Plant development at Kings Park and Botanic Garden is undertaken to 'conserve, develop, manage and display collections of Western Australia and other flora' (as per the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority Act 1998).
The role of plant development at Kings Park and Botanic Garden is to:
- increase the range and form of Western Australian plants available for display in the botanic garden, home gardens and public landscapes
- to promote the use of plants in general horticulture and
- to raise the profile of Kings Park in the community.
Plant development activities have a long history at Kings Park and Botanic Garden. Several well-known plants sold in nurseries and grown in home gardens have originated at Kings Park. One of the best known is Callistemon 'Kings Park Special'. This is a seedling of unknown origin, first selected, propagated and registered by Kings Park and Botanic Garden in 1980. This cultivar grows into a small, bushy tree to 5 m and 4 m wide with bright red inflorescences in autumn and spring. This plant sets fertile seed but must be grown by cuttings to preserve its form.
Another well known plant is Pimelea ferruginea 'Magenta Mist', a darker flowering form of Pimelea ferruginea. It was selected from a wild coastal population near Northcliffe, WA. It is similar to the standard form of this species in all except the dark magenta flower colour.
Many exotic plants have undergone great changes over decades, and even centuries. The varieties seen today are usually the result of a long and exhaustive chain of plant breeding events. The Australian flora is largely underdeveloped, with little breeding, which suggests there are considerable opportunities for development through breeding.
The range and form of species able to be used for horticulture can be increased by using the diversity in natural populations and identifying and collecting superior plants. Western Australia has a diverse flora of over 12 000 species, with significant variation within many species.
Research into plant propagation techniques has been a long-term activity at Kings Park and Botanic Garden. This research enables the Authority to produce clonal material through cuttings, grafting and tissue culture to deliver the best outcome for display and conservation. This research can then be translated into techniques for commercial production.