The following article is a short summary to introduce Herb to members who may not have had the pleasure of meeting him. Herb has been an inspiration to people from many areas and being a dedicated horticulturist, Herb and his influence will carry on for ages.
HERBERT BOSWORTH was born in Ingham, North Queensland, and has lived his entire life at "Molonga" on Palm Creek. "Molonga" was for a time in the early 1870s the home of Sub-Inspector Robert Johnstone (of Johnstone River fame). Herb's only formal education was primary school at Victoria Estate. After leaving school at 14 years of age, he helped on his father's cane farm, working with all horse-drawn implements in those days. There was also work with cattle in the neighbourhood, and Herb enjoyed mustering and horsework.
Plants always had a fascination for Herb, and even in his school days, he grew vegetables to supply the household, and to give away. He had a natural instinct for plants, and observed their habits and requirements.
Early in 1942, Herb enlisted in the A.I.F., going first to the Middle East, then to New Guinea, and lastly to Borneo, where he was at the end of hostilities. It was in Borneo that he first saw and ate rambutans and durians, and he made up his mind that somehow he would eventually grow them.
It was a return to cane farming after the war, and he got his first real start in life with a granting of special cane-growing assignments for returned soldiers with a peak of 750 tons of cane, considered then an adequate living area. His only finance was his small savings from his army pay, and deferred pay.
In the early 1950s, Herb began looking for litchi trees, but none were available in commercial nurseries. He knew of marcotting, so whenever he heard of a good litchi tree in the district, he asked permission to take a few marcots. With these he set up a collection of stock plants for evaluation. He had quite a lot of varieties when the D.P.I. became interested, and advised him to give his trees numbers, as there was no one in Queensland, at that time, that knew the varieties. Herb soon realised that one tree, number three, was the outstanding variety. It is still "Bosworth No.3" or just "B3", variety. The B3 is now the basis of the Queensland litchi industry, and the Bosworth family themselves have planted an orchard of about 10,000 trees, north of Cardwell. They fruit every year and have proved the most resistant of any variety, to cyclonic winds. The B3 was imported from a town called Shekki in southern China, in 1932, and when Herb took off his marcots, the tree was in poor shape. Soon afterwards the house changed hands, and yes, the first thing that happened, the tree was cut down. Every B3 tree in Australia is a vegetative descendant of that one tree.
Herb had not forgotten rambutans, and imported two consignments of grafted trees in the 1960s, from Malaysia. The trees were grown on but proved not to be suitable for Ingham. However, he did inarch a number, and has an orchard of them beside the litchis.
Mangosteens had taken Herb's interest and he made several attempts to import seed, from about 1960, but with no success. Increasing interest in other tropical fruit led Herb to decide on a trip to Malaysia about 1970, to taste tropical fruits and collect seeds, or buy grafted plants. Over the years now, Herb has visited Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Hong Kong, Red China and Hawaii. During these trips he has visited research stations, orchards, nurseries, etc., gaining more knowledge of cultivation practised, propagation methods etc., and collecting ever more seeds to bring home.
Mangoes, one of the world's best fruits, did not escape Herb's attention. He has collected about 150 varieties, and has grafted them all for stock plants. His recent efforts have been to set up a longan orchard. This is proving slow, but he now has a large number of different varieties, either grafted or marcotted. It still remains to determine which will be the most suitable for North Queensland.
Herb has a natural feeling for plants, almost a sympathy with them. With no formal horticultural education, nowhere to turn for advice, Herb had to work by trial and error. Books on propagation were not available, and when he did manage to find one or two, he realised that they were written for temperate climate plants, and tropical plants need different treatment from deciduous plants. All this he had to work out, and adapt for different plants. He was the first person to graft and fruit a mangosteen, and has since worked out successful techniques for a number of trees. He went into the nursery business, mainly propagating litchi trees, for which there was a big demand. He also grafted mangoes in big numbers, and other tropicals in a small way.
Herb does not rest on his laurels. With his family, he has the litchi orchard, a cane farm and brahman cattle, and his home near Ingham is a veritable botanic garden of tropical ornamentals as well as fruit. He is always happy to help others with horticultural advice, and has taken part in propagation workshops run by the R. F. C. Horticultural classes from Burdekin Agricultural College and T.A.F.E. in Townsville call annually to see him demonstrate propagation methods, and to look through his botanical collection.
DATE: September 1990
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