Skip to content

The Botany of Botany Bay

Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander visited Botany Bay on board the Endeavour with James Cook in 1770 and were amazed by the botanical wonderland that greeted them. Find out more about the people, plants and places of that historic voyage. 

Plants, vegetation, geography, country: the landscape and its unique flora are all major elements in Australia's story. For Aboriginal people and the European explorers who came to this area in the 18th century, plants are integral to the telling of the story of Australia.

European collectors came to Australia and collected specimens near the Swan River in Western Australia in 1697 (Dutchman Willem de Vlamingh) and on the north-western coast of Western Australia (English buccaneer William Dampier) in 1699. Serious European botanical exploration began in the 18th century with the arrival of the Endeavour in April 1770, commanded by Lieutenant James Cook, to what is now called Kamay Botany Bay National Park. During the 8 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. 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.

Go to the Kamay Botany Bay National Park website for more information about visiting the area. 


Benson, D and Eldershaw, G. (2005). Naturalizing non-local native trees at Botany Bay: The long-term impact of historical plantingsEcological Management and Restoration 6 (3):163 - 171.

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 KurnellCunninghamia 10 (1):113 - 137.

These pages were prepared by Doug Benson, Louisa Murray, Linn Linn Lee and Karen Wilson in 2006 with funding from the Friends of the Gardens.
The pages were updated by Louisa Murray, Andrew Orme, Shelley James and
Amelia Martyn Yenson in 2017.

We would like to acknowledge the Cadigal people of the Eora Nation within Sydney and pay our respect to Elders past, present and future.