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The Botany Bay plant specimens

Banks and Solander had certainly collected enthusiastically at Botany Bay. On 3 May Banks reported: Our collection of plants was now grown so immensly large that it was necessary that some extraordinary care should be taken of them least they should spoil in the books. I therefore devoted this day to that business and carried all the drying paper, near 200 Quires of which the larger part was full, ashore and spreading them upon a sail in the sun kept them in this manner exposd the whole day, often turning them and sometimes turning the Quires in which were plants inside out.

Despite this, the very next day Banks was back again collecting in the bush: May 4th  Myself in the woods botanizing as usual…

A definitive list of the plants collected at Botany Bay in 1770 was never formally published but we have been able to put together a Banks and Solander species list based on material in the British Museum and at the National Herbarium of NSW. We have also compiled plant species lists (below) for the other places of interest in Botany Bay, based on fieldwork in those areas.

The Banks and Solander specimens were not all collected at Kurnell. The naturalists made excursions to different parts of Botany Bay and the habitat of some species indicates they were likely to have been collected from the La Perouse side of the Bay, or from the western side. Many of the species collected in 1770 can still be seen growing wild in bushland around the Bay. Some species are still common, but others are now extinct in the area.

Acacia longifolia subsp. sophorae, Coastal Wattle, is common on sandstone heath and sand dunes. Its pale yellow flowers would have been obvious to Banks and Solander in April-May 1770.

Actinotus helianthi, Flannel Flower, was collected by Banks and Solander on their expedition. The taller form is now found along the Yena track, while a shorter form occurs on windswept heaths.

Angophora costata, the Sydney Red Gum or Smooth-Barked Apple, is a common gum tree around Botany Bay and was collected by Banks and Solander.

Bark of Angophora costata, the Sydney Red Gum or Smooth-Barked Apple. In his journal, Cook lumped all trees together: "Altho wood is here in great plenty yet there is very little variety..."

The Wallum banksia, Banksia aemula, is a characteristic species of the Eastern Suburbs banksia scrub. This image is from the Jennifer Street boardwalk at La Perouse.

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.

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 Linneaus, the great Swedish botanist, to honour Banks.

Bark of Banksia serrata, Old Man or Saw Banksia.

Immature inflorescence of Banksia serrata, Old Man or Saw Banksia.

Cook mentions seeing several palm trees at Botany Bay, which were presumably this Cabbage Tree Palm Livistona australis, which grows in moist sheltered gullies around Sydney Harbour.

Allocasuarina distyla, Sheoak. Cook described two sorts of timber tree growing at Botany Bay: "One grows tall and strait something like Pines..."

The coastal vegetation over sandstone clifftops still supports a rich and diverse flora that impressed Banks and Solander in 1770.

The Native Fuchsia, Epacris longiflora, has striking tubular red flowers with white lobes. Once common on sandstone heath, it was a popular decorative motif in the 19th and early 20th century.

Actinotus helianthi, Flannel Flower, a short form found on the windswept coastal sandstone heaths.

Hardenbergia violacea, a widespread climber, was collected by Banks and Solander on their expedition.

Hibbertia scandens was collected by Banks and Solander. This is the largest-flowered Hibbertia species.

Immature inflorescence of Xylomelum pyriforme, Woody Pear.

Mountain Devil or Honey Flower. Lambertia formosa is a long-lived shrub with sharp pointed leaves, with common names derived from the copious nectar and the hard woody fruits with two 'horns'.

Leptospermum laevigatum is a common species found in coastal heath. Collected by Banks and Solander, these specimens and illustrations based on them, were used as Type specimens.

The distinctive fruit capsules of Leptospermum laevigatum. German botanist Joseph Gaertner was particularly interested in fruit shapes and visited Banks in 1788.

Lomandra longifolia, Spiny-headed Mat-rush, is a widespread perennial herb collected by Banks and Solander. Image: Herve Saquet.

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.

There were three species of Melaleuca collected at Botany Bay, though plants now found at Kurnell may have been planted.

Persoonia lanceolata was collected by Banks and Solander on their expedition. Geebung fruits were Aboriginal food plants.

Bracken fern, Pteridium esculentum, is a tough fern with glossy green fronds. Banks and Solander would have doubtless recognised its similarity to the closely related bracken of Europe.

Ricinocarpos pinifolius, Wedding Bush, is a coastal shrub and was collected by Banks and Solander.

Bark of Scribbly Gum. Cook lumped all the eucalypts together "...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..."

Viola banksii was named in honour of Banks in 2003, having been recognised as a separate species from Viola hederacea. This species still grows near Cooks Stream at Kurnell.

The delicate flower of Viola banksii, a species collected by Banks and Solander at Botany Bay. The drawings prepared for Banks' Florilegium were not published until 1980.

Warrigal greens or New Zealand spinach, Tetragonia tetragonioides, was collected for eating: "...a dish of the leaves of tetragona cornuta boild, which eat as well as spinage or very near it".

Westringia fruticosa, Coastal Rosemary, is a shrub of sea and harbour foreshores. It is also commonly cultivated.

Xylomelum pyriforme, Woody Pear, was collected by Banks and Solander in 1770.

Woollsia pungens is a shrub of sandstone heath and coastal dunes collected by Banks and Solander.

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