Republican Grows Convict Seed for Monarch

Fri, 04/12/2009 – Jeremy Coleby-Williams

This lettuce came with the First Fleet in 1788 and we used to grow them at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney when I worked there in the 1990s. Now I am collecting seeds from my garden and will spread them far and wide, including to Buckingham Palace.

I obtained this seed from Brisbane Organic Growers in 2004 as we lost ours to possums at RBGS. This is the fourth generation grown at my place in Brisbane.

 

IMAGE Young seedlings a month after transplanting

So far I have had no pest or disease problems with them in my garden, even when mustard, dai gai choi, kale and cabbage are being attacked by various caterpillars and aphids.

 

IMAGE Mature plants growing in a bed surrounded by protective bales of straw

They’re very uniform in flowering time. The sap is very bitter, even for a seedy lettuce. They’re very difficult to photograph when young – the bronze colouration makes leaves look burned and the green looks unnaturally green in most of my pics.

 

IMAGE Close up of flower of First Fleet Lettuce

 

IMAGE A whole plant gone to seed. Each variety of lettuce looks different when it is seeding, the branches forming different patterns and the seeds held at different angles.

 

I harvested the seed this morning and they’re drying out and shedding now. Some are destined for Buckingham Palace’s new kitchen garden.

IMAGE Here Jude, Michel and their ever-so-smart grandaughter, Oreana, visit me just before harvest.