“In science we go into the field a lot and we can be contributing to our Living Collections significantly.
“We then collect a specimen that’s a good representative sample without damaging the plant too much.”
The specimens are pressed between a piece of newspaper and some cardboard to take back to the herbarium to be mounted.
While Dr Clugston was only looking for one particular species, before long he’s stumbling across others.
“My gosh this is like legume heaven,” he says, finding a patch with at least four different species congregated together.
“This is a really exciting area.”
But the day is edging on and Dr Clugston wants to find the Phyllota grandiflora
His first encounter with what he believes to be the plant proves wrong.
“The distinctive thing is they have these two horns on the flowers but without evidence of flowers it’s so difficult to identify,” he says.
He snaps a photo and fires it off to a colleague who says to keep looking. Institute botanists are often texting each other in the field confirming their suspicions or asking if their colleague is after something they’ve happened to find for their own research.
Dr Clugston continues down the Binya Trail in Hornsby a little further and starts to get excited.
“It’s getting really sandy which is always promising,” he says.
“The tell-tale sign is when the soil changes.”
He’s right because he soon spots the distinct yellow flowers and races ahead in further excitement.
“This is the aim for the day, we can collect the next species and that’s amazing.”
Find out more about the work our science
team does and learn more about our collections
, including what's in the National Herbarium of New South Wales
which houses more than one million plant specimens.
Watch Dr Clugston speak about our cycad pollination mystery at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney: