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Cooktown Botanic Gardens An open garden in Queensland

Natures Powerhouse

PO Box 3, Walker Street, Cooktown




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In October 1885 the Council employed a botanist, Anthony Perieh, to lay out the nursery for the gardens, which were to be established on the portion of the reserve closest to town. Then early in 1886 they contracted with John Welsh to dig over the gardens, giving him two months to complete the job. In March 1886 young trees and shrubs were ordered from the Queensland Acclimatisation Society in Brisbane, and Mr Perieh was busy getting them established in the gardens.

In 1890 C Watson and T Hassett were working as gardeners, and since there were now plants to look after, a well was sunk by Cross and Dufficy; and a pump, tank, and pipe reticulation installed. A second well was sunk at some later stage. The wells are still in use today. The water reticulation appliances have long been removed.

In 1892, a cottage was built on the Reserve and C Watson was installed as resident Curator of the Gardens. At this period the Gardens had been enclosed with a paling fence and was intensively developed with lawns, shrubs and garden beds, and named Queen's Park. Stone lined paths, stone pitched pools and stone work foot bridges were built along a creek descending from the hills behind Cherry Tree Bay. In later years Mr Claussen, father to the late Lennie Claussen, filled the position ofGardens' Curator.

During the period of greatest activity a wide range of trees and shrubs of both decorative and economic value were planted in thegardens. Shade and street trees in the Cook Monument Park, and in the main street were part ofthe Botanic Gardens activities at this time.

Little further attention was given to the gardens and they gradually fell into disrepair. In the mid 1970s Mr SE Stephens, Hon. Curator of History, James Cook Museum, identified 18 plant species still surviving. Some restoration of the stone pitched pools was undertaken in the early 1980s. By 1990 35 plant species had been identified as surviving species.

In 1984, Council commenced reconstruction of the Gardens with the assistance of Commonwealth Employment Funding. The original gardens area has been cleared, stonework rebuilt and trees removed. A walking track has been cleared to Finch Bay along the old dray track. A walking track continues from this track to Cherry Tree Bay.

The Gardens now feature an exotic plant section, a "palmetum", a section of native plants and a Solander's Gardens. The following list describes some of the plants within the gardens and these can be located by numbered plates at the base of the trees and plants.
For centuries the Guugu yimithirr lived on the banks of what is now called the Endeavour River. The plants and animals of the land and waters sustained these people. Some plants had particular significance and were essential elements for human survival.

One of the highlights of Cooktown, Nature's PowerHouse is an Environment Interpretive Centre and Cooktown's accredited Visitor Information Centre, located in the historic Botanic Gardens. The Centre offers lots of interesting things to visitors and local people, both young and old.

Designed by the architect Bud Brannigan, it was jointly funded by the Federal and Queensland Governments. The building nestles among huge granite boulders in a lovely bush setting. The building is accessible by an attractive rocky pathway, or a cement ramp designed for wheel chair access and the less mobile.

In the Charles Tanner Gallery one can see exciting exhibitions on the wildlife of Cape York Peninsula which emphasis the environmental importance of this area. The Vera Scarth-Johnson Gallery is home to the superb collection of botanical illustrations by Vera Scarth-Johnson of local flowering plants.

As well as the two permanent exhibitions there are many special events held at Nature's PowerHouse throughout the year.

In October of 2005 Nature's PowerHouse was very proud to host an exhibition of Orchid paintings by a local naturalist, Lewis Roberts. A third generation resident of Shipton’s Flat, just south of Cooktown, Lewis Roberts is a self taught naturalist and botanical illustrator. The exhibition "Orchids of far north-eastern Queensland" is the result of thirty years of work. Searching out orchids throughout Cape York Peninsula, drawing and painting them in exquisite detail.

A botanical voyage of discovery through the Historical Cooktown Botanic Gardens with Sandy. See the collection of live specimens of the plants collected by Banks and Solander when they came on the Endeavour with Captain James Cook in 1770, the exotic tropical fruit trees planted by the Society for Acclimatisation to trial these trees as food crops in Queensland. The Palmetum, the wetlands Garden and more. Offered as a one-hour tour week-day mornings or as a package with morning tea at Vera's cafe and a tour of the exhibits. Bookings essential 07.4069 6004.

Be sure to visit the web site site often to see the list of current and upcoming events.

Nature-lovers' BookStore and Gift Shop offers a wide range of interesting books focusing on the environment, heritage, history, children's books and games, as well as unique local art, crafts, cards and mementos.

Vera's Café on the verandah is in a magnificent setting overlooking the Botanic Gardens. The cafe serves refreshing cold drinks, coffee and tea, interesting brunches and lunches highlighting local produce. "Vera's" is a popular spot with locals and visitors.

From the verandah you can see the spectacular new 7 metres (23 ft) long Amethystine python (Morelia amethistina), carved from Cooktown Ironwood, and the Solander Garden.

The Centre can cater for small or large groups and has parking facilities to accommodate coaches.

The verandah can be booked for large or small functions both day and evening. We can provide set meals, morning/afternoon teas, and cater for special diets. Advance bookings are appreciated.

Our volunteers and staff are always available to help answer any questions you may have. There are spacious rest-room facilities at the Centre. Bottled filtered water is available free for walkers.

Visitors can spend anything from half an hour to a day looking at the exhibits, wandering through the gardens of both native and exotic trees, following the walking trails down to the beautiful beach at Finch Bay or, for the more adventurous, to the isolated Cherry Tree Bay.

Entry to our Galleries... $3.50
Children 12 years and younger children are free.

7 Oct, 2009

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