History

At a public meeting held in the Armadale Hall on Tuesday 12th of March 1961 at 8pm, Mr E Watts moved and Mr C Rodgers seconded a motion that a Wildflower Society be formed and be named  “The Armadale-Kelmscott Wildflower Society”.

The motion was carried

Extracted from the “The History of the Armadale-Kelmscott Wildflower Society 1961-2003” compiled and edited by RP Harington.

 

INTRODUCTION

New settlers arriving in unfamiliar lands naturally show special interest in those aspects of their new surroundings that are different from their home country. From the Fifteenth Century Europeans had spread out across the known world meeting strange and unfamiliar things. Reports of exotic lands and their inhabitants kept interested onlookers eager for more.

After the third decade of the Nineteenth Century, when the new settlers to the Swan River Colony had established a toehold in their chosen land, interest in the strange environment in which they found themselves flourished. They were living in a time, rich in scientific thought, and the flora and fauna surrounding them in this new but ancient land was a source of great excitement.

Once the privations experienced by the first arrivals at Garden Island were eased, the enthusiasm of investigating and recording the botany of the Swan River became centered in the person and life of James Drummond.

Drummond was a product of the scientific excitement that made the Nineteenth Century special. He was one of the initial settlers at the Swan River. He brought with him a background of botany, having been curator of the botanical gardens in Cork, Ireland. James Drummond travelled extensively through the expanding colony collecting and recording botanical specimens. His collections found their way to Europe where they created great interest. Drummond is rightly considered the doyen of Western Australian botany.

Of course there are other notable botanists embedded in Western Australian history. Among others, names like Molloy, Cunningham, Preiss, von Muller, and Mangles are part of the jigsaw that has become the still developing picture of the state’s flora.

For all the well-known botanists, professional and otherwise, who have featured in the state’s history there have been countless lesser-known enthusiasts observing, recording, and sometimes collecting, flora. It has been these unsung people, over the best part of two centuries, who have managed, in the main, to keep the wonderful flora of Western Australia in the public consciousness. By necessity, Government scientists and officials tend to work in isolation away from the public gaze. The enthusiastic amateurs have ensured that the work of the professionals has been available and become part of the public interest.

Many enthusiastic amateurs developed their skills and knowledge way beyond that of amateurism and have taken their places beside the scientists. Over the years, many acknowledged experts have held few, if any, formal qualifications in botany but have been responsible for much of the successfully published literature on Western Australia’s flora. Railway workers, police officers, schoolteachers, bank officers, and local government workers are among those who have developed their interest in local flora to the level of expert and published significant literature.

 

THE WILDFLOWER SOCIETY OF WA

The local flora has generated intense interested in many Western Australians, and others, since the arrival of the first Europeans. It was not, however, until 129 years had passed that a formal Society pledged to expand knowledge, conserve species, and propagate plants for domestic cultivation was established. The Wildflower Society of Western Australia (Inc.) was formed in March 1958.

Prior to 1958 wildflower exhibits were part of most, if not all, country agricultural shows. Small monetary prizes were offered for the best exhibits in a variety of classes in the wildflower sections of these provincial shows, and it was these forums that allowed the enthusiasts among the general public to maintain and share their interest.

In 1924 the WA Naturalists Club was founded. This group of people had great interest in all aspects of the Western Australian environment, which, of course, included its native flora. While members of the WA Naturalists Club by definition had general interest in all things to do with nature individual members had specific enthusiasms. This ensured that within the Naturalists Club there was an identifiable group dedicated to the interests of the state’s plants. It was these enthusiasts who were responsible for the displays of wildflowers that became a feature of the annual Royal Show.

It was this same group, within the WA Naturalists Club, from which grew the concern at the scale and rapidity of the clearing of land for agricultural purposes evident after the Second World War. The development of tracked vehicles, especially the bulldozer, during the war enabled post-war land clearing to burgeon. Public concern at the wholesale clearing of Western Australia’s agricultural areas resulted in the formation of the Wildflower Society of Western Australia in 1958.

Successive post second world war Western Australian governments have endeavoured to balance development and conservation, by definition, an almost impossible task. However, the Wildflower Society has played an important part in the education of Society generally in an appreciation of the natural environment. The faint murmurs of dissent of forty years ago are now mighty roars when local or state authorities misread public opinion and upset the balance.

 

THE ARMADALE/KELMSCOTT WILDFLOWER SOCIETY

During the 1950s Armadale and Kelmscott were still very much country towns, close to the city, of course, but still country towns. Because the railway had been constructed through Armadale to Pinjarra seventy years previously, steam trains operated along the lines to Perth carrying commuters to and from their work in the city, and incidental freight was handled by railway personnel staffing the stations. A line to Fremantle still operated but only for the carriage of freight at this stage. Farm produce found its way to the city and elsewhere from the Armadale district in this manner. Jarrah sleepers cut in the nearby forests were loaded onto the rail at Kelmscott for export to many parts of the world.

The local carrier made three trips per week to collect fruit from the orchards of Armadale, Kelmscott and Karragullen for delivery to the West Perth markets where it was sold at auction to the fruiterers and exporters of Perth. The Albany and Brookton highways had been sealed but most other roads were yet unsealed. Post-war cars provided an increasingly more reliable means of getting about, but, even though the railway line went on beyond Armadale to all points south, Perth people thought of Armadale as the end of civilisation. Beyond Armadale lay the bush.

Rather than being the end of anything though, Armadale was part of a beginning at this time. Although somewhat isolated and distant from Perth, the town became, during the years just after the Second World War, part of the growing conservation movement on the western side of the continent.

Community interest in nature had prevailed since the days of the early settlers, of course, and we have seen hoWA strong lay knowledge base existed in Western Australia. After the war a worldwide emphasis on development emerged as economic energy was directed into peacetime endeavours. In Western Australia this headlong rush to “bigger and better” created pockets of feeling of disquiet within Society. These soon began to consolidate into vocal and public expressions of environmental concern.

In the Armadale district these feelings developed and were articulated by a growing number of citizens. A branch of the Tree Society of Western Australia was established and further discussion saw this extended to the formation of the Armadale/Kelmscott Wildflower Society. Many prominent citizens were present at the formation meeting called by the Armadale/Kelmscott Road Board on 28th March 1961. Although called by the Road Board, the real initiative for the formation of the Society came from the conservationists of the district. These included the Rev Ewan Watts of the Uniting Church; Mrs Rogerson, a local lover of wildflowers; and Michael Morcombe, then a young but talented nature photographer, and of course, many others.

At the formation meeting called by the Road Board the Rev Watts became first President of the Society, Mr Morcombe and Mrs Z. Paget were elected Vice Presidents, Mrs Rogerson was elected interim Secretary, and Mrs S. Fletcher, Messrs C. Sampson, Van Leeuwin, and Rogerson completed the Committee.

The first regular committee meeting of the Armadale/Kelmscott Wildflower Society was held at the Rev Watts’ home on 12th April 1961, at 8pm. The first monthly meeting for all members was held in the Armadale Hall on 26th April 1961. This was the start of a frequent and regular series of well attended meetings that reflected the immense interest in the Society during these first years of its existence.

Much time was spent during the early meetings establishing a pattern that has endured to the present day. Great thought was given to the invitations sent out to guest speakers who were considered to have similar interests to the members but perhaps a little more specific knowledge of their specialisation. Government botanists, specialists in propagation, foresters, the Director of the Government Herbarium, the Director of Parks and Gardens, and others found themselves at Armadale from time to time to address the Society.

The establishment of a local flora sanctuary was an early focus for members. With the support of the Road Board, the Society commenced work developing an area of about half an acre (0.2 hectares) on the corner of Orchard Avenue and Jull Street. Armadale Library was later built on part of this sanctuary. By then, however the Society had directed its energies elsewhere. The sanctuary had been the front, corner paddock of “Brookside”, perhaps the best known and most impressive property in early Armadale; Martin Jull, the State’s first Public Service Commissioner in 1905, established the “Brookside” property during the last decade of the Nineteenth Century.

The sanctuary was named “Minnawarra” and received much attention during the first year or two of the Society. Paths were laid, beds were graded, and native flora planted. Kangaroo paws and other understorey plants collected from the district and from commercial outlets were a feature. But, in keeping with the thinking of the time, any plants, big or small, which emanated from within Australia, were considered suitable, as they were native. Advice from experts of the time resulted in trees from eastern states being planted in the sanctuary. These did well and many still exist.

After much work by Society members and other volunteers the sanctuary was opened on the 10th June 1961; a great effort for a group that was only formed ten weeks earlier. The Road Board provided workers, machines, and funds for the purchase of plants. This reflected a very positive relationship between the Society and the Road Board at this time. In later years, on occasions this would change.

The Society obtained permission from both the Armadale/Kelmscott and Gosnells Road Boards and the State Government to transplant native flora from road Reserves prior to earth-works taking place. Many of the plants that found their way into the sanctuary were from this source.

The enormity of the task to maintain the “Minnawarra” sanctuary, in a relatively central position within the town, gradually surfaced among members. Damage caused by vehicles associated with the tennis club, watering problems, fire safety concerns, and the never ending weeding dampened enthusiasm for the continuation of the “Minnawarra” project. Also, members became increasingly aware that the central position of the sanctuary site increased the possibility of eventual development for other commercial or civic purposes. So, the Road Board was approached to grass the sanctuary retaining only the kangaroo paws and the established trees. This was agreed to.

At a committee meeting held on 7th April 1963 members decided to approach the now Shire of Armadale for the use of some Government land in Bedfordale. So began the Society’s association with what became known as Reserve No. 4561, and is now known as Bungendore Park.

On the 6th June a general meeting unanimously agreed to pursue the proposition, with some vigour. A prolonged period of negotiation with Government departments followed as the Shire endeavoured to have the land placed under its authority. After many letters back and forth and much unofficial lobbying the 450.8378 hectares was finally vested in the local authority. The Shire set up a committee to manage the Reserve on its behalf. The Wildflower Society had a significant membership on the initial Management Committee of the Reserve.

During a ceremony on 10th June 1972 (nine years after negotiations had commenced to obtain the Reserve), Mr Cyril Rushton, MLA for Dale, stated that the park would become as significant to the Armadale district as Kings Park had become to Perth.

At this ceremony three trees were planted at the entrance to the Reserve to honour long-serving and recently deceased current and past members; Rev Ewan Watts (founding President), Mrs Zoe Paget (one of the two foundation Vice Presidents), and Mrs Mary Clifton (foundation member and one time treasurer of the Society).

The question of a suitable name for the Reserve was also raised at the planting ceremony. Later that same month, in a letter to the Shire the Society suggested that the Reserve be called Bungendore Park; ‘bungendore’ being an aboriginal word meaning ‘place of gum blossom’. In the Government Gazette of 7th September 1973 the Reserve became officially Bungendore Park.

In twelve short years this tiny group of concerned and dedicated persons had convinced their local government authority of the worth of their goals, had developed a small sanctuary in the heart of Armadale, and then had provided the enthusiasm and drive to have a huge tract of bushland dedicated to the needs of the people of the district. Their next task was to come to terms with the fact that the 450 hectares was degraded bush full of gravel pits and unwanted exotic plants, subjected to wildfires and rubbish dumping.

 

THE FORMATION OF THE SOCIETY

Minutes of public meeting of the Armadale-Kelmscott roadboard held in the Armadale-Kelmscott Hall on Tuesday 28TH March 1961
PRESENT:   Mr J E Murray            APOLOGIES    Mr O’Grady, President          )

Mr D Morgan                                   Wildflower Growers Society           )

Mr K H Fuller                                   Reverend & Mrs Bolt,

Mr E C Rushton                                Mr & Mrs A Stubbs,

Mr W W Rogers                                Mrs Z O Paget,

17 other persons                              Mrs Minnard,

Miss Roper

 

Business:

To discuss the formation of a Wildflower Society.

The Chairman welcomed those present – proposal first mooted last November by the Reverend Watts who then suggested calling a meeting. Board decided to assist project and convene a meeting to assist in the propagation and promotion of wildflowers.

Reverend Watts – appreciated Board assistance – had no doubt all present supported the proposal – considered the wildflower heritage must be preserved and passed on – object of proposed Society is to preserve and cultivate wildflowers and bring to homes, parks and sanctuary; – large numbers of varieties always available to make a spectacular show – recent ramble in hills between Armadale and Roleystone resulted in nearly 80 varieties being sighted and identified. Had found very keen interest from young folk in the District towards project – exhibition of wildflowers was fairly easily organised. Kelmscott Progress Association had supported the scheme and suggested it could be extended to Kelmscott and made a complementary to the Armadale proposal – area of parklands off Orlando Street could be used as a nursery for the propagation of wildflowers – this would make beauty available to all parts of the District.

Mr Watts moved, Mr C Rodgers seconded, that a Wildflower Society be formed and named “The Armadale/Kelmscott Wildflower Society”. Motion 5416 carried

 

Election of Officers

President :  Mr E M Watts nominated by Mr Fuller – declared elected.

Vice Presidents  : Mr Morcombe nominated by Mr Murray

Mrs Z O Paget nominated by Mr Rushton

Vice Presidents declared elected

Hon.Secretary & Treasurer : Mr C Rodgers moved,

Mr Fuller seconded, that these positions be combined

Mrs J G Rogerson agreed to act as Secretary pro tem. Carried

Committee of Management

Mr Kargotich moved, Mr Murray seconded, that the Committee of Management comprise – President – two Vice Presidents, Hon. Secretary – Treasurer and four Committee Members. Carried

 

Committee

Mrs S. Fletcher, Messrs C. Sampson, Van Leeuwin, Rogerson were nominated for Committee and declared elected.

The newly elected Secretary, Mrs Rogerson then took over the taking of the records.

FOUNDATION MEMBERS
OF THE ARMADALE/KELMSCOTT WILDFLOWER SOCIETY

Rev Ewan and Mrs Helen Watts

Miss B Evans

Mr J E Murray

Mrs J Minard

Mr K H Fuller

Mr C and Mrs M Palmer

Mr E C Rushton

Rev S Lindsay

Mr W Rogers

Mr and Mrs A Stubbs

Mr M and Mrs I Morcombe

Mrs and Miss Gay

Mrs Z O Paget

Mr J L Davey

Mr C and Mrs M Rogers

Mrs S Fletcher

Mr W and Mrs J G Rogerson

Mr and Mrs C Hatch

Mr C and Mrs A Sampsom

Mrs D Swingler

Mrs M Clifton

Constable A Cowie

Mr Van Leeuwin