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.



Entwined: plants and people curator's tour

Wed 29 Sep (multiple dates) · 11–11:45am
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. 
Holly Ringland sits at a table with her head resting on an extended arm

From little things: a conversation with Holly Ringland

Award winning author of The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart and host of the brand-new ABC series Back To Nature, Holly Ringland, joins us for an evening at State Library. Explore all the green things in her life from books, films, bushwalks, flowers and tattoos. With her second novel The Seven Skins of Esther Wilding due to be published in 2022 and an adaptation of her first novel currently underway with Amazon Prime Video starring award winning Sigourney Weaver, this conversation is not one to miss.  Holly Ringland will be in a conversation with Dr. Ashley Hay, book your tickets today.  This event will be accompanied by an Auslan interpreter.  This discussion is linked to Entwined: plants and people, an exhibition at State Library that celebrates and explores the complexity and beauty of plants. Can't make it onsite? The talk will also be live streamed on our website and available on Facebook live. To book a reminder to watch online click here. About the participants Holly Ringland is the author of the internationally bestselling and award-winning debut novel, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, which is currently being adapted for screen by Bruna Papandrea’s Made Up Stories. In 2020, Holly filmed Back to Nature, a visually stunning factual series she co-hosted with Aaron Pedersen, currently airing on ABC TV and ABC iview. Holly’s second novel, The Seven Skins of Esther Wilding, will be published by HarperCollins in 2022. Dr. Ashley Hay is a novelist and essayist whose awards include the Foundation of Australian Literary Studies’ Colin Roderick Award, the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Peoples’ Choice, and the Bragg/UNSW Press Prize for Science Writing. Her novels include The Body in the Clouds (2010) and A Hundred Small Lessons (2017). She is the editor of Griffith Review.   Subscribe to be the first to know about our program of events.

Entwined: plants and people

Every day · 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 7 Jul | 11–11:45am Wed 14 Jul | 5:30–6:15pm Wed 21 Jul | 11–11:45am Wed 4 Aug | 2–2:45pm Wed 11 Aug | 11–11:45am Wed 25 Aug | 11–11:45am Mon 30 Aug | 6-7pm | From little things: a conversation with Holly Ringland | Free Wed 8 Sep | 11–11:45am Wed 15 Sep | 11–11:45am Wed 29 Sep | 11–11:45am Wed 6 Oct |11–11:45am Wed 3 Nov | 5:30–6:15pm Wed 14 Jul | 6:30-7:30pm

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

Queensland’s fern fever

31 August 2021
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.   

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

Queensland’s coastal kidneys: mangroves

9 August 2021
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.   

Orchidelirium: when love turns to obsession

4 August 2021
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. 

Keeping culture alive through weaving

20 July 2021
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.  http://onesearch.slq.qld.gov.au/permalink/f/1oppkg1/slq_alma21205554910002061  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. 

Xanthorrhoeas - An Australian Explosive

9 July 2021
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. 

You may also like

Natural Queensland

Explore collections documenting the natural beauty of the Queensland landscape and the collections that expose the nature of its fury, testing human endeavour, response and recovery.

Deadly Threads

Deadly Threads is a showcase of singlets, shirts, polos and jerseys created by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from across Queensland.


An online photography exhibition reflecting on the last 20 years in Queensland.


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