President’s Report – 1993


• Distribution of grants for research totalled $16,350; 36% up on last year.
• The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation advised that $36,440 would be given to the Foundation to initiate projects on future export industries.
• The Board of Directors started work on a strategic plan to determine how best to use the energy of the Foundation’s supporters.

   Through the generosity of our donors and the hard work of the fund-raisers on our Board, the Foundation was able to support six projects in 1992-93. Progress reports from the scientists are included in this Annual Report, but as work continues, some of the conclusions may change by the time final reports are due in July, 1994. There are points of great interest in all the projects; I will mention a few.

Conospermum species have been in the news because some of them contain quantities of a compound which affects HIV. As well, the need for plantations of these smokebushes to reduce bush-picking by industry remains. Using funds given to the Foundation for Conospermum research by the Society for Growing Australian Plants – S.A. Region, scientists at Kings Park, Perth, have multiplied one species in sterile culture, then rooted these shoots in potting mix, without hormones. This is an essential step in the cultivation of this recalcitrant species.

Some of the projects we fund are not immediately practical, but are of a strategic nature. For instance, the study of Grevillea barklyana is of greatest value as a model for other species which are becoming split into separate populations by development. By contrast, the study of Wahlenbergia aims directly at its use in a seed mix for landscaping and revegetation, which is why the Roads and Traffic Authority (N.S.W.) made a donation for it.

Many people and groups have contributed to the Research fund. Since July 1992 donations of $400 or more have been received from Anonymous (1), Diggers Garden Club, R.T.A. (N.S.W.), S.G.A.P. Mackay Branch (2), S.G.A.P. -N.S.W. Ltd, S.G.A.P. North Shore Group and S.G.A.P. Warringah Group. The Federal Department of Primary Industries has interests in research on Australian native plants. The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation will channel $36,000 through the Foundation for study of ‘over-the-horizon’ industries for exports. Dr Margaret Sedgley of the Waite Institute in Adelaide has been successful in obtaining a matching grant from the Horticultural Research and Development Corporation for the donation for Banksia research from S.G.A.P.-N.S.W. Ltd.

Your Board of Directors is developing a strategic plan to encourage participation in Foundation activities by all the diverse people interested in the biology and cultivation of Australian plants. Planning is being ably assisted by Patrick Medley from Coopers & Lybrand.

My thanks to all those listed in this Annual Report who have contributed time and enthusiasm to the Foundation. Further, they have contributed their own travel and accommodation to our meetings; all work is voluntary. Above all, we must thank the scientists, as we have attracted them to study Australian Plants. Special thanks are also due to our Honorary Auditor, Peter Kellaway and his partner, Ian Kellaway for the care and speed with which they audit our balance sheet each year.

Malcolm Reed

1993 Research Grants

Grantees have provided brief progress reports. Detailed final reports will be assembled and available from the Foundation in mid-1994. It is possible that some of the information provided below could be negated by subsequent findings.
There have been three important consequences of the funding provided by S.G.A.P. North Shore Group through the Foundation. We have secured a large grant from the Australian Research Council for work on Epacrid roots which has enabled us to take on a Ph.D. student, and our visit to W.A. has strengthened collaboration with researchers at Kings Park and the University of W.A.

Ms Lynette A. Lee B.App.Sc. University of Sydney
Germination of Actinotus helianthi seeds.
Seed of Actinotus helianthi has been collected from eight sites with up to three collections at each. Germination improved with dry storage; optimum storage time varied from 2 to 8 months in different seed lots. Optimum temperature for germination is 15°C, though some germination occurs in the range 10 to 25°C. The effect of gibberellic acid on germination has been erratic: some seedlots respond. Seed coverings, particularly the seed coat, appear to play an important role in restricting germination: removal of the testa resulted in increased germination in all lots. Anatomical studies have shown the embryo to be small and rudimentary in nature. 4 to 26% of seeds have been found to lack embryos, but this accounts for only a small proportion of the poor germination found in most seedlots.

Dr Brian M. Sindel B.Sc.Agr.,Dip.Ed.,Ph.D. CSIRO Division of Plant Industry, Canberra
Development of Native Bluebells.
Wahlenbergia spp. have been collected from over 70 roadside sites in northern N.S.W., the Western Plains and central and southern Victoria. Habitat, population size, stage of flowering, flowering intensity, flower diameter, colour, plant height and habit were recorded.
W. stricta appeared to be adapted best to lightly wooded or rocky sites on the roadside embankment, whilst W. communis occurred mainly on the gravel road verges immediately adjacent to the bitumen.
The variation in morphological and physiological characteristics and seed production was considered sufficient to proceed with the development of lines of both these species for broadscale landscaping. The seed which was collected has been cleaned, but not yet propagated.

Mr Eric Bunn B.Appl.Sc.
Kings Park and Botanic Garden, Perth.
Techniques for in vitro propagation of W.A. Proteaceae.
Conospermum floribundum, C. incurvum, C. stoechadis and C. triplinervium were all successfully established in vitro. Rooted shoots of C. incurvum have been achieved in media without growth regulators and have been transferred successfully to a potting mixture of equal volumes of peat and perlite.
Adventitious shoots of Banksia coccinea were produced in very low numbers from the callused base of young leaf explants taken from axillary buds which had failed to develop into shoots. A few shoots remained viable and grew slowly for several months, but attempts to increase growth and establish viable, proliferating shoot cultures were unsuccessful and the shoots eventually died.

Dr Glenda Vaughton B.Sc., Ph.D. University of Wollongong
Reproductive ecology and population genetics in Grevillea.
Grevillea barklyrana occurs in small, often isolated populations in nature. Plants are fully self compatible and are capable of self pollination in the absence of pollinators. Hand cross-pollinations using pollen from either the same or a different population failed to increase seed set, indicating that reproductive output under natural conditions is not limited by either the quantity or quality of seed received. There is no selective development of crossed progeny by a plant if some flowers of an inflorescence are cross-pollinated and others are self-pollinated. Selfed seeds are viable and produce vigorous seedlings. Preliminary results suggest that much selfing occurs in several small populations, with less selfing in one large population.
Seed production and the seed bank in the soil have been studied also. The seed bank varied according to the time since the last fire, but it is small.

Associate Prof. Anne E. Ashford M.A.,Ph.D. University of New South Wales, Sydney.
Mycorrhizas in the Epacridaceae.
An initial survey showed that several species in the Epacridaceae have thick-walled cells in the outermost layer of their hair-roots. I have been able to spend two months in W.A. specifically studying mycorrhizas in the Epacridaceae in natural vegetation. This has enabled us to begin to grasp the cycles of infection and degeneration of hair roots in areas where there is predictable, seasonal drought. We have found further evidence for the theory that the thick-walled cells found in Lysinema ciliatum protect the fungus and enable it to survive better over dry, unfavourable periods so that fungal inoculum is present to infect new hair roots as they emerge. This is a novel role for the plant in a mycorrhizal symbiosis and one that may be important for survival of Epacrids. Clusters of thick-walled cells containing fungi, which we have found, could act as infection centres. We now need to determine the state and activity of the fungus in these cells at the various times of year.

Dr. Margaret Sedgley B.Sc., Ph.D. University of Adelaide
Propagation of Banksia species.
This research aims to determine the exact conditions necessary for the successful propagation of Banksia species using conventional vegetative methods such as cuttings.
A grant by the Australian Flora Foundation for this project was made earlier in the year. The matching funding from The Horticultural Research and Development Corporation, which was necessary for it to proceed, was only made available recently. Therefore a progress report will not be made until next year.