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Australian National Botanic Gardens

I have never had the chance to travel to Canberra, or even Australia, but if I go I will certainly pass by the Australian National Botanic Gardens to see the Aboriginal Trail. The interpretive booklets are a good calling card, full of fine line drawings that depict not only plants along the trail, but also their traditional uses. Attractive to the general public, they are also up to the standards of ethnobotanists, giving scientific names, habitats and flowering seasons of plants as well as short descriptions of the use of each plant part. /GJM

The Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) has a very active education program through which it strives to encourage all sectors of the community to use the Gardens and learn from them. It seeks to encourage an understanding of Australia’s plants and to promote the teaching of environmental awareness both in Australia and internationally.

The Gardens’ Education Service has produced a range of packages designed for students and other visitors, including worksheets, teachers’ notes, maps and other materials focusing on Australia’s flora and ecosystems. Booklet titles include How to Propagate Native Plants and Aboriginal Plant Use in Southeastern Australia. Other resources include videos, slide sets, posters and books. An Aboriginal Trail has been created in the Gardens, along which some of the plants traditionally used by Aborigines can be found.

In order to raise the profile of botanical, environmental and horticultural studies in educational curricula, the Education Service provides advice on curriculum development and offers a consultancy service to teachers and other professionals.

‘When Europeans first came to Australia almost every Aboriginal person would have been skilled in some form of fibrecraft.Today, in southeastern Australia only a very small number of mostly elderly women and some men now have knowledge of traditional fibrecrafts. These people value their skills and are in most cases eager to pass on these skills to younger generations. The main items produced now are coiled baskets and mats.In the more remote areas of northern Australia, there are still keen and very skilled fibreworkers. These are mainly women who sell their products, including bags (coiled and twined), string bags and different sized mats.Traditional designs and materials have undergone modifications. For example, in Arnhem Land cardboard boxes are boiled along with the plant fibre material to extract the blue-grey ink from the paper.

Anonymous. (no date). Teacher’s notes. Discover The Aboriginal Trail. Canberra, Australian National Botanic Gardens


  • Julie Foster, Australian National Botanic Gardens, GPO Box 1777, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia; Tel. +61.6.2509450, Fax +61.6.2509599, e-mail julief@anbg.gov.au.


Desert Botanical Garden

An active staff interested in ethnobotany, including Joe McAuliffe, Edward Anderson, Wendy Hodgson and Ruth Greenhouse, ensure that plants and people of the Sonoran Desert are an ongoing focus of the Desert Botanical Garden. /GJM

The Desert Botanical Garden is a privately funded, non-profit organization located in the Sonoran Desert. Founded in 1937, the Garden is dedicated to education, conservation and research of the desert habitat. Research interests focus on the food plants and traditional agricultural systems of the region. Through educational activities, the Garden seeks to promote the use of arid land plants and cultivars adaptable to desert life and water-saving gardening techniques. Training courses are regularly held, including education workshops for teachers. The Garden staff has organized workshops for farmers of arid lands to demonstrate local agroecology methods and traditional desert cropping methods. An outdoor exhibit and trail on the plants and people of the Sonoran Desert have been developed. The Garden publishes a wide range of books and journals, including the Sonoran Quarterly (formerly the Saguaroland Bulletin), and Agave, which is issued occasionally.

‘Little is known about the Paleo-Indians that swept across North America between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago, other than that they were nomadic big game hunters. Subsequent scattered nomadic bands spread into southwestern North America from 10,000 to 2000 years ago, perhaps reversing the earlier movement and coming northward from Mexico. The Hohokam Indians, who evolved from the earlier Cochise Culture and immigrants from Mexico, occupied much of southern Arizona from about 2000 years ago to A.D. 1450. They developed a complex society based on agriculture that flourished in the desert. The Hohokam irrigation system was the most extensive in North America with more than 300 miles of canals in the Phoenix area alone.’

Anonymous. 1986. The Sonoran Desert. Agave, Special Issueon Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert.


  • Jane Cole, Librarian, Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, Arizona 85008, USA; Tel. +1.602.9411225, Fax +1.602.4818124, e-mail adjbc@asuvm.inre.asu.edu


There are more than 100 botanical gardens in China.

Ethnobotanical Park OMAERE

This promising project seeks to create incentives for the conservation of useful plant resources and local indigenous knowledge systems through a lively ex situ ethnobotanical garden. Lawrence Lebrun and Noemi Paymal, two pillars of Omaere Park, have been instrumental in designing the project, finding the funding and finally making it a reality. While both are French citizens, their commitment to working in close collaboration with Amerindian institutions and individuals and their capacity to integrate the local perspective are the bases of the success of this project. /YA

The Ethnobotanical Park OMAERE (Parque Pedagógico Etnobotánico OMAERE y Estación Científica) is located in the tropical forest of the Upper Amazonian region of Ecuador, near the town of Puyo. The Park, opened to the public since 1994, is a multi-disciplinary research and training center for both local people and foreigners. An ethnobotanical garden, currently under development, will include a comprehensive collection of rain forest plants. There are five main activities within the park: (1) investigation of the botanical diversity of the Ecuadorian Amazon, and the development of a germplasm bank and database; (2) study of the ethnology and ethnobotany of the indigenous cultures in the Ecuadorian Amazon; (3) training and technical advice to promote sustainable management of the area, for example, establishing nurseries, delimiting reserve areas, forestry and agroforestry activities; (4) development of educational activities and materials, including publications on the local plants, audio-visual materials, and educational paths through the park and other reserves; and (5) research into the use of plant genetic resources, and its promotion for the improvement of the economy of the local communities.



Nanjing Botanical Garden

Environmental education is a new but rapidly growing field in China. Nanjing Botanical Garden is playing a leading role in developing and in promoting environmental education throughout the country. /ALH

The Nanjing Botanical Garden began its education program in the late 1970s. One of its principal tasks is to make science and botany more accessible to the general public, and particularly to young people. The Garden has worked extensively with schools, and has developed a program to complement classroom teaching. This includes outings in the Garden, story-telling sessions and using plants in handicrafts. Summer and winter camps are also organized, as well as lectures and training courses for both students and teachers. Lectures have been given on flower customs, biodiversity and conservation, and Chinese herbal medicine, while the training courses cover subjects such as grafting and pruning techniques.A slightly different approach to education is being developed through the Garden’s efforts to increase people’s appreciation of nature through art. Exhibitions are regularly held on botanical illustration, flower arranging and using fruit and vegetables in sculpture. School children are encouraged to use plants in their art work, for example, using dried flowers to create pictures. The Garden has done a great deal of work to raise the profile of plants and environmental issues through the media. A television series for children has been made and two radio programs, entitled Man and Plants and Flowers and Cultures, were produced in collaboration with local stations.The Garden has been cooperating closely with BGCI in developing education programs. As a result of this collaboration, in 1994 the Garden began publication of Roots Digest, an education newsletter that informs readers about the latest news, views and ideas in botanic garden education, aiming to stimulate botanic gardens in China to develop their own education programs. In addition, BGCI and Nanjing Garden jointly organized the first botanic garden education course and training workshop, held in 1996.


  • Li Mei, Nanjing Botanical Garden, Mem. Sun Yat-Sen, Jiangsu Institute of Botany, P.O. Box 1435, Nanjing 210014, China;
    Tel. +86.25.4432075, Fax +86.25.4432074, e-mail


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