Christmas Island flora collecting for the Australian National Botanic Gardens and Australian National Herbarium, May 2012


A Parks Australia team swapped frosty Canberra mornings for the hot, humid conditions of Christmas Island to go plant collecting. Brendan Lepschi, Bronwyn Collins and Murray Fagg from the Australian National Botanic Gardens and the Australian National Herbarium surveyed the island’s flora to update our knowledge of its native and weed plant species. The plant collections are destined for Australian and international herbaria and will form the basis for a reference herbarium for Christmas Island staff.


Narrator - Murray Fagg

It’s mid May on Christmas Island - about a month after the end of the wet season. The monsoon storms have ceased, the skies are clear and the Island is a flurry of life.

Christmas Island is home to about 250Â species of native plants - quite impressive for an isolated, oceanic island. But it also has a problem with exotic weeds. And right now, a large proportion of them, both native and exotic, are either in flower or fruit.

It is the perfect time for our team of botanists to assess the plant diversity of Christmas Island. We’ve come from the Australian National Botanical Gardens and the Australian National Herbarium in far off Canberra.

Brendan Lepschi - Herbarium Curator, Australian National Herbarium

To try and collect good herbarium specimens of as much of the Christmas Island flora as we can get. So, as many of the native species and as many of the introduced species as we can find.


Our team plans to make herbarium collections of both native and weed species, which will become a valuable reference tool for the national park’s resource managers.

Bronwyn Collins - Curator Coordinator, Australian National Herbarium

You want as much information about the plant as possible, so it needs to be flowering or have fruit, so that you have information to ID it, as well as good vegetative material. We're trying to take enough specimen material so that we can have specimens in the Australian National Herbarium and a reference set for here at Christmas Island, for the staff here, and also to send duplicates out to other herbaria where they might be interested in either the particular plant group, the plant family that we've collected, or in this tropical area in general.


18 of these plant species are endemic to Christmas Island, found nowhere else in the world. Many other plant species are found in south-east Asia but not on the Australian mainland. We hope to track down some of these unique plants to include in the Australian National Herbarium.

Murray Fagg - Botanical Information Group Manager, Australian National Botanic Gardens

A lot of the ones on Christmas Island we won't have in the collection. So it's going to get more and more difficult as we knock over all the common ones and start looking for the less common ones.


Footage supplied by:
Braydon Moloney

Audio supplied by: