in 1906 and recognizing three ecologically distinct botanical provinces in Western Australia.[32]


The most extensive collections in the Perth region were carried out between 1900 and 1920 before development destroyed much of the natural vegetation, major collectors being William Fitzgerald, Alexander Morrison (who studied medicine but ill health brought him to Melbourne a self-taught botanist with the Bureau of agriculture in WA in 1897, formerly a member of the Vic. Nats.) and Cecil Andrews.[33]

Western Australia did not have its own herbarium until several small collections began in the 1890s, the earliest probably being in the Geology Museum following its establishment in 1891. Bernard Woodward was Director of the Museum and Art Gallery from 1889 to 1916. After a period of decline Ludwig Glauert was appointed Director and he then managed the collection until 1954.

Quite independently the Bureau of Agriculture was established in 1894 and, partly in response to concerns about poisonous plants, appointed Alexander Morrison as botanist in 1897 who built up the herbarium, did identifications and published botanical research until 1906. He was followed sometime later in 1911 by Frederick Stoward who was given the title of Economic Botanist and during this time the entire Bureau herbarium was transferred to the Museum where it was cared for by Morrison on a voluntary basis.

Yet another small herbarium was managed by Charles Lane-Poole, appointed Conservator of Forests in 1916 and immediately giving District Ranger Frederick Schoch instructions to start a herbarium collection. The Forests Department was created in 1919 gathering momentum before employing Charles Gardner as collector: he was to prove an extremely important figure in West Australian botany in the period from 1920 to 1960.[34]

Small herbaria were also developed in academia. The first botany course was offered in 1914 at the Biology Department at the University of Western Australia this evolving into a Botany Department in the 1920s and accumulating its own educational herbarium, a similar collection of pressed, mostly agricultural, plants being housed at the university’s Institute of Agriculture.

Charles Gardner

There was now a clear need to combine these various collections into a single State Herbarium along the lines of the other states and, after some political haggling through 1928 and into 1929 all the herbaria, minus the collection at the museum, were merged and Gardner promoted to the position of Government Botanist and Curator (a title he retained until 1960), the collections now being held ‘temporarily’ in the State Observatory in West Perth where they remained until 1958. In 1947 it contained just 29,121 specimens.[35] Finally, in 1957 the museum collection was transferred to the State Herbarium which, in 1962 was designated the Western Australian Herbarium, the story being completed in 1970 when, with its own staff, the amalgamated herbarium moved to a specially constructed building in South Perth. In 1960 construction began on a purpose-built herbarium at Kensington, South Perth within the Collier pine plantation and adjacent to the Department of Agriculture: it was formally opened on 5 March 1970 complete with a specialist library, the first edition of the in-house journal Nuytsia appearing in December of that year and soon followed by the establishment of a Herbarium Garden of rare plants collected from field trips in remote areas.

Gardner could now concentrate on documenting the state’s flora and securing its conservation. Following Mueller’s example Gardner enlisted the assistance of amateur enthusiasts including churchmen Father William Gimenez and Rev. Bruce Rosier (later Bishop of Adelaide) although he later disenchanted some of this community as he struggled unsuccessfully to produce a Flora of Western Australia on his own.[36] In 1931 he produced a list of about 4,500 WA plants, and in 1952 the first volume of a planned Flora of Western Australia.[37] In 1937 Gardner was posted to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, as the first Australian Botanical Liaison Officer a practice continued to this day facilitating communication between the countries’ botanists and permitting Australian botanists to work on Australian plants held in European herbaria.

William Blackall & Brian Grieve

Gardner travelled and collected widely in the state and was accompanied on several expeditions by friend and amateur botanist, William Blackall who developed the idea of an illustrated key to the plants of the state as an identification aid, working voluntarily at Kew in the 1930s and amassing a private herbarium of about 6,000 specimens. Sadly Blackall died suddenly in 1941, his work being extended and brought to fruition by Prof. Brian Grieve in a series of installments from 1954 to 1998 under the title How to Know Western Australian Wildflowers.

John Beard

With the state flora still in progress planning for the state’s first botanic garden got underway in 1961, the Director John Beard combining Gardner’s work into a Descriptive Catalogue of West Australian Plants in 1965, later revised and published in popular form by the Society for Growing Australian Plants. With advent of computer databases John Green in the 1980s produced the Census of Vascular Plants of Western Australia which was followed by the barcoding and recording of all the herbarium specimens, a task completed in 1994. Mueller, in 1889, had recognized 3,560 species in the state. In 1965 and 1970 John Beard, Director of Kings Park from 1961-1970, produced the Descriptive Catalogue of West Australian Plants listed and briefly described 5,802 species (excluding naturalised plants) which increased to 7,954 by the time of *John Green’s Census’s of 1981 and 1985 and 9,640 species in the catalogue published in 2000.[38] He moved on to become the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens and National Herbarium at Sydney from 1970 to 1972.

In the 1970s pioneering work on Banksia (Alex George), Acacia (Bruce Maslin) also plant documentation and conservation that built on the Native Flora Protection Act and amended Wildlife Conservation Act (1950, 1976, 1979) (Neville merchant, Greg Keighery) also gathered momentum and between 1960-1988 amateur botanist Ken Newby made numerous additions to the state collection.

In 1985 the herbarium combined with forests and wildlife, and national parks to form the Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) finally setting a clear direction towards plant conservation rather than being under the banner of agriculture.

It was always evident that regional floras were important as well as an overall inventory of the state flora. In 1987, came the Flora of the Perth Region a combined effort of botanists from the Western Australian Herbarium and the Department of Agriculture and this was followed in 1992 by the Flora of the Kimberley Region and in 2002 by the Flora of the South West.

Further computer-based development has resulted in FloraBase which now provides online scientific information on about 12,000 taxa including maps, images, descriptions, specimens, interactive keys and nomenclatural information as well as standalone illustrated multi-access keys on CD like the Australia-wide key to acacias Wattle produced by Bruce Maslin.

New descriptions of West Australian plants appear in Nuytsia, the journal of the Western Australian Herbarium. A full account of the history of the Western Australian Museum is given in Underwood, R. 2011. A botanical journey: the story of the Western Australian Museum.Dept Envt and Consvn: Perth. Recent introduction of roads and helicopters have meant a surge in collections since about 1970, in particular, those of Kevin Kenneally.[39]

Gardner’s ecological studies bore fruit in the 1970s with the creation of specialist ecology positions work beginning on the vegetation mapping of the (to be) Fitzgerald River National Park by Arthur Weston (1971-1974) who was followed by Ted Aplin and Roger Hnatiuk (1976-1981). This leading, in turn in the ’s to studies of threatened flora, individual populations and then ecosystems.

Support is now given to regional herbaria whose specimens are authenticated by duplicates lodged with the Perth herbarium and linked through Florabase.


Herbarium Curators

Charles Gardiner 1929-1960
Robert Royce 1960-1975
John Green 1975-1987
Neville Marchant 1996-2005
Kevin Thiele 2006-


In 2011 the herbarium held >700,000 specimens, the following being the greatest contributors.


Ray Cranfield 26,698
Greg Keighery 25,874
Charles Gardner 20,285



Collection, classification, naming, description and documentation of the plants of Australia, first performed by botanists in Europe working on specimens collected by maritime explorers and early pioneer settlers working on horseback, was subsequently achieved within the country. Herbaria and botanic gardens were established along with libraries, plant-associated government departments, and universities with botany departments. To descriptive botany was added ecology, plant and ecosystem conservation, phylogenetic systematics, molecular systematics. It seems that as we near the completion of a modern Flora of Australia, an Australian Virtual Herbarium, and the online availability of plant lists for all states, that we are drawing towards the end of a monumental phase in Australian botany that was launched by Banks and Solander in 1768. Perhaps this descriptive and analytic phase of western science with its spawning of new and related disciplines must now enter a period of synthesis with the setting of new directions.

Recent and contemporary botanists

Jim Armstrong (Rutaceae, pollination biology), Eleanor Bennett (Myrtaceae, Proteaceae), Jenny Chappill (Sterculiaceae, Andersonia, Jacksonia), Richard Cowan (legumes), Alex George (legumes, Orchidaceae, Proteaceae esp. Banksia), Stephen Hopper (Anigozanthos, Conostylis, Eucalyptus), Nicholas Lander (Malvaceae, Olearia), Terry Macfarlane (legumes, Poaceae, Haemodorum, Lomandra, Wurmbaea), Neville Marchant (Droseraceae, Myrtaceae, Xyridaceae), Bruce Maslin (Acacia), Gillian Perry (naturalised flora, Loganiaceae), Barbara Rye (Rhamnaceae, Thymelaeaceae), Judy Wheeler (Hibberia, regional floras), Paul Wilson (Asteraceae, Chenopodaceae, Rutaceae).
[Go over recent days in Hopper 2004]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email