FOR early European explorers, the twisted flora of the Australian outback was like something from another world.
Next week the Art Gallery of Ballarat will launch the most comprehensive exhibition of Australian botanical art ever held, including work dating back to the 18th century.
And the stories behind some of the works are amazing.
One group of etchings included in the show date back to the 1770s and were almost lost forever.
"When they got back to London, Joseph Banks paid for them to be etched onto copperplates," says gallery director Gordon Morrison.
"But he later lost interest in the project and died in 1820. They were never printed and they were handed over to the British Museum."
Almost a hundred years later in 1905, the plates were finally printed -- but that wasn't the end of their journey.
"During World War II, someone decided in their wisdom that these copperplates could be melted down as part of the war effort," says Morrison.
"A young botanist named Wilfrid Blunt saw that happening and basically threw himself in front of the truck, so they survived."
Be sure to read Ballarat Extra in tomorrow's edition of The Courier to learn more about the stories behind the artworks on display.