[Front Page] [Features] [Departments] [SGAP Home Page] [Subscribe]

Australian Plants online

A Good Read

.....what's current in print and on disk?

Reviews in this issue cover "Rainforests of the Illawarra District" by Kevin Mills and Jacqueline Jakeman, "Gardening on the Wild Side" by Angus Stewart and "Ferns of Tasmania" by Michael Garrett. Also reviewed is the CD-ROM, "Australian Tropical Plants Vol.1". Books Diagram

Rainforests of the Illawarra District
Kevin Mills and Jacqueline Jakeman

Published by Coachman Publishing, 1995
143 pages, hard cover, $AUS33 including postage

Reviewed by Brian Walters.

In the opening chapter of "Rainforests of the Illawarra District" the authors claim that "rainforests have dominated the Illawarra landscape for hundreds of thousands of years" and that despite the removal of 75% since European settlement, "the largest areas of rainforest in New South Wales south of the Hunter River occur in the Illawarra." This may surprise many who regard the Illawarra as the coastal strip between about Bulli and Kiama. The Region actually extends from Port Hacking, inland to Moss Vale and Mittagong and south to the Shoalhaven. The book documents the history and geology of the Region in relation to rainforest, the rainforest types, the plants and animals and issues of rainforest conservation and management. The book draws on the work of a great number of people (the bibliography runs to 8 pages!) including Kevin Mills own studies.

The historical perspective reveals some fascinating accounts by the early explorers and settlers. "I am at a loss for words to describe what we have gone through, we are all blood from the bites of Leiches, the vines and Bous has almost stripped us Naked". The marvellous names of Yarrawa Brush ("the thickest jungle in the colony"), Illawarra Brush and Berkeley Brush were used to describe "the most formidable brush I have ever met with."

Five main rainforest types are identified as well as several sub- types of each. The relations between each type and the soil, climate and geology is described clearly, indicating where the type can be found and describing the main components of the vegetation. Line drawings by Jacqueline Jakeman illustrate the foliage of around 40 of the dominant species.

The chapter on "Plants of the Rainforests" discusses species at their limits of distribution, seed dispersal and naturalised plants. The latter, I was disillusioned to learn, comprise some 11% of the Illawarra flora although, as the authors point out, this is not much different to the 10% for Australia as a whole. The appendix lists over 300 species (both native and introduced) together with an indication of the conservation status of each.

The fauna of the rainforests is covered fairly briefly but includes comprehensive lists of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and butterflies.

The authors contend that there is a need to expand the system of conservation reserves to include more rainforest. At present there is poor representation of warm tropical/cool temperate and littoral types (327 ha and 84 ha of each, respectively occur on public land). The various studies have also revealed 10 rare or threatened plant species at the national level as well as a large number of regionally rare species and 21 species of endangered fauna.

The book is almost an essential reference for any rainforest enthusiast in the Illawarra Region but its scope and level of detail would make it invaluable to anyone interested in the Australian flora generally. It is available from Coachwood Publishing, 222 North Curramore Rd, Jamberoo, NSW, 2533.

Reprinted from the January 1996 issue of the "Native Plants for New South Wales" newsletter of the NSW Region of SGAP.

Gardening on the Wild Side
Angus Stewart

Published by Allen and Unwin, St Leonards, New South Wales, Australia
205 pages, hard cover, $AUS26.25

Reviewed by SGAP Victoria Newsletter Team

Angus, the author of this beautifully written and presented book, appears regularly on 2BL (Sydney ABC Radio) and is obviously a great lover of bush flowers. He has had a 15 year interest in the breeding of kangaroo paw cultivars and he teaches horticulture at Ryde College of Technical and Further Education (TAFE).

Apart from this he is a talented writer, which is very evident when you read "Gardening on the Wild Side".

The excellent photographs and the beautiful illustrations make this both a "coffee-table" book and a very desirable plant reference book. The book is worth buying just for the illustrations - the watercolours by Angus' late grandmother, Daisy Wood, and the black and white drawings from the pen of Deana Doyle are superb.

Angus is a passionate believer in the breeding and improving of Australian plants as cultivars (cultivated varieties) both for the overseas trade and as an important aid in their conservation in the wild (hence the title). He believes that the commercial raising of plants will diminish the appeal of bush picking and shouldn't we all be working towards that end?

A large section of the book illustrates and discusses the growing of the latest cultivars of Anigozanthos, Grevillea, Brachyscome, Scaevola, Callistemon, Telopea and many others, now readily available from the nursery trade. The sections on rainforest and primitive and best "wildflower areas of Australia" are interesting as is a section on "Old Favourites".

You will love this book both to look at and to read.

Reprinted from the newsletter of SGAP's Victorian Region, June 1996.

The Ferns of Tasmania: their ecology and distribution
Michael Garrett

Available from Tasmanian Forest Research Council Inc, GPO Box 207B, Hobart, Tasmania, 7001, Australia (Email; Murray.Jessup@forestry.tas.gov.au)
217 pages, soft cover, $AUS50 + postage ($7 in Australia; $20-$25 overseas)

Reviewed by Patrick Brownsey, Curator of Land Plants, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand

Over the last 20 years there has been a tremendous upsurge in interest in ferns, both in New Zealand and Australia. This interest is not just academic. Indeed, it has been sustained for so long because the general public - including horticulturists, gardeners, members of amateur botanical societies, conservation groups, bushwalkers and users of our wilderness areas - have wanted more information about this fascinating group of plants. As with the fern craze of the late nineteenth century, this latter day love affair with an ancient and mysterious element of the natural flora has spawned a whole new generation of identification manuals, gardening guides and scholarly texts, all of which contribute something new to our understanding of the plants themselves.

This book by Michael Garrett on the ferns of Tasmania* is no exception. One hundred and one species are now known from the State, thirty-one more than described in the first comprehensive account of Tasmanian ferns by Leonard Rodway in 1903. Each of these ferns is illustrated here in 150 superb colour photos, and a field key enables users to identify species they may be unfamiliar with. However, the real value of this book is that, for the first time, it records accurately the ecology, distribution and reservation status of the State’s ferns. At a time when there are unprecedented pressures on our natural environment, the book will highlight the vulnerability of some of Tasmania’s rarest plant treasures and provide guidance to land managers who have the responsibility of prioritising areas for conservation.

* many of these species occur naturally in other Australian states and in New Zealand.

Australian Tropical Plants Vol.1
CD-ROM for Microsoft Windows

Distributed by Yuruga Nursery - phone (070)933826.
$AUS65 plus $3 postage within Australia

Reviewed by Colleen Keena

The cover of this CD states "vast amounts of data and 1250 Pictures of 524 species of Australian tropical plants". The information is available as:

  • With Preview: Data plus pictures
  • Without Preview: Data only - fast access
  • Run Slide Show: many options
  • Quick Preview: quickly view any picture
  • Multiple Queries: complex database searches, with possible search criteria of Flowering Time, Fruiting time, Form, Flower colour, Will grow in (shade, semi-shade, sun), Survival and Special features (showy flowers; attractive foliage; attractive fruit; perfumed flowers; shade tree; screen plant; windbreak; tub plant; bush-tucker
  • Utilities: view distribution maps; print an image to colour printer; growing tropical rainforest plants and print registration form and Australian or International Version.
The "Multi-Query" option was accessed in order to plan an edible garden for Brisbane using "Brisbane" and "Bush-tucker" as the search features. The printed list had 47 plants. This was subsequently printed as a separate list for sun and for shade. The list has been useful in two ways. Firstly there were plants listed that had been overlooked in my pre-printout stage of planning, such as Alpinia caerulea. Secondly, there were plants listed but with which I was unfamiliar and that could then be looked up in the "With Preview" section. For example, the fruit of Diploglottis bracteata was described as one of the best of the Diploglottis and the fruit of D.smithii as very acid and as making delicious drinks and jam.

Although I already have almost half the plants on this list, there are now some more "must have" plants. There were, however, some interesting omissions of plants included on the database but not on the bush-tucker output from "Multi-Query". Species not listed include Psychotria loniceroides, Randia fitzalanii, Syzygium kuranda, S.luehmannii, S.moorei, S.oleosum, S.tierneyanum and S.wilsonii although all of these were described by Jones (1986) and Cribb and Cribb (1987) as having edible fruit. There are two possible reasons for these omissions. Firstly, Growing Australian Tropical Plants, also available from Yuruga Nursery describes Syzygium wilsonii subsp.wilsonii, as having fruits that are edible but not particularly palatable. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, edibility may be in the taste-buds of the taster. Having sampled Randia fitzalanii and Syzygium luehmannii, I can understand the omission of both these species but would love to see my favourite lilly-pilly, Syzygium oleosum, included. The second possible reason for these omissions is addressed by Cribb and Cribb in their description of S.oleosum: "although trees vary in the quality of the fruit, we have found the blue lillypilly one of the best for fresh eating and for jam and jelly". Perhaps I have been lucky in having a tasty form of S.oleosum, (with edibility endorsed by the local possum population).

The database is a helpful checklist, if only because it lists plants that may not have been considered for a particular purpose and because it provides detailed information on so many species. In the introduction to the program, it is suggested that landscape architects may find the program very useful as a lot of detail is available for each species. When a plant is looked up in the "With Preview" section, the flowering time, fruiting time, special features, grow in (sun etc.), plant family, region, distribution map and 1, 2, or 3 pictures with zoom features are available to decide on the suitability of the plant. In addition to the amount of detail, I was also surprised at how many of the plants included in the database are not restricted to the tropics, e.g. 56 plants are listed as suitable for Melbourne. Over 20 of the species listed occur in Brisbane, eg. Acronychia laevis (Cape York to Sydney) and Syzygium australe (extends to central NSW). The real power of the database can only be discovered as it is used for a particular garden design, eg. Bush-tucker plants could be identified for Brisbane, with Attractive Foliage, which grow in Sun, Attract Birds and Butterflies and Fruit in a particular month. The variations are endless.

The survival rating is useful, e.g. Syzygium luehmannii, which has survived a long drought without extra water, is rated 5. That is, after establishment the plant does not need any water apart from natural rain and does not show signs of stress during the dry season, whereas S.erythrocalyx, which consistently dies on me, is only given a rating of 2.

This review has concentrated on only an extremely limited sample of the information that can be gained from the program, namely edible plants. There are, however, other areas of the garden yet to be designed, screen plants against the neighbour's fence, windbreak plants on the long westerly boundary, tub plants for the courtyard, and perhaps plants with attractive foliage to screen out the other neighbour, of course bird and butterfly attracting species as much as possible and areas near the bedroom window to have perfumed flowers. I keep seeing more and more ways in which to use this program and am really looking forward to VOLUME 2 which Yuruga Nursery advises is already in preparation and which will include information on another 500 plants.

[Front Page] [Features] [Departments] [SGAP Home Page] [Subscribe]

Australian Plants online - June 1997
The Society for Growing Australian Plants