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Issue 53- June 2003

News from the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian National Herbarium (CANB), for the information of CPBR and ANBG staff and volunteers.

CPBR News is produced monthly. If you wish to contribute, please email your suggestions to Val Oliver, the coordinator.

Val Oliver: ph (02) 6246 5533; fax (02) 6246 5249; email:


1. Herbarium

Cryptogam Herbarium News

Following on from the successful Plant Underworld exhibition in the Australian National Botanic Gardens’ Visitor Centre and the continuation of the Live Cryptogam Display in the same venue have been a series of cryptogam talks. These were begun with the launch of the ANBG Fungi of Australia website ( which is sponsored by the Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens and a talk given by Heino Lepp (who is an honorary scientific associate of the herbarium and author of the fungal website) on urban cryptogams. Heino is following this lecture up with the Winter Lecture Series – "Mushrooms, stinkhorns, cannonball fungi and more …" which are a series of free lectures every Thursday at 2.00pm in the ANBG Theatrette running from 12th June – 24th July 2003.

We were also lucky to catch Dr Steven Stephenson a Professor of Biology from Fairmont State College, West Virginia and a world expert on the Myxomycetes – the slime moulds, who very generously gave two lectures on the same day on the Myxomycetes.

Coming up this month will be a talk from Dr Sue Studlar, for the Australian Systematic Botany Society Canberra Chapter meeting on the 25th June (Wed.) 2003 at 5.30pm. The title of her talk is ‘Moss Harvest in West Virginia and its Ecological Implication.’ Dr Susan Moyle Studlar, is from West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia and has been investigating the ecology and floristics of Eastern North American bryophytes and teaching college botany for about 25 years. She is currently a visitor at the Cryptogam Herbarium on the ANBG site. And if you miss Sue’s talk for ASBS she will be repeating it on the 8th August at 12.30pm in the ANBG Theatrette.

Next month, Dr David Hanson will be visiting RSBS at ANU for a month and has agreed to give a lunchtime talk at the CPBR on the 10th July (Thurs.) 2003 at 12.30pm. The title of his talk is, ‘Evolution of CO2 concentrating mechanisms: the role of the pyrenoid and the significance of hornworts.’ David completed a post-doc at RSBS last year and returned to the United States to an academic position at the University of New Mexico, New Mexico.

[Christine Cargill]


Retirement of Faye Davies

In 1981 I came to the Botanic Gardens armed with my Certificate of Horticulture and started temporary work in spring as a "Seasonal". The first person I saw was Peter Ollerenshaw who said I should go up to the Herbarium which was really the only place I wanted to work. I saw Estelle Canning who was good enough to start me working with Joan Taylor who kindly eased this rusty person back into work. I couldn’t believe my luck when I got a permanent job working with Muriel Rafferty the next year. Several people were so generous with their knowledge and help in those early days - particularly Ian Telford.

I’ve been on some great field trips. Ian took me on the first one along the slopes of Black Mountain. One that stands out was a two week trip to Tasmania with Peter Ollerenshaw. I think we collected about 500 specimens - most with propagation material. On another trip I nearly killed Tim Mulcahy - "Get up a bit higher Tim – you might be able to reach that one". Later, with a grant from the WWF I helped collect many rare and endangered plants with Mark Richardson and Barry Hadlow.

Another person I need to mention is Andrew Lyne who, with unbelievable patience eased me into the IT era - he must have cringed every time I said - "Andrew - what do I do here".

A big chunk of my work, about 12 years in fact, has been spent, with the help of Judith Curnow, Jo Palmer and Bronwyn Collins, co-ordinating the Volunteer Mounting Program. I’ve learnt such a lot from these generous people in the Program who come from such diverse backgrounds and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed their company. I’ll probably come back at times and mount some specimens too as I’ll miss them.

So…… it’s 2003 and I’m leaving. It has been hard coming to this decision but once making up my mind I know it’s the right one and I’m looking forward to the next phase of my life - spending more time with John, my family and friends, more time at Khancoban, dabbling with water colours, a bit more travel and many other things. I’d like to thank all of you for everything……

[Extracts from Faye Davies’ speech 20 May 2003]


Unfortunately, due to budget cuts Faye’s position as Volunteer Coordinator will not be filled following her retirement. This is very serious for the Centre, as the Volunteer Program is critical to the functioning of the Australian National Herbarium and associated research projects. With some creative re-allocation of duties we are pleased to announce that Bronwyn Collins has taken on the responsibility of Volunteer Coordinator as part of her duties at the Centre. Bronwyn is also involved in the AVH project, general herbarium curation, tours/displays and Loans and Exchange. As our Volunteers are an extremely industrious group Jo Palmer and Dave Mallinson will also be helping out with the checking and sorting of specimens that have been mounted.

To keep the program running smoothly and streamline specimen processing, staff are requested that any specimens requiring mounting be forwarded to either Bronwyn or Jo, rather than directly to the Volunteers. Staff are also requested to ensure that all specimens are suitably prepared, i.e. final labels with all specimens (remove draft labels please), duplicates removed, etc. Otherwise, things may get mounted that shouldn’t have been! If in doubt, see Bronwyn or Jo.

[Jo Palmer]


2. Research Groups

Award for EUCLID

Paul Reekie, General Manager, CSIRO Publishing advised that EUCLID, a computer based eucalypt identification package developed in the Centre, won The Australian Award for Excellence in Educational Publishing at the Australian Book Fair on 19 June under the category ‘Tertiary Education, Technology Showcase’. The Award is presented every year by the Australian Publishers Association in honour of the best educational publications and booksellers of the year. Congratulations to the EUCLID team – Andrew Slee, John Connors, Siobhan Duffy and Ian Brooker.

[Val Oliver]


Tupac Otero

My project will focus on the specificity and possible coevolution of orchid mycorrhizal fungi and a group of terrestrial orchids from Australia in the sub-tribe Perostylidinae. Seeds of Perostylidinae like other orchid species depend on mycorrhizal fungi for germination and it has been suggested that orchids are highly specific with their mycorrhizal fungi. In order to determine if Perostylidinae orchids are specific in their mycorrhizal relation ships it is necessary to have an accurate identification of both the orchid and their mycorrhizal fungi. At present, we have a good understanding of the systematics and phylogeny of Perostylidinae orchid, but the taxonomy of their mycorrhizal fungi is not yet clear. Previous studies have showed that Perostylidinae orchids are associated with Ceratobasidium fungi, but the taxonomy and systematics of this group stile obscure. In my project I will sequence the ITS region of Mycorrhizal fungi isolated from Perostylidinae orchids and estimating their phylogenetic relationships. This phylogeny will help us to make prediction to determine whether or not Perostylidinae orchid have coevolved with their mycorrhizal fungi and whether or not orchids and fungi have specific relationships. This information will play an important role in developing conservation strategies for Perostylidinae orchids.

[Tupac Otero]


Marlien van der Merwe

I have commenced a post-doctoral fellowship with Jeremy Burdon and Peter Thrall and will be working on the Uredinales (Rust fungi) with specific emphasis on the family Pucciniaceae.

Surprisingly little is known about the genetic relationships within the Rusts (Basidiomycetes: Uredinales). This large and diverse group of obligate biotrophic fungi include some of the most devestating pathogens in agriculture (such as stem leaf and stripe rusts). The aim of this project is to enhance our knowledge of the genetic relationships among rust fungi through multiple-gene sequence data. This will improve our basic understanding and knowledge of the evolutionary relationships within this economically important group of organisms.

[Marlien van der Merwe]


Pultenaea Sm. (Fabaceae)

Pultenaea Sm. (Fabaceae) has been the subject of an ongoing research program at the CPBR for the past six years, since Rogier de Kok and Judy West began their revision of the eastern Australian species. Over the past year, I completed an honours project that expanded our knowledge of Pultenaea still further. My project was supervised by Rogier de Kok and Mike Crisp (ANU), and had two primary aims: to complete the species level taxonomic treatment of the genus, by revising the endemic Western Australian taxa, and to reconstruct a phylogenetic hypothesis for Pultenaea and related genera using sequences from the cpDNA trnL-F and ndhF regions and the ITS nrDNA region.

The WA species have not been well studied since the time of Bentham, so a taxonomic revision was well overdue. Results of my revision included the description of five new species and two new subspecies, the elimination of three varieties of P. verruculosa Turcz., a change of status for two taxa (P. verruculosa var brachyphylla (Turcz.) Benth. reinstated at species level, and P. strobilifera Meisn. reduced to a subspecies of P. ericifolia Benth.) and a change of name for three taxa. The project revealed that there are probably 30 Pultenaea species to be found in WA, including four species found on both sides of the Nullarbor. The presence of two of those species in WA was questionable, though. Pultenaea vestita R.Br. has only been collected once in WA, from a dubious locality that may be somewhere near Esperance. Pultenaea juniperina Labill. was not previously known from WA, but a single AD specimen suggested that there is (or was) a P. juniperina population in the vicinity of Geraldton. However, this would indicate a disjunction of several thousand kilometres, from Geraldton to the Grampians in Victoria, so it is unlikely to be an accurate record. Anyone working near Geraldton is requested to keep an eye out for the population, although no detailed locality information is available.

The phylogenetic component of the project produced some interesting results too, strongly suggesting that Pultenaea is not a monophyletic genus, but in fact falls into seven different lineages that are genetically equivalent to related genera such as Gastrolobium, Dillwynia and Jacksonia. This suggests that Pultenaea should perhaps be split into seven genera, which would include a reduced Pultenaea, a resurrected Euchilus and five novel genera. However, forthcoming papers on tribe Mirbelieae by Mike Crisp and Lyn Cook of the ANU propose that about 20 genera, including those mentioned above, be lumped into a single genus, in part because of conflicting phylogenies for the Oxylobium group of genera (Oxylobium, Mirbelia, Podolobium and Chorizema). Pending a final decision on that proposal, no higher level changes will be made to the classification of Pultenaea in the immediate future.

This research is currently being prepared for publication.

[Lindy Orthia]


3. Education and Communication

CPBR Seminars

A special CPBR seminar will be held on Thursday 10th July in the Herbarium tea room at 12.30 pm.

Dr David Hanson from the University of New
Mexico will present

"Evolution of CO2 concentrating mechanisms: the role of the pyrenoid and the significance of hornworts".

Photosynthesis originated when the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide was very high and oxygen was practically non-existent. As photosynthetic organisms flourished, they consumed the CO2 and generated large amounts of oxygen. This was beneficial for the evolution of many organisms (including us), but detrimental to the photosynthetic enzyme Rubisco. Oxygen directly competes with CO2 at the active site of Rubisco and leads to a wasteful process commonly termed photorespiration. As photosynthetic organisms evolved, two common paths emerged to reduce photorespiration. Some organisms created better Rubisco which fixed less oxygen, while others localized Rubsico within internal high CO2 environments. The latter phenomenon is termed a CO2 concentrating mechanism (CCM). I will discuss the known types of CCMs, some general patterns of their evolution, and why it is informative to study CCM function in hornwort pyrenoids.

Please direct all enquiries to Dr Christine Cargill (

[Linda Broadhurst]


Special CPBR Seminar will be held on

Tuesday 29 July at 12.30pm in the Herbarium Tearoom

Prof. Dr Hartmut Hilger (Freie Universitaet Berlin - Institut fuer Biologie - Systematische Botanik und Pflanzengeographie, Berlin Germany)

will speak on

New insights into the evolution and systematics of Boraginales

Boraginales (= Boraginaceae s.l.) comprise about 2.700 species and are distributed in tropical, subtropical, and temperate regions of the world. Centers of diversity are in America, East Asia, and mainly in Mediterranean habitats of the Old and New World. Since the 19th century comprehensive studies of Gürke and the detailed contributions of I.M. Johnston in the first half of the 20th, molecular methods have contributed to a much more detailed - and in part very different - knowledge of the order. It has been shown that Hydrophyllaceae is closely allied to a part of Boraginales, namely Cordiaceae, Ehretiaceae, and Heliotropiaceae. This leads to a polyphyletic "Boraginaceae". The parasitic Lennoaceae is most probably related to Ehretiaceae. In Heliotropiaceae, Heliotropium and Tournefortia are paraphyletic. Most of the Australian "Heliotropium" species belong to a clade which is a very distinctive evolutionary line and has a secondary evolutionary centre there. Only in this clade, "Euploca", is the C4 photosynthetic pathway present, and this also may explain different behaviour against biological weed control agents. Boraginaceae seem to have evolved in the Old World. North America and Australia were colonized by relatively few Boraginaceae genera, mostly belonging to the "Eritrichioids". To our knowledge, no members of the Cynoglosseae reached Australia.

Dr Hilger will be in Canberra on July 28-29. You may contact him while he is here through Lyn Craven (6246 5122,

[Dr Linda Broadhurst]


Media Articles

Publications containing information relating to the Centre/Program:

Publication: MUSEUMNATIONAL, May 2003
Heading: WEBWATCH Australia’s Virtual Herbarium
Page: 12

Publication: Farming Ahead, No. 136, May 2003,
Section: Science for tomorrow/Developments
Heading: Getting to know gum trees
Page: 46

Publication: Australian Geographic, 70, April-June 2003
Heading: Australia’s virtual herbarium
Page: 24

[Val Oliver]


4. Information Technology and Data Management

Australia’s Virtual Herbarium

Bronwyn, Brendan and I attended a two day AVH Workshop in Sydney recently to discuss the progress of the project so far and to share ideas and information. We all found the workshop to be extremely interesting and quite useful. It was especially interesting to compare notes on work space set up and how things are being managed in each different institution. There were representatives present from all institutions except for Brisbane and Perth, and of those in attendance there was a natural grouping of those who are essentially completely databased and those, like us, who have a long way to go. Generally the larger institutions, including us, Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide have the most work to do.

The workshop highlighted many of the advantages of the AVH project, such as making more data available over the web and allowing curation of our collections. But we also heard much discussion of the problems being encountered as one of the aims of the workshop was to look for potential solutions. Data sharing was a hot topic in this respect, as most institutions are struggling to facilitate data exchange, unfortunately with little success to date. People management was also on the agenda since many institutions have employed large teams of dataentry staff, identifiers, quality control officers, and in some cases coordinators.

Our general feeling from the workshop was that the work being done here at the CPBR is among the highest quality, and often more complete (at this stage) than that being done at some other institutes. For example, NSW is currently not applying geocodes as part of the dataentry process. They will be adding these retrospectively. Overall it was an extremely worthwhile exercise.

[Julie Matarczyk]


AVH Dataentry Update

The data entry team has had a few changes. Saddly Kashka Hempel and Osvaldo Gonzalez had to leave us so we wish them well for the future. We would like to welcome Ian Warren and Kathy Tsang who are filling these positions for the short term.

The number of specimens processed since June 2001 has sky rocketed to a huge 84,818 specimens (i.e. either as existing database records that have been verified or new specimen records added to the database). Everyone has been very busy indeed, well done! Progress to the end of June 2003 includes:

The chart below illustrates this progress and also the proportion of existing database records checked versus new records entered.

[Jo Palmer]


Botanical Exploration web site

Earlier this year Rebel Elick was giving a talk on early specimens held in the CPBR collection. A request for presentable maps of Cook's and Flinders' voyage led to Siobhan Duffy giving her 'graphic treatment' to the material on these voyages that had been on the wall in the Map Room for many years, resulting in a poster.

Having prepared the poster, it was a very simple task to translate that into a simple web site.

Others preparing poster presentations of material related to the role of the CPBR might also think about having it converted to web pages, reaching a much wider audience than the average poster presentation.

[Murray Fagg]


5. General Centre Matters

Dr Judy West, AO

The Director of the Centre, Dr Judy West, currently on secondment to the Department of Education, Science and Training, has been awarded an Order of Australia for ‘service to the advancement of botanical science and research, particularly in the field of plant systematics, to science administration and policy development, and to the establishment of Australia’s Virtual Herbarium.’

The Centre congratulates Judy on her award.

[Val Oliver]


Level 2 Storeroom – ANH

Brendan Lepschi, Lee Halasz, Jo Palmer, Val Oliver and Jim Croft commenced cleaning out the level 2 storeroom on 3 July and discovered some amazing items from a bygone era. Items of an historical nature relevant to the ANH have been stored safely while surplus numbers of old publications together with other bits and pieces are now on a trolley in the tea room for staff to help themselves.

[Val Oliver]


Next Program U/Centre meeting

The next Program U/Centre formal meeting is scheduled for Wednesday 9 July in the ANH Tearoom at 10.15 am.

[Val Oliver]