Tiny flower to play big part in promoting subtropical botanic garden

In real life the flower of the rather officiously named Phyllanthus sp. (Bulburin P.I. Forster+ PIF16034) is only a few millimetres across. Considerably enlarged and slightly simplified, its image will soon grace every sign and pamphlet produced by the Tondoon Botanic Gardens.

On the weekend I was in the not so far north of Queensland, just outside the city of Gladstone, where Tondoon celebrated its 25th birthday by holding a Family Fun Day. With me was Costa Georgiadis (host of Gardening Australia) and these guys in their crazy outfits.

Costa talked (and talked - he does it well), dug and planted. I spoke about the greatest botanic garden in the world at their celebratory dinner on Saturday night and then about three pretty darn good botanic gardens (Melbourne, Sydney and Kew) at the public event on Sunday.

The botanic garden's architect, Lawrie Smith, couldn't make it there for the weekend, but Neil Kershaw, Manager of Parks and Environment in the garden's early years, joined Councillors, long-serving Friends and other business leaders at the dinner. Current Mayor of Gladstone, Councillor Gail Sellers, attended both days, as did hard-working and long-serving volunteers (justly acknowledged at the dinner).

Brent Braddick, Curator of the botanic garden since its public opening (which incidentally was about 25 years after its inception) was keeping a watchful eye all weekend. Brent is a keen collector of plants and a highly accomplished propagator. According to Helen Paulsen, Manager of Parks and Environment for the Gladstone Regional Council (and no-nonsense advocate for greening the city), Brent achieves enviable strike rates for difficult to propagate plants such as cycads and grass trees. This is Brent working while Costa works the crowd!

So far Brent has introduced 1500 species into the 83 hectare garden, with 3000 collections represented in the Norm Gibson Herbarium. While the focus is on the local Port Curtis flora there are plants from all the way up to the tropical far north.

The Bulburin Phyllanthus, from the Boyne Range south-west of Gladstone, is just one of Brent's favourites. He has a nursery full of fascinating local plants and we were lucky enough to have guided tour with not only Brent but also Bill McDonald, coauthor (with my friend and previous colleague in Sydney, Gwen Harden) of some clever guides to rainforest plants. This is Bill in the botanic garden.

And this is the not yet formally named Phyllanthus sp. (Bulburin P.I. Forster+ PIF16034). It forms thickets of plants resembling Sacred Bamboo (Nandina domestica) in stature, with separate male and female plants. The flowers and fruits are rather difficult to photograph, particularly in the forest shadow where they like to grow.

So if you are in town, in Gladstone (or Happy Rock as one of the locals called it), take a look at this youngish botanic garden. Already you can enjoy a huge range of fascinating tropical and subtropical plants, as well as some of the northern animal life (yes mosquitoes but also beautiful blue butterflies, bush turkeys and, I gather, some long, thin reptiles). And then there are the stunning views across the lake or through the subtropical forests. With 100,000 visits a year it's doing very nicely for a regional botanic garden.

Thanks to Heather Congram (Visitor Services Officer, Function Coordinator and plenty of other things on the day) for superb organising skills as well as some additional information for this post.


Anonymous said…
What a beautiful article written by a facinating man .I attended the talk on the Botanical Gdn. on the day."Toondoon" is a great Native Gdns.Well done??
[Paula a later pioneer!!]
Tim Entwisle said…
Lovely feedback, thank you!