Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Winter in Brisbane

ICML 2009 kicked off on Sunday 30th (I think - still a little jet-lagged) with a visit to Mount Coot-tha Botanic Gardens. The librarian, Linda MacMahon, introduced the speakers, Prof. John Pearn and Ross McKinnon.
Prof. Pearn spoke about ethnobotany (indigenous medicine), with fascinating facts such as: the average GP prescribes around 65 types of medicine, yet aboriginal children as young as 5 know 650 different medicinal plants. Of course this knowledge was transferred by oral history rather than written sources. A lot of the plants have both nutritional and medicinal qualities and were treated to extract their various compounds. In fact, one of the first exports from Australia after the "discovery" of the country in 1788 was eucalyptus, used for its many medicinal properties.
Ross McKinnon, director of the garden, gave an entertaining talk on the diverse enquiries a botanic curator can get, such as the case of the exploding trousers (really). In New Zealand, farmers clearing ragwort from their farms using sodium porate found that their clothes literally exploded. One unfortunate man exploded while on his horse (both died...). Of course, this was because the chemical weedkiller reacted to the cotton in the clothes and caused an explosive reaction, The botanical experts at the garden advised using a particular insect to destroy the ragwort rather than a dangerous chemical - problem solved. I think that beats any OPU enquiries into a cocked (bush) hat!

p.s. Winter in Brisbane reached 31 degrees...!

(Photos show Ross McKinnon showing librarians around the gardens and the inside of the BioDome)

No comments: