Our 45th anniversary!

On 25th June 2015 our branch celebrated its 45th anniversary. A big thank-you to Townsville City Council for their reception held at Anderson Gardens exactly 45 years to the day!


Several original members from 1970 were present including John Donahue.

And a special mention goes to Don Glasgow and Betsy Jackes who are now Life Members of our branch!

Hall of Fame: some of our local heroes

Don Glasgow, a founding member of our branch, has been a tireless supporter of SGAP Townsville (now NPQ Townsville) since 1970. He has a large garden on the banks of Ross River which he tends with meticulous care, and which hosts a huge variety of natives collected over a life time.

Don Glasgow

His name, combined with a noble profile, have led to him being known affectionately as ‘The Don’; a sobriquet which he wears with as much ease as his ability to arrive last, but not least, for all our meetings!


Dr Betsy Jackes

Wearing the war-bonnet means serious business, and none is more serious than Betsy who is a founding member of SGAP Townsville (now known as NPQ Townsville). Betsy has published numerous guides to help the uninitiated, and continues to quide, advise and enthuse everyone around her.

SGAP Townsville gratefully acknowledges all the assistance Betsy has given SGAP and the field of botany in the Townsville area.

In these days of countless glossy field guides and Google searches, people need to remember how difficult it was to identify plants in the 70s, 80’s and early 90’s.
Betsy’s guides helped take botany in Townsville out of the dark ages.

Keith Townsend

London taxi drivers must famously learn the names of streets by obtaining ‘the knowledge’, and the standard routes are learnt from a book.

2015 marks the 35th anniversary of Keith’s involvement with SGAP Townsville; all of which has been dedicated to learning, assimilating and spreading ‘the knowledge’ about plants in the dry Tropics.

So much so that he wrote the book!

For this achievement, amongst many others, Keith has been awarded a Life Membership to Qld Region, and it is our great pleasure to add him to our Hall of Fame!

John Donahue

In a far off place called Townsville, long ago, John Donahue can remember buying a ‘red bottlebrush’ which was ‘probably a native plant’. Such was the local knowledge in the 1960’s!

As a consequence of this revelation John joined the SGAP Brisbane branch in 1969, which was the touchstone to him co-founding our own branch a year later.

Apart from his tireless efforts to promote native plants in the Townsville region, he is perhaps best remembered for his enthusiasm and leadership in exploring the plants of the Burra Range, a unique wilderness only 250 kms SW of Townsville which, thanks to John Donahue will always be associated with SGAP Townsville.

For the full story please read SGAP Townsville – the early years

Identity of our ‘mystery tree’ published

Our group has been involved in unravelling the botanical identity of an unusual tree found on Mt Stuart.

Mystery Tree
Mystery Tree

The identity of this tree has been formally established with the December 2012 publication of an article “Phylogenetic revision of Backhousieae (Myrtaceae): Neogene divergence, a revised circumscription of Backhousia and two new species” in the scientific journal Australian Systematic Botany 2012 (25) p 404-417.

Read the background story here.

Mystery tree update 2012

In April 2010 we reported on “mystery” trees that our group had noticed at Mt Stuart and failed to identify. Further work depended on collection of flowers and developing fruit so the next flowering was eagerly awaited.

Apart from a tiny branch which bore a few flowers late in 2010 – none of the trees flowered in the 2010/2011 wet season! Later analysis of rainfall patterns indicate that flowering occurred in early 2010 and 2012 after a long dry season of 7 months, broken by good rainfall in December.

Having failed to flower and fruit in the 2010/11 season it was impossible to make a clear resolution of the tree’s identity.

This led to some frustration as we were making regular visits every 3 to 4 weeks, and it was not until 13th January 2012 that we found a large number of the trees covered with buds, and the first of the flowers on show.

This led to a flurry of visits over the next three week, as the flowering and development of fruit happened very quickly and specimens were collected at all stages of development.

Whilst these specimens were collected, further work at JCU included preparation of slides for microscopic analysis of the cell structure of leaves, stems etc and similar examination of the flowers and fruits as available.

The preliminary description of the new discovery was also prepared ready for publication. The genus of the proposed name has been established by analysis as Backhousia, but John has the honour of nominating the species name to be given.

The species name of tetraptera describes the very distinct four winged fruit.

Following this story from the start has been a wonderful experience and we have learned so much about the intricacies of plant taxonomy and the need for careful and detailed analysis when dealing with plant identification.

So Backhousia tetraptera is now the scientific name, but it will always remembered as our Mystery Tree!

For more information about formal publication of this species name, please see here.