Kew Guild

1985, Sophieke Piebenga, Study And Work Visit To Indonesia And West Java

Study and work visit to Java, Kew Guild Award, 1984

By Sophieke Piebenga

Java is one of the largest of theca. 14,000 islands which make up the Indonesian Archipelago in S.E. Asia. It lies just south of the equator, roughly 1 ,000 km (600 miles) S.E. of Singapore. Java is about the same size as England but almost double its population. A chain of volcanic mountains run west-east across the island, dominating the landscape in many places. The average annual rainfall ranges from ca. 4,000 mm in the west to ca. 2,500 mm in the east of the island.

One day in July last year I found myself pedalling away through the sugar plantations of Central Java. Every now and then I would pass the colourful entrances to small villages which layoff the narrow and dusty road, quiet and shaded, hidden by huge bamboos and trees.

Suddenly I came across a field which was the scene of much activity, children were playing about, chewing on short sticks of sugar cane, whilst their elder relatives were busy cutting the cane and loading it onto small trolleys which, when full, would be transported on special rails to the nearby sugar factory.

Upon the sight of a foreigner the children stopped their play and ran towards me, shouting: “Hello mister, hello mister, dari mana (where do you come from)?”

I got off my bike and a simple conversation developed. After explaining that in England we didn’t have sugar cane, but yes, lots of potatoes, one bright little lad didn’t hesitate and offered me his stick of sugar, whereupon all his friends did the same. And so, after having handed out various postcards (of the Palm House of Kew, covered in snow) I cycled off, chewing my bit of cane – another experience, and several delightful pictures richer.

The above is only one of the many enjoyable and enriching moments I encountered during my stay on Java from May until September 1985. Whilst still in my second year at Kew I had already developed the idea of going to the Botanic Garden in Indonesia on a ‘student-exchange’ basis, to gain a better understanding and wider experience of tropical plants, their diversity, their environment, their uses and their conservation.

Various technical problems prevented me from going there straight after I had finished the Kew Diploma Course in September 1984 – but finally in May the following year I set off, under the banner of Kew and supported by a Kew Guild Award, to the Bogar Botanic Garden on West Java.

The Botanic Garden(87 ha) was started in 1817 by the Dutch, and as such it became responsible for the introduction and distribution in Indonesia of many economic crops like oil palm (1848), cinchona (1852) and rubber (1876). At the beginning of this century the garden was a well-known, flourishing institute where much botanical research was carried out. Unfortunately World War II, the (successful) struggle for independence (1945) and the period of economic and political instability that followed, meant that the garden got into a state of neglect.

Forty years on though, the situation is different. Since 1968 the Bogar Botanic Garden and its three satellite gardens (Cibodas, Purwodadi and Eka Karya) are part of the National Biological institute which comes under the Government controlled Institute of Science. Active research is carried out once more, mainly in ethnobotany and the conservation of genetic plant material.

Expeditions are undertaken to the far corners of the archipelago to rescue plants which are threatened by the pressures of development and exploitation of natural resources, and by the ever increasing population.

The Botanic Gardens in Indonesia are thus becoming important in the ex-situ conservation of genetic plant material, and their collections are growing rapidly.

The collection of palms at Bogar is one of the largest and best-known in the world. One of the most famous specimens is the huge oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) which is the original plant that came from Africa via Kew to Indonesia in 1848. It subsequently became the mother of all oil palms in S. E. Asia. Today it measures well over25 metres and towers above all the surrounding vegetation.

The collection of native orchids is impressive too. Many of the 920 species are epiphytic like the chocolate scented Dendrobium leonis. I was as much attracted to the terrestrial ones though, such as Calanthe triplicata with its length wise folded leaf, and the beautiful Paphiopedilum spp. like P. javanicum and P. glaucophyllum, with their fat, purple and green lady-slipper flowers.

The giant orchid Gramatophyllum speciosum, with stems up to 2.5 metres long dangling from trees and branches, is quite a sight too.

Of the other 5,000 species in the garden some of the plants which particularly caught my interest were the massive Dipterocarpus and Shorea spp. (single straight stemmed trees up t040 metres); the many Ficaceae of which the ‘waringin’ (F. benghalensis) is a well-known village tree; the beautiful specimens of Victoria regia; and a tree called Gnetum gnemon. The last one is botanically very interesting as it is regarded as the most highly specialised of the gymnosperms (compare Welwitschia and Ephedra), although its flat, green oval leaves are easily mistaken for a broad leaved tree like any other. The flattened and fried seeds are quite a delicacy in Indonesia.

A remarkable though common sight are young, often brightly coloured leaves hanging limp at the end of a branch. Their light colour contrasts strongly with the darker green of the mature leaves, and they thus give the appearance of handkerchiefs. Especially leguminous trees such as Amherstia nobilis, Cynometra ramiflora subsp. bijuga and Maniltoa spp. have these conspicuous leaf tassels.

One thing I thought I ought to suggest to Mr. Simmons is the ‘weekly work-out: every Friday at 7 a.m. all garden staff gather on one of the main lawns, and, accompanied by loud Government-composed music, a series of routine exercises start. The curator up in front, everybody jumps, stretches, bends and twists. This communal aerobic activity goes on for half an hour and is followed by glasses of warm orange squash. That’s what I call truly caring for the well-being and welfare of the staff!

I made various visits to the satellite botanic garden in Cibodas (80 ha). Only20 km from Bogor (260 m), this garden at 1 ,400 metres enjoys a much cooler climate with a temperature range from 15.0_C (min.) to 20.7C (max.). It can therefore support a collection of plants from tropical mountain areas (such as the native Rhododendron javanicum and Clerodendron spp.) and from subtropical regions (like Eucalyptus spp. from Australia).

Bordering on to the garden is a National Park of more than 1 ,200 ha. extending up to the summit of Mt. Pangrango (3,000 m) and the crater of Mt. Gede (2,950 m). Both volcanoes are covered by (sub) montane cloud forest, with trees like the coniferous Podocarpus imbricatus, and Schima wallichii (Theaceae) which in places ‘littered’ the forest floor with its white flowers.

The undergrowth is rich in Begonia spp. and among others the striking Arisaema filiforme (Araceae – recently described in the Kew Bulletin). Near a waterfall at ca. 1,675 metres on a rocky vertical wall overgrown with Sphagnum moss I saw Nepenthes gymnamphora growing healthily and abundantly.

Above 2,500 metres the vegetation becomes more sub-alpine with Vaccinium varingiaefolium as the dominant species. Parasitising on its roots, at ca. 2,800 metres, was the rare Balanophora elongata.

Near the top of Mt. Gede I saw the ‘Javanese Edelweiss’, Anaphalis javanicum, in abundance. Having been to the top (2,950 metres) three times, on two occasions in thick cloud, I can confidently say that it can be very cold, wet and miserable in the tropics!

High volcano tops like the above are unfortunately the only pockets of original vegetation left on the island of Java, which is almost completely cultivated by man.

Another National Park which comprises a range of relatively ‘untouched’ volcanoes (Bromo, Tengger, Semeru) is in East Java. These volcanoes are all still active to some extent and their poisonous fumes strongly influence the (absence in certain places, of) plant growth. The top of Mt. Semeru, at3,675 metres the highest volcano on Java, is completely bare.

Lower down there are still areas of Casuarina junghuhniana, a tree with scale-like leaves like Equisetum. This tree used to be the dominant species in the dry, semi-deciduous forest which once covered Java.

Not far from this National Park in East Java is another satellite botanic garden in Purwodadi (85 ha.). It has a much lower rainfall than the other two gardens (2,500 mm as opposed to 4,000 mm), and most of this falls between November and March.

The period from April to October is normally very dry and Purwodadi Botanic Garden has therefore been designated, relatively recently, as a garden for plants from semi-arid tropical regions. The collections are still in their first stages of development but they are taking shape gradually. The third satellite botanic garden, Eka Karya, is on Bali (an island east of Java), but unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to visit that.

Space won’t allow me to continue telling about all the other things I saw, experienced and visited – the tea plantations, the cassava fields, the sugar factories; the exotic fruit crops and spices; the flourishing orchid trade in Jakarta and Bandung; the magnificent newly laid-out landscape around the famous Borobudur temple in Central Java; and the many, many attractive and interesting tropical plants I came across.

There is no doubt that my stay on Java has given me a tremendous insight into the tropical plant world, and additionally into the functioning of another major botanic garden – it was a most enjoyable, but above all invaluable experience!


1985, Louise Bustard, Study Tour Of Cacti And Succulent Collections In Europe

Suchard, succulents and strudel, Kew Guild Award 1985

By Louise Bustard

As any cactophile will admit, once these plants penetrate your interest, you’re hooked and usually for life. I first became fascinated by Cacti and Succulents as a student at Kew and eventually spent one year out of the three working with the reserve collection. Then in September 1984 I began my new job as the person responsible for the maintenance of the reserve collection. Having spent the winter months settling in and familiarising myself with the plants and their needs, I began to realise that I had no knowledge of any other Botanic collection of Cacti and Succulents with which to compare and judge the results of my work with the collection at Kew.

To rectify this, I set off in June 1985 partly sponsored by the Kew Guild, to visit some of the best Cacti and Succulent collections in Europe. The four collections I went specifically to see were: The Palmengarten, Frankfurt, West Germany; The State Succulent Collection (Stadtische Sukkulenten-Sammlung), Zurich, Switzerland; Munich Botanic Garden, West Germany and the Bundesgarten at Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria. In an unofficial capacity I also visited Zurich Botanic Garden and the Botanic Gardens of Vienna University within the grounds of Belvedere Palace.

As gardens it would be unfair to compare them as they are all very different in their layout, functions and aims. The Palmengarten is an extremely successful combination of pleasure park and Botanic Garden, quite the best of its kind I have ever seen.

The State Succulent Collection in Zurich is for the specialist. It consists only of Cacti and Succulents and constitutes probably the best reference collection within Europe. However, it also caters more than adequately for the casual visitor. On the day of my visit a Selenicereus grandiflorus or more commonly known as “Queen of the Night”, had 19 buds ready to open that night. The gardens publicised this fact in the local newspaper and to accommodate the massive interest shown by literally hundreds of phone calls, the garden remained open until midnight to allow people to view the magnificent spectacle of this night-flowering Cactus. The devotee will discover the sin of covetousness whilst among this collection.

The Munich Botanic Garden is laid out and maintained with Germanic precision and fulfils its botanic ro1e superbly whilst also endeavouring to satisfy the horticulturist.

The gardens of Schloss Schonbrunn are as beautiful and grand as one would expect from such an historic and artistic city as Vienna. Once the home of the Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire which stretched as far a field as Mexico, this garden and its fantastic collection of hothouses are responsible for the introduction to cultivation of many plants into Europe. But if Schloss Schonbrunn is famous for just one plant it is the specimen of Fokea crispa it has cultivated for the past 200 years making it the oldest cultivated in Europe. The palace hothouses are used largely for the cultivation of houseplants but they also have a quite spectacular Cacti collection.

As a result of this two week tour I put on weight because of sampling the Strudel; felt thirsty after being plied with pretzels; discovered that German syrup waffles are different from the Dutch and realised that one should never go to Europe without a packet of Rennies.

Also as a result of the tour experiments are being undertaken at Kew to produce a compost mix with a much lower soil and peat content and a much higher solid mineral content.

Cacti and succulents are plants which people either love or hate, they are rarely viewed with indifference. By the very bizarre nature of the plants they attract interest, fascination and sometimes even revulsion, but either way they get a reaction. More than any other plants they create in the publics’ imagination a definitive environment- the desert. They are immensely popular as houseplants for, on the whole, they are easily grown. Yet, because of this popularity with both amateurs and professionals alike they are probably more endangered than almost any other group of plants. Thus, it is extremely important that a botanic collection of these plants be of the very highest quality for us to gain as much knowledge as possible about these plants before the day comes when botanic garden specimens are the only remnants of an environment and its inhabitants.

Editor’s Note: A more comprehensive report was also kindly provided but for reasons of space was not used.


1984, Malcolm Leppard, Study Tour South African Botanic Gardens

Study tour of botanic gardens, South Africa, 1984

By Malcolm Leppard, Kew Guild Award Scheme Recipient

During September and October’84 I was fortunate enough to spend six weeks on a study tour of some of South Africa’s botanic gardens travelling some 10,000 km doing so.

The purpose of my visit was to delve into most aspects of design, development, maintenance and management, but with a stronger emphasis on computerisation, visitor narrative and interpretation, staff training etc.

Due to time constraints I spent little time looking at plants as such, in any case the wealth of which would have necessitated decades not weeks.

The first stage of my journey took me from Harare, Zimbabwe, through various types of woodland, savanna woodland and tree savanna, to Mafeking via Botswana. My first impressions of South Africa were reminiscent of Australia with vast rolling plains, isolated farmsteads and plenty of large eucalyptus trees. I had expected kangaroos to bound across the landscape at any second. Towards Johannesburg the huge mining spoil heaps and abundant rubbish were all too evident. Fortunately, we were soon south at Kimberley where the diesel-electric engine was exchanged for a glorious old steam engine that puffed its way slowly across the never ending Karoo made up of short xerophytic scrub, interspersed with the occasionally flat topped hill. Those looking forward to a romantic steam locomotive ride like the ‘good old days’ were rudely awakened and brought back to reality by a carriage full of smoke and soot or incarcerated in a baking hot compartment with shuttered windows to keep out the filth.

Eventually we reached the mountains just north of the Cape. Once over this range the flora sparkled into life with verdant grass, pools of crystal water everywhere, masses of white Zantedeschia flowers, dwarf yellow and blue lupins, sprinkled with pink flamingos and dancing cranes. All along the track were orchards and vineyards that supply the luscious grapes to South Africa’s well known wine industry.

After three days and four nights I had arrived in Cape Town.

Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden nestling on the side of the famous

Table Mountain, is the ‘mother’ garden of the six regional botanic gardens dotted throughout South Africa, and is the oldest and the most popular. It, like its satellites, is run by a group of Trustees independent from the government although receiving 90% or more funding from it. Thus, luckily, they have a certain amount of autonomy come flexibility and their annual plant sale alone raises 50,000 Rand in one day for the garden.

Kirstenbosch is concerned exclusively with the flora of the summer high rainfall areas composed of no less than 20,000 species, exceedingly rich for such a small area.

South Africa is renowned for its proteas and ericas, but few were in flower during my short visit. Drawing the crowds, however, were large areas of brilliant annuals such as Dimorphotheca, Felicia etc., and beds of ‘Crane’ or ‘Paradise’ Strelitziareginae and S. juncea.

A particular feature that impressed me was the trail for the blind. It consisted of a guide rope meandering through vegetation, which was spliced to indicate every point of interest and where an informative braille notice could be found. The footpath surface varied periodically from gravel, sand, woodchips and leaf litter.

On completion of my study of Kirstenbosch I briefly looked at the Company’s Garden in the city centre. This, the first botanic garden in South Africa, began in 1652 as a supply garden for the replenishment of ships stores. It contains some very large original trees, but has been reduced to the status of a park. Before leaving Cape Town for Worcester and the Karoo Botanical Gardens, I managed a visit to the top of Table Mountain. Previously enshrouded, the clouds peeled back to provide glorious weather.

The Karoo Botanic Garden just north-east over the mountains, specialises in xerophytic plants of, you guessed it, the Karoo. Its 154 hectares containing over 500 species naturally occurring within its confines.

A riot of red, orange, and yellow flowers of Namaqualand daisies and vygies, greeted me. Most of the hectarage including the hills on the northern boundary, are treated as a reserve. Boasting a very large collection of Karroid plants it’s difficult to believe that such a number can be maintained by so few, however, I attribute this to the low rainfall of 130-200 mm: less water, fewer weeds.

It’s worth mentioning a hardscape element that 1 thought excellent, was the use of the gardens vertical, or near so, Malmesbury shale. This has been used upright in path construction making some of the best paths I’ve seen to date.

Lastly, was quite surprised to see Welwitchia flowering at the tender age of five years.

Leaving Worcester I travelled up the east coast along what is known as the ‘garden route’, to George then onto Port Elizabeth, through an amazing variety of forests, mountains, Karoo ostrich farms, sea scapes etc.: indeed a trip of startling contrasts. From Port Elizabeth I had expected the train to continue north along the coast to Durban, but oh no! We had to circumvent Transkei and Swaziland, a mere 1,500 km.

Durban Botanic Garden began in 1849 to supply produce such as vegetables and pave the way for introduction of possible economic crops. After going through a number of bad patches it was handed over to the Durban Municipality in 1913. Fairly small in size, 20 hectares, it nevertheless is quite a delightful garden with many original trees, but no longer of botanical significance. Though only run as an amenity it has attributes that could be usefully employed in other botanic gardens. I liked the lake with its architectural planting of Nelumbo nucifera and Cyperus papyrus etc., on the island weaver birds slung their pendulous nests in trees whilst white storks waded amongst an assortment of colourful waterfowl.

Two superb male specimens of Encephalartus woodii collected in 1895, still stand like sentinels over the garden.

I was pleased to meet two ex Kewites, Errol Scarr and Tony Hitchcock, both with Durban Municipality.

The next garden on my list was that of the lowveld, north-east near the border of Mozambique, at Nelspruit. The main reason for choosing this garden is that its climatic conditions are very similar to our own (Zimbabwe). Comprising of 154 ha most of it is treated as a reserve which is separated from the garden by a deep gorge of precipitous rocks containing the Crocodile River. This was impressive and has a good nature trail along its course. Opened in 1971 it concentrates on the flora of the lowveld principally South Africa’s.

Nelspruit has just purchased a computer for use as a data base, from proceeds of its plant sales to the public.

Another point worth mentioning here is the fact that by law all publications, common names on labels etc. must be in English and Afrikanse on a 50/50 basis.

Finally, I looked at Pretoria’s Botanic Garden, a 100% owned and government run: a distinct disadvantage compared to those run by the Trustees.

My main interest were the computer and garden layout which attempts to grow South Africa’s flora using Acocks system of 12 Biomes. The impossibility of trying to cultivate the flora from such diverse habitats is quite evident, however, the nursery complex is quite large and is carrying out some good work with endangered species etc.

Lastly, I should like to thank my sponsors, without whom the study tour could not have taken place. Main sponsorship was by the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust with a support grant from the Kew Guild and, at the very last moment, sufficient funds to mop up rampant inflation, by the John Wakeford Trust of Zimbabwe.


1984, Lloyd Snellgrove, Study Tour Bergen Botanic Garden & Norwegian Arboretum

Wanderings in western Norway

by D. L. Snellgrove, Kew Guild Award Scheme recipient

As a result of the Henry Idris Mathews Scholarship and a travel award from the Kew Guild I was fortunate enough this summer to be able to spend three weeks in Bergen in western Norway at Bergen Botanic Garden and the Norwegian Arboretum.

Bergen is Norway’s second largest city(after the capital Oslo) with a population of around 200,000. It lies in the south-western part of the country and compared with the rest of Norway enjoys a mild wet maritime climate. In fact soon after my arrival I was given an umbrella and quickly discovered that umbrellas are to Bergen what bicycles are to Amsterdam – essential items!

Called the “Fjord Capital” it is surrounded by countryside indented with fjords, dotted by islands and topped off with mountains. The city itself is built around seven hills and many of the older parts consist of narrow streets and wooden houses clinging to steep hillsides. Above this the hills rise to 650 metres, mostly wooded to 300 but always providing excellent recreational areas for walking, swimming and other outdoor pursuits.

The Botanic Garden, founded in 1897, is situated just south of the city centre next to the natural history museum in the University quarter. The University of Bergen is responsible for the scientific activities of both the Botanic Garden and the Arboretum. Although the garden is small and modest by our standards (0.9 hectares in size) it contains 5,000 species displayed and laid out in an attractive manner. From the small public glasshouse sited on a small hill at the south end of the garden good views are afforded over Bergen toward the wooded hills beyond.

The Norwegian Arboretum, established in 1971 as a Nordic cooperation venture, is 12 miles south-east of the city on the edge of Fanafjord. Its area of 30 hectares comprises a rugged topography with hills, rocky gorges and a small lake providing not just attractive naturalistic planting areas but also amenity and recreational potential. Walking is combined with educational nature trails and on the long shoreline there are many excellent bathing places including facilities for the disabled. Most of the arboretum consists of informal plantings, sometimes bordering on the “wild” whilst only a very small area is planted formally as one might expect in England. Various collections are grouped including Nothofagus, Rhododendron, Acer, Betula, Ilex and Asiatic and North American conifers. The Ilex are being assembled to form a decorative selection programme using plants from all over Norway.

In addition to visits to the Botanic Garden and Arboretum I took the opportunity to visit the surrounding area from which two trips in particular stand out.

The first is well known in western Norway and despite suffering from a mouthful of a name – “Norway in a nutshell” -It is a splendid scenic journey travelling about 100 miles west into the fjords and mountains. A quick itinerary is Bergen-Voss-Myrdal-Flam (all train), Flam Gudvangen (fjord steamer), Gudvangen-Voss (bus), Voss-Bergen (train).

The train leaves Bergen and is soon passing alongside fjords and small villages, hamlets and isolated farms. On the approach to Voss the train climbs and snow covered mountain tops appear. From Voss the train continues to Flam the changing point for the Flam line. Here there was some delay but bathing in the warm mountain sun only 100feetor so below glistening snow patches, who cared? The train arrived and moved off to make the most spectacular train journey I’ll probably ever make. Through the carriage window there appeared an ever changing panorama of unique scenery, snow capped mountains, thundering waterfalls and peaceful green valley meadows. A few facts and figures will emphasize this. Myrdal station lies at 865 metres and in45 minutes the train travels 12.4 miles down to Flam station on Aurlandfjord. Some of the gradients are heart stopping (the steepest is one metre in 18) and it comes as quite a relief to know that the carriages have five separate braking systems anyone of which can stop the train. From Flam a steamer is taken to Gudvangen at the head of the neighbouring Naer.0yfjord, one of the narrowest fjords in Norway. This journey was made in brilliant sunshine and only spoilt by the fact that the steamer was packed full of tourists and it’s literally standing room only. Nevertheless the majesty of sheer rock hundreds of metres high rising out of the water was on occasion enough to shut anyone up! From Gudvangen buses leave for Voss through the Naeroyvalley and then up the Stalheim curves where the road achieves gradients of one in five whilst twisting around numerous hairpin bends and where(if you’ve the courage to look) yet more awe inspiring scenery reveals itself. After all this It’s quite a relief to gently nod off to sleep on the train back to Bergen.

My second trip was to fulfil a long standing ambition to see a glacier. Here I was quite fortunate in that the Hardangerjokulen glacier is within reasonable travelling time from Bergen, being only a good hour’s walk from Finse railway station midway between Bergen and Oslo. This area lies within the newly founded national park Hardangervidda (vidda = mountain plateau), established in 1981 and encompassing an area over 3,000 sq. kms all above 1,000 metres. It is also reckoned to contain the largest wild deer population in Europe, estimated at 1 0,000 head in 1973.

Finse station at 1,222 metres is the highest railway station in Norway (it is inaccessible by road) and lies along a 60 mile section of track above the tree line on a bare and windswept plateau. Just before Finse the railway reaches 1 ,290 metres at Taugevatn, the highest point on the line where the land is largely covered by snow and any water by ice. By this time I was definitely having second thoughts. The train then stopped at Finse. Why was I the only person to get off? The rain then started to fall and it seemed especially cold and wet as a glance at the station thermometer told me it was 5C, wonderful! But then I got lucky, the rain blew away, the sun came out and in the distance the glacier dome gleamed, shone and beckoned.

So off I went, past remnants of dirty snow left from last winter’s heavy falls which still lay two metres thick in one place at the roadside. Vegetation was scarce and any plants in flower were all the more brilliant for their rarity. Yellow Compositae, some blue Geraniaceae and pink Caryophyllaceae was as far as my botanising went! But all formed handsome showpieces as I tramped towards the glacier jumping from rock to rock and crossing charging streams of fresh meltwater. With some trepidation I crossed several large crisp snowfields (my ice axe hadn’t featured in my original summer plans!) while watching a family happily ski-ing on the slopes in the summer sunshine. The edge of the glacier proved a bit of a disappointment as dirty grey fingers of ice ended in ten metre walls surrounded by a landscape of broken and barren rock in deep valleys gouged out by previous glacial advances.

Nevertheless the day spent here wandering around streams, snow and ice in perfect sunshine and almost total isolation was the most peaceful and restful day I’d spent in a long time.


1983, David Jewell, Expedition To Tasmania

Botanizing in Tasmania

By David Jewell – 1984 Thornton-Smith Scholarship holder

Tasmania, the smallest of the Australian States is a heart shaped island lying some hundred miles off the south eastern corner of the mainland. Rather less than26,000 square miles it is mountainous even though peaks only reach 5,000 feet.

On reaching the west coast the moisture laden westerly winds are forced upwards by the mountain chains, depositing much of their moisture, and in summer having a drying effect on the eastern part of the State. A marked rainfall gradient reaches up to 200 inches in the west falling to the mid twenties on the east coast. The whole of the western half of Tasmania is consistently wetter than the eastern half. Rainfall coupled with the higher average summer temperatures in the east results in marked differences in vegetation from east to west.

At the present time about 2,000 species of flowering plants are known to occur in Tasmania, either native to the state or as naturalised introductions. More than 200 native species occur naturally only within the State; that are endemic.

The vegetation has two components, the antarctic or southern oceanic flora, and the Australian type characterised by Acacia spp. and Eucalyptus spp. which Tasmania shares with the rest of South East Australia. Many plants regarded as belonging to the oceanic flora are endemic and are often confined to cold wet areas, their nearest relations occurring in similar situations in South America or New Zealand. It is believed that ancestors of these plants existed while Australia, New Zealand and South America were still joined in a southern land mass which included what is now Antarctica. The Australian flora was shared by the eastern part of mainland Australia and Tasmania during the several times these were joined, but divergence has occurred during times of separation and is still occurring.

The vegetation is constantly changing and programmes of burning off, land clearance, draining of swamps, and establishment of certain types of forest are important factors in that change. Several types of vegetation can be recognised; temperate rainforest or myrtle forest, Sclerophyll or Eucalypt forest usually divided into wet and dry Sclerophyll, mountain vegetation, coastal heath and sedgeland.

Vegetation map

Temperate Rainforests

In areas of high rainfall and suitable soils temperate rainforests are found from sea level to an altitude of 3,500 ft. The characteristic trees, NothofagusCunninghamii (myrtle) and Atherosperma moschatum (sassafras), cast a deep shade and undergrowth is often reduced to a surface cover of liverworts, mosses and lichens with scattered areas of ferns. While Nothofagus and Atherosperma are characteristic and wide-spread throughout Tasmania’s rainforests, other species are locally abundant. Athrotaxis Selaginoides (King Billy Pine) and Athrotaxis Cuppressoides (Pencil Pine) are trees of 50-100 feet in height. They may be associated with Northofagus or they may form pure stands on mountain slopes.

Where soils are acid and poor in mineral nutriments and the canopy of the rainforest becomes broken, other trees and also tall shrubs appear. Phyllocladus Aspleniifolius (celery top pine) is widespread and Eucryphia Lucida (leatherwood) locally abundant. The latter often grows to a height of 40 feet or more. In late summer their flowers may be up to 1½, inches in diameter and provide a spectacular display.

‘Laurels’, Waratahs and Heaths

The tall shrubs of these forests include a number of endemics, many characterised by showy flowers or by bright fleshy fruits. Anopteris glandulosus (native laurel, family escsllaniaceae) is a handsome shrub bearing large terminal racemes of white flowers. The proteaceae (Waratah family) and epaeridaceae (heath family) are well represented. From the latter family, two endemic species are of particular interest Richea Pandanifolia (pandani or giant grass tree) has leaves three to six feet long, hard, rigid and drooping, borne at the summit of a trunk which may be 20 to 30 feet high. Prionotes Cerinthoides (climbing heath) is a climber of epiphyte. It forms pendant sprays of small evergreen leaves and crimson bell-like flowers.

Impenetrable Scrub

Locally in poor acid soils where the water table is at or very near the surface an almost impenetrable scrub develops, the density of which is notorious. About five species are mainly concerned. Leptosperum lanigerum (woolly tea tree) forms dense stands of trees having slender, very tough trunks up to 50 feet high. The Sedges Gahnia psittacorum and G. Sieberi appropriately called ‘cutting grass’, grown in clumps which are often more than six feet in height and breadth. Bavera rubioides (family Cunoniaceae) has innumerable thin, wiry inter led branches often spreading over other shrubs to a height of 12 feet or more. The most unusual growth form is that of Anodopetalum biglandulosum (horizontal), an endemic representative of the family cononiaceae. This is a small evergreen tree making a closely packed understorey in the forest or forming pure stands in gullies. The trees sometimes grow erect with trunks up to 45 feet high but, typically, slender saplings arch towards the ground and many erect branches arise from the almost horizontal trunks. The branches in turn bend over, interlacing with each other and with branches from adjoining trees. In this way, dense platforms develop at varying heights above the ground.

Alpine/Subalpine Vegetation

Montane vegetation occurs on plateaux, mountain slopes and summits. It is characterised by plants which can withstand cold conditions – severe frosts, seasonal snow and strong winds, Although cloudy weather is frequent, there is a high light intensity and occasional very hot days in summer. These conditions cause slow growth and water stress so that the plants are short often stunted with small hard leaves and tough celled wood. The exposure to cold winds cuts young growth so that shrubs are rounded, each shoot protecting the next, a habit which reaches its extreme in the cushion plants.

Dwarf mountain forest may contain conifers such as the prostrate strawberry pine, Microcaerys tetragona, or the small and erect cheshunt pine, Diselma archer, and microstrobus niphophylus, both growing to about six feet, or perhaps stands of the deciduous beech, Nothofagus gunnii, a 15 feet high tree on sheltered hillsides or a prostrate shrub clinging to the rocky faces of high slopes.

Mountain shrubberies are found in poor rocky soils in exposed situations. They are filled with diverse and interesting plants especially of the daisy heath and protea families which provide a colourful display in summer and early autumn.

An interesting community which may be termed a microshrubbery develops on mountain tops, on the margins of shallow pools and on gentle slopes where snow may lie for up to six months of the year. Six species of cushion plant are concerned. The Pterygopappus lawrencii with its square stem tips is easily identified, but the other five form dark cushions which are very similar in appearance when not in flower. They are shrubby plants, prostrate with many parallel erect shoots, tightly packed and laced together by roots to make a rounded mound so firm that it does not dent when walked on. Such plants increase and may coalesce to form larger mounds. They grow across small water courses, impeding drainage and slowing run off to prevent erosion.

Coastal Heath Vegetation

Coastal heath is most extensive in the far north west, north east and islands of Bass Strait. It occurs on sandy soils often developed from windblown sand. Such soil is low in minerals needed for plant nutrition. The characteristic heath vegetation consists of shrubs less than two metres high with hard or leathery leaves. The trees are often small and stunted by strong wind.

Heathland is maintained by burning; if no fire occurs the shrubs become taller forming a scrub forest or eventually an open woodland. Heath species show various adaptations which enable them to survive fire; very many send up new shoots from bulbs, rhizomes, or woody knobbed rootstocks buried beneath the damp soil; some like Banksia and Hakea produce woody fruits which protect the seeds during fires and need heat to dry and open them.

Button Grass Plains

Extensive areas throughout Tasmania carry sedge moors which are given the descriptive name ‘Button grass plains’. The characteristic plant is Gymnoschoenus sphaerocephalus (Cyperacene) which grows in tussocks consisting of hard, narrow leaves, three to six feet long, with long slender flower stalks terminating in spherical heads of flowers and fruits.

This plant community may usually be found on wet, peaty acid soils. Other monocotyledons, particularly representatives of the Restionaceae, are abundant and sometimes dominant. The yellow flowered species of Xyris (family –Xyriolaceae) and mauve flowered Patersonia fragilis (iridaceae) are widespread and between the tussocks small herbaceous plants are often frequent. Where the soil becomes better drained, woody shrubs appear Sprengelia incarnata (epacridaceae) is characteristic; others include species of Leptospermum and of Melaleuca, representatives of the Myrtaceae.

Wet and Dry Sclerophyll Forest

Wet Sclerophyll or Eucalypt forest occurs on deep fertile soils in areas of high rainfall. The chief trees are the valuable hardwood species of Eucalypt e.g. E. Regnans, E. Sieberi, E. Obliqua.

The open canopy allows the development of a shrubby understorey and in areas where humidity is high rainforest species will grow myrtle, sassafras, tree ferns, Waratah and tea tree.

With decreasing rainfall wet sclerophyll passes into a more open forest, the dry sclerophyll forest, the most widespread Eucalypt being the endemic black peppermint, E. Amygdalina. Other species are rather local, changing with the soil type.

Acacia, Banksia, Casuarina and Exocarpus form the understorey trees; there is often a lower shrub layer of pea flowers and heath species.


1983, Carlos Sombrero, Student Exchange To Canary Isles

Report on the visit to the Canary Islands

by Carlos Sombrero, Kew Guild Award Scheme recipient

The visit took place from the 24th of April to the 25th of May.

The main purpose of the visit was to investigate the conservation programme in these islands. Another objective was to collect plant material for several departments at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and for Dr. F. A. Bisby of Southampton University.

Only Gran Canaria and Tenerife were visited. It was thought unwise to visit Lanzarote and Fuerteventura on the time available, as they come under the jurisdiction of the Gran Canaria Province.

It can be said that most of the objectives were achieved, if not fully, at least partially.

The Conservation Programme in the Island of Gran Canaria
In Gran Canaria, not including other islands under its jurisdiction, 27 reserves were going to be proposed at the time of my visit; one reserve has already been approved. One is for an area to be a National Park (Pilancones-Ayagaure), six to be Natural Reserves (Parques Naturales), and 20 Sites of Scientific and Special Interest.

in accordance with the recommendations set by the World Conservation Strategy (WC.S.), priority for conservation will be given to endangered species that are sole representatives throughout the world, endemic taxa, and wild representatives of crop plants and other taxa of potential use to man.

One of the difficulties to establish conservation sites in the Canarian archipelago is the very complex administration system. Several Bodies are involved in the governing of the Province. These are Central Government, the City Council (Ayuntamiento), and the Insular Council (Cabildo Insular).

All conservation in Spain comes under the auspice of I.C.O. N.A. (Instituto para la Conservacion de la Naturaleza) which depends on the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and therefore of Central Government. Matters concerning urbanisation in the island are controlled by the City Council, or Ayuntamiento. All other affairs are dealt with by the Insular Council (Cabildo Insular). As if this was not difficult enough, the Autonomous Government which has just been elected will also have legal powers, but what these powers will entail nobody knew at the time of its election.

A Contract of Agreement between the Insular Council and I.C.O.N.A. was signed on the 10th of March 1982, in order to unify their efforts in scientific and educational work. The validity of the Agreement is for four years, except when one of the signatories decides to terminate it earlier.

The aims of the Agreement are:
1. “The conservation of genetic resources of Canarian flora by the installation of germoplasm banks, cell/tissue culture, and other methods aimed at conservation.”
2. “Ecological surveying of Gran Canaria with a view to determining the status of habitats.”
3. “The planning of conservation areas in publicly owned land and the reconstruction of habitats of autochthonous flora in adequate areas.”
4. “Education of the public byway of seminars, lectures, publications, etc., and the signalising of Nature Trails in areas of utmost floristicinterest.”

In order to implement the above aims, a Commission has been set up. The members of the Commission are:
(i) The Director of I.C.O.N.A.
(ii) The President of the Insular Council.
(iii) The Regional Inspector of I.C.O.N.A.
(iv) The Director of the Botanic Garden “Viera y Clavijo”

I.C.O.N.A. will supply the economic backing plus planners, agronomists, foresters, geologists, and other scientists, while the Insular Council, by means of its Botanic Garden “Viera y Clavijo”, will provide research facilities and botanical expertise.

By law, all proposed sites have to be given a Public Hearing before they can be declared conservation areas.

Tourism, Agriculture and Forestry in Relation to Conservation
It would be reasonable to suppose that tourism, agriculture and forestry have had a damaging effect on local flora.

Due to mismanagement of the forest in the past, it is plausible that many taxa have been threatened, and perhaps some lost altogether. The most damage has been caused by the indiscriminate cutting of pine and laurel woods, which has led to erosion in most of the island.

A secondary harmful effect on the flora has been achieved indirectly by the destruction of the trees. This is because of what is termed “horizontal rain” (Iluvia horizontal), that is to say the water deposited on the vegetation by condensation of clouds. This is thought to be a serious problem as much of the island water reserves are very low due to very little vertical rain in recent years. If the contribution made by horizontal rain is too small because of deforestation, then the island may be facing very severe consequences indeed.

Agricultural damage to lowland vegetation is difficult to assess as there is a lack of information as to which taxa were present in these areas In the first place. Even so, some losses must have occurred. Fortunately, the highest concentration of taxa is in the mountainous regions where agriculture is not as intensive as in the more profitable lowland.

The introduction by agriculture of certain alien plants such as Agave americana, Opuntia spp., Rubus ulmifolius and others, may prove very harmful for many local taxa as they are colonising large regions of the island and their control will have to be undertaken soon in certain floristically rich endemic sites before these invaders take over.

Agriculture uses large quantities of water which is extracted from wells and galeries all over the island. Some of these wells and galeries are located in taxa-rich areas in the mountains where the flora depends for its survival on the moisture of the rocks, as is the case with some ferns. It appears that the only way to solve this necessary evil is a more efficient use of the available water by agriculture o rthe alternative may be to forbid the removal of water from these areas entirely.

A serious problem that may occur due to agriculture Is the contamination of water with chemicals used by this industry. Most of all the water used in the island comes from a natural subterranean reservoir. The contamination of this reservoir will not only affect plants but, more important still, people. There is already some concern in certain quarters due to the intensive and systematic use of chemicals, from fertilisers to herbicides, and the possibility of infiltration of these substances into the water cycle.

As far as tourism is concerned, most naturalists in the island regard it as harmless to conservation. This is only true in the direct sense, as indirectly tourism has done a lot of damage to at least one ecosystem: Maspalomas dunes system. The Maspalomas hotel explosion in recent years has been built inside the dunes natural system while the fresh water pond, also nearby, has been opened to the sea. All this has been done in order to procure a sun-worshipping, mainly Northern European tourist, by an “ignorant” local land owner.

The collection of wild plants by tourists does not seem to have caused any damage to threatened taxa, as far as we are aware. That wild plants have been gathered cannot be doubted. There should be strict control on unauthorised collecting, regardless of the rarity of the plants.

Local naturalists appear rather reserved when placing any sort of blame on the tourists, as they are obviously afraid that this may harm their public image, and they usually blame any damage on the authorities for lack of public vision. Whether this is entirely true or not Is difficult to estimate, but tourists can be critised for the lack of conservation awareness that some of them show.

Conservation Awareness in Gran Canaria
There are several conservation groups in the island that operate a policing role on the environment. Among the more prominent groups is A.S.C.A.N. (Asociacion Canaria para Defensa de la Naturaleza) which, in conjunction with the Insular Council of Gran Can aria, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (I.U.C.N.), and the World Wildlife Fund (WW.F.), produced the Red Data Book of Renewable Natural Resources. A.S.C.A.N. can also claim the success of having a weekly column in a local newspaper as well as two hours of radio a week. This is perhaps more than similar conservation groups have achieved in this country. Despite their success with the media, some people in the local administration think that they are far too idealistic and lack problem solving ideas.

Conservation Sites Visited
Some of the more important floristic areas were toured. These included visits to:

Los Tiles de Moya
This is thought to be a Tertiary laurel forest relic that once abounded in Southern Europe and Northern Africa. The laurel species include Acotea foetens (Aiton) Benth and Hook, F., lIex canariensis Poir, Laurus azorica (Seub.) Franco, Apollonias barbujana (Cav.) Bornm, Persea indica (L) Spreng.

The ecosystem has been given legal protection after its impoverished state was indicated by the German botanist G. Kunkel in the 70’s.

The reserve covers an extension of 44 hectares and is closed to the public for picnicking, but not for walking.

At present, it has been planted with autochthonous laurel species till the natural cycle can be restored.

Many endemic plants grow in this area, among the more striking plants being Canarina canariensis (L) Vatke.

It is proposed to be a 20 km’ reserve including 4 km’ of sand dunes; the only such ecosystem in the whole archipelago. It is not a taxa-rich area, its main asset being the dune system, endemic lizards, and being a migration zone for birds.

La Caldera de Baldama
Of ecological and floristic importance. The more important plant in this depression is Sideroxylon marmulano Banks, that it was thought to be extinct in the island till its recent rediscovery. The opposite has happened with Isoplexis isabellina (Webb. & Berth.) Masf., a Gran Canaria endemic that has been lost from this area.

It is proposed to be a 40 hectares reserve. The main issue for its conservation being a local endemic, Solanum lidii Sunding.

Playa de Jinamar
This reserve site is suggested to be a few hectares in extension. In this area under the advertising placards and facing the sea, a local endemic plant grows, Lotus kunkelii (Steve) Bramwell & Davis. Because of its unique clamitic-edaphologistic requirements, it has proven impossible to grow in cultivation as yet, and for this reason alone it is of great ecological value.

Other visits were also made to the Riscos de Guadayeque, where Kunkeliella canariensis Stearn is said to grow, the Pinarde Tamadaba and the proposed National Park of Pilancones-Ayagaure.

Visit to Tenerife
Five days were spent in the most botanically rich island of the whole Canarian archipelago.

A visit to La Ladera de Guimar, on the east of the island, was made in order to collect some living material. Plants collected were: Cheilanthes pulchella, Monanthes brachycaulon (Webb. & Berth.) Lowe, Davallia canariensis Sm. All collecting was done under the supervision’of Dr. Santos Guerra of I.N.I.A. (Instituto National de Investigaciones Agrarias).

A trip was also arranged by Dr. Santos Guerra to Las Canadas del Teide (Teide National Park) where many endemic taxa are legally protected. Some of the more outstanding plants seen in flower at the time were Echium wilpretii Pearson ex Hook. fil., Viola cheiranthifolia H.B. & K., Spartocytissus supranubius (L) Webb. & Berth., and Descurainia bourgeana Webb. ex O.E. Schulz.

Near Las Canadas, in an army exercise field, Erigeron cabrera was located and a dry specimen was collected for the Kew Herbarium. This is a new species shortly to be published by a local botanist and only grown in this “inhospitable” habitat.

The establishing of conservation reserves in Tenerife is in a less advanced state than in Gran Canaria. The only site under legal protection being the Teide National Park. This is unfortunate since Tenerife has the highest number of species in the whole archipelago.

In the Jardin de Aclimatacion de la Orotava it was very enlightening to see many tropical plants growing quite satisfactorily outdoors. It is therefore reasonable to suppose that botanic gardens with such favourable environmental conditions should be developed into international centres for the conservation of threatened tropical taxa without the high cost of the present conservation programme in the Northern Temperate Zone botanic gardens. The only drawback to this strategy is the lack of trained gardening personnel in regions such as the Canary Islands.

The Botanic Garden. “Viera y Clavijo”
Most of the stay in the Canary Islands was spent in this centre as a result of the Kew Student’s Exchange Scheme.

The botanic garden was established in the island of Gran Canaria by the Swedish botanist E. Sventenius with the economic backing of the Insular Council (Cabildo Insular) 30 years ago.

D. Enrique, as he was known by the locals, was one of those people who merited the respect of not only his fellow scientists throughout the world but also the local people; everybody has a story to tell about this remarkable man. His name will pass to posterity if only because of Sventenia bupleuroides Font Quer. He discovered in the region of70 new species in the Canarian flora, eight subspecies and about 35 varieties.

The garden has the best collection of Macaronesian flora anywhere in the world. The collection includes endemic Macaronesian taxa, Canarian endemics and a fairly large collection of cacti. It has an extension of about 20 acres and is beautifully landscaped, making maximum use of the terrain. It comprises a hillside and a valley bed. The hillside can be climbed by a series of winding paths with an ingenious layout that does not spoil the overall natural look of the slope. Another very attractive feature of the garden are the small waterfalls. The story is told that when D. Enrique was building these little cascades he would move the small pieces of rock in numerous directions until the water running past sounded harmonious – he was a great lover of classical music.

The scientific section of the garden is carrying out work on gathering data on endemic populations in order to advise the Insular Council on their present status. Other fields of work include taxonomy, pollenology, cytology, seed bank and micro-propagation. There are only five fulltime biologists and 12 other scientists working on project grants, some of these projects include fauna.

As far as the botanic garden is concerned, the main problem is the total lack of trained gardening staff. For this reason the Director is considering setting upa training programme in conjunction with a local technical college to improve general gardening practice.

A great deal was learnt about conservation in the Canary Islands by listening to local people as well as scientists. Discussion on the establishment of conservation sites with planners, botanists, conservation groups, and Governmental Bodies plus visiting proposed areas was most revealing. Four hundred transparencies were taken during the visit.

As a result of my stay in “Viera y Clavijo” a small propagation mist unit was installed, although I never saw it fully operational as one of the components wasn’t in working order and it proved very difficult to acquire another in the island.

My thanks go to everybody that made this trip possible, in particular to the sponsors: Kew Student’s Exchange Scheme, Kew Guild, the Biological Council and Dr. F. A. Bisby.

I would also like to thank those people that helped me while in the Canary Islands, specially the Director of “Viera y Clavijo”, Dr. D. Bramwell, and Dr. Santos Guerra of I.N.I.A. who drove me personally around Tenerife.


1981, Sue Gregory (Macdonald), Student Exchange, Giverny, France

Monet’s garden at Giverny

By Sue Gregory

I began my visit to France in Paris in order to visit the art galleries to look at Monet’s paintings and to initially investigate his history – the relationships between the impressionist movement and garden design, The most rewarding gallery was the Musee Marmotan which I found very moving, The paintings exhibited included many of my favourites and were displayed to their very best. Paris was a very good starting off point for such an adventure. I arrived in Giverny worn out but eager to explore many ideas that I had and I felt certain that I would be able to do that at Giverny.

The garden of Claude Monet was opened to the public in 1980 after four to five years of restoration work – it was still not a mature garden. laid out in two sections. The Clos Normand is in the style of a French wild garden — a grid system over-flowing with plants- and the Basin or water garden, which includes the water lilies and Japanese bridge The House and Studio (now a shop) have been renovated with great taste. However the garden is not in my opinion yet the garden of Claude Monet. Although the basic layout was correct, Monet’s use of plants in subtle harmonies had been by-passed in order to provide the public with a continuous display of a multiple of colours which had been very poorly planned. I found a number of faults with the plantings which are included in my report.

The Musee and garden are run and financed by the Academy de Beaux Arts and its director is Monsieur Van der Kemp (who was the director of Versailes). It is also supported by a private organisation, the Friends of Claude Monet Foundation which is constituted of a number of donors (mainly French and American).

Six gardeners, including the Head Gardener (Monsieur Vahe), one skilled gardener and four labourers work there. Monsieur Van der Kemp advises on aspects of the garden but is only there at weekends and a lot of his time is taken up with publicity and entertaining donors.

The village is very much involved with the garden and is divided down the middle between those who are for the garden and those who are against.

I was warmly taken into the community, even with my scratchy French which incidentally couldn’t help but improve a little. I stayed locally in the village and managed to visit quite a number of places in the area of interest. I worked from 8/9 in the morning to 5.30 doing a variety of jobs from staking espalier pears to planting and labelling the plants. 1worked five days a week but managed to get at least half a day spare each week to do my own research of the garden.

Thus I learnt a great deal about the garden, Monet, Giverny and France and ail this is of great value to me and I believe I will make use of this in the future.


1981, Pamela Holt, Expedition Southern Peru

Peru revisited

18th July – 23rd August, 1981

By Pamela Holt

Whilst gasping for breath on the steep shaly path shading my eyes from the intense sunlight, I was struck by the beauty of the golden silhouettes of Calamagrostis vicunatum waving on the steep scree slopes above me. To my right were the woolly leaves of a Culcitium species, the only other vegetation at 14,000 ft. just below the pass of Pulcay in the Peruvian Andes. Lower down I had passed tiny blue Gentiana sp. nestling in the short grass and moss along with a yellowy green spur-flowered Gentianella sp. whose beauty was unappreciated by our steadily weakening leader, Ian Wolfe. Unable to acclimatise in the heat and the altitude, he had been escorted back down the remote valley on a local mule. Ian subsequently suffered a number of cardiac spasms, putting him out of action for four weeks.

This was my second trip to this fascinating country, the first being in 1975 when I collected plant material for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Then I had four months at my disposal and was generously funded by the Bentham and Moxon Trust and the Studley College Trust, enabling me to travel and eat in relative comfort, compared to my recent trip in July and August last year. This time with only five weeks and a tight budget, plant collecting was curtailed to only four days due to many unforeseen circumstances and bureaucratic difficulties.

As the Horticulturalist attached to the Hampshire Venture Scout Expedition to Peru, my task lay with the Scientific team (nick-named the ‘Jungle Bunnies’ in the mistaken belief that they were going to explore jungle), whose main aims were to study epiphytes and collect specimens of Ichthyafauna from high altitude lakes. The former, suggested by the University of Aberystwyth, where Dean Madden (Venture Scout) is a student of Zoology and Botany; the latter at the request of the British Museum, Natural History Department, because so little is known about the fish and amphibians in these remote lakes. Originally I had trained with the Mountaineering Team, whose objective was to climb the 20,565 ft. Mount Salcantay in the Cordillera Vilcabamba, north west of Cuzco, the ancient Inca capital; but events changed following an ankle injury in Scotland, pressure to help the Scientific Team and a request from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, to collect plants when I applied for their Kew Guild Award Scheme.

The Machu Picchu Venture 1981, consisted of 15 Venture Scouts, girls and boys, ten assorted assistants and two Royal Engineers. Each member contributed £750, either from his own pocket or by fund raising. Our black ‘T’ shirts with gold lettering and Inca motif were very popular. I am indebted to the Kew Guild Award Scheme, the Womens Farm and Garden Association and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew who loaned field equipment and covered the cost of air freighted, live plant material.

Our major headache concerned climbing equipment, food and medical supplies, which despite being sent out in April, were still in Customs in July when we arrived in Lima, the coastal capital of Peru.

In the vain hope that our impounded supplies would be released soon, the Scientific Team set off on the weeks trek, back packing along ancient Inca pathways, whilst the Mountaineering Team tackled the trail leading to Machu Picchu, the ‘Lost City of the Incas’.

As our way lay through mainly uninhabited and uncultivated mountain country, we carried 4 lbs. of food each, which we had brought out of England, cooking on wood fires initially in the lower valley of the Cusichaca River. Our stoves and ‘meta’ fuel were back in Lima, so as our path wound higher up the mountain, some ingenuity was called for when the Caesalpinia spinosa, Eucalyptus and Spartium junceum gave way to Stipa ichu grass. Llama dung is not recommended especially at an altitude where it is difficult to boil water and half cooked dehydrated dinner is rather unpalatable! l made do with a meat cube in a cup of warm water for my evening meal that particular night. After coming over the pass of Pulcay, 14,800 ft., it wasn’t very filling!

Once over the pass, breathing became a little easier and for the next three days, the scenery changed dramatically. At first the vegetation was mainly grass beside the fast flowing glacial river, hemmed in by snow covered ranges, a place where the inside of your tent ices up at night and water in mess tins is frozen solid by morning.

As the valley opened out, grass gave way to low shrubs of Berberis at 12,000 ft., resplendent with orange flowers, Escallonia sp. with creamy white flowers, even a Desfontainea. Often red flowered Bomarea straggled through them and clumps of Baccharis genistellioides grew alongside. Locally this composite plant is known as ‘Espadilla’, its roots and stems being used to dye woollen cloth. Its species name give the clue to its appearance which like to so many Andean plants does not conform to normal family characteristics.

Lower down the valley, groves of Polylepis incana rose up from the river. A densely branching small tree, three to eight metres high with a twisted trunk, exfoliate bark and trifoliate leaves, this member of the Rosaceae family is an endangered species. P. albicans, P. racemosa and P. villosa are also listed, being confined to the steep slopes in inaccessible side valleys leading to glaciers, growing up to 4,500 m.

Frequently Polylepis supports parasitic plants such as Phrygilanthus with its scarlet flowers, reminiscent of Embothrium. At lower altitudes I did see Embothriumgrandiflorum with its pink flowers and glabrous rounded leathery leaves. Continuing down the Aobamba River, with our rucksacs the vegetation became more luxuriant, from Buddleia sp., Mentha sp., Barnadesia sp. with pink flowers to glorious red tubular flowered evergreen shrubs which possibly belong to the Ericaceae family. Beneath peeped Stenomesson on Eustephia, red and yellow tubular flowers in Amaryllidaceae.

As green and yellow parakeets flew overhead and Bamboo and lianas struggled through Begonias and ‘Tree Ferns’ the climate became distinctly subtropical. The last night on this trail was spent beside the now widening river, where washing that evening I was fascinated by the fireflies, like darting flashes of light, over the water. The main meal that night consisted of curried muesli washed down with ‘Orovite’ an orange flavoured multi-vitamin sachet rifled from the first aid kit, as all the tea and coffee rations had been consumed!

The following day we walked out of this valley to join the River Urubamba, where we boarded the narrow gauge Santa Anna train at Hydro Electrica, a half built village, which takes its name from the power plant opposite.

As the train did not leave until the evening, we spent a lazy afternoon by the waterfall and precarious bridge indulging in a picnic feast purchased from the local ‘tienda’. That evening saw us camped by the River Urubamba, downstream at Santa Teresa, where we collected our scientific equipment sent on from Cuzco. With the Expedition Leader laid low at Cusichaca, with an Archeological project camp, and holding the expedition travellers cheques, we spent the following day buying provisions locally with our ‘pocket money’ and hiring mules to take us to the research area. We managed to engage four mules and a truck to take the scientific team part of the way.

Meanwhile the mountaineering party had ‘done’ Machu Picchu and explored the Archaeological site where a canal system once brought water to the ruined city of Llactapata. To everyones amazement, the site where a possible aqueduct could have crossed the ravine, was found by the Venture Scouts. Flushed with success they trekked off along our route intending to cross a higher pass to the left of Mount Salcantay, having been resigned to the fact that the climbing equipment and supplies were now unlikely to be released.

The weather, however, put paid to further progress by snowing continuously for 36 hours. After floundering in waist high soft snow, the party retreated with one member temporarily snow blinded and another burned and blistered on his face.

Meanwhile, the Scientific Team had disembarked from the open truck in pouring rain, to spend the night in a coffee plantation. The next night, being higher up on a ridge with decent sized trees, we used our hammocks for the first time. We walked up from the plantation with the mules loaded with food, plant press and ‘fish’ collecting equipment. The muleteers tied everything down by placing their feet on the package and heaving on their ropes, regardless of whether it was a sack of carrots or a box of 60 eggs! I think this is why Dean Madden, a Zoology and Botany student was able to make pancakes that morning for his 21 st birthday treat enriched with honey, kindly presented to us by the owner of our ‘campsite’.

Most of our plant study was carried out in the region known as the Ceja de Montana, literally ‘the eyebrow of the mountain’ – a good descriptive term for where the eastern side of the Andes meets the jungle or selva. To quote Major Peter Marett, “It’s the only cold jungle I’ve ever been in!” sums up the area where we worked. For although we were 130 8′ south of the equator, at 10,500 ft., we were frequently in cloud or rain despite it being the ‘dry’ season.

Toiiing up the steep mountainside above the River Sacsara, we passed through citrus and coffee groves often hung with Passiflora ligularis the granadilla or passion fruit, a welcome thirst quencher. Dean and I made mental notes of various plants on this ascent with a view to collecting them on our return, four days later. One notable example being a Podocarpus species, native to Peru and Chile resembling an overgrown yew. Frequently Begonias and Fuchsias peered out of shady banks on either side of the path, with Gunnera and Aralia sp.

From our base in amongst the twisted limbs of a latex bearing tree (possibly Castilloa elastica) we made repeated forays into the cloud forest and beyond. The wealth of plant material actually growing on a single tree, greatly reduced the distance we needed to travel. Orchids grew everywhere in great abundance, the most obvious being a beautiful orange Epidendrum species, others less obvious because they were not in flower. One particularly wet day, when the advance party led by Major Peter Marett, set off for the high altitude lakes, was a field day as far as orchids were concerned. Nine different species were collected, from tiny yellow-flowered Pachyphyllum and lilac fringe flowered Sobralia to cream, maroon striped Telepogodon and a magnificent Epidendrum with a foot long spike of pink and cream flowers which was obtained at great risk to life and limb growing on a swaying moss covered leaning tree. Another larger Sobralia growing high up on a tree overlooking our hammocks and tent tops was collected by Venture Scout Chis Dare, using an ingenious device of paracord footloops.

Many ferns were collected from trees as well as the forest floor where large mats of Sphagnum rosea, reminded one of Wales. This proved invaluable for wrapping the plant roots prior to inserting in plastic bags which were then secured at the neck, leaving the foliage free. A small cold frame of logs and moss provided a temporary home for our collection. Orchid flowers and various fruits were preserved in bottles of alcohol other plant material was pressed and dried. The plant press was hung over a small wood fire to dry the specimens, the paper being changed at intervals. With the onset of rain a temporary canopy of polythene was rigged up over the top to protect the press.

The Cloud Forest consisted of trees with knotted branches often forming dense flattened crowns where the bamboo Chusquea made useful tables to work from. Vallea stipularis with its unusual knobbly fruits, scarlet flowered Ribes, blue flowered Tibouchina and numerous shrubs in the Gesneriaceae and Ericaceae families often overrun with vivid orange trumpet flowered Bomarea or furry leaved Fuchsias.

Beyond the ‘tree ferns’ and shrubby Hypericum type plants, lay open grassland where a species of rosulate Viola grew at 11,000 ft. along with metre high Lobelia and Werneria nubigena a ground hugging giant daisy. Aquantityof berries were taken from a prickly furry leaved tree Solanum, seed of which has now been extracted and banked at Wakehurst Place. A bag of Caesalpinia spinosa collected close to Cusichaca is now also in the seed bank.

In the four days at our disposal, a total of 77 plants were collected, involving meticulous measuring and recording in field notebooks and numbering and labelling of plant material, often far into the night. The plant material was carried in boxes by hand down the mountain and then repacked in the dilapidated ‘hotel’ at Santa Teresa. To prevent rotting, each plant with its moss and polythene covered root bundle was wrapped in newspaper, packed upright wherever possible into cardboard boxes, with the corresponding field notes packed in a plastic bag alongside. During this operation the weak electricity supply finally cut out and I finished this operation by candlelight, only discovering that I had singed my eyelashes and hair the next day!

Back in Lima, I learnt a new Spanish word, ‘Huelga’, in English the familiar word ‘Strike’! Rather inconvenient when you are locked in, rather than locked out. The occasion, the last three days in Peru, the place, inside the gates of the Natural History Museum, ‘Javier Prado’. It made a change from the Banks or the Hospital being on strike but my Peruvian Scout escort was waiting with a car outside the gates to take me to the airport to clear customs for my plants. At times like this you feel glad that you asked the caretaker the night before what his dog is called as it snarls on your approach to its master’s door. The good man reluctantly opened the gate to allow me into the street for I was staying in the botanists apartment located behind the museum, while I obtained the necessary permission from the Ministry of Agriculture, University of San Marcos and the Air Cargo Division of British Caledonian. The rest of the expedition had already left to spend their money in Miami, after the Lima scouts laid on a farewell party, where we dished out the food, finally released from Customs!

One consolation for the inconvenience of impounded equipment and supplies was a free flight from Cuzco in the mountains down to Lima on the coast in a Peruvian Air Force Hercules. At least it was only two hours late taking off, a contrast to the beginning of the trip when we spent all day in Lima Airport, waiting for an internal flight to Arequipa, that should have left at 6.30 a.m. Then we were put up in a hotel at the Airline’s expense and finally flown to our destination, only to watch the plane take off for Puna with all our luggage on board! Luckily the plane being a shuttle service returned two hours later.

Viva el Peru!

Pamela Holt, March 1982

I am indebted to Dr. Ramon Ferreyra, Botanical Consultant to the University of San Marcos, Museum of Natural History and Jose Purisaca of the Ministry of Agriculture, without whose help the plants might never have left Peru.


1981, Kim Sorvig, Expedition To China

Plant collecting around China’s highest mountain

By Kim Sorvig

No-one who goes to China, I suppose, really knows what to expect. After decades of closure to foreigners (just in recent history) it hardly requires poetic license to call China “The Land of the Unexpected”.

Recently, of course, China has been opening up, and the interest this has aroused is leading to further ‘chinks in the bamboo curtain’ (to quote a lecturer who claimed the pun was accidental). Despite this, the botanical expedition which I joined for the month of September 1981 had little information to go on. The area around Mt. Konka, lying between Szechuan Province and Tibet, has hardly been seen by foreigners at all; the one botanist to traverse the region was Joseph Rock, in 1929. Other than that, there have been two or three mountain climbing ventures: when it was first discovered, Minya Konka (or Konka Shan) was thought to be higher than Everest.

Even for Roy Lancaster, the botanical guide for the group, this was new territory. He had been to China twice before, and from his broad experience knew an impressive percentage of the plants we saw; when in doubt he could rely on other members of the expedition. Five Western countries were represented; collections of seed and herbarium material were made for Kew, Edinburgh, Leiden, and the Holden and Morris arboreta in the United States; a taxonomist from Wisley, a biochemist from John Innes Institute, and people with specialist interests ranging from alpines and bulbs to forestry, from bamboo to clematis, made up an excellent group. My first ‘thank you’ goes to them all.

For me this was an unbelievable opportunity to learn a few of the bewildering array of Chinese plants (the Flora I brought back, five volumes, contains 7,000 species, and that’s the student flora!), and to meet and work with botanists in the field. As important as this aspect of botany is to Kew, one gets very little direct experience of it as a student; I had scarcely ever pressed a plant or collected a seed before, The 125 taxa I collected have involved me in quarantine, seed-sorting, listing, accessioning, and recording procedures which would otherwise have remained ‘behind-the-scenes’. I thought that finding the specimens would be the end of it!

Our itinerary, after leaving one hyper-luxurious night in Hong Kong, involved short stays in Canton and Chengdu (capital of Szechuan), during which we saw a number of gardens and met Chinese botanists in both cities. After that, we travelled into the mountains by road, staying in communes, passing through Ta-chien-Iu (now Kanding), “The Gateway of Tibet” for E. H. Wilson and Rock. A long detour cut into our time, but one does not argue with ten miles of road which have fallen several hundred feet into a river. At one point on our return even the detour had demurred, and we were told there was no way out for a month. (Tune in next week for the hair-raising escape.)

Such excitements plus cold rainy weather meant that we made a base-camp and went on daily forays, rather than attempt a full circuit of Konka; disappointing, but prudent. We seemed to be on the drier side of the pronounced rain-shadow cast by most peaks in this part of the world; the vegetation on the other side would very likely have been different. The area in which we camped was dominated by Betula utilis on the NE-facing slopes; Quercus semicarpifolia on the opposite ones; shrouded with Usnea, and mixed with larches, pines, fir, and a good variety of shrubs, e.g. loniceras, Hypophae salicifolia, many berberis and rosaceous species. Gentians-were abundant to the point of being overwhelming; primulas, 20 species of clematis, Halenia, Codanopsis. . . The paucity of rhododendron species was surprising, and there was a complete lack of any bamboo at all (I asked in English and Chinese, and drew pictures for the Tibetans- no, two valleys over, first pass on your right, nothing like that around here, mate), which was a disappointment to me. But through friends from the trip I have met several more bamboo-fanatics on my return to England: one of the lasting side-effects of such a trip.

The political scene was very interesting, much more relaxed than one is led to believe; “old hands” felt it had relaxed even within the past two years. Armed with a bit of Chinese (and pictures), I managed to talk to several ‘unofficial” Chinese along the way. But politics and cultural anthropology are matters which international plant collectors ignore at their peril. 1 felt a considerable rapport with our Chinese guides, but the lack of the obsequious ‘yes Sahib’ treatment one might find in India led to some dissatisfaction among the group as a whole. Can one really expect it in a country aspiring to egalitarian communism? At the end of our stay, pressed specimens and any rooted ones were confiscated. We have since been told that a group of “tourists” trekking not far away had been caught smuggling rare plants. Considering the millions of pounds and dollars which Chinese plants have brought the horticultural trade in the West, without any recompense to China, it is in fact quite generous that the Chinese authorities have agreed to post our collections to us after inspection. It is a sad fact that ecological conservation, paradoxically bound to plant collection by our need for specimens to study, can itself be endangered by the subtleties of cross-cultural misunderstanding.

Obviously, I could go on at length: agriculture, industry, development, religion. . . but I have already taxed readers’ patience and editor’s space enough. I would like to take the opportunity to thank the Kew Guild for its financial support, and likewise the Bentham-Moxon Trust, and my other sponsors, the Women’s Farm & Garden Association, many of whose members I am sure receive this journal. Thanks also to the Curator, Mr. Simmons, for his special encouragement, and to all those who supported what I myself often thought was an impossible and mad idea, this long-dreamed-of visit to China.


1980, Soo Tasker, Student Exchange, Leiden University Botanic Garden

Student Exchange to Leiden University Botanic Garden

1st to 20th September, 1980

By Soo Tasker

The city of Leiden is quite small, built inside a protective moat or singel, and dissected by many canals. It is a University town, rather like Oxford, full of many old and beautiful buildings most of which belong to the University.

The Botanic Garden of the University, the Hortus Botanicus, was founded on April 13th 1587 making it one of the oldest in Europe. It was laid out by Clusius (Charles de I’Ecluse) and some of his original plantings still remain. Since this time the garden has been enlarged several times, it now covers approximately 30 acres.

There are 19 glasshouses, mostly built in the 1930s, including a Victorian water-lily house and a Phytotron for the propagation and cultivation of tropical ferns. There is also an Orangery, which is still used as such; temperate plants are housed in it in the winter and moved outside in the summer.

The garden is composed of landscaped arboretum (the moat of the city forms the boundary on one side) with a rock garden, herb garden, systematic beds, rosarium, lily-pond, and the ‘voortuin’ the decorative entrance area. The Clusius garden is a replica of the original botanic garden, with beds of herbs and bulbs, paths of crushed cockle shells and a collection of bees in wicker bee-hives.

On my arrival in Leiden I was met by Mr. Bruinsma, the Curator, and his assistant, Miss Teune, with kindness befitting a visiting dignitary rather than a humble student. I stayed in the University Observatory, a picturesque domed building, and was able to have any meals I wanted at the nearby student ‘mensa’ or restaurant; everything was most comfortable and convenient.

During my first week I worked in the Clusius garden; in the second week I worked in the Seed Department, collecting and cleaning seeds, and in the third week I worked in the glasshouses. Although only a few of the 15 staff spoke English we got along very well, they were all extremely pleasant and anxious that I should have interesting work to do.

I spent a day at the Rijksherbarium; founded in 1829 and mostly concerned with the Malaysian Flora. There are 25 botanists and just over three million dried specimens; also a good collection of old books, and seed catalogues since the early 1800s. The Botanic Garden Archives hold a large collection of photographs and slides, as well as the plant records system.

During my stay at Leiden Mr. Bruinsma took me to visit the Botanic Gardens of Utrecht and the Vry University of Amsterdam, and to the flower market and experimental station at Aaismeer. At the weekends I visited Boskoop, Groningen Botanic Garden, Nijmegen, Delft, Rotterdam, Breda and Middelburg.

In all it was a most interesting and successful exchange; I should like to thank Mr. Pemberton and Mr. Simmons for arranging it for me, and the Kew Guild for helping to finance my visit.