Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia


Understanding, protecting and restoring plant biodiversity and habitats

Conservation collections well managed and accessible

Plant collecting

The Friends of The Gardens committed to funding a three-year plant diversity program for the living and preserved collections, and for scientific research. This year over 400 species of rainforest trees were collected in northern New South Wales for the Herbarium and the Trust’s DNA tissue banks. These will form the basis for studies assessing changes in vegetation communities in response to past environmental changes, so that we can better predict the impacts of current climate change on today’s rainforests. Further locations in New South Wales, interstate and in neighbouring countries in the Asia- Pacific region have been identified to collect plants for displays in the Gardens, as well as contributing to the Herbarium and the NSW Seedbank.

Lord Howe Island seeds

Until recently there was one NSW botanical subdivision missing from our seedbank collection: Lord Howe Island. With over 200 plant species, including 45 per cent endemics, Lord Howe Island is home to an important part of the State’s flora. In early May, 47 collections were made, with more than half being endemics. These species will be stored in both the NSW Seedbank and the UK Millennium Seedbank. The Lord Howe Island flora also includes many fleshyfruited rainforest species, and seed of 15 species were collected for assessment of desiccation tolerance in the Rainforest Seed Project.

Splitting Banksia

A re-arrangement of the Proteaceae section of the Herbarium allowed for changes in the taxonomy of Banksia and Dryandra that have occurred over the past year. Researchers in Western Australia and the USA, using a range of data sets (particularly molecular data), have shown that species in the genus Dryandra should all be included in Banksia and consequently all Dryandra species should be reclassified and renamed as Banksia species. While this change has been accepted by the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, it has not been universally accepted by all Dryandra and Banksia enthusiasts. The Herbarium rearrangement will assist in acceptance of the scientifically more informative classification, and in promoting its acceptance in research and education programs.

New palms

The Sydney Palm Grove has been extensively damaged in recent years by thousands of flying-foxes roosting in the heritage trees, but subject to approval the flying-foxes should be relocated in 2010. The Trust has entered into an agreement with the Palm and Cycad Society of Australia to provide the Trust with specialist plant advice and sources of rare palm species for the restoration of the Grove (flying-fox issue reported elsewhere in this annual report).


Work on the Trust’s on-line plant information service, PlantNET, was boosted by additional funding and two temporary positions, which allowed for a comprehensive update of taxonomic and distribution data as well as a review of the site’s functionality to improve accessibility.


In response to threats such as accelerated global warming and loss of biodiversity, the Trust is creating PlantBank, a research and education facility at Mount Annan Botanic Garden. PlantBank will be a world leader in conservation research and education on the remarkable plant species found in Australia. At the heart of this initiative will be the NSW Seedbank, which currently holds the largest collection of Australian native seed in Australia and is amongst the foremost native seedbanks in the world. This valuable collection, estimated at more than $18M to recollect, holds almost 10,000 collections from across Australia, including 37 per cent of NSW seedbearing plants and over 30 per cent of NSW threatened plant species.

With the financial support of the Friends of The Gardens and NSW Treasury, a complete business case, functional brief and concept designs for the proposed centre have been prepared and a funding strategy is in place.

PlantBank will significantly accelerate scientific knowledge, particularly in relation to the challenges brought about by environmental change. It will also be a stimulating public and student education facility. The new green-rated building will itself be a teaching facility and will also house an open interactive space and a small conference facility.

Accurate and timely scientific information disseminated to government, professionals and the community

Atlas of Living Australia

Science and Public Programs Director Dr Brett Summerell was appointed to represent the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria on the Management Committee for the Atlas of Living Australia project. The Atlas is a Commonwealth funded project that will catalogue all biodiversity information, such as that in PlantNET and Australia’s Virtual Herbarium, to create an integrated map of data as a useful tool for research, policy and education.

NSW vegetation classification and assessment database

Senior Plant Ecologist Dr John Benson has been working on the NSW Vegetation Classification and Assessment database for over 10 years. A third paper on this project has been published, describing 135 plant communities in the NSW southwestern slopes bioregion, one of the most degraded bioregions in Australia. The database classifies the vegetation of NSW into plant communities based on the best existing data and extensive field checking. This is used for environmental assessment and ecosystem management, and is being incorporated into decision support tools under NSW regulations.

Plants may not adapt

In the largest study of its kind, Senior Principal Research Scientist Dr Peter Weston and co-workers found that most plant species don’t have the capacity to adapt to the dramatic changes predicted for the world’s vegetation. The study suggests that as habitats shrink, many plant species will have trouble adapting and surviving, resulting in extinctions and loss of biodiversity. The study included over 11,000 plants species across six continental landmasses: Africa, Madagascar, Australia-New Guinea, New Caledonia, New Zealand and South America - equivalent to an estimated 15 per cent of the total plant life of these regions. The study was published in the prestigious science journal Nature.

Fostering and delivering scientific innovation in plant sciences

DNA barcode network

Trust scientists contributed to a major funding proposal submitted to the Australian Government for DNA Barcoding of all forms of biota in the Australian environment. Work is continuing with scientists at University of Adelaide, James Cook University and Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne to develop proposals for funding from the Australian Research Council for plants that will form the Australian component of ‘TreeBOL’, an initiative to DNA barcode all of the trees in the world, led by New York Botanical Garden. The metaphorical barcode - a short sequence of DNA unique to each species - will make the day-to-day work of identifying and studying new species a whole lot easier and could initiate the creation of a handheld ‘scanner’ that could be used to quickly identify species.

Orchid conservation research

A large number of NSW terrestrial orchids are currently threatened and some species require ex situ conservation to aid their recovery. As a fungal association is needed for these orchids to germinate, ex situ conservation also requires the conservation of the fungal partners. Research at Mount Annan Botanic Garden, funded by the Hermon Slade Foundation, the Slade Orchid Fund and the Millennium Seedbank Project, has developed a procedure for obtaining seed and fungal symbionts that has been successfully used to germinate five threatened orchids (Diuris arenaria, D. flavescens, D. tricolor, Pterostylis gibbosa and P. saxicola) and several more common species.

In addition to this work, a technique that enables the storage of the orchid seed and fungi together in small beads of sodium alginate (a seaweed extract) has also been tested. Experiments have shown that these beads may be stored for at least two years without affecting the ability of either the seed or fungus to germinate. The technique has been successfully tested on four threatened species - Pterostylis saxicola, Diuris arenaria, D. flavescens and D. tricolor - and the seedlings have been grown-on for possible use in future recovery programs.

Promoting the importance of plants in natural and cultural

High quality school education and public programs delivered on and off site

School programs

The Trust’s school education program is well known and respected in all State and private schools in New South Wales. Several new lessons were added to the program this year, including ‘Sense-ability’ and ‘Threatened Habitats: Rainforests’ and two new maths-related lessons created for Year 8 and Year 10 students at Mount Tomah Botanic Garden. A new lesson using sounds of the alphabet, called ‘B is Botanic and G is for Garden’, was also introduced for kindergarten classes.

Year 11 ‘Australian Biota’ lessons continued, in partnership with Taronga Zoo and the Australian Museum. Students from the Central West region of New South Wales took part in sessions held at Western Plains Zoo. This unique workshop is popular with teachers, as experts cover a whole topic in one day.

The Trust sponsored The Premier’s Year 11 Karl Cramp Debating Challenge, hosting the finals series and devising a list of environmental issues for student debate.

The recently acquired ‘Jungle’ annexe of Mount Tomah Botanic Garden proved to be an ideal location for rainforest classes, while the school program at Mount Annan Botanic Garden included senior science tours of the Seedbank and an annual visit by students from Koshigaya, a sister city of Campbelltown City Council, who participated in Australian cultural training at the Garden.

Beyond the walls

An educational collaboration with the Art Gallery of New South Wales resulted in a series of events to complement their blockbuster exhibition ‘Monet and the Impressionists’. Some 300 students took part in ‘Viewing the Gardens through Monet’s Eyes’ lessons at the Royal Botanic Gardens, while a ‘Monet and the Gardens’ teachers’ enrichment day was well attended. Over 400 children took part in the ‘Monet for Kids’ Artin- the-Gardens school holiday program, and Dr Tim Entwisle presented a talk on water lilies and other botanical links to Monet’s paintings as part of the ‘Art After Hours’ series.

Darwin’s birthday

To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth in February 2009, the Trust joined with the Australian Museum to host a lively dinner debate entitled ‘Dining with Darwin’, where a panel of experts discussed adaptation, extinction and climate change. The event was covered by The Daily Telegraph with a two-page spread featuring articles by the participants. Further celebrations included installing a spectacular interpretive sculpture in the Myrtales Bed of Royal Botanic Gardens. The launch was celebrated with cupcakes (decorated with the letters of Darwin’s name) by over 200 staff, volunteers, Friends and members of the public, and received media coverage in Australia, Germany and the UK. The artwork features the musings of our own scientists on evolution and science, alongside those of their more famous counterparts, etched into mirrored letters spelling out DARWIN.

Young minds

The International Year of the Potato was celebrated with a holiday program at the Royal Botanic Gardens ‘Spuds4Kids Harvest’. Other holiday themes included ‘Woccan-ma-gule Weaving’, focussing on Aboriginal culture, including music and weaving at the Royal Botanic Gardens, ‘Charlie D and the Great Seed Mystery’ and ‘Easter Totally Eggscellent Craft’ at Mount Tomah Botanic Garden. A new activity for children launched at the Royal Botanic Gardens was well patronised. ‘Dandy Lions: Wild Things in the Gardens’, provided gardening and craft activities, storytelling, play and music for children aged up to five-years-old.

The Trust established an educational alliance with the Early Childhood Environmental Education Network (ECEEN), which strives to promote and support education for sustainability in early childhood communities. The link is timely as it complements the new ‘Dandy Lions’ community program and lessons related to the early childhood curriculum.

Community education

Mount Annan Botanic Garden’s community programs included twilight ‘Wallaby Wander’ tours, historic canal presentations to local interest groups, and evening presentations about Aboriginal culture, the environment and local history. Education staff conducted a socialisation program for Beverley Park SPP for children with serious disabilities, and provided plant donations and advice to the Liverpool Autism Advisory Service and Thomas Reddall High School autism support group.

Public programs for adults included Sogetsu Ikebana displays and workshops, a series of botanical illustration classes, and a Sydney Writers’ Festival evening with Roger McDonald discussing his topical novel Mr Darwin’s Shooter.

In collaboration with DECC Sustainability Programs Division, International Compost Awareness Week was celebrated in May at the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Big Ideas Garden at Mount Annan Botanic Garden. Volunteer Guides led sustainability walks for participants from Waverley and Willoughby Councils, DECC employees and the general public.

Sydney’s Volunteer Guides extended their ‘Talk and Walk’ Series to include Saturday presentations. The first walk, ‘Bravo for Bromeliads’, was successful in attracting 30 paying participants. Other themed walks presented by the Volunteer Guides at the Royal Botanic Gardens included ‘Fabaceae’, ‘Bamboos’, ‘Native Fruits and Nuts’, ‘Hibiscus and Hollyhocks’, ‘Camellias’ and ‘Allan Cunningham: Explorer and Collector’.

Partnership education programs in the urban and regional environment

Greening the community

The Trust’s Community Greening program is an educational partnership with the NSW Department of Housing and corporate sponsor Eden Gardens and Garden Centre. This year Community Greening and Youth Community Greening programs reached a combined total of over 9,000 participants in community gardening projects and disadvantaged schools. Several new social housing communal gardening projects were initiated and a number of new schools were introduced to the Youth Community Greening program.

The launching of Youth Community Greening, an offspring of Community Greening, helped more young people experience the joys of gardening as they created environmentally sound gardens at NSW schools and within community housing developments. The Trust is grateful to individual benefactors and the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation for providing four years funding for this initiative. Within its first year of operation the number of schools involved in communal gardening projects doubled, indicating the real need for such a program. Students involved in the program come from the most disadvantaged schools in the State — where a high percentage of the student population lives in social housing. Youth Community Greening also identifies youth previously involved in Community Greening gardening projects and gives them additional training and learning opportunities.

A Community Greening DVD was launched to promote these outreach programs and to motivate tenants and youth to participate in establishing new communal gardening projects. The DVD features gardeners from four different garden projects as well as TV celebrity chef Ed Halmagyi, who volunteered to be the host and voiceover. Community Greening and Youth Community Greening gardens will also feature in a 10-part program filmed for SBS Television, showcasing the community, personal and environmental benefits of gardening.

The Community Greening program expanded to include gardening projects in the Hunter and Illawarra regions and the Central Coast. Through the Housing NSW Landscape Traineeship program, new produce garden plots were developed at the Holroyd Community Garden, an extension of the Ambrose Community Nursery at Rosemeadow, and a previously discontinued project in Woolloomooloo was resurrected. A presentation on Community Greening to participants at the Environmental Volunteering Forum resulted in enquiries from several councils and local government organisations regarding involvement.

Sustainable living

The Macarthur Centre for Sustainable Living held an Spring Open Day in September, attracting nearly 900 visitors interested in organic gardening, ecohomes and green products. Youth Community Greening staff conducted activities for children and the Centre’s Board members, staff and volunteers led tours of the site and provided information.

Gardening skills

Eden Education, the Trust’s outreach partnership program at Eden Gardens and Garden Centre, provided a range of program topics including caring for lawns, rainwater harvesting, landscape design, modern Australian native garden design, and soft stone sculpture. Gardening skills courses were expanded to include the first Gardening Skills III course, which included a three-hour session at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Eden Gardens is expanding its business and similar education initiatives are being developed in new premises acquired in Brisbane and Mount Eliza in Victoria.

Protecting our heritage

Excellence in horticulture and maintenance of built assets and landscapes


Grey-headed Flying-foxes began settling in the Palm Grove of the Royal Botanic Gardens in 1989, nearly 70 years after they had last been seen at the site. Over the last two decades the camp has grown in size from a few hundred to a peak of 22,000, resulting in extensive damage to a landscape of great historical, scientific and cultural value. At least a dozen trees have already been lost and another 40 are at risk of severe damage or death. Palms and understorey plants have also been damaged or killed.

In an effort to reduce damage to heritage trees, the Trust has been using non-destructive measures to deter the flying-foxes from roosting in specific trees. This year the Trust applied for a licence to disturb the colony for the purpose of relocation, as required under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act and the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. The proposal was assessed by the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC) as being unlikely to significantly affect threatened species and issued the Trust with a Section 95 (2) certificate with conditions. The Commonwealth Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and Arts (DEWHA), however, determined that the relocation will have an impact on a threatened species and provided guidelines for the development of a Public Environment Report, which the Trust is now preparing.

If approval is granted, the relocation must take place during May to July to minimise the impact on the flying-fox breeding cycle. The Trust is using the additional time for further research and monitoring of camps in the Sydney area. Although further tree losses are expected, the Trust is hopeful it can restore much of the Palm Grove landscape if the relocation is approved for 2010.

Sea walls

The historic Woolloomooloo Seawall was originally built in the late 1870s to provide pedestrian access to the foreshore. Constructed using blocks of local sandstone, the seawall has been repaired several times over the past 125 years as it has deteriorated through exposure to wave action and weathering, while the adjacent path showed signs of subsidence.

A stretch of approximately 400 metres of the seawall and path from Mrs Macquaries Chair south to Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool were rebuilt using a faux sandstone aggregate. Surface drainage and the stormwater system were also improved to help prevent future damage.

The three islands in the Main Pond in the Royal Botanic Gardens were restored and replanted. An additional course of sandstone was constructed and existing walls repaired. The extra wall height will help prevent damage to the islands from anticipated rising sea levels and tidal activity. Improved drainage and soil replacement has allowed for a Victorian era plant palate to be developed, replacing the heritage palm collection that had been destroyed by nesting ibis. This $150,000 project was mostly funded through external donations.

Secure water supply

Mount Annan Botanic Garden received a four-star rating in Sydney Water’s Every Drop Counts business program, the highest rating for water management yet awarded to a government organisation. The award recognises Mount Annan’s use of innovative technologies.

The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain are two of Sydney’s iconic gardens and parklands with significant plant collections displayed in a 19th century designed landscape. The water supply to maintain these two estates is drawn from Sydney’s drinking water supply. The Trust recognises the need to develop a non-potable water supply to keep these wonderful living assets alive and growing into the future and will continue to seek alternative water supplies through either harvesting stormwater or recycling waste water. Both sources of alternative water are being investigated and will require significant funding to complete feasibility studies, design and documentation, business cases and construction works.

Weed control

In south-western Sydney, invasive weeds, particularly African Olive, are threatening the long-term viability of fragmented and endangered bushland. At Mount Annan Botanic Garden, community bush regeneration volunteers have been working with Trust staff over the past 10 years to control weeds in valuable remnants of the endangered plant community, Cumberland Plain Woodland.

This program has resulted already in the regeneration of 37 hectares of native woodland, providing habitat for a variety of fauna including swamp wallabies and wallaroos. These areas of woodlands are now some of the finest regional examples of Cumberland Plain Woodland, and are an integral part of the visitor experience at Mount Annan Botanic Garden.

The efforts of bush regeneration volunteers will be boosted over the next five years with the Trust signing a landmark Memorandum of Understanding with Integral Energy and Landcom to relocate power poles  in Mount Annan Botanic Garden and provide funding for the African Olive control program. The project will also contribute to the Trust’s research program on African Olive control, and include techniques to re-establish endangered plant communities such as Western Sydney Dry Rainforest and Cumberland Plain Woodland.

Connecting gardens

The Connections Garden is being developed on the site of the old Terrace Garden at Mount Annan, a 4.5-hectare hillside reshaped into a series of terraces displaying the evolution of Australian native plants. This Garden will be a roofless museum made up of rooms and corridors, vistas and open spaces that will entice visitors to discover and explore the interconnectedness of humans and the natural world. It is intended to give visitors the chance to ‘connect’ with plants.

Stage one, the Water Garden, was completed in 2005. Last year work was completed on stage two above the ‘Room with a View’ installation, interpreting the drying of Australia in recent geological times. This year, the water course has been extended and plant evolution timing interpreted to scale. The new rare and endangered garden bed has been made possible through the generous support of Dorothy and Alex Robertson.

What’s the big idea

The Bottlebrush Garden at Mount Annan has been redesigned to be more relevant to home gardeners. ‘What’s the Big Idea’ will display Australian plants that are available through garden centres and explain sustainability principles such as mulching and composting, worm farming, fertilising, and how to use recycled or sustainable materials. Part of the Big Idea Garden includes a water-wise garden that demonstrates water efficiency in the home garden using water tanks, drip irrigation and an array of beautiful water-wise native plants commonly available in local nurseries.

In keeping with its resource-saving theme, this project is being completed on a minimal budget, using recycled products. Financial support for development of this garden has been provided by HSBC through their ‘Towards Sustainable Horticulture’ program, with additional support from Ramm Botanicals and Neutrog Fertiliser.


A wildlife survey established the number and distribution of reptile species at Mount Annan Botanic Garden and also recorded sightings of Latham’s Snipe (Gallinago hardwickii). Feral animal numbers, particularly of rabbits and hares, have also been rapidly growing. After intensive training and OHS planning, spring night culls reduced the total feral population by approximately 170. Mount Tomah Botanic Garden is home to Red Bellied Black Snakes, Eastern Tiger Snakes, Brown Snakes and Diamond Pythons, some of which have become acclimatised to the presence of visitors to the Garden. Staff completed a WIRES snake handling refresher course and have relocated a number of snakes into the conservation area.

The Jungle

The Governor, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir, accompanied by the Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, the Hon. Carmel Tebbut MP, opened the Lady (Nancy) Fairfax Walk at The Jungle on 23 March, the 80th Anniversary of the original opening. The path system links the botanic garden to the 1929 track system through the rainforest in the newly acquired property, and features interpretive signs describing the property’s history, as well as the flora and fauna of the rainforest.

World heritage

State and Federal Government funding was confirmed for a World Heritage Exhibition Centre at Mount Tomah Botanic Garden. The centre will showcase and interpret this world heritage, and the underpinning natural and cultural values of the Greater Blue Mountains. New landscaping will feature iconic plants of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, such as the Wollemi Pine, and will link the Garden’s living collection to the interpretation inside. The Centre is expected to open in 2010.

Sustainable turf in the mountains

Mount Tomah Botanic Garden is working toward growing a more sustainable, yet high quality turf. Over 2,400 square metres of turf was replaced with a Tall Fescue and Kentucky Blue Grass blend, which monitoring has revealed uses 30 per cent less water than the old turf. This new blend is also tougher wearing and drought tolerant, will be more resistant to Red Thread fungal disease and will better suppress creeping oxalis and other weeds, so reducing maintenance labour and costs.

Mapping trees

The Friends of The Gardens funded stage two of a tree mapping project at Mount Tomah Botanic Garden. Some 300 specimens of Eucalyptus fastigata (Brown Barrel) were surveyed and their locations mapped. An arboricultural assessment of the health, size and characteristics of each tree was used to calculate the safe useful life expectancy of each tree; the information used to manage risk to visitors and staff. Over 4,000 trees on the estate have now been mapped and added to the Trust’s Collections Management System. The information will also be included in the ‘Trees on the Web’ tool, currently under development.

Work with Aboriginal communities to commemorate the significance of our botanic estates

The Trust is committed to employing Aboriginal people to interpret their own culture and to provide an Indigenous perspective of the environment for visitors. The Trust employs a full-time Aboriginal education officer and engages several Indigenous educators on a casual basis for program delivery at all three botanic estates. More than 6,000 participants joined Aboriginal heritage tours and Indigenous themed lessons on Trust estates this year. This included over 1,000 visitors joining paid guided tours in the Royal Botanic Gardens, exploring the rich Aboriginal heritage of the site and experiencing traditional music, dance and artefacts, as well as being given the opportunity to taste bush foods.

Trust Aboriginal education officers conducted tours of the Royal Botanic Gardens, focussing on Indigenous heritage of the site, for staff participating in Department-wide Aboriginal cultural awareness training. Most Trust staff participated in this training during the year.

To acknowledge the Indigenous (Dharawal) inhabitants of the area that includes Mount Annan Botanic Garden, Dharawal names are being identified for key Cumberland Plain Woodland species to be included on labels and walking trails information at the Garden.

Thanks to the generous support of Ms Elizabeth Mooney and CBD Rotary, a local artist from La Perouse Aboriginal community has been engaged to create a sculpture from the dead remains of a specimen of Eucalyptus tereticornis - the ‘supermarket tree’ - in the Royal Botanic Gardens. Mr Glen Timbery will carve a depiction of local ancestral people into the tree.

New conservation partnership

On World Environment Day, HSBC Australia announced a three-year commitment as the Trust’s principal conservation partner - its largest ever environmental initiative in Australia. To celebrate the occasion, Executive Director Dr Tim Entwisle teamed up with Stuart Davis, Chief Executive Officer of HSBC Australia to address staff at the Bank’s head office in Sydney. At the same time, branded seed pots were distributed nationally in HSBC offices to promote the partnership and to encourage staff to get planting.

This partnership will provide valuable funding towards the Trust’s ‘Protecting Plants for the Future’ conservation program, contributing to the NSW Seedbank’s partnership with the UK Millennium Seedbank, supporting the Asia-Pacific Capacity Building Program (see Appendix C), and aiding Trust initiatives to demonstrate sustainable horticulture. HSBC Australia’s commitment to the Botanic Gardens Trust forms part of its global strategy to tackle climate change, investing in the Trust’s environmental projects to benefit future generations.

Sustainably managing our botanic gardens and parklands for visitors

Events, exhibitions and functions managed successfully

World Youth Day

The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain played a crucial role in the staging of World Youth Day in July 2008, which attracted 223,000 registered pilgrims, including 110,000 from 170 nations, making it the largest event ever hosted in Australia.

Pope Benedict’s cruise on Sydney Harbour and motorcade through the city was probably the biggest and most complex event of the World Youth Day schedule. The Pope’s official motorcade forced the closure of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Art Gallery Road, the Domain, Hospital Road and surrounds. Mrs Macquaries Point was one of the best vantage points for families to view the Pope’s flotilla on the Harbour, as the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain were accessible only to pilgrims.

The Domain became a stage during the Stations of the Cross re-enactment, which was also watched on large screens at live sites in the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain.

Australia Day

Approximately 1,000 people attended the Woggan-ma-gule Morning Ceremony in the Royal Botanic Gardens, marking the official start of Australia Day festivities. Around 50 Aboriginal dancers and performers, including many children from different Aboriginal language groups, commemorated the occasion. This is the 5th year of the ceremony, which continues to grow in attendance and significance.

Art in the Gardens

Artist-in-Residence Associate Professor Emma Robertson, from the University of New South Wales, ended her 2008 residency at the Royal Botanic Gardens with an exhibition entitled ‘Ascendant and Descendant’ in the Herbarium’s Red Box Gallery.

Friends of the Botanic Gardens sponsored the 2009 Margaret Flockton Award for botanical Illustration with the generous support of the Maple- Brown Family. Now in its sixth year, the competition attracted a record number of entries with 27 artists submitting 40 works. This year’s award went to South African botanical illustrator and field botanist Sandra Burrows and her illustration of Asparagus elephantinus.

The first Florilegium exhibition was launched in September by Jill Hickson and comprised 15 exceptional paintings. All works are of plants growing in the three estates and are donated to the Trust by the artists, including the copyright, so that the images can be used as seen fit by the Trust.


Open Air Cinema used 100 per cent accredited GreenPower during its most successful season yet. Summer events in the Phillip precinct have now used 100 per cent GreenPower for two seasons.

Mount Annan Botanic Garden

AnnanRoma is Mount Annan Botanic Garden’s premier annual event. Now in its third year, this food and wine event is a little different in that its primary aim is to promote restaurants from the Macarthur region. This year crowds exceeded 2,000 people and with growing support from the local food producers, this is sure to continue to grow in notoriety and success.

A first for Mount Annan Botanic Garden this year was ‘Aussies under the Stars’, a celebration of Australian cinema. Over 1,800 people enjoyed a summer’s night in January watching ‘The Man from Snowy River’. The event’s success has guaranteed it a place in Mount Annan’s annual event calendar.

Carols in the Garden at Mount Annan Botanic Garden, sponsored by Landcom, has become a regional calendar entry for Camden, Campbelltown and Wollondilly local government areas. This annual event showcases local talent and this year attracted approximately 6,500 visitors.

Mount Annan Botanic Garden also hosted the annual Campbelltown City Challenge Walk in March. Run by the local council, the event attracted approximately 2,500 people who either competed in a 12 kilometre walking race, or took a more leisurely stroll around the south circuit of the Garden.

Mount Tomah Botanic Garden

Mount Tomah Botanic Garden, in partnership with the Zig Zag Railway, secured funding from Tourism NSW to develop a new children’s event called Wizard’s Weekends, building on the success of the Zig Zag Railway’s Wizard’s Express Days. Children made wizard’s hats and wands in a ‘magic’ workshop before taking a Wizard’s Quest through the Garden. Five days were earmarked throughout the autumn, winter and spring months with bookings exceeding expectations.

Two photographic exhibitions were staged this year. ‘Hard Rain’ showcased mankind’s collision with nature, encouraging visitors to think about the impact we have on our planet. This exhibition was brought out from the UK collectively by a number of Australian botanic gardens and featured at Mount Annan Botanic Garden last year. ‘25 Years of World Heritage in Australia’ exhibition captured the rich and diverse natural and cultural attributes of our listed sites and is particularly pertinent with the building this year of the World Heritage Centre at the Garden.

Mount Tomah Botanic Garden took part in the Winter Magic Festival at Katoomba in June, which celebrates the winter solstice with a street fair and parade. Visitors to the stall received information about the Garden, the Wollemi Pine and various facilities, functions and events held at the Garden. The Mountain Magic Showcase showed the beauty of the Garden in winter, with a display of local artist’s ethereal works in the visitor centre.

The Wild about Waratahs Festival culminated in the awarding of winner’s prize packs for guessing the number of blooms on the largest ‘Shady Lady’ within the Garden. This new initiative added interest to a very popular annual event, helping to further celebrate the State’s floral emblem and encouraging its protection in the wild. 

The Plants with Bite Carnivorous Plant Fair, held in conjunction with the Australasian Carnivorous Plant Society, aims to raise awareness of the need to protect and conserve the natural habitats of endangered plants, swamps and wetlands. This year’s fair included expert talks, plant displays and sales and guided tours of Mount Tomah’s Bog Garden. Mount Tomah’s Autumn Harvest Food and Wine Fair in May had glorious autumn weather.

Visitor facilities and services managed successfully

Annual visitation to all estates was down this year. In Sydney, venue bookings were slightly below expectation. Initially affected by the uncertainty of World Youth Day impacts, the trend continued with the effects of the global economic downturn. Expenses were curtailed to meet budget targets.

An analysis of visitation trends at Mount Annan and Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens has shown a pattern of declining visitation during the peak seasons of spring and autumn. Strategies being put into place to combat this negative trend include increasing and changing high impact seasonal plant displays, and developing alternative experiences and themes within the gardens that will help attract more repeat visitation.

Sport and recreation

There has been an overall increase in the number of casual sports bookings in the Domain, which may be attributed to growing social awareness of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. This trend is significant as it reflects the Trust’s contributing role in delivering the NSW State Plan priority of ‘More people using parks, sporting and recreational facilities and participating in the arts and cultural activity’.

Several large sports events also took place in the Domain this year, including the Nissan/BRW Corporate Triathlon (7,000 entrants and spectators) and the SMH Half Marathon (8,500 entrants). The Mothers’ Day Classic - Australia’s biggest community fundraising event for breast cancer - attracted 9,000 attendees, while the MS Walk and Fun Run had a record number of participants and teams (2,500 attendees) and raised over $710,000 to help people living with multiple sclerosis.


Campbelltown City Council, on behalf of Landcom and the Trust, applied to the Federal Government for funding of a commuter cycleway leg which would run through Mount Annan Botanic Garden. This will link to the University of Western Sydney and beyond to Macarthur Station. Longer term cycling paths are proposed to link back to the existing Camden Cycleway. Landcom will provide funding for half of the project. The original concept design by Clouston Associates will be revisited as the basis for a detailed design.

Award winning building

The coveted Royal Institute of Architecture (NSW) Sulman Award for Public Architecture, awarded to Kennedy and Associates for their Bowden Centre design at Mount Annan Botanic Garden, was unveiled by Geoff Corrigan, Member for Camden in September. The Bowden Centre was also awarded the Award for Sustainable Architecture, one of only two buildings that made a significant contribution to environmental innovation in architecture.

Entrance changes

To address safety issues raised by TMF and following advice from Jamieson Foley traffic management consultants, the entrance from Mount Annan Drive into Mount Annan Botanic Garden now has a clearly marked pedestrian and cycle lane on both sides with each linked to separate pedestrian gates and paths. Mount Annan Botanic Garden ran a trial one-day-a-week free early morning opening over the 24 weeks of daylight savings to encourage healthy exercise. The trial was successful, and free early morning opening will run again from 1 December 2009 to 26 February 2010 to balance benefits with the cost.

Weddings in the mountains

Increased focus on building weddings and function bookings through attending wedding expos, developing a web presence and providing individual attention to each booking, resulted in a much higher enquiry rate and an increase in bookings and associated revenue at Mount Tomah Botanic Garden.

New children’s garden

The Guulya Garri Dilya (Laughing Children’s Garden) project to provide children’s spaces in Mount Tomah Botanic Garden was launched by the Minister for Climate Change through the Breen Sculpture Competition. Generously supported by Tom Breen, Managing Director of Breen Holdings Pty Ltd, the competition for the first garden attracted 64 entries and was won by Glen Manning and Kathy Daly with their entry Pod Pod. The winner received a $20,000 award, and further funds will be provided for fabricating the sculpture and for installation and landscaping.

The Garden will be created around the sculpture, providing a space for children to explore nature. The name not only instils a sense of anticipation of fun times and laughter in children, but has also been chosen for its link to the traditional owners of Mount Tomah, the Darug. In their language Guulya Garri Dilya means laughing children. Funded by the estate of the late Josephine Swane, a detailed design was completed for an Adventure Playground at Mount Annan Botanic Garden. An application for Federal funding support to build the garden has been submitted.

A concept masterplan has also been drafted for a Sydney Children’s Garden, which is proposed for the Royal Botanic Gardens. 


The bright red fruit or drupe and sculpted seed of the Sweet Quandong (Santalum acuminatum), a small tree or shrub distributed through woodlands of western New South Wales. The fruit is said to have commercial value for growing in arid areas.



Yellow Box (Eucalyptus melliodora) - Blakely’s Red Gum (E. blakelyi) tall woodland, on flats near Forbes on the NSW South Western Slopes. This woodland type is part of the NSW and Commonwealth-listed ‘Box-Gum Grassy Woodland’ Endangered Ecological Community. The next version of the NSWVCA covers nine million hectares of the North Western Slopes and west New England regions, describing a further 200 plant communities. 




‘Dandy Lions: Wild Things in the Gardens’ is a new program for underfives.

A promotional Community Greening DVD features four communal garden projects and is hosted by celebrity chef Ed Halmagyi.


Unsustainable numbers of flying-foxeshave resulted in the loss of more than a dozen heritage trees in the Royal Botanic Gardens. at the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Peter Cuneo, Manager, Natural Heritage at Mount Annan Botanic Garden, stands within an African Olive forest. 

Staff and volunteers at Mount Annan have been working to control this invasive weed which threatens the long-term viability of remnant Cumberland Plain Woodland.


Executive Director Dr Tim Entwisle, John B. Fairfax AO, Governor of New South Wales Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir, Minister for Climate Change and the Environment the Hon. Carmel Tebbutt MP and Libby Fairfax at the opening of the Lady (Nancy) Fairfax Walk at the Jungle at Mount Tomah Botanic Garden.







Executive Director Dr Tim Entwisle addresses HSBC Australia staff, acknowledging the company’s support as the Trust’s principal conservation partner, which was announced on World Environment Day.


Artist-in-Residence for 2008, Associate Professor Emma Robertson from the University of New South Wales, explored endangered plant species and their seeds during her residency at the Royal Botanic Gardens.



The proximity of the Domain to Sydney’s central business district makes it a convenient location for lunchtime team sports, which are becoming increasingly popular as more people realise the physical and mental health benefits of exercise. 


The Bowden Centre at Mount Annan Botanic Garden was presented the 2008 Sulman Award for Public Architecture, recognising its innovative re-use of an existing demountable structure as the basis for a multifunction permanent facility. According to the judges ‘this building sits so calmly in its setting that it has a sense of inevitability’.

The centre is primarily an education facility, but is increasingly popular as a venue for family celebrations.