John Ednie Brown
Have you ever purchased a seedling in a tube?
This world-wide practice owes its origins to an expatriate
Scot, John Ednie Brown, South Australia’s first Conservator
of Forests. After appointment, he sailed from Plymouth in
the Garonne, and arrived in Adelaide on 15 Sep
John Ednie Brown was the son of James Brown, Deputy-Surveyor
of Woods and Forests and an expert on European forestry,
and his wife Jeannette, née Erskine. John was educated
in Edinburgh and left school at 15 to take up his father's
profession. After three years with his father, learning
the practical management of nurseries and reporting on forest
management in England and Scotland, John Brown was sent
to a large estate in Aberdeenshire where he learnt the profession
of forester. He subsequently spent time in England laying
out forest plantations and managing estates.
In 1871–72 Brown visited the United States and Canada,
gathering more useful information on trees and forests.
While in Canada, Brown was offered the position in South
As part of his work he experimented in the Government Bundaleer
Forest on appropriate plantation trees for the forestry
industry. Established in 1876, the Bundaleer Forest was
Australia's first commercial forest. Today’s forest
features magnificent century old specimens of oaks, elms
and other European species, the results of these experiments.
Brown, his colleagues and successor, Walter Gill, selected
Pinus radiata and of course that species is one
of the main softwood timbers of today.
In concert with Adelaide-born Rosa Catherine Fiveash, a
prominent botanical illustrator, and the lithographer, H
Barrett, Brown published in parts over an eight year period,
The Forest Flora of South Australia (1882-1890)
which remains a fine example of colour lithography.
As part of his work Brown devised the concept of planting
the tree seeds in short lengths of bamboo and over the years
this has evolved into the black plastic tube small tree
seedlings are found in today. The original bamboo tubes
van still be inspected at Bundaleer.
In 1890 John Ednie Brown was poached by the New South Wales
Government as Director-General of Forests. Ironically the
work in NSW proved unchallenging and in 1895 he moved to
Western Australia where he died at Cottesloe on 26 October
John Brown married Bertha Amelia, the daughter of James
Doughty Willshire at North Adelaide Christ Church on 22
March 1883 and the couple had three sons.