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Northern Territory


The area we now know as the Northern Territory was first tentatively settled by Europeans at Fort Dundas on Bathurst Island (the occupation lasted from 1824-1828) then Raffles Bay (1827-1831) and Port Essington (1838-1849). In 1863 control of the area passed from New South Wales to the ?colony of South Australia. Its capital city, Darwin, was not established until 1869, and was originally known as Palmerston (now a satellite town outside Darwin). On 1 January 1912, the Northern Territory ?ceded/separated from South Australia to become part of the Commonwealth of Australia, achieving self-government in 1978.


Eardley, Forrest, Giles, Gosse, Helms, Leichhardt, Mueller, Tate (also in SA).

Settlement and early exploration

Robert Brown, Leichhardt, Cunningham, Mueller.

Resident botanists

Resident botanists were not established until the late 1830s.
After Robert Brown’s collections in eastern Arnhem Land in 1803 as part of the ?charting expedition and scientific exploration of the Investigator, there followed collections by: Allan Cunningham in coastal north-west Arnhem Land as part of Phillip King’s (?surveying) voyages from 1818 to 1821; Leichhardt in Arnhem Land in 1845; and Mueller on the Gregory Expedition (1855-56). Inland collections were made by Diedrich Henne on the Landsborough Expedition (1861-1862) which was sent out in search of the missing Burke and Wills expedition and collecting in the Gulf of Carpentaria and Albert River. Also, John Stuart on his trans-Australia expedition of 1862. The specimens of both expeditions were sent to Mueller in Melbourne.

Kew had appointed, in 1838, a resident collector for Port Essington, John Armstrong who collected in Australia until about 1846 but also from Timor. John McGillivray collected specimens at Port Essington in 1844 and 1848.

With the formation of a commonwealth government in 1901 it was decided to investigate the resources of the new Northern Territory, sending out the Barclay Expedition on a route about one hundred kilometres west of the present Stuart Highway, meeting the Overland telegraph line again at Newcastle Waters. The botanical collector on this expedition was Gerald Hill, his manuscript diary and most of his specimens again going to National Herbarium of Victoria. Between Oodnadatta and latitude 20°S, Hill had collected some 400 species.[1]

Darwin Botanic Gardens

Darwin Botanical Gardens was established on its present site in 1869 its emphasis being economic botany. The first Curator was Maurice Holtze (from 1878-1891), later becoming Director of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. He was followed as Curator by his son Nicholas Holtze from 1891 to ¬1913. For many years the labour was provided by Aboriginal prisoners with a few Europeans and Chinese. Charles Allen, the Curator from 1913 to 1935 was an avid botanical collector, sending specimens to the herbaria in Sydney and Melbourne.[2]

Gerald Hill

Gerald Freer Hill was one of the last eminent naturalists. His major research work was a taxonomic study of termites but he alsocollected mammals, birds and plants. In 1911 Hill was appointed as naturalist and photographer to an expedition under Henry Vere Barclay. The expedition travelled from Adelaide to Borroloola. Alfred Ewart, Government Botanist of Victoria, told Hill that he would be paid five shillings for every new species he collected: Hill collected more than 600 specimens.


Under the Commonwealth Government a herbarium was established at Alice Springs which was directed by George Chippendale from 1954 to 1966, followed by John Maconochie, the herbarium being moved to the Arid Zone Research Institute in 1968. Meanwhile another herbarium had been established in 1966 in Darwin under the direction of Norm Byrnes and this subsequently absorbed most of the specimens from the Arid Zone Research Institute, the combined collection being transferred to Palmerston, just outside Darwin, in 1989 as the Northern Territory Herbarium, the administration being combined with that of the Darwin Botanic Gardens in 1994 under Chief Botanist Greg Leach.

Floras, checklists, journals

Based largely on specimens collected by Hill, Ewart published with Olive Davies The Flora of the Northern Territory in 1917 which was followed by Chippendale’s Checklist of Northern Territory Plants in 1972, updated in 1995 by Clyde Dunlop et al. Northern Territory plants are covered in the Flora of Central Australia (1981) and a 4-volume Flora of the Darwin Region is underway, volume 2 published in 1995. Botanical and related articles are published in the Northern Territory Botanical Bulletin.

Recent and contemporary botanists

Davis Albrecht (Monotoca, Campanulaceae), Ian Cowie (Polycarpaea, Sterculiaceae), Clyde Dunlop (Mitrasacme, Asteraceae), Peter Latz (ethnobotany, Cyperaceae), Greg Leach (Acacia, Elatinaceae, Eriocaulaceae), John Maconochie (Acacia, Cycas, Hakea, Fabaceae), Bruce Thompson (Euphorbia), Glenn Wightman (ethnobotany, mangroves).

[M. Schulz in the early years of the Port Darwin Settlement sent specimens to Mueller.]
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