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Australian plants revealed: 65,000 years of traditional knowledge and 250 years of science - onlineFree

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Learn more about Australia's vast collection of native plants.

First Nations people used plants for food, medicine, tools and shelter for at least 65,000 years before James Cook brought the Endeavour to the east coast of Australia. Cook’s arrival saw naturalist Joseph Banks and botanist Daniel Solander collecting Australian plants that were taken to London to be examined and classified according to the Linnaeus system, which Solander had learned as a protégé of Carl Linnaeus botanist, zoologist and physician in Sweden. Most of the plants collected had qualities never before seen by western science including their unique structure having evolved to survive both drought and fire.

This informative online exhibition provides insights into the vast Indigenous knowledge and use of these native plants, with displays of six of the actual specimens collected by Banks and Solander 250 years ago, as well as 30 reproductions of plants from their collections.

The exhibition was developed by the Australian Plants Society-Victoria Inc. and supported by Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria through the Melbourne Herbarium where many specimens are held.

Downloadable documents:

How to read a herbarium specimen sheet  (pdf, 283KB)

Weavings by Aunty Irene Norman

Aunty Irene Norman, proud Wailwan/Wiradjuri woman and Elder from Mullum Mullum Indigenous Gathering Place, has provided the information and weavings in this exhibition that demonstrate the diverse use of native plants by our First Nations people in the many aspects of everyday life and culture. Traditional gathering baskets, seed pots and serving plates speak to the strong connections to Country and complex knowledge systems regarding native plant life that continue to be passed down through the generations.

Weavings by Aunty Irene Norman  (pdf, 784KB)
Poem: A plant Paradox  (pdf, 49KB)


Exhibition photos

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Botanical specimens from the Royal Botanic Gardens of Victoria 

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Australian native plants and collections

Further information

For further information on the exhibition, contact Council on 1300 88 22 33. 

Date and Time

  • Monday, 17 February 2020 - 9.00AM to Tuesday, 30 June 2020 - 5.00PM
    Past event




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