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Jean Galbraith

Botanist, author and conservationist

“…the glory of the garden is not alone of scent and beauty before our eyes, but also of memories and associations that cannot be numbered…” [1]

Jean Galbraith

Jean Galbraith was a respected botanist and much-loved author. Her great love of the Australian Landscape, wildflowers and native flora, and the beauty she observed while tending her garden were a constant source of inspiration. Throughout her life Jean shared her passion in gardening articles, botanical guides, children’s stories, and poetry.

Jean was born on her grandfather’s property – Mt Hope – in Tyers, Victoria. Jean’s grandparents and parents were keen gardeners who enthusiastically shared their knowledge with the children.

In 1914 at the age of 8, Jean’s family moved down the hill to their new home intending to build a ‘garden in the Valley’.  This cottage they called “Dunedin” Jean considered to be “the very fabric of [her] being.”  She lived, gardened, and wrote in Dunedin for 79 years. [1]

Jean’s formal education was interrupted by childhood illness. “I missed more school than I went to!” [2]However Jean possessed an intelligent enquiring mind, she was an avid reader and learnt much from her time spent in the garden.

At age 14, Jean chose to stay at her beloved home rather than undertake further formal education in Melbourne. She began to earn an income writing gardening articles for the Leader newspaper.

 “If I wanted some money, all I had to do was write for whatever subject they gave you for the week, to earn 2 and sixpence which was riches to me then!”[3]

In 1922, at age 16, at a wildflower exhibition at Melbourne Town Hall, Jean connected with Botanist Mr. H.B. Williamson. A tutorship by written weekly correspondence began. Jean collected and posted hundreds of specimens for Williamson to classify. By 1928, they had identified 608 species. [4]

Jean joined the Field Naturalists Club in 1923 and was made a Life Member in 1959.

Two plants are named in Jean’s honour, Dampiera galbraithiana (1988) – a native shrub she discovered and Prostanthera galbraithiae (1993)- a native mint she co-discovered.[5]

At age 19, Jean was commissioned to write articles for home gardeners under a pen name “Correa”. Jean’s joyful, expressive writing inspired readers to appreciate and grow Australian natives from the 1920s to the 1970s. For 50 years, Jean advocated for the conservation and planting of natives in monthly contributions to two magazines, “The Garden Lover” and “Victorian Naturalist.”

In 1939 Jean produced a book called ‘Garden in a Valley;’ the story of how the Galbraith family made their beloved garden at Dunedin. This book became popular in the 1940s and the 1980s when it was reprinted, accompanied by photographs and illustrations.[6]

In 1950, Jean’s guide “Wildflowers of Victoria” was the first accessible field guide to Victorian flora to be published.  This text was re-printed in 1955 and in 1967 and became an indispensable resource for field naturalists, with Jean’s writings dubbed “glove box Bibles.”[7]

At age 26, Jean Galbraith was a widely published author.  She continued to garden and inspire others, writing articles, books and poetry in her beloved family cottage ‘Dunedin’ in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley until 6 years before her death, aged 92, in 1999.

This Biography has been written in consultation with the family of Jean Galbraith, Latrobe City Council and Traralgon & District Historical Society

Photograph: Jean Galbraith (1906-1999) in the early 1920s. Source: Latreille, A (1999).

Film : A Day with Jean Galbraith (Sun 20, Oct 2013) ABC Radio National Broadcast

Site: The Jean Galbraith Reserve Tyers

The first wildlife sanctuary and one of the first privately donated reserves in the State of Victoria, established with the assistance of the Native Plants Preservation Society, donated by the Galbraith family to the Shire of Traralgon in 1936.

The walk around the Reserve follows a 200m trail that has been created in honour of Jean Galbraith, a resident of the township of Tyers from 1906 – 1999.

This reserve is maintained by the Latrobe GLaWAC NRM crew and contractors on behalf of Latrobe City Council with support from the National Heritage Trust.


[1] Hyndman, I. (n.d.). A Tribute to Jean Galbraith. Traralgon & District Historical Society Bulletin, 30 (2), pp. 5-7.

[2] Galbraith, J, A Day with Jean Galbraith, ABC radio, 20 Oct 2013.

[3] Op cit

[4] Latreille A (1999) Kindred spirits: a botanical correspondence, letters by Jean Galbraith, drawings by Joan Law-Smith. South Yarra, Victoria: Australian Garden History Society.

[5] Hyndman, I. (n.d.). A Tribute to Jean Galbraith. Traralgon & District Historical Society Bulletin, 30 (2), pp. 5-7.

[6] A Life in the Garden – writing Jean Gaibraith’s Story, ABC Gippsland (March 19, 2009)

[7]  Fletcher, M, (2009).  Becoming ‘Correa’: Jean Galbraith and ‘Australian Native Flowers’. The Latrobe Journal, 84, pp. 11-22.