In April 2018, I landed in the southeast of Australia to spend a month in the Biology Department at Monash University in Melbourne. I was reminded of the time I went to Capetown, South Africa, because all around me was a completely alien flora and ecology that is very different to the northern hemisphere biomes where I have spent many field seasons – temperate deciduous forest, grasslands, tundra and salt marshes.
While in Melbourne, I visited colleagues in Brisbane and Sydney, where I did all the usual biodiversity and ecotourism things, including visiting the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.
I could imagine early European botanists coming to Australia and being completely mystified by the plants that they encountered. Naturally, they would seek parallels and concordance with the flowers and trees that they knew from home. Unsurprisingly, they gave the same common names to Australian plants, yet these plants have no taxonomic relationship to their namesakes British namesakes.
I was entranced by the Banksias.
I loved the life-sized prints of different Banksia species in the hallway where my temporary biology office was located. When I visited Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, I discovered that the artist was xxx, and that the drawings of all the Banksia species were part of a decades-long project. I bought the book and it's an amazing read.