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state library of queensland


Artist interpretation of a banksia on a dark background.


Plants and people

This exhibition is in the past.
12 June-14 November 2021
slq Gallery, level 2

Plant fever has come to State Library.

Explore stories about people and plants in Queensland and discover the masterpieces of botanical illustration in our collections.



Innate pleasure

Experience that innate pleasure in the natural world which relaxes the body and nourishes the soul.

Abe Muriata weaving at the Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival, 2009.

Use and misuse

The lives of plants and people are totally intertwined. We couldn’t survive without them. They provide medicine, tools, food, and shelter, and manufacture the very air we breathe.


Botanical illustration

Experience the jewel-like beauty of masterpieces of botanical illustration in State Library’s collections.

A pile of bunya cones.

Kindred spirits

An intimate connection of kinship exists between Australia’s First Nations people and the natural world.

Young boy walking in front of a cart with orchids in 1921.


Discover stories, quirky and otherwise, about connections between plants and people in Queensland.

Collection highlights

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Banksia spinulosa.


Library Shop

Kindred Spirits: plants & people by State Library of Queensland

Kindred Spirits: plants & people
By State Library of Queensland

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Joseph Banks' Florilegium book cover

Joseph Banks' Florilegium: Botanical Treasures from Cook's First Voyage
By Joe Studholme et al

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Indoor Green book cover

Indoor Green
By Bree Claffey

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Aboriginal Biocultural Knowledge in South-eastern Australia

Aboriginal Biocultural Knowledge in South-eastern Australia
By Philip Clarke

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From the blog

Visitors admiring the plantings on the platform at Kuranda Railway Station, Kuranda, Queensland, 1970.
Queensland’s fern fever
Pteridomania was the name coined by Charles Kingsley for the British fern fever of the nineteenth century. Unlike orchidelirium, fern fever was a pursuit embraced by all classes, open to anyone “possessing good taste”, as declared by Edward Newman in A history of British ferns. This fever spread to the colonies, with Australian ferns presenting exciting new opportunities for collection and decoration.
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Child with watering can
Grow their vocabulary with gardening
Gardening provides many opportunities for early literacy as you get your hands dirty together.
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Darren Clark Wujal Wujal Photographs (0006-0016)
Queensland’s coastal kidneys: mangroves
Much of Australia’s flora has been isolated since the break-up of Gondwana, but hugging our northern coastlines are another class of plants. They seem to look outwards towards the Pacific and Asia, rather than inwards to a continent isolated since the time of the dinosaurs. Coastal First Nations people used them in multiple ways; for food and decoration and as a source of wood. The leaves of the Barringtonia species were used to poison fish.
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 Brilliant orchid growing near the Tinaroo Lake area, 1984.
Orchidelirium: when love turns to obsession
One of the most enduring plant obsessions is orchidelirium, or the mania for orchids. This obsession has resulted in theft, death, and environmental destruction, including the apparent extinction in the wild of some species. On the flip side, it has also motivated advances in horticultural techniques and increased scientific understanding of the relationships between fungi and plants.
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Kakan (dilly bags) – Delissa Walker – On loan for Entwined courtesy of Cairns Art Gallery.
Keeping culture alive through weaving
One of the most complex and beautiful examples of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander technology is basket-weaving—the myriad of local forms reflecting the diverse country of the people who make them. Different plant fibres are used across Queensland. Plants such as lomandra species (wetland grasses), lawyer cane (a spiky vine known as “wait-a-while" for its tenacious grip on unsuspecting passers-by), pandanus and black palm have all been well-documented as basket material. The elegant engineering of the “two horned” baskets of North Queensland embodies the flexibility and strength of lawyer vine, along with the ancestral knowledge of the rainforest people who make them. These are practical tools with great beauty and cultural power. Each basket takes 4-5 weeks to make and can last around 3 years, used every day in the rainforest. Bicornual baskets are designed to sit in running water, to leach toxins from seeds that would otherwise be poisonous. These utilitarian and beautiful baskets allowed a wider range of foods to be eaten. During the 2009 Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival, a group of weavers from Erub, Torres Strait and Hope Vale, Cape York ran a weaving workshop together. This exchange of technique and culture can be seen in the Weaving Exchange: Erub Island and Hopevale 2009 video below. Abe Muriata, a Girramay man of the Cardwell region in North Queensland, is one of few men weaving jawun. He describes himself as self-taught: he watched his grandmother weave jawun but was not taught by her. Abe experiments with technique and media, creating traditional baskets and also reinterpreting traditional techniques for modern materials. Rhonda Brim, a Djabugay Elder, weaves bicornual baskets with lawyer cane, and dilly bags with lomandra (a wetland species) or black palm. When she was in her twenties one of her grandmothers, Wilma Walker, shared the cultural knowledge and techniques. Determined to keep culture alive, she teaches the younger generations, carrying on the long basket-making tradition. Fine examples of weaving and the weavers who make them are featured in both the Entwined: plants and people exhibition and Kindred Spirits: plants and people publication. Kindred Spirits: plants and people is available to purchase from the Library Book Shop. With text by Shannon Brett, featuring images from State Library’s collection and more, it explores the ancient and ongoing connection between First Nations people and plants in Queensland. This publication was developed in response to the Entwined: plants and people exhibition which is open now and runs until November 14, 2021.
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Panoramic views from a grass-treed ridge on South Molle Island to the Whitsundays, North Queensland, 1985
Xanthorrhoeas - An Australian Explosive
This distinctive plant genus is found only in Australia, and different species occur in all states and territories. A living fossil, it was one of the first flowering plants to evolve. Like eucalypts, it has adapted to bushfire, which plays an important role in its lifecycle by triggering flowering.
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