Seeding knowledge 

Understanding the power of plants

Featured in

  • Published 20231107
  • ISBN: 978-1-922212-89-4
  • Extent: 207pp
  • Paperback, ePub, PDF, Kindle compatible

D’harawal Elder Auntie Frances Bodkin is a national treasure. A respected botanist and educator, she’s also the author of multiple books, including Encyclopaedia Botanica: The Essential Reference Guide to Native and Exotic Plants in Australia (1986), which details more than 11,000 plant species. Fran grew up learning the stories of D’harawal culture from her mother, and she’s spent her long career combining this Traditional Knowledge with Western approaches to scientific study.

In the 1970s, Fran helped establish the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan near Sydney. This 416-hectare site is home to more than 4,000 native plant species and is situated in what was once a meeting place for Indigenous peoples; today, it’s also home to a memorial for the Stolen Generations. The D’harawal name for Mount Annan is Yandel’ora, which means ‘place of peace between peoples’. This interview – which has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity – took place on a sunny autumn afternoon on a hilltop at Mount Annan.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at

Share article

About the author

Frances Bodkin

Frances Bodkin is an Australian botanist and D’harawal elder. She is the author of Encyclopaedia Botanica: The Essential Reference Guide to Native and Exotic...

More from this edition

Help wanted

Poetry The opening said no training required; the slaughterer’s tasks are two: stun and slaughter.  With a third parenthetical:  Remove the organs  and the waste  as needed. Heifers all  have name tags here:...

The animal in the walls

Non-fictionScrambling the scientific assumptions of the time, fungi and fungi-like organisms also gained new cultural and symbolic meanings. They began to sprout in the claustrophobic houses of gothic fiction and the swamps of horror; in the centre of the Earth and on the distant moons of science fiction; in utopian tracts, revolutionary and anti-revolutionary literature; and in the parasitic infections of the post-apocalyptic. Fungi were metaphors that fruited in many genres, mirroring human preoccupations with communal life and our tangled place in ecologies and economies. Creeping, co-operating, intertwining, fungi continue to feed our cultural dreaming and political unconscious.

Dog people

Non-fictionWe’re social animals, humans – from the wiring of our brains to the shape of our societies. If recent pandemic lockdowns taught us one thing, it’s that we need to be physically close to each other, to socialise not just as avatars or gigabits but as live, warm, fallible bodies. Our dogs knew this ages ago.

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.