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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Australian National Botanic Gardens celebrates 50 golden years

With the Australian National Botanic Gardens turning 50 this month, the significant milestone serves as a reminder to reflect on the Gardens’ rich history and look forward to the bright future awaiting it.

Established as Australia’s first solely native botanic gardens, it remains the only one of its kind in the country to this day.

“It’s not common in the world for botanic gardens to represent national flora only,” said the Gardens’ Executive Director, Dr Judy West.

Dr West explained the Gardens were designed primarily as a scientific institution, with the location on Black Mountain alongside the CSIRO and ANU a “very deliberate decision”.

“We’ve maintained that scientific basis of the Gardens along the lines of knowing that we know where the plants in the gardens are from,” she said.

“They’re also linked to seeds in our long-term seedbank, which allows for conservation research on threatened species.”

In 2015, a masterplan for the Gardens was established, which primarily looked at infrastructure and gave thought to its evolution over the next 20 years.

The two biggest major infrastructure items for development under the masterplan include a new National Seedbank and the new Ian Potter National Conservatory, with construction set to start on both projects in 2021.

Dr West said the seedbank will be important for the Gardens from a scientific point of view, given a number of new technologies, such as cryostorage, will be built into the design.

“It’s very timely to be developing new seedbank … it’s a major excitement for us and it will change the way we do that work and be a more efficient way for us to run.

“We’re currently in two demountables and a caretaker’s cottage … the seeds are very safe, but space is cramped and reaching capacity.”

The conservatory will be set in an architecturally stunning glass box and will allow the Gardens to display a host of native tropical plants right here in Canberra, including flora all the way from Far North Queensland, Kakadu and Christmas Island.

“It will feature a lot of plants, things people won’t ever get to see in their lifetime in the wild,” Dr West said.

“It’s going to be pretty spectacular; it’s already won architectural awards without being built.

“It’s a development phase for us that’s going to be very intense but a great way to go,” Dr West said. “We’re hoping it will be a major attraction for Canberra.”

To celebrate the milestone, Gardens staff had planned a host of events to run over the course of 2020, however most had been cancelled.

workers planting trees in the sun
Staff have just finished planting a new Banksia Garden as part of the Gardens’ 50th anniversary celebrations.

Since reopening in May following a hail and smoke interrupted start of the year and then a COVID mandated closure, Dr West said they’ve noticed a significant uptick in visitation, with a lot of Canberrans “rediscovering the Gardens”.

“It offers people a safe way to be healthy and look after their wellbeing,” she said.

“Currently the Gardens are looking fantastic and the amount of flowering is pretty amazing.

“I think the rain we’ve had has helped with the plants looking happy – even ones stripped during the hail storm are looking healthy.”

Dr West said visitation has steadily built up to the point that for the month of September they were only down 5% year-on-year for visitation.

“We usually get a lot of interstate and international visitors so it’s great that Canberrans are supporting us and coming to see us,” she said.

Australian National Botanic Gardens

This content was created in partnership with the Australian National Botanic Gardens. For more information on sponsored partnerships, click here.