Rare French flowers from 1850s destroyed in Australian biosecurity bungle

Published: 10 May 2017

daisies

Australian biosecurity officers have potentially caused a diplomatic nightmare, after they destroyed “irreplaceable” historic plant specimens, on loan from Paris’ National Museum of Natural History, following a bureaucratic bungle with the paperwork.

The French museum is understood to be “very unhappy” after losing its rare and valuable collection.

A box of daisies dating back to the 1850s had been sent to the Queensland Herbarium for research in early January, but got stopped in Brisbane while going through quarantine.

Paperwork accompanying the flowers was only partially completed, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources said.

While the department held onto the flowers “46 days longer than required” while clarification was being sought, the flowers were eventually incinerated – a move the department admits was “premature.”  

Authorities are now reviewing the handling of the situation.

The original documents were said to be missing information about plant species and whether the flowers were preserved – and clarification was delayed when there was a mix-up with an email address. 

When the Queensland Herbarium provided additional information, that too was deemed insufficient.

While communication was ongoing, the plants were destroyed.

The bungle has researchers worried that foreign institutions may become increasingly wary of loaning out vital research materials to Australian institutions.