Australia's oldest grapevine?

Article | Updated 4 months ago

You’ve probably heard the term ‘heritage buildings’, but what about ‘heritage plants’?  On the site of the New Museum we have grapevines that are part of WAs heritage. They are being meticulously cared for while construction is taking place.

Man stands on ladder reaching to prune grapevine.

Image copyright WA Museum 

For the past 48 years they have been looked after by one of the Museum’s long-term volunteers – although Ian Cameron never officially signed up as a volunteer.

Ian Cameron was working for the Department of Agriculture in the late 1960s when he and his colleague Bill Jameson received a call from the WA Museum.

The Museum wanted someone from the Department to see if they could settle a dispute. At the time construction was about to start on the Francis Street building and two grapevines on the site needed to be pruned as part of the works. 

The Museum’s gardener was not convinced that the vines would survive such a pruning. So Ian and Bill came to the Museum to provide advice.

On inspection Ian suspected the vines were planted sometime in the 1850s or 1860s and he was intrigued to see if they were the oldest grapevines in Australia.

He was confident he could prune the vines and ensure they survived.He cut them back and since then has been returned to look after them. The vines not only survived but have thrived under Ian’s care, sometimes producing 200 bunches of grapes per year! Well into his retirement Ian has kept the heritage vines growing beautifully.

In 2016 Ian came to the Perth site to conduct his seasonal prune. This time he had an audience of Museum staff watching and talking to him as he worked. He shared his story and his passion for our grapevines with us.

2018 will be Ian’s 50th year of caring for the grapevines. He will continue to care for the vines while the site is being developed.   The grapevines will be a part of the New Museum landscaping and we look forward to sharing a bunch of grapes with Ian after the New Museum opens in 2020.

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Ian and the Grapevine Transcript