Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

The Botany of Botany Bay

People, Plants and Places

Plants, vegetation, geography, country: the landscape and its unique flora is a major element in Australia's story. Some plant specimens were collected near the Swan River in Western Australia in 1697 by Dutchman Willem de Vlamingh and on the north-western coast of Western Australia by the English buccaneer William Dampier in 1699, but the age of serious European botanical exploration began in the 18th century. For Australia, it began in 1770, at Botany Bay.

About 10 km south of Sydney Harbour lies the broad expanse of Botany Bay. Here, in April 1770, the Endeavour, commanded by Lieutenant James Cook, anchored and the first Europeans landed on the east coast of Australia. During the eight day visit, Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, the naturalists (for it was a scientific exploring expedition) encountered an unusually large number of previously unknown plants. First named Stingray Bay by Cook, he later changed the name to Botany Bay, in recognition of this new and impressive flora.
Here you can explore the botany of Botany Bay through the historical accounts, the specimens collected and the landscape today. We emphasise plant species that were amongst those collected or noted at Botany Bay in 1770. The young Joseph Banks spent much of his time 'in the woods botanising as usual', and was very impressed with the diversity of the flora.

Two hundred years later you can still see the descendants of many of those plant species in the small bushland reserves around the Bay, though others have disappeared as their habitat has been destroyed by Sydney's continuing urban and industrial expansion.

So explore the botany of  Botany Bay through its people, plants and places

The Botany Bay National Park website has more information about visiting the area.

The Botany of Botany Bay webpages were prepared by Doug Benson (text, research), Louisa Murray (text, photos), Linn Linn Lee (technical support, photos) and Karen Wilson (coordination) in 2006. Essential funding for the project was provided by the Friends of The Gardens.

Recent research findings

Benson, D and Eldershaw, G. (2005). Naturalizating non-local native trees at Botany Bay: The long-term impact of historical plantings. Ecological Management and Restoration 6(3) pp 163 - 171. (pdf file)

Benson, D and Eldershaw, G. (2007). Backdrop to encounter: the 1770 landscape of Botany Bay, the plants collected by Banks and Solander and rehabilitation of natural vegetation at Kurnell. Cunninghamia 10(1) pp 113 - 137. (pdf file)





Sydney’s Bushland. More than meets the eye.
by Jocelyn Howell & Doug Benson

Now available at the special reduced price of $15.00 
Click here to purchase from the NSW Govt. Online Bookshop.

This book takes you back before the age of the dinosaurs to glimpse the forces that shaped the Sydney bushland scene.  It brings you up to date to join scientists in discovering some of the surprises Sydney’s bushland plants have in store. Beautifully illustrated with a wealth of colour photographs covering the different types Sydney’s vegetation, including bushland ecology and walks around Sydney.

128 pages/Soft cover/180mm x 250mm/ISBN 0 7313 9342 2