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The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden turns 25

On 1 November the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah celebrated 25 years as a public garden with a special event for staff and volunteers, past and present, hosted by Trust Executive Director Professor David Mabberley and Trust Chairman Ken Boundy.

Special recognition was given to staff who have served at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden for 20 years or more including senior ranger Eric Brocken; horticulturists Keith Henley, Jenny Lewis and Greg Martin; office manager Sandra Richards; and horticultural labourer Chris Stead.

The Garden was opened to the public for the first time on 1 November 1987, having been donated by Alfred and Effie Brunet to the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust in 1972. The Garden has a long and interesting history. Known until recently as Mount Tomah Botanic Garden, the original owners of the land were the local Darug Aboriginal people. It is thought that Tomah is the Darug word for tree fern. In 1804 the naturalist and explorer George Caley was the first European to visit Fern Tree Hill, now Mount Tomah. In 1823 Archibald Bell, with Aboriginal guides, found the route across the northern Blue Mountains now known as Bells Line of Road. He was followed later that year by botanist Allan Cunningham (Superintendent of the Royal Botanic Garden 1837/1838).

The first land grant in the area was made in 1830 to Susannah Bowen. The property was subsequently used for dairying and resting paddocks for cattle. Three sawmills also operated at separate locations, milling coachwood (Ceratopetalum apetalum), sassafras (Doryphora sassafras) and brown barrel (Eucalyptus fastigata). These species still dominate the rainforest sections of the mountain.

The French-born horticulturist Alfred Brunet and his Australian wife Effie acquired the property at Mount Tomah in 1934. It was in the early 1960s that the Brunets proposed that their land at Mount Tomah should be donated to become an annex of the Royal Botanic Garden. They presented the land for the Garden in 1972. With State and Commonwealth Bicentennial funds for development, the Garden opened to the public on 1 November 1987.

The Garden has grown substantially since then, providing opportunity for new business ventures and visitor experiences. Since 1993 the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden has also included 186 hectares of stunning sandstone woodland and gullies. In 2008, with the generous support of John and Libby Fairfax, the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust purchased the remaining 33 hectares of the Jungle area adjacent to the Garden, which is now home to the Lady Nancy Fairfax walk and the Jungle Lodge accommodation. And in 2010, the World Heritage Exhibition Centre was completed, providing interpretation of this beautiful region to visitors.

An International Peer Review in 2011 recognised the Garden as an outstanding botanic garden, a tribute to the hard work of staff, some of whom have been involved with the Garden since its opening in 1987 and many of whom have worked at the Garden for decades. 

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