Wildflowers in the State's Archives

Gerard Foley Tuesday, September 18, 2012 - 15:39

It's Spring and Western Australia's wildflowers are in full bloom.  The State Archives collection contains a lot of information about WA's wild flowers, botany and "native flora" and a search on these terms using our online catalogue reveals over 100 items in the collection; everything from the setting up of reserves for wild flowers to the conservation and management of WA's native flora, as well as the promotion of wild flowers as a drawcard for tourists.

Efforts to document and preserve Western Australia's unique flora go back to the beginning of British settlement, with individuals such as Georgiana Molloy - the wife of Captain John Molloy Resident Magistrate of the Augusta and Vasse districts - achieving fame collecting and documenting botanical specimens from the South West. Another early settler James Drummond was onetime Government Naturalist and his 1840 Report on the botany of the country between York and King George Sound (Cons 3) was one of the earliest government records designated as a State archive.

The promotion of WA's wildflowers proceeded in earnest after World War 1 and events such as the Annual Wildflower Exhibition, held each year at the Perth Town Hall, is well documented in a Tourst and Publicity Bureau file (Cons 924, Item 1935/061). Each year saw a competition and prizes for the "best six varieties" of Kangaroo Paws, the "best twelve cuts" of Leschenaultia, the "best six specimens" of Spider Orchids, and included a special prize for the "Best Bunch of Wild Flowers". WA Railways took an interest in WA's wild flowers with one file (Cons 4820, item 23218 pt 2) documenting their Wild Flowers Bus Tour in the early 1970s.

There are also designs and artwork using wild flowers in the State Archives collection, for example ‘Cover Art’ designs by Mary B. Devlin (WAS3608, Cons 7188).

The archives mentioned above are a mere sample of the information about wildflowers in the State archives collection; the largest archival collection in WA, retained because of its continuing value to our community.

 Gerard Foley, Senior Archivist