Skip to content


Botany is the study of plants. In 1853, Australia’s first Herbarium, or plant library, was opened at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.

This herbarium now holds 1.43 million dried plant specimens. This collection includes some of the most precious specimens: those collected by Joseph Banks in 1788.

Joseph Banks was a naturalist on board Captain Cook’s ship, the HMS Endeavour. Alongside the naturalist Daniel Solander, they collected 132 species of plants while the Endeavour was anchored in Botany Bay. Sydney Parkinson was the illustrator on board the Endeavour and drew many botanical illustrations of the plants collected.

Today, the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney holds 833 of the 30,000 plant specimens collected on the entire voyage including those from Botany Bay. The most famous of the specimens collected in Botany Bay is Banksia serrata commonly known as old man banksia.

Plant specimens

A plant specimen is a pressed and dried plant sample preserved for future scientific reference and research. Learn how to do this yourself here.

Botanical illustration

Botanical illustration is more about science than art. When a botanical illustrator draws a plant, they must focus on creating a very accurate drawing of the plant. Before photography was invented, botanical illustrations helped scientists understand plants. These types of illustrations are still needed today as they can show many parts of the plant at the same time.

Meet Catherine Wardrop, a botanical Illustrator at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney:

Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education

Who was Margaret Flockton?  Catherine Wardrop explains her significance to the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney:

The Store - The New Online Destination for Australian Design

Activities - Botany

1. Sample collection

Collect a sample of a plant and press and dry it to create your own plant specimen. Identify the botanical name to record on your herbarium pressing.

2. Draw

Draw a botanical illustration of your specimen.

3. Cracking the code

Examine the beautiful botanical illustrations below. Use them to crack the code on the interactive activity which follows?

1  -   4  OF   26

4. Facts

Once you crack the code and uncover the mystery, find out three interesting facts about it.

5. Secret messages

Create your own mystery message using the code and see if your friends can crack it.