Leaves of a Tree: Interweaving the Many Narratives of Southwest Australian Flora

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


ooi Consortium for Teaching, Research, Learning and Development (ooiCTRLD)


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Communication and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts,Technology, Education and Communications




Ryan, J. C. (2011). Leaves of a tree: Interweaving the many narratives of Southwest Australian flora. Paper presented at the Faculty Student Multidiscipline Conferences on Research and Teaching Online.


The narratives of plants offered by science, history, poetry, mythology and direct personal experience are often thought to contradict one another and are thus held as separate. Like leaves of a tree, however, the posthumous botanical works of nineteenth-century American naturalist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau gather together the diverse stories that give meaning to plants. Drawing from the concept of multiple narrative streams as a method of writing natural history inspired by Thoreau, this article explores many accounts of the flora of the biodiverse Southwest corner of Western Australia. Botanical science, Aboriginal spirituality, nature poetry and colonial histories offer versions that explain the natural histories of Southwest plants using different, though complementary, perspectives. The meandering together of narrative streams ensures the perpetuity of non-scientific stories and the potential for cross-pollination between disciplines and diverse ways of knowing the natural world.

Access Rights

subscription content

This document is currently not available here.