[Front Page] [Features] [Departments] [Society Home] [Subscribe]

Australian Plants online

A Good Read

.....what's worth a look?

Reviews in this issue cover William Dampier in New Holland by Alex George, Food Safety of Australian Plant Bushfoods by By M.P. Hegarty, E.E. Hegarty and R.B.H. Wills and Wildflowers of the Brisbane Ranges by Merle and Clive Trigg.
Books Diagram

Animated BookSpacer

William Dampier in New Holland
Alex S George

Published by Bloomings Books, 1999 ( ISBN 1876473126)
Hardback, 171 pages,

Reviewed by Geoff Clarke

Two facts about William Dampier that I learned in primary school were that he was a pirate and that he was the first Englishman to set foot on the Australian mainland. What I did not learn was that he was a keen observer of nature deserving of the title 'Australia's first natural historian' which is given to him on the cover of this book.

Was he a pirate? Privateer is a more accurate term and we are told that "privateering was an acceptable, even respected, occupation in the eyes of the British since it was carried out against enemy nations and territories." Dampier's second voyage to New Holland was as captain of the Roebuck on an official voyage of discovery - no piracy here. Was he the first Englishman to land on the Australian mainland? While he was a member of the crew of the Cygnet in 1688, from which the first party went ashore, there is no evidence that he was the first to land. But he has an important place in Australian history and was the first Englishman to collect Australian plants.

The main focus of the book is on Dampier as a natural historian and on the plants he observed and collected. It gives a brief account of his life and adventures and a more detailed description of his visits to Australia's north-west coast as a crewman on the Cygnet in 1688 and captain of the Roebuck in 1699.

The Roebuck sank off Ascension Island on the return voyage but Dampier saved some of his specimens and got them to England where he handed them to a member of the Royal Society. Some were described by botanists over the next few years and twenty-four specimens are still in the herbarium at Oxford University in remarkably good condition. The plants are described in detail and illustrated by photos of Dampier's specimens and modern colour photos of the plants. Other plants that Dampier observed, or were probably in flower at the time, are also treated. In addition Dampier's observations on birds, sea life and land animals are covered.

There are over sixty pages of plates mostly in colour which include interesting historical material and photos of the locations visited by Dampier as well as the plants and animals. Alex George has brought Dampier alive in a readable book that gives insights into the history of botany and taxonomy. It shows the complex and contradictory Dampier to be an important explorer and natural scientist with a special place in the history of Australian plants. But don't take my word for it, read it for yourself and find out what species those first twenty-four plants were and which one Alex George has renamed in honour of Dampier. Along the way you can learn why Dampier was docked three years pay and discover what his connection was with Gulliver's Travels and Robinson Crusoe.

Reprinted from the June 2001 issue of the Journal of SGAP's Canberra Region.

Animated BookSpacer

Food Safety of Australian Plant Bushfoods
M.P. Hegarty, E.E. Hegarty and R.B.H. Wills

Published by Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, PO Box 4776, Kingston ACT.
AUD$20.00 plus postage or available as a free download from the RIRDC web site

At a bushfood industry conference in Brisbane in 1996, a number of plant species were selected as having the best commercial potential. It was suggested that information on the safety of these bushfoods should be collated and made more readily available. This report includes information on the inherent qualities of those species and more recent industry preferences. It includes:

  • A survey of relevant scientific and industry literature on individual species
  • Records of aboriginal uses for food (but not for unrelated purposes,. e.g. medicinals for internal or external use)
  • Results of previously published, and new, analyses for some selected components which may be considered undesirable in foods, depending on the quantity and frequency of consumption and individual tolerance
  • Nutritional values of selected bushfoods.
  • A list of some native plants to be avoided as food, and
  • An extensive list of references cited in the report.

The report does not extend to safety issues which may possibly develop during or after processing, e.g. problems of storage or contamination.

Several studies of bushfood production, properties and marketing are listed in the New Plant Products program on the RIRDC website. Members of the industry provided samples for testing, and many useful personal observations on bushfoods.

In general, commercial bushfoods are consumed in rather small quantities, more often for their particular flavour or aroma than nutritional value.

While they may sometimes contain some potentially undesirable compounds, these are usually present in similarly small quantities to those in non-native foods, which have been widely used with safety for many years for comparable culinary purposes.

Nevertheless, caution must be exercised with regard to correct identification of plants to be used as bushfoods and in limiting the quantities of unfamiliar foods being consumed.

Modern methods of selection and analysis of material intended for propagation for bushfood are standardising the chemical and other qualities of the resulting products, but individual tolerances of particular species or selections may still differ.

Reprinted from the June 2001 issue of SGAP Queensland Region's "Bulletin".

Animated BookSpacer

Wildflowers of the Brisbane Ranges
Merle and Clive Trigg

Published by CSIRO, 2000.
Paperback, 128 pages. colour, AUD$15.00

Reviewed by Cherree Densley

This is a great little book with 432 species succinctly described (botanical name, common name, family name, habitat and location, habit with height and size of flowers, time of flowering) and illustrated with superb and clear photography which makes identification very easy. The flora of the Brisbane Ranges is obviously very diverse, situated as it is 80kms west of Melbourne, consisting of basalt grasslands, heathy woodland, alluvial soils, buckshot gravel and granite rocks.

One cannot set out to put together a book like this overnight. In fact, it has taken over a decade for Merle and Clive (the photographer) to visit and locate all the plants, to make records, take photographs and observe. They acknowledge the help from the Book Steering Committee, Friends of the Brisbane Ranges, and the successful application for a Federal Grant from the Federation Fund to make the book possible.

Because so many of the species are widely found, it will not matter if you live anywhere else in Victoria, you will find this book an asset on your bookshelves.

The orchids make up a large section with over 240 excellent illustrations; it is particularly interesting.

A location map inside the fold-out front cover and a soils map inside the fold-out back cover add to the attractive presentation. The cover illustration of Grevillea steiglitziana - an endemic - is very beautifully treated.

You must use the index carefully as the Contents section is not very helpful. The large families of plants are grouped, with a small description, but it is very hard to find where they are in the book. Not all the family names, used in the descriptions are actually listed in the index either. There were also some omissions in the index - Xanthorrhoea australis could not be found in the index, although it is illustrated. There is no explanation of why the plants are arranged as they do - it becomes obvious that monocotyledons precede the dicotyledons - but for most people the arrangement and order of the plants could prove puzzling.

A very useful Colour Identification Guide is tucked away towards the back. One could want to find, for example, the name of a white spidery flower and be directed to pages 95 and 96 to check if it matched what they had found. This is a terrific little page of information, but could be far more useful towards the front of the book. The glossary and reference section is useful. The small section on the history of the Brisabane Ranges, written by Trevor Pescott is very interesting. Jeffrey Jeans from the National Herbarium corrected the botanical content of the book.

For under $20, one cannot go wrong with this book. Well done Merle and Clive. Highly recommended.

Reprinted from Growing Australian, newsletter of the Australian Plants Society (Victoria), March 2001.


[Front Page] [Features] [Departments] [Society Home] [Subscribe]

Australian Plants online - September 2001
Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants