Walter Hill: The Scotsman Who Grew Queensland

Nielsen, D., and Kumarasuriyar, A. (2023)


For 26 years, Walter Hill was the longest serving and industrious Director of Brisbane’s Botanic Garden. During this period, he created a world-class botanic garden and public park in an area that subsequently became known as Gardens Point. Hill trialled, acclimatised and introduced numerous plants that made significant contributions to Queensland’s agricultural and economic prosperity. Hill also began the cataloguing of Queensland’s native flora and assisted in the exploration and settlement of the state. This article details Hill’s background before his 1852 arrival in Australia, and his 1855 employment, first as Superintendent and then later as Director of the Brisbane Botanic Garden. Also explained is his role as Colonial Botanist, his involvement with the Queensland Acclimatisation Society, and his efforts in cultivating numerous exotic plants, such as Victoria regia. Finally, to crystallise his achievements, this work details Hill’s participation in an 1862 voyage to Queensland’s Cape York. Although Hill’s scientific accomplishments are relatively meagre when compared to his contemporaries, such as Ferdinand von Mueller at the Melbourne Botanic Garden, and Richard Schomburgk at the Adelaide Botanic Garden, Hill’s substantial horticultural contributions to Queensland are nevertheless important and largely unacknowledged by the historical record. This work therefore calls for further research to fully document his substantial impact and fascinating career.