Entwined Plants and people

Free exhibition
Until 14 Nov
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.

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.

Kindred spirits

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


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



Micro-X-ray in purple pink and yellow fluorescence of petals and a stem

The Conversation – Plants and people: the art of living together

Wed 14 Jul · 6:30–7:30pm
The stories of plants and people are connected in countless ways. Humans have always needed and loved plants, but we have also caused untold destruction on environments around the globe. In this fourth event in the series presented by State Library of Queensland and The Conversation, leading experts from around Australia will inform and inspire audiences in a thought-provoking online discussion. Watch the livestream and register to receive your calendar reminder. Panel Join Eddie Game (The Nature Conservancy), Tanja Beer (Queensland College of Art), Prudence Gibson (UNSW) and Laura Skates (UWA) for a passionate discussion about people's interactions with plants across social, emotional, scientific and creative endeavours. What is the relationship between plant studies and the arts? What innovative methods can we turn to when cities need greening, environments need preserving, and humans find themselves unable to connect with nature? And what role can technologies play in understanding plants and working towards sustainable futures? This discussion is linked to Entwined: plants and people, an exhibition at State Library that celebrates and explores the complexity and beauty of plants. Subscribe to be the first to know about our program of events.  Presented by State Library of Queensland and The Conversation, the world's leading free, fact-based news source written by academics and edited by journalists.

Entwined: plants and people

Today till Sun 14 Nov · 10am–5pm
Pause, breathe and notice the complexity and beauty of plants. Entwined: plants and people explores our intrinsic relationship with plants through photography, illustrations, immersive projections, and historical objects.   In this evocative State Library of Queensland exhibition, Entwined displays the transformative works of award-winning creatives as they document and reinterpret plant life in modern Australia.  Entwined also digs into State Library’s rare and beautiful botanical collections, exploring our day-to-day connection with plants, unfurling fascinating historical and contemporary stories in the process.   See how our lives are experienced and, at times, defined through our interactions with plants across social, emotional, scientific, and creative endeavours.   Highlights include:    Joseph Banks' Florilegium and the works of Ferdinand Bauer   Man & Wah’s immersive videography and Donna Davis' creative plant displacements The rare and unique  Queensland Nineteenth Century Fern Album 1883-1884 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditional knowledge of plants as technology in Bicornual baskets, Wujal Wujal mullet spear making and Kowanyama basket making   Enjoy in-person tours of the exhibition to deepen your connection to plants.   Join a workshop or talking event to continue the broader conversation of plants and people.   Subscribe to be the first to know about our events.    Program Curator's tours | Free Wed 14 Jul | 5:30–6:15pm Wed 11 Aug | 11–11:45am Wed 8 Sep | 11–11:45am Wed 6 Oct |11–11:45am Wed 3 Nov | 5:30–6:15pm  

Entwined: plants and people curator's tour

Wed 14 Jul (ongoing) · 5:30–6:15pm
Join curator and research librarian, Joan Bruce, for a unique glimpse into the story behind Entwined: plants and people. Hear about the exhibition's evocative photography, illustrations, immersive projections, and historical objects and how they demonstrate our intrinsic relationship with plants. Book now to secure your spot. Subscribe to be the first to know about our program of events. 

Library Shop

Kindred Spirits: plants & people

State Library of Queensland

The Botanical Adventures of Joseph Banks

by Christina Harrison

Green: plants for small spaces, indoor and out

by Jason Chongue

Aboriginal Biocultural Knowledge in South-eastern Australia

by Philip Clarke

From the blog

Faradaya splendida

21 April 2017
Have you ever wondered what that exuberant scrambling vine growing against the northern face of the State Library is? Image courtsey Josie Huang, State Library of QueenslandIts correct botanical name is Faradaya splendida (family Lamiaceae ). Faradaya after the English physicist Michael Faraday; splendida for the glossy sheen of its large dark- green leaves; Lamiaceae, curiously, because its flower structure conforms to that of the mint family.Faradaya splendida is an evergreen, woody, twining native of Queensland’s tropical north, known for its stunning white fragrant blooms and vigorous growth, needing plenty of water, warmth and full sun to flourish. It’s also found in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Solomon Islands, and the gardeners among you will be interested to know that it’s easily propagated from fresh seed or cuttings.The abundant scented flowers, 6-7 cm across, last only a single day, but appear all year round apart from the colder winter months. © CSIRO. Faradaya splendida leaves and flowers, reproduced with permissionFaradaya splendida is known by a string of common names – October Vine, October Glory, October Surprise, Glory Vine, Native Glory Vine, Potato Vine, Fragrant Faradaya; Indigenous language names include Garanggal (Cairns-Yarrabah), Buku (Tully River) and Koie-yan (Dunk Island). Naturalist Stanley Breeden in his Visions of a Rainforest quotes Robert Murray, a rainforest man of the Girramay clan, who adds another to this list: ‘Djungeen’.For the Girramay, Faraday splendida is an ‘indicator’ plant, as after the flowers are spent, and its potato-like fruits have turned white and fallen to the ground in October, they know that the Bush Turkey nests will have eggs in them. This explains the presence of little bush turkey chicks currently running around in my own garden. Faradaya splendida, image courtesy Josie Huang, State Library of QueenslandInterestingly, the bark of this vigorous creeper is rich with saponin, a toxin once used by Aborigines to stun and capture fish. Ted Banfield (1852 –1923) - journalist and author of Confessions of a Beachcomber - described this practice in his own eloquent description of the plant in his Tropic Days:This is one of the most rampant and ambitious of the many vines of the jungle. It combines exceeding vigour with rare gracefulness. The leaves are a light glossy green, ovate, and often a foot long, while the flowers are pure white (resembling slightly the azalea, but free from its fragility), large, and with an elusive scent, sweet and yet indefinite. The fruit, smooth and of porcelain whiteness, varies in size and shape, and is said to be edible, though blacks ignore it. A large marble and an undersized hen’s egg may dangle together, or in company with others, from the topmost branches of some tall tree, which has acted as host to the clinging vine. The handsome but inconsiderate plant is turned from its purpose of lending fictitious and fugitive charms to quite commonplace but passive trees to the office of stupefying uncomplaining fish. But the element which holds such deadly enmity to the sense of the fish is not obtainable by the simple primary means successful with other plants. Indeed, the process is quite elaborate, and goes to prove that the Australian aboriginal has to his credit as a chemist the results of successful original research, and that he is also a herbalist from whom it is no condescension to learn. In this detail, at any rate, he is distinctly an accomplished person. Portions of the vine are cut into foot lengths; the outer layer of bark is removed and rejected, the middle layer alone being preserved. This is carefully scraped off and made up into shapely little piles on fresh green leaves. One might imagine that a black boy preparing the deadly “Koie-yan” was really playing at chemist’s shop with neat-handed scrupulousness. When a sufficiency is obtained it is rubbed on to stones previously heated by fire. The stones then being thrown into a creek or a little lagoon left by the receding tide, the poison becomes disseminated, with fatal effect to all fish and other marine animals. Needless to say, this means Faradaya splendida probably shouldn’t be planted over any little garden ponds. In fact it shouldn’t be planted in any small suburban garden as its rate of growth is prodigious.Ross Gelling, a Townsville horticulturist who writes for Subtropical Gardening Magazine writes that ‘under ideal conditions, within a season or two, it is not uncommon for this vine to completely cover a 30m tree three times over, with its woody twining mass. That being said, in a subtropical environment, lacking the warmth and endless water of its tropical lowland rain forest habitat, this beautiful specimen is quite a tame and well-behaved resident’. Faradaya splendida, image courtesy Josie Huang, State Library of QueenslandI’m not sure I agree with Ross, as our vine, planted in 2006 as part of the Millennium Arts Project redevelopment of the State Library building, has almost reached the top of the 15m wall, and will soon eclipse what’s left of the State Library of Queensland lettering. North-west wall of the State Library of Queensland, South Brisbane, 2006. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Image no. 7017-0001-0006, http://hdl.handle.net/10462/deriv/35467  North-west wall of State Library of Queensland December 2016Image courtesy Josie Huang, State Library of QueenslandEarly description of Faradaya splendidaThe dedication of Faradaya splendida to the English scientist Faraday was made by German-born Baron Sir Ferdinand von Mueller, the Victorian Government botanist, in 1865. This is how he worded it:"Genus exiimium ornavi nomine illustrissimi Michaelis Faraday. D.C.L., LL.D., Chemiiu in regio institute Britannias Professoris Fulleriani, philosophi per orbem celebrati."which translates as:‘Genus named after the illustrious Michael Faraday, Doctor of Civil Law, Fellow of the Royal Society, Fullerian Professor of Chemistry of the British Royal Institute, and world-celebrated philosopher’Clearly, von Meuller was a fan.You can read von Mueller’s formal account of the plant in his journal Fragmenta Phytographiae Australiae 1865 at the wonderful Biodiversity Heritage Library but you’ll have to brush off your Botanical Latin – the international language of the botanist used in descriptions of plants considered new to science: Source: Fragmenta Phytographiae Australiae vol 5 (1865) pp 21-2The first part of the entry refers to the fact that Von Mueller’s specimens were collected in the rainforest at Rockingham Bay (Cardwell) by Scottish botanist John Dallachy, his friend and colleague at the Melbourne Botanic Gardens.It was at von Mueller’s suggestion that Dallachy had joined the George Dalrymple exploring party in 1864 with the aim of forming a settlement at Rockingham Bay. Dallachy was so enchanted by the luxuriant flora of Far North Queensland that he never returned to Melbourne. He died in Cardwell in 1871.Remarkably, Dallachy’s carefully-preserved specimens, brown with age, can still be seen at the National Herbarium of Victoria in Melbourne. This image is one of the three ‘types’ they hold for F. splendida collected by Dallachy. F. splendida collected by Dallachy.Image reproduced with permission from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Victoria.Another early description of the plant – in English - can be found in W.J. Hooker’s article ‘Faradaya splendida – Native of Queensland’ published in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine of August 1891 . Sir William Jackson Hooker was a leading botanist and first Director of the great Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Interestingly, he writes that their plant was sent from the Brisbane Botanical Gardens in 1879, which means it must have been sent by Walter Hill (another Scot) who had been Queensland's first Colonial Botanist and curator of the Brisbane Gardens from 1856-1881. Hooker notes its vigorous growth pattern: Source: 'Faradaya splendida’. Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, vol. 117 ( 560), August 1891 Tab 7817 Sadly, I’m reliably informed that this Brisbane-born specimen is no longer extant, due to restoration works on the Kew Gardens Palm House in the 1980s.Drawings and Illustrations of F. splendida, like this one accompanying the 1891 Hooker article can be found in various botanical journals: Illustration of 'Faradaya splendida’. Source: 'Faradaya splendida’. Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, vol. 117 ( 560), August 1891 Tab 7817 The vine was also painted by the diminutive Victorian flower artist, Ellis Rowan (1848-1922) who made several excursions to the north. Ellis Rowan. Faradaya splendida F.Muell., family Lamiaceae, Queensland, c1891Ellis Rowan Australian Collection, 275/891National Library of Australiahttp://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-138769669/viewNote Rowan’s insertion of the insect – a trademark employed in many of her paintings, added for artistic effect. Such flourishes are forbidden in the practice of botanical illustration, the main goal of which is botanical accuracy, rather than artistry, enabling exactitude in the identification of a plant from its leaves, stems, fruits etc.Faradaya splendida is in fact host to a number of creatures, including the larvae of several species of butterfly found in Far North Queensland (Common Oak Blue, Common Tit; Pale Cillate-blue and Eone Blue). We have a family of possums living in our vine, and have even spotted snakes on occasion. Possum in Faradaya splendida, State Library of QueenslandImage courtesy Amanda Hayman, SLQ Digital Exhibitions Program Officer, kuril dhagunFor those of you wanting to know more about this handsome Queensland vine, I’ve included some links below.Further ReadingRoss Gelling. ‘Faradaya splendida’ Subtropical Gardening Magazine Issue 29 p. 49Australian Native Plants Society. Faradaya splendida http://anpsa.org.au/f-spl.htmlFaradaya splendida F.Muell. Atlas of Living Australia http://bie.ala.org.au/species/http://id.biodiversity.org.au/node/apni/2…, A. A . 'A Taxonomic Revision of the Genus Faradaya F. Muell. Verbenaceae in Australia'. Journal of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens 10(2): 165-177 (1987) https://www.jstor.org/stable/23874064Home, R.W. et al. (eds) Regardfully Yours. Selected Correspondence of Ferdinand von Mueller (Life and letters of Ferdinand von Mueller) Bern: Peter Lang, 1998-2002 http://onesearch.slq.qld.gov.au/SLQ:SLQ_PCI_EBSCO:slq_alma2112345577000… Kok, R.P.J, & Mabberley, D.J. ‘The Genus Faradaya’ Blumea Vol. 44 (2) 1999 pp321-342 http://repository.naturalis.nl/document/565885McKay, Judith. Ellis Rowan A Flower-Hunter in Queensland. Brisbane: Queensland Museum, 1990 http://onesearch.slq.qld.gov.au/SLQ:SLQ_PCI_EBSCO:slq_alma2113565311000…, Patricia. The Flower Hunter Ellis Rowan. Canberra: National Library of Australia, 2002 http://onesearch.slq.qld.gov.au/SLQ:SLQ_PCI_EBSCO:slq_alma2111514707000…, William T. Botanical Latin. History, Grammar, Syntax, Terminology and Vocabulary. 3rd ed. Revised. London: David & Charles, 1983 http://onesearch.slq.qld.gov.au/SLQ:SLQ_PCI_EBSCO:slq_alma2112183347000… Breeden. Visions of a rainforest : a year in Australia's tropical rainforest / text by Stanley Breeden ; East Roseville, N.S.W : Simon & Schuster Australia | 1992 http://onesearch.slq.qld.gov.au/SLQ:SLQ_PCI_EBSCO:slq_alma2113151825000… Heritage Library http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/Jenny FreemanLibrarian, Information Services

Manifesto displayed under the Tree of Knowledge in Barcaldine

8 November 2009
In the midst of the John Oxley Library's White Gloves Tour to Longreach last weekend a special detour was made to Barcaldine to coincide with Sunday's Community Cabinet meeting. A feature item of this year's White Gloves Tours has been the Manifesto of the Labour Party to the People of Queensland, 1892. Recently added to UNESCO's Memory of the World Register the Manifesto is a very special document, particularly in relation to the central west where the modern day Australian Labor Party had its origins.    On Sunday evening the Manifesto was displayed under the Tree of Knowledge monument and generated a great deal of interest from those who had gathered for the open air BBQ dinner with Premier Anna Bligh and members of her cabinet.Folklore has it that the Manifesto was read publicly under the Tree of Knowledge in Barcaldine some time after the shearers' strike of 1891.

Walter Hill : the gardener who helped grow a state

20 June 2012
Walter Hill was Superintendent of Brisbane's Botanic Garden from 1855 and Director of the Garden and Colonial Botanist from Separation in 1859 until 1881.  His talent and energy led him to not only develop the few acres of marshy ground originally set aside for the Gardens into a world class botanical garden but also to introduce plants such as pineapples, mangos and sugar cane that became major contributors to Queensland's prosperity, make significant contributions  to the discovery and classification of Queensland's native flora, and contribute to the exploration and settlement of previously unknown parts of the state. Walter Hill, first Superintendent of the Brisbane Botanic GardensHill was born in the Scottish border country in the parish of Cannonbie Lea, the name he gave to the house he built in Eight Mile Plains.  He was apprenticed before the age of sixteen to his brother David who was head gardener at Balloch Castle in Dunbarton shire.  After various appointments as gardener and nurseryman he became foreman of the Propagation and New Plant Departments at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew in 1843.  From there ambition and an adventurous spirit led him to set sail for Australia. Hill arrived in Sydney in 1852 and after initially joining the gold rush with little success and taking part in exploratory expeditions he found himself appointed Superintendent of Brisbane's new Botanic Garden.His first task was to have the original allocation of six acres with no river frontage increased to 28 acres on the banks of the Brisbane River.  Hill also took every opportunity of  exploring the surrounding country in search of plants and seeds, not only for adding to the gardens, but also as affording a much appreciated medium of exchange with other countries and colonies for the seeds and  plants which they produce.  There were never enough funds allocated for the work that Hill wanted to do at the gardens and this network of exchange of plants and seeds that Hill established with gardeners and botanists around the world was vital in enabling him to import a wide variety of plants so that he could establish which plants and varieties would thrive in Queensland's climate and soils. In his first Annual Report Hill outlined his philosophy.In my selection of plants I always kept in view the fact that these Gardens were designed to become not merely a pleasant and instructive resort, but a nursery for the propagation of such as were capable of being turned to profitable account upon more extended cultivation, if found to be readily acclimatized. View of the Botanic Gardens in Brisbane, 1875One of Walter Hill's most important contributions to Queensland was the introduction of sugar cane.  Hill experimented with planting different varieties of cane and in 1862 took advantage of the arrival of a man from the West Indies with experience in sugar production to successfully trial producing sugar from his own cane.  The successful trial was reported in the Courier of April 26, 1862.We yesterday received from Mr. Walter Hill, Director of the Botanic Gardens, a sample of sugar manufactured from canes grown in those gardens by Mr. John Buhot, a gentleman who has recently arrived in the colony. Space will not permit us to do more in this issue than to affirm that the experiment is triumphantly successful, and to insert Mr. Hill's letter on the subject. We shall, however, take an early opportunity for recurring to the topic.Sir,--I have much pleasure in forwarding for your inspection, a sample of sugar manufactured from the canes in our garden by Mr. John Buhot, a gentleman passenger per ship Montmorency. He is a native of the Barbadoes, in the West Indies, where he was employed in the planting and manufacture of sugar. The canes were in a very green and imperfect state, but Mr. Buhot found no difficulty in the granulation, the soil giving no deliquescent salt, very often found in similar soils in the West Indies. It was simply a hurried experiment, to see if the canes would produce a granulated sugar. The utensils made use of were three iron pots hung in the open air, boiled at night by the uncertain light of a candle. A much clearer quality might have been produced, had there been a sufficient quantity to have retained warmth to part with its molasses. A further trial, at Mr. Buhot's request, is contemplated, that gentleman feeling confident that, with proper appliances, a superior quality of sugar to what he has seen generally sold in Brisbane, can be produced from similar canes only riper.I am, Sir, yours truly,  WALTER HILL.  Botanic Gardens, 25th April, 1862.  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4605296Hill continued to experiment with different varieties of cane and sent many hundreds of cuttings to growers in different parts of Queensland, having determined the best areas for sugar growing during his travels and explorations around the state.  It is largely due to his untiring efforts that sugar growing became a major export industry for Queensland. Cedars Sugar Plantation at Mackay, ca. 1880Hill continually sent out seeds, cuttings and seedlings to all those in the Queensland who might make best use of them.  This quote from the Annual Report of 1866, which was published in the Brisbane Courier, typifies these endeavors.During the year there has been a great demand for the more useful plants, such as the sugar-cane, coffee, tea, jaca tree, &c, &c, which have been liberally supplied to those persons who were likely to take a real and practical interest in their cultivation. I have uniformly acted on the principal of encouraging, by the contribution of seeds or plants, the opening up of new sources of industry ; and therefore all those who came and solicited me in a reasonable manner I have endeavored to oblige, and I think the farming capabilities of the colony may be thereby largely benefitted.In disposing of the plants and seeds at my command, I have tried to act upon the principle of obtaining a fair exchange for anything emanating from the gardens, the chief object being to encourage a taste for horticultural and agricultural pursuits.http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1265972Much more could be written about Walter Hill and his many contributions to the early development of Queensland.  The State Library holds some useful resources.There is a fictionalized biography by Brisbane author Gordon Smith Walter Hill of Brisbane's Botanic Garden.The library holds several works by Hill including his Catalogue of the plants in the Queensland Botanic Gardens.There is a useful biographical sketch titled 'A man's work' published in The Queenslander after Hill's death in 1904 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22266370 'Canonbie Lea' the house built by Walter Hill at Eight Mile Plains, ca. 1910Simon Miller - Library Technician, State Library of Queensland

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Until 14 Nov
Visit State Library and experience our intrinsic relationship with plants.