History of the Queensland Herbarium
- Early explorers
- The first colonial botanist
- A State Herbarium is established
- Economic botany
- Biodiversity and conservation
1. Early explorers
Naturalists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander accompanied Lieutenant James Cook in the HMS Endeavour on Cook's voyage to Australia. They collected more than 1000 Australian plant samples on this trip, many from around the present-day Cooktown where the ships company were forced to stay while repairs where made. Banks bequeathed the use of his specimens to his then librarian, Robert Brown. Duplicate specimens of 200 collections are now housed at the Queensland Herbarium.
In 1801, Robert Brown set sail with Matthew Flinders on the Investigator, on an expedition to survey the unknown parts of Australia's coastline. When he finally returned to England in 1805 he brought with him specimens of 3,200 different species of plants. The Queensland Herbarium now houses 577 duplicate specimens of these collections. During his lifetime, Brown described more than 1000 Queensland species as new.
Allan Cunningham arrived in Sydney in 1816 as His Majesty's botanical collector. Although primarily a botanist, he also became an explorer. He accompanied Oxley on the Brisbane River in 1824 and lead expeditions in south-eastern Queensland in 1827, 1828 and 1829. The Queensland Herbarium is now home to 307 specimens collected by Cunningham.
Ludwig Leichhardt came to Australia in 1841 and in 1844 he set off on his successful and historic expedition to Port Essington in the Northern Territory. His collection from the journey (estimated as more than 4,000 specimens) had to be abandoned and were thus lost to science. However, botanical specimens from earlier and later expeditions survived and 13 of these are now part of the Queensland Herbarium collection.
Ferdinand Mueller emigrated from Germany and became Government Botanist of Victoria in 1853. He was instrumental in the collection and classification of a vast number of plant species throughout Australia and New Guinea and described hundreds of new genera and species for Queensland. Mueller collected thousands of specimens on his journeys, and 261 of Mueller's specimens reside at the Queensland Herbarium.
Amalie Dietrich was born in Germany and learned scientific collection of specimens from her naturalist husband. In 1861 she was employed by J. Godeffroy of Hamburg to spend 10 years in Australia making natural history collections for his private museum. Amalie Dietrich collected thousands of plant specimens, mostly from the Brisbane area. Duplicates of 228 collections are now part of the Queensland Herbarium collections.
2. The first colonial botanist
In 1855, Walter Hill was appointed Superintendent of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, and when Queensland became a separate colony in 1859, Hill became Queensland Colonial Botanist as well as Director of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens. Hill was interested primarily in the introduction of economic plants such as sugarcane but he also collected more than 1000 native plant specimens from many parts of the State, some of these together with Ferdinand Mueller. However, he was unable to establish a working herbarium of specimens in Brisbane due to the poor state of the Gardens' buildings, and only 8 of his specimens are now held in the Queensland Herbarium collections.
3. A State Herbarium is established
Frederick Manson Bailey, author of The Queensland Flora (1899-1902)
Frederick Manson Bailey immigrated to Adelaide, Australia in 1839. Bailey left Adelaide in 1858 and went to New Zealand but returned to Australia and arrived in Brisbane in 1861. Bailey was appointed Acting Curator of the Queensland Museum in 1880 and Colonial Botanist in 1881. He retired in 1902 but was re-appointed on half pay and continued to work until his death in 1915. He was a prolific collector of plants, with more than 5000 of his collections housed at the Queensland Herbarium. His most significant work was the seven volume The Queensland Flora (1899-1902).
Cyril Tenison White joined his grandfather F.M. Bailey as pupil assistant at the Queensland Herbarium in 1905. In 1918 he was appointed Government Botanist, a position he filled with great distinction until his untimely death in 1950. He was principally responsible for developing the Queensland Herbarium as a public institution, setting up networks of collectors and established exchanges with other herbaria. White contributed more than 15,000 specimens to the Queensland Herbarium.
4. Economic botany
William Douglas Francis succeeded C.T. White as Government Botanist of Queensland in 1950, a position he held till his retirement in 1954. He had already published his authoritative work Australian Rainforest Trees and was particularly interested in poisonous plants by this time. This interest was continued by Selwyn Everist and culminated in the publication of Everist's Poisonous Plants of Australia, still the definitive work in its field.
The current specialisation in grass taxonomy at the Queensland Herbarium can be traced back to the visit by Dr Charles Hubbard from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in 1930. Hubbard had a very inspiring influence on Dr Stanley Blake, who continued in the study of Australian grasses for many years after Hubbard's visit. Today, this research is continued by Bryan Simon.
Weeds became an area of focus when Dr Robert Johnson became the Director in 1978. From a background in brigalow control and vegetation ecology, Dr Johnson, along with Harry Kleinschmidt, documented Queensland's weed species and their control in the comprehensive Weeds of Queensland. Weeds continue to be an issue today, as an ever growing threat to biodiversity.
5. Biodiversity and conservation
As a result of the Flora of Australia project, many new species were described for Queensland in the 1980's. Other major works of the time were Les Pedley's Acacias of Queensland and the three volumes of The Flora of South-eastern Queensland by Trevor Stanley and Estelle Ross. Documenting Queensland's plant biodiversity was always the fundamental work of the Herbarium and this took on a new impetus with the shift of the Herbarium to the department of Environment and Heritage in 1992. Dr Gordon Guymer became director in 1994 and documenting and mapping of species and vegetation for the purpose of conservation and sustainable management became a core role of the Queensland Herbarium.