Australia Landscape
Kew at the British Museum

21 April – 16 October 2011

Museum forecourt

Kew : Royal Botanic Gardens

Part of the Australian season

Supported by

Rio Tinto

Experience an Australian landscape in the heart of London with the fourth landscape on the Museum’s forecourt created in partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Take a journey across the whole continent, from eastern Australia’s coastal habitat, through the arid red centre, to the western Australian granite outcrop featuring unique and highly endangered plants. The landscape showcases the rich biodiversity of Australia, and how these fragile systems are under threat from land usage and climate change. This is particularly important as Australia has one of the world’s greatest concentrations of geographically restricted species (known as endemics). 90% of Australian plants are only found in Australia.

One of the key plants in the landscape is the Kurrajong tree, the inner bark of which is used to make dilly bags which you can see on display in the related exhibition in Room 91. Another featured plant is Banksia integrifolia, one of around 80 species named after Sir Joseph Banks, who from 1773 acted as unofficial director of Kew; under his supervision Kew became one of the foremost botanical gardens in the world. Banks was the natural historian on the Endeavour during James Cook’s first voyage of discovery to Australia and New Zealand 1769–1771, and he brought back many new species to both the British Museum and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Swathes of strongly coloured Brachyscome iberidifolia (Swan river daisies) and Rhodanthe (Everlastings) add colour throughout the landscape, and approximately 12 star plants are highlighted to show the connections with the Museum’s collection, Kew’s work in Australia and links between the British Museum, Kew and global communities.

For more information about the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, visit

Australia Landscape

Banksia marginata. Photo: Andrew McRobb, Tasmania 2005. © Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Watch the build on Flickr

Landscape images loading


Introductory video

See what happened during the build and hear why the British Museum and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, decided to create an Australian landscape in the forecourt of the British Museum.

Timelapse video

Watch a timelapse video recording the creation of the landscape over the course of three weeks in March and April 2011.

Some highlights of the landscape

Acacia baileyana and A. dealbata

Produces abundant pollen and is used as a bee plant in the production of honey.
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Evergreen kangaroo paw
Anigozanthos flavidus

Young rhizomes of this plant are consumed by Indigenous Australians.
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Coast banksia
Banksia integrifolia

Specimens of coast banksia were collected on Captain Cook’s circumnavigation of the globe in the Endeavour in 1768–1771.
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Australian tree fern
Dicksonia antarctica

Indigenous Australians ate the pith of this fern raw, or roasted it over ashes.
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Tasmanian blue gum
Eucalyptus globulus

This species is the floral emblem of Tasmania.
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Tea tree
Melaleuca alternifolia

Traditionally, Indigenous Australians used crushed tea tree leaves to treat skin infections.
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Sturt’s desert pea
Swainsona formosa

Named after Charles Sturt – a 19th century explorer who searched in vain for an inland Australian sea.
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Wollemi pine
Wollemia nobilis

The oldest Wollemi pine alive today is around 1000 years old.
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