Visit to the south west of Western Australia
Between the 13th August and the 29th September, 1994
By Wolfgang Bopp
The first two weeks were spent visiting different organisations in order to establish contacts and learn about their work involving the flora of Western Australia. Amongst those organisations were the Department of Agriculture, where Dr. Alison Fuss explained their involvement with the cut flower industry and Curtin University, which are also involved in the breeding and trialing of new species and cultivars for the cut flower trade and other commercial interests. With the University of Western Australia, Wolfgang was able to join a three day field trip to collect Boronia megastigma samples. This species is used as a cut flower and more importantly the oil, produced by the flowers, is used for perfumes and cosmetics. The U.W.A. hopes to identify the highest yielding genotypes and introduce those into cultivation and thereby taking the pressure off the remaining natural populations of this plant, which is found in some wetlands of the extreme south west.
Wolfgang was also invited to visit a rehabilitation site of the Alcoa Ltd. Corporation. an aluminium mining company. It was interesting to see how an open cast mining site can be turned into a semi-natural woodland (forest) by using direct seeding techniques. The company is presently using more than 60 tree and shrub species for this work, all of which are of the right provenance origin.
The second part of the scholarship time was spent travelling the south west of the state to see the different vegetation types and, in particular, to study and collect Drosera. Wolfgang travelled north to Kalbarri National Park and then south via Southern Cross to the Fitzgerald National Park, returning to Perth via Mt. Barker. This enabled him to see the vegetation of the Southern and Northern Sandplains, the Wheatbelt, Transitional Woodland, Albany District, Stirling Range and the Jarrah and Karri Forest. All these are home to different species of sundews, many of which are endemic to relatively small areas. Wolfgang is extremely grateful to Dr. Neville Marchant, Acting Director of the Western Australian Herbarium, who enabled him to make more than 90 herbarium specimen collections for the Western Australian Herbarium. Duplicates of this material have been donated by the W.A. Herbarium to Kew and also to the University of Reading, which also received D.N.A. samples to facilitate further research and promote a closer collaboration between Reading University, the Western Australian Herbarium and The University of Adelaide.
On his travels, Wolfgang visited several National Parks. These play an important part in conserving the landscape and the flora and fauna within it, especially in the south west where development, farming and mining have been a constant pressure on the land. As each National Park has its own habitats, which are often not found anywhere else, the monitoring of the flora and fauna within these Parks is vital and most are therefore in the process of building their own herbaria, to which, whenever possible, a duplicate of Wolfgang’s collection has been added.
Towards the end of the stay in Western Australia, Wolfgang visited Nindethana Seed Service, a seed company near Mt. Barker who offer seeds of about 3,000 Australian taxa. In view of the planned new Australian House Display at Kew, Peter Luscombe, the company owner, has offered to provide seed for trials in support of this project.
Wolfgang would like to thank the Kew Guild for the support which enabled him to visit this unique country.