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Journeys : Feb March 2011
46 February / March 2011 In Tasmania today From the Gardens I can travel vicariously to all corners of Tasmania and beyond. For example, I can reach as far as Tasmania’s far f lung protectorate Macquarie Island by taking a short walk from my office and entering the nearby Subantarctic Plant House where memories of a 1999 trip to Macquarie Island and the New Zealand subantarctic islands are instantly tr iggered. A visit to the RTBG’s Tasmanian section can transport me to most parts of the island. For instance, it gives me the opportunity to re-acquaint myself w ith the Mount Read Huon pine and to remember the absolute awe on the faces of staff from the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, who, though they had collected plants from all over the world, were str uggling to comprehend the scale and age of the extraordinary vegetal entity spread out over the mountainside before them. The Mount Read Huon pine covers over a hectare and is essentially a single male clone that scientific evidence indicates has been reproducing itself on this site for at least 10,500 years and probably for much longer than that. I can’t look at the Mount Read Huon pine without thinking about another of Tasmania’s ‘Methuselah’ plants. Accompanied by two botanists, I’ve been to the remote location where Lomatia tasmanica or King’s holly was first discovered by the legendar y pioneer of the Southwest wilderness, Deny King. Grow ing not too far from his tin mining operation and within sight of Tasmania’s r ugged south coast, King’s holly is a ster ile shrub and like the Mount Read Huon pine it’s another clonal oddity. The population currently numbers around 500 plants and based on fossil evidence it has been sur viving in this location for at least 43,600 years. The RTBG’s plants of Lomatia are held in the nursery where RTBG staff continue to investigate ways to propagate and cultivate this challenging plant. Another plant that I always closely associate with its location in the wild is the Davies wax flower Phebalium daviesii. I was lucky enough to play a very small role in its rediscovery after it had been on the extinction list for 50 years. I’ve been back several times to the short section of riverbank north of St Helens where it was first rediscovered as a population of around 40 individuals. That population has since dwindled to fewer than twenty plants but for tunately the RTBG holds a collection of most of the original plants. That collection has been used to produce over 35,000 seeds, now held in long-term storage in the RTBG’s Tasmanian Seed Conser vation Centre and being used to research the Previous page: Isophysis tasmanica (Tasmanian purplestar). This page: Lomatia tasmanica in the RTBG Nursery; Collecting Rhodanthe anthemoides. Opposite page, clockwise from top left: Quiet corner near the convict-built Eardley-Wilmot wall; Tasmanian Section at the RTBG; Mount Read Huon pine copse; Alpine sand dune system at Lake Augusta, Central Plateau MargotWhiteJamesWood
Apr May 2011