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The Dryandras - About the Book

Margaret Pieroni

The Dryandras is the culmination of more than 30 years of work by the Dryandra Study Group leaders and members, helped by other botanists and friends.

The Dryandra Study Group was begun in 1974 with Tony Cavanagh as leader. For 8 years Tony produced newsletters containing all the information available about dryandras at the time as well as notes on growing dryandras and travels in Western Australia from members. Tony researched and wrote about the growing of Australian plants in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Dryandras
This publication results from a unique collaboration between the Australian Plants Society Victoria and the Western Australian Wildflower Society who are the publishers, and Bloomings Books who specialise in horticultural and natural history books.

The book is in large hardback format, 244 pages in length, with over 320 superb full colour photographs. Four introductory chapters discuss the discovery and naming of dryandras and the history of their cultivation, their biology and ecology, practical cultivation and propagation, and their scientific classification, including a key to all species. The bulk of the book provides full information on all 135 taxa (94 species and 41 subspecies and varieties) as well as several unnamed species. For each, there is a botanical description, distribution map, conservation status, habitat including climate information, flowering period as well as propagation and cultivation information. To assist with identification, each taxa has colour photographs of the flower head and the plant, and line drawings of a leaf, fruit, seed and seedling. All line drawings and maps are the work of Margaret Pieroni, one of Australia's most talented botanical artists.

Book Cover
A review of The Dryandras can be found here

In 1983, the year I joined the Study Group, Keith Alcock took over as leader. His work sometimes took him from Victoria to Perth and he would take the opportunity to see as many dryandras as he could in a short time. He had collected many taxa and kept meticulous records of their locations which were to prove invaluable later.

I had decided to join a Study Group and chose Dryandra because I had several growing in my garden in Attadale, a suburb of Perth. My mother, who lived on the south coast of New South Wales at the time had taken up Floral Art and was very successful at it, winning quite a few prizes at the local shows. At one, she overheard a woman say, "Yes, but she has all her stuff sent over from Western Australia". Most of the dried flowers that I sent to Mum were dryandras.

During the next few years Keith and I corresponded and I began doing drawings of the dryandras in my garden. It was about this time that Keith mentioned the book project and asked me if I would co-author and illustrate it. At the time, there were only about 50 dryandras described but many more specimens in the Herbarium. Alex George had generously agreed to allow us to use his descriptions of the taxa and gave us photocopies of the undescribed specimens. These were numbered from 1 - 53, (several more were discovered later, before Alex finished his revision in 1996 for publication in the Flora of Australia).

I first met Keith during one of his flying visits to Western Australia in 1984 or 1985, when he showed me 2 cartons of specimens he had collected. I found it hard to distinguish between them. I couldn't imagine ever being able to identify dryandras. However, every journey starts with a single step, as they say and, with various travelling companions I began to search out dryandras in the wild to photograph them and to collect material for the leaf and seed drawings. The precise locations of many of them were unknown so it was a matter of re-locating them and making fresh collections for Alex.

In 1986, Keith and I joined the Western Australian Wildflower Society's October long weekend excursion to the Stirling Range. (Guess who was on the Wildflower Society committee arranging excursions at the time!) Keith and I were hoping to find two dryandras in the Stirlings. One was nicknamed the "Cactus Dryandra" because of its growth habit. It had been seen by a Study Group member who described the location as at the back of a gravel pit at the foot of Twin Peaks. There is no such geographical feature on the map and Twin Hills is too far from the main road through the range to be the right location. We set out from east to west on Stirling Range Drive and at a certain point we noticed that two peaks, Mt. Gog and Talyuberiup Peak were joined by a saddle and next to the road was a barrier blocking off a disused gravel pit. At the far end of the disturbed area we found the plants - since named Dryandra anatona. They were not in flower so I asked friends who lived nearby and often visited the Stirlings to keep an eye on them for me. Much to my surprise, they rang the following March with news of the plants' flowering. I arranged with a friend to go down there to collect it straight away. Unfortunately, probably because of the gravel pit, the dreaded Phytophthora had been introduced and the whole population, what remained of it, was wiped out subsequently.

The other dryandra we wanted to find was a form of Dryandra ferruginea. We knew approximately where to look for this one and we found several plants in flower. It is D.ferruginea subsp. pumila.

My most frequent travelling companion and dear friend was the late Shirley Loney. On one of our trips we were looking for Dryandra preissii, west of Woodanilling at one of Keith's locations, when Shirley discovered something a bit different growing nearby. The leaves were similar but lacked the bipinnate lobes at the top. We collected a specimen for Alex even though it was not flowering. The following year, while Alex was in Western Australia on his Dryandra collecting trip from Canberra, we met with a local man, Ray Garstone to look for a rare Verticordia in the same vicinity. We had found the dryandra in bud and when we showed it to them, Ray told us about a nearby reserve where it was also growing. Since then I have found three more populations. Alex named it Dryandra lepidorhiza.

Among Keith's collections of specimens was a leaf and a few bracts from a plant that Study Group member, John Cullen had found "near Pingrup". I carried them with me on my trips along with the photocopies of the un-named specimens and Keith's list of locations. Early in 1986, Shirley and I were on our way to stay with friends in Newdegate. As we passed through Pingrup I remarked that it was a pity that we didn't have a more precise location for John's plant as we had plenty of time to search. Very soon I spotted some unusual dryandras on the side of the road. The leaves and the papery bracts on the spent flowers matched the specimens and I yelled, "This is IT!" I phoned Keith when we got back to Perth and he guessed that we had found IT even though he hadn't known where we had been. This dryandra was known as IT until it was named Dryandra idiogenes.

Discovering Dryandra in the Wild
Dryandra anatona
Dryandra anatona
Dryandra falcata
Dryandra falcata
Dryandra ferruginea subsp. pumila
Dryandra ferruginea
sub. pumila
Dryandra idiogenes
Dryandra idiogenes
Dryandra lepidorhiza
Dryandra lepidorhiza
Dryandra longifolia subsp. archeos
Dryandra longifolia
subsp. archeos
Dryandra meganotia
Dryandra meganotia
Photos: Margaret Pieroni

In 1987 I had a phone call from Keith to say that he was being transferred to the UK and he asked if I would take over as leader. With much trepidation I agreed, providing that Tony would be willing to be the newsletter editor. Soon after, Keith suggested that Tony should co-author the book, as well.

Alex's revision was published in 1996 and we continued searching out dryandras in the wild. The Study Group's newsletter no.30 was in the form of an illustrated key, using drawings of leaves to be used until the book was published. Six new taxa were found and described after that and the key was up-dated.

Botanist Ted Griffin had made collections of several unnamed dryandras and he made his information available to us. He also identified the dryandras we found during a trip to the Badgingarra area that he led in the early 1980s.

Ted's Dryandra sp. J was named Dryandra meganotia. Over the years we found many populations of this species. There appears to be three forms with slight differences.

It was Ted's idea to draw the seedlings of each taxon. I managed to germinate the seeds of most of them and, in some cases grow them on in my garden. Study Group member, Hartley Tobin, in Victoria, took on the task of examining seed capsules to see whether they usually had one or two seeds per capsule. He also germinated many of them and sent the seedlings to me to draw.

Every exciting trip brought new discoveries - if not a new taxon then hybrids or unusual forms and almost always, range extensions for many taxa.

Recently, Kevin Collins found Dryandra longifolia subsp. calcicola near Quagi Beach, many kilometres west of other collections. Brian Moyle and I found D.longifolia subsp. archeos on The Diamonds Hill, in Cape Arid National Park - previously only collected from Mt. Ragged.

At Mt. Arid, we found Dryandra falcata. It had been collected by Robert Brown at Lucky Bay in 1802 but not seen there since then. The easternmost collection in the Western Australian Herbarium was from the Fitzgerald National Park. We also collected D. nervosa from the Cape Arid area. It had not been collected east of Esperance.

These are just a few of the discoveries we have made over the last 30 years or so. I'm sure there will be many more in the future. Since I have been a member of the Study Group, I have been describing my adventures in the newsletters. Almost every dryandra has a personal story behind it. I owe grateful thanks to the many friends who have shared my enjoyment of dryandra hunting. Alex George was extremely generous with his knowledge and in allowing us to use his descriptions. Keith Alcock did much of the ground work and Tony, not only most of the writing but also the very important work of organising the publishing - a task that would have been beyond me.

Many thanks to you all.

From the newsletter of ASGAP's Dryandra Study Group, February 2007. Margaret is the leader of the Study Group.

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Australian Plants online - 2007
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