Though one of the first and most popular landfalls for European vessels, it was some time before Van Diemen’s Land was to be settled. British settlement was established at Risdon in 1803 when Lieutenant John Bowen landed with about 50 settlers, crew, soldiers and convicts but the site was soon abandoned and permanent settlement established by Lieutenant David Collins in Hobart in Feb 1804, then Launceston in 1806. The colony of Van Diemen’s Land was established in its own right in 1825 with the name Tasmania officially sanctioned in 1856.
First collections by maritime explorers
On Cook’s third voyage in 1777 the HMS Resolution and HMS Discovery put in to Adventure Bay, Bruny Island for four days when collections by botanist William Anderson and gardener-botanist David Nelson were returned to England. Subsequent collections were made on the d’Entrecasteaux expedition in 1792 &? 1793 here and at Recherche Bay by botanist Labillardiere, naturalist Riche and gardener Delahaye () and on Blighs expedition by David Nelson (), and later by Brown (), Caley(), Cunningham () and Lawrence(). In 1792 naturalists Labillardiere and Riche with Admiral d’Entrecasteaux put in to southern Tasmania.
William Hooker & Robert Lawrence Brown
After leaving Port Phillip stayed in Hobart for 9 months waiting for a vessel home, meanwhile collecting about 700 specimens. Brown’s work attracted the attention of William Hooker, then Professor of Botany at Glasgow University (later Director of Kew) who was keen for more specimens from Van Dieman’s Land. Through Glasgow connections he found a keen correspondent in Launcestrian Robert Lawrence who, fortunately, quickly passed on his enthusiasm for plants to a friend Robert Gunn who assumed the botanical mantle when Lawrence died unexpectedly in 1833. Gunn was to spend several months with William Hooker’s son Joseph in 1840 when Hooker as botanist and surgeon on the Ross Antarctic expedition of 1839-1843. In his introduction to Flora Tasmaniae Hooker wrote:
‘I can recall no happier weeks of my various wanderings over the globe than those spent with Mr Gunn, collecting in the Tasmanian mountains and forests, or studying plants in his library, with the works of our predecessors Labillardière and Brown’.
Ronald Gunn in his early collecting years worked with his botanical mentor Lawrence, but when the latter died Gunn concentrated his efforts in Tasmania from 1832-1850. Their efforts formed the basis of the Flora Tasmaniae (the first substantial book on Australian flora to be published) by J Hooker in 1860 as part of the record of his expedition to the Antarctic, New Zealand and Australia with Captain Ross.
[1847-57 Augustus Oldfield, also in WA]
The monumental works of Hooker and Bentham were followed in 1903 by The Tasmanian Flora written by dentist Leonard Rodway who was Honorary Government Botanist to the Tasmanian Government from 1896 to 1932, establishing a herbarium of early collections at the Tasmanian Museum in 1928 (which was part of the Botanic Gardens) and here it remained until 1932, moving several times between Botanic Gardens and Museum buildings. Rodway described 1200 flowering plants, 150 of which were naturalised. Rodway’s wife Olive was Keeper from 1932 to 1941 after which Winifred Curtis, who was lecturer in botany at the University of Tasmania, became part-time Curator until 1946 when she and other workers developed a separate teaching herbarium at the university, the Museum herbarium being delivered here on long-term loan. In 1950 the Museum and Botanic Gardens were placed under separate administration, responsibility for the herbarium now passing to the Botanic Gardens with Janet Somerville the Honorary Curator from 1957 to 1963. In 1976 the Tasmanian Herbarium was formally established amalgamating collections from the Botanic Gardens, Museum and University and in 1978 Tony Orchard was appointed its first salaried Curator during which time a purpose-built herbarium was constructed at the university and occupied in 1987. Orchard retained the position until 1992 and was followed by lichenologist Gintaras Kantvilas.
Floras, checklists, journals
Work on the flora of Tasmania has been largely completed outside the state. The classic works of Robert Brown, Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae et Insulae van Diemen (1802-1805), and Labillardiere’s Novae hollandiae Plantarum Specimen, were grounded in Tasmanian specimens and these were followed by J. D. Hooker’s Florae Tasmaniae (1855-1860), the most comprehensive account of Australian plants written to that time. Rodway was the first resident publisher of note although his The Tasmanian Flora of 1903 was preceded by Spicer’s Handbook of the Plants of Tasmania in 1878. This was followed in 1956 by the Student’s Flora of Tasmania in 4 volumes (5 parts) begun by Winifred Curtis who was a lecturer at the University of Tasmania and assisted from 1970 by Dennis Morris, the final volume published in 1994. This project has added over 250 more introduced plants and over a 100 newly discovered flowering plants. Winifred Curtis subsequently published the six-volume The Endemic Flora of Tasmania (1967-1978) illustrated by Margaret Stones. A list of Tasmanian plants was published in 1995 by Alex Buchanan as A Census of the Vascular Plants of Tasmania. Since 1988 the Tasmanian Herbarium has published monographs in the periodical Occasional Publications of the Tasmanian Herbarium.
A small herbarium is maintained in Launceston at the Queen Victoria Museum.
Recent and contemporary botanists
Alex Buchanan (Asteraceae, Census), Gintaras Kantvils (lichens), Tony Orchard (Micranthemum, Persoonia, Asteraceae, Haloragaceae).