Grasstrees are an icon of the Australian bush. SW Australia possesses 12 of the 30 species, all but one endemic. You will be introduced to the tallest, widest and heaviest, how they can branch, how fast they grow, how old they get, why they manage to grow throughout the year, how they respond to summer rain, how they survive drought and fire (but not shade), how they are the first to recover after fire, where the nutrients go, the relationship between flowering and fire, how long they have been around, the role of resin, their pollinators and herbivores - home for bardies/witchety grubs, seed production, Noongar use and burning practices, how balgas and kingias differ – the amazing aerial roots of kingias: all in 45 minutes!
Byron produced the definitive review on grasstrees in 2004 following his first article on estimating their growth rate and flowering response to fire in 1979. He received his PhD in 1974 from the University of Western Australia for pioneering work on the root systems of the Banksia family, then a Doctor of Science in 1992 based on 70 papers he had produced on mediterranean floras since his PhD. He was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for his work as a researcher, educator and author on the Australian flora and retired in 2010 as Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Curtin University. Since retirement he has been a regular contributor to Naturalist Club meetings and excursions. He continues to undertake research, especially on the evolution of plants in relation to fire. This year his work was recognized with a lifetime achievement award from the international Association of Fire Ecology and he will travel to California in December to receive it.