Spring in Australia

If there’s one thing better than fall in the USA, it would have to be spring in Australia! October saw this second year Fellow travel home to Australia to attend the Botanic Gardens Australia New Zealand Conference (BGANZ), do some research for my thesis, and recharge my Aussie accent.

I am researching how Australian and United States Botanic Gardens are planning to manage their living plant collections in the face of water shortage. The Curators of the Australian gardens I interviewed for this research were very generous with their time, offering plenty of insights into how they are planning for the challenges associated with climate change and competition for water. I was really impressed with the level of planning that some gardens have already undertaken, and in particular the holistic approach they are taking to this immense botanical challenge.

Albury Botanic Gardens is distinguished by its collection of Australian subtropical trees, including the dome-shaped Araucaria bidwillii, the Bunya Bunya Pine from Queensland.

Albury Botanic Gardens is distinguished by its collection of Australian subtropical trees, including the dome-shaped Araucaria bidwillii, the Bunya Bunya Pine, from Queensland. I traveled to this delightful regional garden as part of my thesis research.

The BGANZ Conference presentations ranged from an entertaining and informative session on social media communication, to the unveiling of a new ex-situ plant conservation partnership among southern New South Wales botanic gardens.

BGANZ Conference was hosted by Wollongong Botanic Gardens

BGANZ Conference was hosted by Wollongong Botanic Gardens

BGANZ had considerately elected to hold most of their conference across the road from the ridiculously scenic North Wollongong Beach. But just in case we got sick of seeing too many Norfolk Island Pines and ocean views, the conference moved to the Illawarra Escarpment for a day in the rainforest, a move the plant geeks (i.e. just about everyone) definitely approved.

Australia has its fair share of of Southern conifers, particularly the Araucarias and Podocarps. Many New South Wales are fringed with Norfolk Island Pines, Araucaria heterophylla

Australia is a home to many southern hemisphere conifers such as the Araucarias and Podocarps. Many New South Wales beaches, like North Wollongong, are fringed with Norfolk Island Pines, Araucaria heterophylla.

‘Plant Geek Day’ started with a visit to the Wollongong Botanic Garden, then on to Mt. Keira for Conference workshops at the Scout Camp.

The view north of Wollongong from Mount Keira.

The view north of Wollongong from Mount Keira.

Some of the Escarpment’s remarkable subtropical rainforest can be seen on the slopes of Mt. Keira, where we were lucky to see the native Illawarra Flame Trees (Brachychiton acerifolius) in full flower.

The brilliant scarlet flowers of the Illawarra Flame Tree light up the rainforests of the Escarpment.

The brilliant scarlet flowers of the Illawarra Flame Tree, Brachychiton acerifolius, light up the rainforests of the Escarpment.

And because too much plant geek action is barely enough, the day ended with a visit to the Illawarra Grevillea Park, with its fabulous collection of Grevilleas and other unique Australian plants.

Conference delegates were like the proverbial kids in a candy store when they were let loose at the Illawarra Grevillea Park

Conference delegates were like the proverbial kids in a candy store when they were let loose at the Illawarra Grevillea Park

I also presented a conference session on different approaches to community engagement and caught up with plenty of colleagues from ‘down under’ botanic gardens. My visit back home was over way too soon, and before I knew it, it was time for that 10,000 mile trip back to the USA. Farewell Australia, I’ll see you again soon!