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SGAP Cairns Home Page

The Cairns Branch of the Society for Growing Australian Plants (SGAP)

The Cairns Branch of SGAP

History of the Branch

This branch was formed in 1980 to create interest in the cultivation of our native species in preference to exotic species. Originally, monthly meetings were held at night with an excursion held on one Sunday each month, visiting interesting botanical areas as well as parks and private gardens. However, nowadays the meeting and excursion are held together on the third Saturday of each month. Species lists were compiled for all the sites visited.

In the early days the branch filled a need to grow and provide native plants for the public as native plants were rarely found in nurseries. Plant stalls were held at various venues, not only to provide plants for sale, but also to raise money for the club. Before the onset of the Conservation Act and the Wet Tropics Heritage Listing propagation materials such as seeds and cuttings were readily obtainable and members grew all sorts of species. Nurseries were made aware of the need to also source native plants.  For many years, the club was very active in selling plants at the Tropical Garden Expo and the Botanic Gardens festival, as well as mounting a display at the Cairns Show horticultural display.

Community work in fostering interest in native plants was undertaken. The group undertook regular plantings at Centenary Lakes, Carpentaria Home, several schools and park areas around Cairns. Some years later, this function was taken over by other community groups, school environment studies and the City Council. One exciting project was the Tree Train, organised by the former Mulgrave Shire Council and Queensland Rail. The Tree Train travelled up to the side of the range behind Jungarra (Redlynch) loaded with interested parties and trees to plant on the deforested areas. This was to prevent the bush fires doing further damage to the hill slopes.

An expo and sale of Australian plants was held in 1985 and this proved a great success. The following year Cairns Branch together with Tablelands Branch hosted the Queensland Regional conference. Many people from all over Queensland attended and enjoyed informative talks and field trips to various places. The climax was a trip to Cape Flattery sand dunes and Isabella Falls, preceded by a planting of the Banks and Solander collection in the Cooktown Botanic Gardens which had been recently been resurrected from neglect for many years. The Group has continued to service this garden with an annual trip to Cooktown to work on it as well as the main gardens. We take a stock of plants that are not only donated to the gardens, but also are planted for them.

Plants have been donated to various groups and money or book donations given as prizes for the Cairns Show and the City Council Garden Competitions.  Flowers were sent to SGAP flower shows in Brisbane, Melbourne and other areas for several years.

Over the years excursions went to places near at hand and far afield. Many were combined trips with the Tablelands SGAP group. Near places are Mossman, Daintree, Babinda, beaches, local walking tracks, Copperlode Dam, Irvinebank, Watsonville and Tablelands.  Far afield places include Forsayth, Cooktown, Home Rule, Chillagoe, Mt Lewis, Windsor Tableland and Innisfail. Both day trips and weekend camp outs were organised.

Mary Gandini
(Founding member)

History of the Branch:

The Last 20 Years

Stuart Worboys and SGAP Cairns Branch Members, April 2020.

In its early days, the Cairns Branch of the SGAP actively promoted the cultivation of native plants through propagation and planting. This role has now been taken on by local Natural Resource Management Groups such as Treeforce and Trees for the Evelyn and Atherton Tablelands. Instead, in the last 20 years, the role of SGAP in Cairns has become more focussed on educational and promotional aspects of the organisation's charter. With Cairns Branch lying at the heart of the Wet Tropics, the nation's most biodiverse bioregion, there is a lot to promote!

Long-time Cairns Branch members, Donald and Pauline Lawie, were SGAP Indigenous Orchid Study Group leaders after taking over from Len Butt in 1995 until they resigned in March 2011, during which time they produced 42 newsletters. The Study Group was then closed as no new leader emerged. Is it because Don and Pauline were just too hard an act to follow! Although officially retired, they remain our principal orchid experts, kindly sharing their knowledge of propagation of this difficult group, and still able to spot the difference between a Pomatocalpa and a Sarchochilus at 40 paces.

Perhaps our most significant long term project has been our annual trip to Cooktown Botanic Gardens. In conjunction with our friends in the Tablelands Branch, each dry season we make the 300 km journey to Cooktown for a weekend of work and nature exploration. Although fluctuating membership and energy lead to a few interruptions in the mid-2000s, the commitment has renewed over the last couple of years. Our work has contributed to the development and maintenance of two garden beds at the gardens: one devoted to plants collected at the Endeavour River by Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, the other a more eclectic mix of local native species donated over the years by SGAP members. We have also provided inventories of the gardens and nursery. The latter venue is not without its surprises - very large native tarantulas lurk beneath the pots and can provide quite a fright to arachnophobic botanists. But the hard work is not been without its rewards. After working all day Saturday, on Sunday we usually head off on an excursion to see some of the far northern region's marvellous flora.

Our group continues to explore the botanical diversity of the Far North. Each month we visit a different garden or bush location, usually producing a species list which appears in the next newsletter. Some of the sites are parks and private gardens close to the city, others are remote and require special permissions or four wheel drives to access.

On occasion we will join up with other north Queensland groups, as individuals or as a group. Joint trips have visited distant and floristically fascinating areas such as the Burra Range, Stannary Hills, the Cape Bedford sand dunes, and the Babinda Boulders reserve.

For the Cairns group, standout excursions have included:

A favourite destination is a property owned by the family of one our members, which lies near the mouth of major Wet Tropics river and is only accessible by boat. Believe me, there is nothing–absolutely nothing–half so much worth doing as simply floating down a tropical river with friends and spotting orchids, rainforest trees and rare pandans.

Our membership is diverse and many are active in the community outside of SGAP. One of our members, Sharren Wong has been involved with the conservation and rehabilitation of a Cattana Wetlands, an important local wetland reserve. She has produced a beautifully illustrated book on the natural history of the wetland. Our treasurer, Val Carnie, each year liaises with the Cairns Show Society to provide a special prize for outstanding native flower displays. Our president of some years, Tony Roberts, is curator of the Cooktown Botanic Gardens and has been a prime organiser of celebrations marking the 250th anniversary of Cook's first voyage and the scientific work of Banks and Solander. Stuart Worboys, a botanist at the Australian Tropical Herbarium, teaches university botany and prepares our monthly newsletter. Rob Jago has been a member since the start. He is a fine field botanist with an eye for the unusual and new, has rediscovered extinct species and discovered new species, and has contributed many thousands of specimens to the Queensland Herbarium. In December 2018 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science in recognition of his significant contribution to the study of botany in north Queensland.

In 2020, SGAP Cairns remains a friendly group whose meetings are as much opportunities for social outings in diverse natural settings as it is for scientific enlightenment. Members appreciate having a chat about the plants they're passing and also a bit of a laugh as we ramble along at SGAP pace - generally acknowledged as 800 m per hour. We have welcomed several new members in recent years who have brought a youthful enthusiasm and hope for the long-term survival of the group.

Postscript. 2020 was to be a big year for north Queensland's SGAP Branches. Sadly, all planned events have been cancelled until further notice due to this year's coronavirus related restrictions.

Year

President/Chair

Vice President/ Vice Chair

Secretary

Treasurer

2007

Ing Toh

Mary Gandini

Greg Keith

Robert Jago

2008

Ann Mohun

Mary Gandini

Greg Keith

Robert Jago

2009

Tony Roberts

Mary Gandini

Ing Toh

Robert Jago

2010

Tony Roberts

Mary Gandini

David Warmington

Robert Jago

2011

David Warmington

Mary Gandini

Robert Jago

Stuart Worboys

2012

Robert Jago

Mary Gandini

Boyd Lenne

Stuart Worboys

2013

Robert Jago

Pauline Lawie

Boyd Lenne

Stuart Worboys

2014

Boyd Lenne

Pauline Lawie

Boyd Lenne

Stuart Worboys

2015

Boyd Lenne

Pauline Lawie

Coralie Stewart

Stuart Worboys

2016

Tony Roberts

Pauline Lawie

Coralie Stuart

Val Carnie

2017

Tony Roberts

Pauline Lawie

Sandy Perkins

Val Carnie

2018

Tony Roberts

Pauline Lawie

Sandy Perkins

Val Carnie

2019

Tony Roberts

Pauline Lawie

Sandy Perkins

Val Carnie

2020

Tony Roberts

Don Lawie

Matt McIntosh

Val Carnie

Table 1:  Office Bearers, 2007 - 2020

 

Sgap members

End of year gathering at the Cairns Botanic Gardens, 2003. L to R: (standing) Rob Jago, David Warmington, Tony Irvine, Ian Walker, Pauline Lawie, Barbara Collins, Val Carnie, Jan Elder, Dr Ing Toh, Browyn Hookey, Helen Irvine, Mary Gandini. (at front): Don Lawie, Bianca Jago, Stuart Worboys.


 Sgap members

In June 2016, members from Cairns, Tablelands, and Townsville branches met in Herberton on a grey and drizzly morning. We guessed 30 people met for a day exploring the unusual heathland flora growing on the highlands to the west of the Atherton Tablelands.

 

Plant1Plant002Plant004
Haemodorum coccineum
Scarlet Bloodroot
Xanthostemon verticillatus
Bloomfield Penda
Curcuma australasica
Cape York lily
Syzygium malaccense
Malay Apple
Tabernaemontana pandacaqui
Banana Bush