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The following have been selected from the questions received on the ASGAP World Wide web site over the past few months. You're welcome to comment on any issue concerning Australian native plants....growing, propagating or appreciating (even loathing!) ... anything.

If necessary, bung a message in a bottle if your net connection goes down!!

....and, if you'd like to contact any of the correspondents and no email address is listed, please feel free to do so through the editor.


Beaufortia Enthusiasts

   Beaufortia sparsa

Beaufortia sparsa.
Select the thumbnail image or highlighted name for a higher resolution image (38k). Photo: Unknown source

In response to the inquiry in the September issue ("Looking for Beaufortia"), the genus is included in the genera being studied by ASGAP's Melaleuca and Allied Genera Study Group. It appears that plants of this genus are not widely grown and those that are being grown are restricted to the southern part of Australia.

I will be pleased to maintain contact with anyone who is looking for information on the genus and will also appreciate any information which may be available from growers of these plants as to their success or otherwise with them.

Colin Cornford
Queensland (colincornford@bigpond.com)

Thanks for that confirmation, Colin. Beaufortia is certainly a group of plants worthy of cultivation in suitable areas..


How Many Grevilleas??

Hi, I am a ten year old boy and we are doing a project at school about plants. Our group needs to find out how many kinds of Grevillea there are in Australia. If you could answer our question that would be great as we can't seem to find out in any of our parents garden books.

Also, if you could tell us what the real name of a tree that the Aboriginals called the tooth brush tree that would be great.

Cohan Poulton

Grevillea laurifolia Grevillea wilkinsonii   
Two "toothbrush" grevilleas....
G.laurifolia (left); G.wilkinsonii (right)
Photos: Brian walters, Neil Marriott

Your question sounds simple enough but it's not easy to give an exact number of species. There is still research going on into the genus Grevillea and new species are still being discovered.

The best I can do is quote the number of species listed in "The Grevillea Book" by Peter Olde and Neil Marriott, which was published in 1995. That publication listed 343 species but the number would be larger by now.

As for the second part of your question - there is no plant that was called "toothbrush tree" by the Aborigines.

There are quite a number of grevilleas that have flower clusters in toothbrush shapes but the name "toothbrush" is a European description - Aborigines did not have toothbrushes before European settlement so would not have used "toothbrush" as a description.

Good luck with your project.


Looking for Brown Boronia

Hope you can help me! I've been looking for a source for plants of Boronia megastigma (brown boronia) for shipment to the west coast of USA for two years! I just happened across your website. Do you know of a nursery that could ship to Washington state, US?

I have never smelled the famous (though not in the US) Boronia, but someone on fragrant plant forum talked about it filling her whole yard with scent.

Cultivars would be great, though not essential, as long as they are powerfully fragrant.

Thanking you in advance, - please, tell me it's not hopeless!

Carla Kiiskila
Washington State USA

The fragrance of brown boronia is certainly stunning although a certain proportion of the population is apparently unable to detect it!

The plant can be touchy, particularly in humid climates - it prefers a Mediterranean climate. However, even in unsuitable climates such as the east coast of Australia from about the Victorian border northwards, it can usually be grown as a container plant for a season (or maybe two!)

Boronia megastigma  
The fairly ordinary looking flowers of Boronia megastigma (top) give little indication of its magnificent fragrance.
Several cultivars have been selected such as "Harlequin" (bottom) which has more attractive flowers while retaining the perfume.

Select the thumbnail image or highlighted name for a higher resolution image (34k and 32k).

Boronia megastigma 'Harlequin'

There may be nurseries that export live plants from Australia but I haven't come across any to date and none have contacted me.

However, obtaining B.megastigma in the USA may not be hopeless as there are a few US nurseries that deal in Australian plants. Take a look at the listing on our web site.


Secondary Compounds in Native Plants

I was wondering whether you would have any information, or would know where I could get some information concerning secondary compounds (or defenses) in plants?

I have just read your web page on Australian Native Poisonous Plants, which was very helpful, but I also need information on native plants with secondary compounds such as smells to attract pollinators. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Hope you can help.

Liesl Griffiths

Not sure if these references will help but....here goes!


A Rainforest Under Difficult Conditions

I was just wondering if you thought I would be banging my head against a wall if I attempted to grow a small rainforest on my place , or would it be worth a try i? I live on 36 hectares acres - we get frost in the winter although not for long and not as bad up at my place because I am up in the hills a bit and not down on the river flat. Also we do get some days of quite hot winds in the summer. Our rainfall average is 600 mm.

I have a tractor and a small dozer for the ground work I would need to do.

I love rain forest and used to spend a lot of time in the rainforests around Brisbane.

John Ramsey
Texas, Queensland

It's surprising how adaptable rainforest plants can be so I don't think you're necessarily banging your head against a wall.

It's difficult to give any specific advice, particularly regarding plant selection as this will depend on what's available locally.

A good reference is the book "Creating an Australian Rainforest Garden" by Ralph Bailey and Julie Lake (Lothian, 1994) but it may be difficult to find. The series of booklets by Hugh and Nan Nicholson called "Australian Rainforest Plants" would be a good guide to plant selection (Volume 5 is reviewed in this issue.


Deua Grevillea

I'm hoping you will be able to help me track down some information regarding Grevillea rhyolitica. I've tried the internet to no avail and was wondering if you could point me in the direction of a site or publication that could provide some details on plant features and cultivation.

Donna Armstrong

Grevillea rhyolitica is a fairly recently named species which is why you wont find much information on it.

It was previously regarded as a form of G victoriae and it resembles that species in its growth habit and general appearance. G.rhyolitica grows as a medium shrub to about 2 metres high x 2 metres wide. The flower clusters are larger and of a more brilliant red than most species of G.victoriae in cultivation. G rhyolitica is also related to G.mollis but it has much larger flower clusters than G.mollis.

Grevillea rhyolitica
Grevillea rhyolitica occurs in a restricted area in the Deua National Park in south eastern New South Wales and surrounding areas.
Select the thumbnail image or highlighted name for a higher resolution image (30k).

The performance of G.rhyloitica in cultivation is still being assessed as it has not been in cultivation for very long. Most forms of G.victoria are hardy in a range of climates so it is hoped that G.rhyolitica will prove equally adaptable. It seems to have great potential as it flowers for many months.

I would expert that it would grow best in well drained soils in full sun to semi shade - that's certainly where I have mine!

I'm not aware of any publication that includes details of G.rhyolitica. "The Grevillea Book" by Peter Olde and Neil Marriott mentions it briefly as Grevillea sp.aff. victoriae "B' under the entry for G.victoriae and has a photo of the flowers.

But that's about it!!


Agonis flexuosa "After Dark"

I was hoping that you could give me some advice on the beautiful Agonis "After Dark" tree.

I have a 0.2 hectare block of land and have planted 17 of these trees along my fence line with the intention of providing a screen from the neighbours.

I have planted the "After Dark" one metre from the fence and two metres apart, but I am concerned that they may be planted either too closely to the fence or too closely to one another.

According to the plants information tag, Agonis "After Dark" grows 6m high and 3-5m wide.

I look forward to hearing your experienced reply,

Natalie Mettner
Angle Vale, South Australia

Agonis flexuosa "After Dark" is a fairly recent introduction and we don't have any "experienced" advice to pass on. The plant has not been in general cultivation long enough for us to know how it will perform in different geographical regions.

We can only go by the information provided on the label and our knowledge of how the normal form of the plant performs. On that basis I don't see any real problem with what you have done - I'd do much the same. A flexuosa is not a particularly vigourous species and is not likely to damage the fence. The 2 metre spacing should give a good, dense screen.

I'm interested in the "Jervis Bay" title. If that name appears on the label, it's a bit unfortunate as Jervis Bay is located on the south coast of New South Wales but A.flexuosa is a native of Western Australia.


Transplanting Australian Plants

We have a couple of good sized native plants, in flower at present, but I would like to move them as I don't get to see them as much as I would like - they are in the wrong spot.

Can native plants be moved to another spot successfully?

Suzanne Tyssen

I'm afraid the answer is "it depends".....

Many Australian plants can be moved successfully but the larger they are, the more difficult it is.

The main criterion is to get as large an undisturbed root ball as possible. This basically means using a spade to cut a circle around the plant and then levering the whole lot (soil containing the plant) out of the ground. To do this successfully, the soil should be moist (not wet) so that it will hold together while the plant is being moved.

With small plants this can be done fairly easily but with larger plants, particularly in sandy soil, it becomes increasingly difficult.

Without knowing how large or how old your plants are I can't give definitive advice but, if they are more than about half a metre high, I'd say moving them would be very risky.


A Eucalypt in Japan

Eucalypt Photo  

Five years ago I imported some Eucalyptus seed from Australia and, at last a Eucalyptus tree in my garden has a flower yesterday.

It is amazing!!!!!....I have never seen pink flowered eucalypt in Japan.

I would like to confirm the species name of my Eucalyptus. I imported E.sideroxylon "rosea", and E. leucoxylon "rose", but I am not sure which species has flowered. Would you let me know the species name? - see the enclosed photo.

Alex Endo

It looks like E.sideroxylon because of the seven-flowered clusters (E.leucoxylon usually has 3-flowered clusters).

The other main difference (but your tree may be too young for this to be obvious) is that E.sideroxylon has persistent rough bark while E.leucoxylon has bark which falls off to leave a smooth trunk.


Re-planting Fern Trees

I have a tree fern that is growing in under my fernery but it is beginning to become to tall and I am trying to find out how to cut it down to re-plant it in the same location. I am wandering whether you would be able to help me with this problem.

Stan Tucker

Unfortunately this is difficult to answer as the method depends on the species of tree fern that you are growing.

The two most commonly cultivated species are Dicksonia antarctica (soft tree fern) and Cyathea australis (rough tree fern).

The Dicksonia can be sawn though and the stump transplanted after cutting back the fronds. All of the references I have suggest that the plant be sawn through at ground level. If you need to cut higher up to make the trunk shorter, it should survive but I don't have any definitive information on this. The stump is planted about 20cm into the soil.

The Cyathea won't tolerate this treatment and must be transplanted with as much of the root system intact as possible. So, if you have this species, you wont be able to shorten it by sawing it through as this will kill it.


Propagating Syzygium

I have just come across your website while trying to identify a tree in my garden in East London, England, which I am 99% sure is a Syzygium. The picture on your site has variegated leaves, but my tree has very dark green, glossy leaves, which are the most glorious red-amber when they are new. The flowers are white, like the flowers of gum trees. It has had a total of four berries in the last two years and I have saved the seed. Unfortunately I am moving house in about 18 months' time and cannot take my tree with me.

Can you please tell me how would be the best way to grow another tree - from the seed, or can I take cuttings? I am a complete novice when it comes to gardening but I am very excited to have what I believe is an Australian native tree in my English garden (my father is Australian and my family all live in South Australia!).

Thank you for your help.

Joanna Lee

It certainly sounds like a Syzygium or related plant.

Propagation is not particularly difficult from either seed or cuttings but seed can be a bit unpredictable. I would suggest you try both. There are some general notes on propagation on our web site.


Qualup Bell

I have just purchased a grafted Pimelea physodes (Qualup Bell). It is a Western Australian native but has been grafted onto a hardy Queensland stock. What's your opinion as to its longevity or success in this climate.

Jill MacLeod

I don't have any meaningful opinion as I'm not familiar with the rootstock used or the longevity of the graft. The grafted plant will certainly be hardier than P.physodes on its own roots but these sorts of graft are very new so it will depend on people like yourself to report on how well they grow.

Pimelea physodes
The flowers of Pimelea physodes are enclosed in large, petal-like bracts. It is a spectacular species when in flower but is difficult to grow in humid areas. Grafting may hold the answer!
Photo: Tony Cavanagh.

Should be a fantastic plant if it's successful!!!


Silky Oak and Underground Pipes

We are contemplating planting a Grevillea robusta (silky oak) near our main sewerage main and were wondering how it's root system would affect this area.

Could you please give us some advice on this matter.

Jill MacLeod

G.robusta is known as a tree with a very vigourous root system. I wouldn't plant one anywhere near underground pipes. Your local sewerage authority should be able to advise on species that are particularly troublesome.


"Glossodia" Orchid

Orchid Photo  
Glossodia major
Photo: Australian National
Botanic Gardens

We are a few friends living in the Maroota area of Wiseman's Ferry. So far we have not had any luck finding information on a diminutive flower we know as the Glossodia orchid.

It stands only a few centimetres high and has a single elongated leaf with an unusual blue flower (semi star). It is growing wild in the back of our block in very small numbers and previous attempts to further grow them on other parts of the ground have been unsuccessful.

If you could help with any info on this we would be most grateful.

Karan Mackenzie
Maroota, New South Wales

It would be either Glossodia major or Glossodia minor. Both species occur in the Sydney area and are similar. Not surprisingly G.minor has a smaller flower and doesn't grow quite as tall as G.major. Both have mauve or purple flowers.

With a few exceptions, Australian terrestrial orchids are generally difficult to cultivate and the Glossodias are regarded as being particularly difficult. It is unlikely that you will successfully transplant them.

You can find a bit more info on both species at the web site of the Australasian Native Orchid Society...


Grevillea "Carpenter Rocks"

I am currently working for the Wellington Botanic Garden in New Zealand.

Part of my job is to maintain and develop our Australian native plant collection which I am enthusiastically undertaking. I am emailing you to ask for information on Grevillea "Carpenter Rocks". If it is at all posible could you please send me a description and/or photo. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Rewi Elliot
Wellington, New Zealand

Unfortunately I don't have a photo available.

The plant is most likely a form of Grevillea aquifolium as there is a form of that species in cultivation from the Carpenter Rocks area of south eastern South Australia.

The plant is a low, spreading shrub varying from prostrate to about 0.5 metres with ovate to oblong leaves which may be entire or lightly toothed.

Flower colour is pink to red and flowers are of short "toothbrush" configuration.

Hope this helps.


Calytrix for Cultivation

I am currently a student at Curtin University, Western Australia.

Recently in my "Plant Propagation" unit we have been asked to present a seminar on a flowering Plant species. In the seminar we need to introduce and promote a flowering plant that is not widely known and cultivated, but has potential to become an cceptable plant cultivar.

The plant I initially chose was Calytrix fraseri, however I found information on cultivation hard to find.

If you have any information on this plant species or on its relative Calytrix tetragona I would greatly appreciate it.

Elisa Andreoli
Western Australia

I don't have anything specifically on C.fraseri but there is information on several Calytrix species, including C.tetragona, on our website.

There is also an article on Calytrix in the March 2001 issue of Australlian Plants online which may be of some help.

Calytrix exstipulata  
The colourful, starry flowers of Calytrix species have much to offer horticulture.
Calytrix exstipulata (top) and Calytrix gurulmundensis (bottom).

Select the thumbnail image or highlighted name for a higher resolution image (47k and 36k). Photos: Geoff Clarke

Calytrix gurulmundensis

I grew C.fraseri for some years here in western Sydney but, generally, it's not really suited to humid climates (like most species from south Western Australia) although it is a bit easier than most others from the south west. Grafting may be the key to more widespread cultivation of the western species.


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Australian Plants online - December 2001
Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants