Explores the impact of indigenous people upon the European discovery of Australian plants, spanning the period from the expansion of world exploration in the seventeenth century to the beginning of systematic scientific studies in the late nineteenth century. Observations of Australian Aboriginal hunting and gathering practices provided Europeans with important clues concerning the productivity of the land. British colonists who came in 1788 to establish themselves in the 'new' country of Australia found indigenous land 'owners' to be both a physical threat and an important source of information about the environment. Plant hunters were a hardy breed of men primarily employed to make collections of dried and living plants in the fledging colonies and to send them back to Europe. They led exciting but dangerous lives on the fringes of the empire, a few of them dying while field collecting. Aboriginal guides accompanied plant collectors into the field. This book presents investigates the role of particular Aboriginal groups and individuals in the botanical discovery of Australia.
The bulk of this book is a detailed description of the interaction between particular plant collectors and Aboriginal people through the nineteenth century. There are chapters on the work of George Caley, Allan Cunningham, Von Mueller and the resident plant collectors in WA, SA and Tasmania.
Dr Philip Clarke is Head of Anthropology and Manager of Sciences at the South Australian Museum and was the Principal Curator of the Australian Aboriginal Cultures Gallery in Adelaide.