These coveted awards are presented every two years by the Australian Native Plant Society (Australia) (ANPSA) to people who have made an outstanding contribution to the knowledge of Australian plants. Winners are chosen in two categories: professional and amateur. The 2019 winner of the amateur category goes to our own Glenn Leiper.
Glenn Leiper is a retired educator who now devotes his time to recording and preserving the indigenous plants of south-east Queensland. “I retired to try to achieve some of my botanical goals; my love is getting out into wild areas, especially around Queensland, and trying to see plants in their natural habitat,” he says.
This involves a lot of voluntary work, often with the Queensland Herbarium: “I go out with botanists as a volunteer and photograph plants to get them on file at the herbarium. We’re trying to increase our knowledge of plant distribution in the region, and at the same time often trying to find long-disappeared plants from the field.”
His shared successes include rediscovering the rainforest myrtle tree Gossia gonoclada, which was thought to have become extinct in the 1880s; finding a new population of native violet (Viola hederacea), and spotting a 15cm-high Androcalva leiperi - named in his honour - from a car window while driving past. “It’s always in partnership with other people,” he says. “I get taken along because I’ve got good eyes!”
He follows up his ‘spotting’ with action, advocating for Murrays Reserve to be bought by Logan City Council in the 1990s after Gossia gonoclada was discovered there, and acting as conservation officer for Native Plants Queensland (NPQ). He dedicates much time and effort to collecting seed of local plants for the Logan City Council revegetation programs, and propagating plants for sale by the Logan River Branch of NPQ, of which he is a member.
Glenn’s own interest in native plants started as a primary-school teacher, when trying to green up the bare land around Eagleby South State School, where he was teaching at in the 1970s and ‘80s. “We started a bush tucker garden and published our own book of bush tucker and it just took off.” He later ran the Jacobs Well Environmental Education Centre for the Queensland Education Department for nearly 25 years, first as teacher-in-charge and then for about 10 years as the teaching-principal. “There was never a dull moment there, with visiting students from all ages and all areas of south-eastern Queensland, with canoes, boats and a 12 metre catamaran. We had the islands of southern Moreton Bay and all the forests and mangroves of the area at our disposal for exploration and study by the students.”
While learning the names of the new plants he was being introduced to, he started taking photos, then, with three others from the Logan River Branch of NPQ, set about compiling a basic field guide. Many reprints and two editions later of Mangroves to Mountains, the team has more than doubled the number of plants described to about 2,500, and are still selling about 15 copies a week. Their book is described by many as the ‘plant bible’ for south-eastern Queensland.