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Ferns of the Canberra and South Coast Regions


To develop and maintain a comprehensive scientifically vouchered collection of ferns and allied plants from the area of the Australian Capital Territory to the south coast of New South Wales for display and public research.


The Australian National Herbarium at Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research and Australian National Botanic Gardens maintain and develop a Public Reference Herbarium of representative specimens of plants of the surrounding regions.

The Public Reference Herbarium is a subset of the Australian National Herbarium in that all specimens in the PRH are duplicates of specimens in the ANH and are represented by the same database records. All the specimens in the PRH have been databased with full herbarium label details.

This collection is available for free public use during business hours, seven days per week, at the Visitor information Centre of the ANBG. A botanical library, computer and Internet databases and microscopes are available for use in conjunction with this collection to assist the public identify Australian native plants.

Many of the species in the PRH are represented by material growing in the Australian National Botanic Gardens, allowing the public to see what living examples of the taxa look like. The living material is also vouchered by specimens in the ANH.

Many of the species are also represented in the Australian Plant Image Index maintained at the ANBG; the aim is to make this slide collection as complete as possible in its coverage of Australian native plants.

The catchment area for the PRH covers the ACT to the south coast of NSW, south of Bulli. The coverage of taxa is incomplete, but there are already enough specimens to make the collection useful.

Staff at the ANH are engaged in a program of assessing gaps in the PRH collection based on specimen records from the ANH, the Flora of the ACT, the Flora of NSW, the NSW State census of plants, other checklists and reports, and public knowledge.

This assessment will enable the collection of preserved and living specimens to fill in these gaps through a targeted field collection program. This is an on-going activity for staff at the ANH and ANBG.

The ferns and allied plants are the first major plant group on which a concentrated effort will be made, using staff and volunteer associates of the ANH.

The Project

In addition to staff resources of the ANH and ANBG, this project proposes to use the services of volunteer associates and associate collectors. These collectors will be collecting for and on behalf of the ANH and ANBG and will be covered by the provisions of appropriate collecting permits.

All staff and associates involved in the project are experienced plant collectors and have been trained in specimen collection, preparation and documentation techniques. The have also been trained in the special requirements for working with species of conservation significance, areas of conservation significance and other protected or restricted areas.

The project will involve visiting localities in the study area of known or suspected occurrence of target taxa, seeking permission in advance where this is required and collecting modest amounts of plant material for scientific specimens and repropagation. Collections will not be made from populations that appear vulnerable or limited in size.

The amount of material collected will depend on the taxon and on the extent and state of the population. From large plants, portions of fronds and stipe bases will be collected, whole plants in the case of smaller species. Propagating material will be in the form of whole plants.

Herbarium specimens will be collected, dried, prepared and curated and databased at the ANH; living material will be propagated and displayed at the ANBG.

In addition to the herbarium specimens required for the ANH and PRH, duplicate specimens will be gathered for the NSW National Herbarium and for one or two other Australian and overseas herbaria with specialist pteridophyte expertise.

Site locality and habitat information will be recorded, as well as notes on the status of populations visited and collected from.

Photographic slides will be taken and lodged with the Australian Plant Image Index, versions of which will be made available on the Internet.

Target Taxa

Lists of taxa covered by this project are appended, including:

A number of these taxa will be rare, or of conservation significance and permits will be sought to collect material of these. The following endangered or vulnerable species are known from or may occur in the study area:

Asplenium hookerianum Colenso
Asplenium obtusatum G.Forst. subsp. northlandicum Bownsey


This is a pilot project, based on ferns, trialing a strategy to improve overall coverage of the PRH for all groups of plants. In order to locate all the target taxa, it is likely that the project will run over 2-4 (or more) years, the intensity of collecting in particular groups tapering as their representation in the PRH increases.

Staff involved

Staff involved in this project are:

Jim Croft ( is Director of the Botany Section of the ANBG and program leader for Network Management and Botanical Information at the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research. He has worked on tropical pteridophytes for a number of years and is group curator of pteridophytes at the ANH.

Anthony Whalen ( is Plant Enquiry Officer at the ANH and is responsible for plant identification for the public and for the botanical content and management of the PRH. He maintains the database of target taxa for the PRH.

Dave Nicholls ( and Chris Nicholls ( are Canberra-based fern enthusiasts of many years standing who routinely scour the region in search of new populations of ferns and their allies. They have been working with staff at the ANH and have an extensive knowledge of pteridophyte taxonomy and pteridophyte ecology and habitat requirements. They have prepared and maintain an award-winning website (see below) on the Ferns of the Canberra Region based on their experience and knowledge of the ferns of the area.

John Nightingale ( is the Living Collections Manager of the ANBG and is responsible for living plant accessions, the plant propagation activities of the nursery, the in-ground plantings and the database of living plants at the ANBG.

Murray Fagg ( is Director of Visitor Services at the ANBG. His section is responsible for public presentation and interpretation of the PRH and in-ground plantings of the ANBG. He is author and co-author of a number of books and articles on Australian native plants and is responsible for the content and management of the Australian Plant Image Index.

In addition to the staff directly involved, David Jones (, currently working on orchids at the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research is available for advice. He has collected ferns extensively throughout Australia and has published several books and a number of scientific papers on Australian ferns.

Web sites

Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research and Australian National Herbarium ANH information on ferns and allied plants Australian National Botanic Gardens Public Reference Herbarium National Plant Photograph Collection Ferns of the Canberra Region

Project Contacts

See: List of target taxa

Return to the
Australian National Herbarium

Updated October 1999 by Jim Croft (