Embassy’s Solander garden honours early naturalist

Posted September 07, 2017 15:14:28

Daniel Solander, the Swedish naturalist who sailed with James Cook and Joseph Banks on the Endeavour expedition, has been honoured with a new garden that celebrates his legacy to Australian flora.

The Solander Garden at the Swedish embassy in Canberra features some of the 900 plant species collected and described by Solander and Banks during the Endeavour’s visit to Australia in 1770, as well as species named after Solander.

The two young naturalists collected 110 previously unknown plant genera and 1,300 new species on their historic journey to Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia.

A passionate nature lover

Solander (1733-82) was one of the favourite students of Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, who developed the modern system of naming organisms.

Solander catalogued the natural history collections at the British Museum in London and in 1768 was invited by Banks to join the scientific staff on Cook’s voyage.

He was the first Swede to sail around the globe and the first observer to scientifically describe the kangaroo.

Swedish ambassador Pär Ahlberger said he was a “typically Swedish” person — “a passionate nature lover”.

Australian historian and Solander biographer Edward Duyker said his contribution to botany had been overshadowed by his famous British colleague.

“Banks was a wealthy young man; Solander was a professional scientist who didn’t have the resources that Banks had,” Dr Duyker said.

Ongoing botanical project

The new garden replaces an asphalt parking lot and was designed with the assistance of the Australian National Botanic Gardens.

It will be added to as species are developed for the Canberra climate.

Mr Ahlberger said it was far more than just a garden for embassy visitors.

“It’s connecting … history with the present and science with the beauty of nature,” he said.

“I hope that [it] can be used to encourage Swedish botanists to come to Australia and vice versa.

“We are planning for Daniel Solander seminars which would have [their] starting point in March next year.”

Urban Ahlin, speaker of the Swedish parliament and an honorary guest at the garden’s inauguration, said Solander’s legacy was “proof of the links between Sweden and Australia”.

“I am absolutely certain that I will be back,” he said.

“I will come here when the plants are bigger than they are now and look at this wonderful garden.”

Topics: 18th-century, gardening, people, canberra-2600