Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Interesting Botany Bay plants and their connections with the Endeavour visit

These plant species were amongst those collected or noted at Botany Bay in 1770 by the botanists Banks and Solander or by Cook himself. The young Joseph Banks was very impressed with the diversity of the flora he found. Two hundred years later, many of the species still grow in the small bushland reserves around the Bay, but some have disappeared as their habitat has been gradually destroyed by the urban and industrial expansion of Sydney.


Acacia_suaveolens Acacia suaveolens, Sweet Wattle, is a relatively short-lived slender shrub with angular branches. It is common in heath on sandstone and its pale yellow flowers would have been obvious to Banks and Solander in April-May 1770. It is still common in remaining areas of heath around Botany Bay.  herbarium specimen
Acacia_terminalis Acacia terminalis subsp. terminalis, Sunshine Wattle, is a shrub with bipinnate leaves and hairy branchlets, found in heath and woodland. Its natural distribution is restricted to sandy country between Botany Bay and Sydney Harbour, and it is listed as rare and threatened. It does not occur naturally on the Kurnell peninsula, where it is replaced by subspecies longiaxialis.
herbarium specimen
Avicennia_marina Cook describes mangroves about the head of the harbour. The Grey Mangrove, Avicennia marina, is an important part of the vegetation of Towra Point and the Georges and Cooks River estuaries today.  
Banksia_serrata Banksia serrata, Old Man Banksia or Saw Banksia, is probably the iconic plant for Botany Bay. It was named in 1781 by the son of Linnaeus, the great Swedish botanist, to honour Banks. He also described Banksia integrifolia and Banksia ericifolia from the Botany Bay collections of Banks and Solander.  herbarium specimen
Banksia_ericifolia Banksia ericifolia is a common autumn-flowering Banksia collected by Banks and Solander. It is still common in remaining areas of heath and woodland around Botany Bay.  herbarium specimen
Bauera_rubioides Some species collected by Banks and Solander have narrow habitat requirements and so provide evidence for their collecting in particular areas around Botany Bay. Their specimens of Bauera capitata and Bauera rubioides are likely to have been collected at La Perouse. Neither species has ever been recoded from Kurnell. Unfortunately Bauera capitiata is now exinct in the Sydney area.  
B_pilosa The collection of Bidens pilosa by Banks and Solander at Botany Bay is a most surprising record. This species, known commonly as Cobbler's Peg or Pitchforks, is widespread in disturbed sites in eastern Australia and is currently regarded as a species introduced from South America. However, this specimen from Botany Bay in 1770 suggests that it is a pre-European occurrence. herbarium specimen
B_nobilis Blandfordia nobilis, the Christmas Bell, normally flowers between September and February so Parkinson, the botanical artist on the Endeavour, was lucky to get a flower to draw at the end of April. The plants once grew in swamps around Botany Bay, habitats that have mostly been destroyed by suburban spread.   
Casuarina_glauca No specimen of Casuarina glauca, Swamp Oak, was apparently collected at Botany Bay in 1770 but Cook described two sorts of timber tree growing there: One grows tall and strait something like Pines, the wood of this is hard and Ponderous and something of the nature of American live oaks, and is evidently Casuarina glauca. It would have been common along the foreshores, and in low-lying estuarine areas, and is still common around Towra Point today.  
Angophora_costata Cook lumped all the eucalypts together: Altho wood [for fuel] is here in great plenty yet there is very little variety, the largest trees are as large or larger than our oaks in England and grows a good deal like them and yields a redish gum, the wood itself is heavy hard and black like Lignum Vitae. Specimens of both Corymbia gummifera and Angophora costata, the common gum trees at Botany Bay were collected by Banks and Solander. herbarium specimen
Epacris_longifolia Epacris longiflora, the Native Fuchsia, is an open, straggling shrub with striking red tubular flowers with white lobes, flowering August-April. It grows in sandstone heath, and was once a common sight on rocky sandstone outcrops close to Sydney. It is now less common owing to loss of habitat to housing. It was a popular decorative motif in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  herbarium specimen
Isopogon_anemonifolius Species collected in 1770 and since recorded as occurring at La Perouse, but not Kurnell, are Isopogon anemonifolius (pictured), Lambertia formosa, Leucopogon virgatus, Stackhousia viminea, Utricularia biloba and Schoenus paludosus. These species are likely to have been collected from Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub vegetation that is restricted to sand deposits on the northern side of Botany Bay, particularly between Botany and La Perouse. For example, on 4 May 1770, Banks is ashore on the NW side of the bay, where we went a good way into the countrey which in this place is very sandy and resembles something our Moors in England, as no trees grow upon it but every thing is coverd with a thin brush of plants about as high as the knees. This was probably the Eastern Suburbs Banksia scrub near Botany.   
Lambertia_formosa Lambertia formosa Mountain Devil or Honey Flower, is a long-lived shrub with sharp-pointed leaves, found in Eastern Suburbs Banksia scrub on sand and heath on sandstone. It has distinctive red tubular flowers with copious nectar and has hard woody fruits with a short beak and two horns giving a 'mountain devil' appearance. It is still common at Kurnell and La Perouse.  herbarium specimen
L_australis The Cabbage Palm, Livistona australis, was not collected by Banks and Solander, but Cook mentions seeing steps cut by the Aborigines for climbing in many of the trees especially the palms, on the first excursion from the landing site. Livistona australis would have grown in moist sheltered gullies along the coast, and was common around Sydney Harbour. herbarium specimen
M_communis Cook mentions seeing several palm trees at Botany Bay, which were presumably the Cabbage Palm and the palm-like cycad Macrozamia communis. The cycad seeds were eaten by the Aboriginal people after treating them to remove poisons. herbarium specimen
L_laevigatum_fruit Leptospermum laevigatum is a common species with distinctive fruit capsules found in coastal heath around Botany Bay and was collected by Banks and Solander. The German botanist Joseph Gaertner, who was particularly interested in fruit shapes, visited Banks in 1788. This led to Botany Bay specimens, or illustrations based on them, being used by Gaertner as Type specimens for a number of species including Corymbia gummifera, Leptospermum arachnoides, Leptospermum laevigatum, Leptospermum squarrosum, Angophora costata, Melaleuca armillaris, Melaleuca nodosa, Syzygium paniculatum and Philydrum lanuginosum. herbarium specimen
Melaleuca_quinquenervia The paperbark tree Melaleuca quinquenervia is currently regarded as reaching its southern geographical limit at Botany Bay but there is no confirmed specimen amongst Banks and Solander's collections from Botany Bay (though it was collected by them in Queensland). As they collected three other Melaleuca species at Botany Bay, and this one is likely to have been fruiting in April - May, its omission is a surprise. Plants now at Kurnell may perhaps have been subsequently planted. DNA testing is needed to confirm this.  
P_esculentum Pteridium esculentum, Bracken Fern, is a tough fern with stiff, glossy, dark green fronds spreading by long creeping rhizomes on sand, clay and sandstone soils in a range of habitats in woodland forest and heath. Banks and Solander would doubtless have recognised its similarity to the closely related bracken of Europe.
herbarium specimen
Syzygium_paniculatum Banks and Solander found also several trees which bore fruit of the Jambosa kind, much in colour and shape resembling cherries, writes Banks of presumably the Lilly Pilly Syzygium paniculatum. This was brought back by Solander after the excursion to the Head of the Bay. Presumably this had not been seen at the Kurnell landing place although it still grows in the Towra Point part of Botany Bay.  
Tetragonia_tetragonioides Tetragonia tetragonioides, New Zealand Spinach, is a shoreline plant. It was not collected by Banks and Solander as a specimen but, rather, for eating: We had with it [sting-ray tripe] a dish of the leaves of tetragonia cornuta boild, which eat as well as spinage or very near it.  
viola-banksii-photo-Virginia-Bear Viola banksii was named in honour of Banks in 2003. It was only recently recognised as a species separate from Viola hederacea, in which it had previously been included. It was collected by Banks and Solander at Botany Bay but the drawings prepared for Banks' Florilegium were not published until 1980. Recent specimens collected from plants still growing near Cooks Stream at the Kurnell landing place were used as the Type. herbarium specimen