Darwinia polychroma

Darwinia polychroma

I’ve finally found the original slide I took when I discovered this new species of Darwinia (Myrtaceae) whilst in Western Australia on the Thornton-Smith Scholarship in 1982.

Each year the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew funds a botanical expedition for one of its students on completion of the Kew course. I spent six months travelling, collecting and photographing the wildflowers in the south west of WA, following spring from Exmouth to Esperance.

During that time I exported over 450 species of wildflower to Kew, many of which had never before been grown in Europe. For each specimen collected for export I kept photographic and botanical collection records and also provided the Kew and Western Australian herbaria with voucher (pressed, dried) specimens.

In October I was collecting with Charles Chapman near Winchester. Charles had previously been a sheep and wheat farmer in that area, and had long been a passionate and very knowledgeable self-trained botanist. Charles had also discovered new species of Hibbertia, Darwinia and also Corynanthera flava, a new genus in the Myrtaceae.

Just before returning home for the day on 15th October, I discovered this plant, and Charles and I knew it was distinctly different from all the other known species of Darwinia. We decided we’d call it the Winchester Bell.

It is now formally identified as the Harlequin Bell, Darwinia polychroma, and like many Western Australian plants that survived clearing for agriculture, only three small, scattered populations exist along roadsides. It’s classified as an endangered species.

I’ve just sorted through my huge collection of slides from that trip and found the original slide. Now all I have to do is to find the botanical notes I made of Collection Number 148!

Jerry Coleby-Williams
10th January 2010