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Australian Plants online

First Cuttings

Australian Plants Societies

Australian Plants online is brought to you by the 7 Societies that make up the Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants (ASGAP).

Have you ever thought of joining one of the Societies? There is a Regional Society in every Australian state and also in the Australian Capital Territory. In addition, there are over 100 district groups established in centres throughout Australia.

Membership brings many benefits - regular district group and Regional newsletters, the colour journal "Australian Plants", access to free seed banks, regular meetings with expert speakers, bush walks, garden visits, advice from experienced growers, access to difficult to obtain plants and access to Study Groups.

Why not take a look at the Membership Page and see what we have to offer?


The "Gumnuts" Newsletter

Gumnuts is an email newsletter on Australian native plants which is published 4-6 weekly. It covers a wide range of topics - limited only by the imagination of its subscribers.

To subscribe - please see the "Subscribe" section of the current issue.

You may unsubscribe at any time.


Tim Flannery on Introduced Plants

On 23 January, Dr Tim Flannery, director of the South Australian Museum, delivered the annual Australia Day Address (organised by the Australia Day Council) at the Conservatorium of Music in Sydney. The address was wide ranging but its theme was the interrelations of Aboriginal and European cultures and the still common colonial vision of many white Australians in trying to "remake the continent in the image of Europe".

The following extract from the address will strike a chord with many readers....

"Nothing seems to rouse the passions of some Australians so much as disparaging roses, lawns, plane trees and the like. Yet I really do think that they are a blot on the landscape. I used to joke that I'd shout beer all round at my local pub the day someone brought me a plane tree leaf that an insect had actually taken a bite out of. The fact is, that as far as Australian wildlife goes, plane trees are so useless that they might as well be made of concrete. Australia is home to 25,000 species of plants, as opposed to Europe's 6,000 or 7,000. Surely amongst that lot we can find suitable species that will provide shade, and food for butterflies and native birds as well. To be honest, there is another reason I dislike many introduced plants. If gardens are a kind of window on the mind, I see in our public spaces a passion for the European environment that indicates that we are still, at heart, uncomfortable in our own land. If we can see no beauty in Australian natives, but instead need to be cosseted in pockets of European greenery, can we really count ourselves as having a truly sustainable, future adapted to Australian conditions?"

The full address can be found on the Australia Day Council's web site.


Australian Native Plants Selector

......A program for PCs

APSquery is a free computer program for Windows which is a great aid in helping to choose plants that meet a range of requirements. Designed by Howard Harvey, APSquery uses a database created and maintained by the Australian Plants Society (S.A. Region, Inc). The database contains descriptions of approximately 4000 native plants. Most are proper species, but a number of common hybrids and cultivars are also included.

The database has been developed with emphasis on plant characteristics in Mediterranean to semi-arid climatic conditions. It will best relate to South Australian conditions, and is reasonably close for Western Australia and Victoria. However, it may be less accurate for eastern seaboard environments.

APSquery's features include:

  • Extensive suite of search key criteria, divided into categories including form, plant height, plant width, flower and foliage features, soil, aspect (sun/shade etc), a range of potential uses and natural habitat.
  • On-screen view of a Brief Information Page for all plants matching the specified criteria.
  • On-screen view of a Full Information Page for plants selected from the Brief Information Page.
  • Ability to save information as files, or to print any selection from either plant list.
  • Criteria selections can be saved and reloaded at any time.
  • Quick Preview (via a separate window) of Full Information.
  • Quick Search for a known genus and species, a basic criteria selection, or for keywords.

To download APSquery, visit Howard's web site.


Rainforests and the Water Balance

   Water drops on leaf

Upland rainforests harvest vast amounts of water from the clouds in addition to what falls directly as rain, Australian scientists have discovered.

The finding has major implications for the care and management of the world's remaining rainforests and tropical river systems, as well as global water security.

It is giving the upland rainforests a whole new environmental significance in the landscape, as "cloud harvesters" which add billions of litres of extra flow into tropical river systems, says CSIRO's Dr Paul Reddell.

Dr Reddell and Dr David McJannet lead a team in the Rainforest Co-operative Research Centre, involving scientists from CSIRO and James Cook University.

"From our early work, it looks as though rainforests may pull up to 40 per cent more water out of the clouds than is measured as rainfall in a standard rain gauge," they say.

In high, wet tropical regions above 900 metres, low cloud, mist and fog blow constantly through the forest, condensing on trees and running or dripping down them to the ground.

This condensation is additional to normal precipitation and does not occur where the forest has been cleared.

"The role of rainforests in the water cycle is poorly understood. We know forests are important in regulating the flow of water through the landscape ? and we know that, by holding back water, they contribute to the dry-season flow of coastal rivers" said team member Dr David McJannet.

"Now we have clear evidence of another role, cloud-stripping, in which the forest actually harvests large volumes of moisture additional to the rainfall."

A serious issue is that, when rainforests are cleared, the amount of moisture reaching the soil decreases significantly due to the removal of the cloud-stripping effect.

Also, because these upland rainforests transpire very little, they contribute a disproportionately large volume of water to their catchment. This contribution is greatly reduced when the forest is cleared and the water can evaporate.

Dr Reddell also warns of the consequences for water security in the event of global warming: "if the cloud banks which currently contribute water to the forest via cloud stripping rise in altitude - as they are forecast to do - there could be a major loss in water gathering by the forest and its catchment, with consequences for communities downstream that rely on these resources.

To work out how much moisture falls as rain and how much is harvested by the forest, the team set up rain gauges in open areas at Longlands Gap and Mt Lewis in North Queensland, and "throughfall" troughs and collar gauges round trees in the forest. The throughfall troughs measure water which directly reaches the forest floor, dripping through the canopy. The collars measure "stemflow", or water running down the tree trunks.

The difference between what's in the rain gauge and throughfall plus stemflow is the amount of extra water stripped by the forest.

The team are now looking at developing gauges that can be used to estimate cloud stripping at a much wider range of sites ? and so build a fuller picture of the wet North Queensland rainforest's contribution to the wet tropic's hydrological cycle.

Dr Reddell says that the information will be valuable in several ways:

  • it will contribute to more accurate water balances, and so to the development of sustainable water allocation policy
  • it will make the public more keenly aware of the value of rainforests and the services they provide to the environment and people
  • it will alert the world to a new aspect of the losses sustained when upland rainforests are cleared, and contribute to better management of tropical catchments and rivers
  • it may encourage people to replant trees in cleared areas of the wet tropical uplands
  • it could even generate income from sale of the extra water harvested from a replanted forest.

CSIRO Media Release


Lantana - Horror Story

Lantana - the perfumed and colourful garden plant - has a leading role in an environmental horror story with a plot unfolding quietly around us.

With the success of the Australian film Lantana bringing new fame to this familiar cultivar, a scientist from the Cooperative Research Centre for Australian Weed Management, has issued his list of all time plant villains that make up a mean cast.

"Lantana is up there with my Ten Top Terrors for the natural environment," says Dr Tony Grice, based at CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems in Townsville, "It's a landscape and pasture weed of the worst order. We refer to it as the 'blackberry of northern and eastern Australia'.

"Lantana infests millions of hectares globally, including key economic crops such as cotton, sugarcane and rice. In Australia alone it occupies 4 million hectares. We now have 29 naturalised varieties of lantana in Australia, and it's listed as one of our 'Weeds of National Significance.

"As we saw in the film, it forms dense thickets that smother native vegetation - it's a Biodiversity Bully'. Lantana is already present in 165 reserves in Queensland, and in all remnant rainforest areas down the NSW north coast. It's the region's most widespread rainforest weed, and has the potential to spread through all but the driest of the nation's coastal lands. A single square metre of lantana can produce several thousand berries, and the birds do the rest.

Dr Grice says that the invasion of environmentally valuable areas by lantana, and the loss of native species and public amenity that it caused, is only part of the real lantana story. Losses in Queensland pastures alone are estimated at $7.7m per year, with lantana toxicity killing 1500 animals annually. It is also a major weed of hoop pine and eucalypt plantations. "We estimate that weeds cost Australia at least $3.5 billion each year in direct costs and lost production. Weeds are actually a bigger dollar problem than salinity, and directly affect many more rural landowners.

"That figure doesn't include biodiversity loss and other types of environmental degradation, which are hard to put dollar figures on. But we feel that loss intensely," says Dr Grice.

Dr Grice says that the tragedy is that most of these villains were deliberately introduced.

   Water drops on leaf
   Grazing land being taken over by lantana, Ma Ma Creek, near Gatton, Qld.
Photo: Michael Day, Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines.

"We urgently need to do better at the entry and assessment stage when new plants are imported," he says. "We can't go on allowing 20 new invasive species a year to make themselves at home here."

Dr Grice says the other nine in his list of Ten Top Terrors for the natural environment are:

  • Parkinsonia - invades seasonal wetlands and river banks
  • Serrated Tussock - takes over inland native grasslands
  • Bitou Bush, Boneseed - bullies native coastal vegetation
  • Bridal Creeper - a smotherer, but science appears to be winning this one with biocontrol
  • Rubber Vine - forms dense thickets in Queensland's Gulf river systems
  • Mesquite - in semi-arid and arid watercourses, and Mitchell grasslands
  • Giant Sensitive Plant (Mimosa pigra) - the biggest, meanest wetland bully of all, locks out native plants, animals and people
  • Para Grass - takes over waterbird breeding habitats and tropical streams.
  • Weedy Sporobolus - invades woodland and pasture, but has zero nutritional value.

CSIRO Media Release


Australian Native Food Industries Web Site

This new web site is in its early stages of development but it promises to be a very useful resource.

The site developed out of Industry discussions held in Canberra in March 2001, sponsored by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), which recommended a web based communications strategy for industry development.

The site includes:

  • Articles and publications about native food industry development
  • Research and development plans, reports and news
  • Forum area for discussion of industry development issues
  • Activities section for the announcement of conferences, field days, etc


Wattle Web

WattleWeb is an online guide to the wattles of New South Wales. It documents the acacias of New South Wales, with descriptions of the species, notes on distribution, ecology, images (planned) and identification keys. The latter is probably the most interesting feature of the site. Users can enter a host of information about a particular species that they wish to identify, starting from the basic decision as to whether the plant has true (bipinnate) leaves or phyllodes.

This identification page is probably aimed at those with some knowledge of botany, but the average user can make good use of it as well - just ignore any terms you don't understand! The more information entered, the better the chance of getting an identification but there's certainly no need to feel intimidated by the amout of information the the page can deal with.

The site also has a very useful section on "Gardening with Wattles", including propagation, landscaping uses, flowering times and recommended species.


"Australian Plants"....in print!

'Australian Plants' - CoverSpacer

The Society's 48 page, colour (printed) journal, "Australian Plants" has been published quarterly since 1959. It carries articles of interest to both amateur growers and professionals in botany and horticulture. Its authors include the leading professional and amateur researchers working in with the Australian flora and many beautiful and high quality photographs of Australian plants are published in its pages. Topics covered by the journal cover a wide range and include landscaping, growing, botany, propagation and conservation.

A subscription to the print version of "Australian Plants" is $20 annually for 4 issues (overseas $AUS32) including postage. To subscribe, print out the Subscription Form and post or fax the appropriate fee to the address indicated on the form.

Note that the contents of "Australian Plants" and "Australian Plants online"
are totally different

These are some of the topics covered in recent issues of "Australian Plants":

Wildflowers from Cuttings
Australian Bottlebrushes in the UK
Astrotricha - Two recent Queensland species
Tasmanian Epacriadaceae
Australian Citrus
Growing Hakea in a Dry Climate
Olearia - Plants of the daisy family
The Olympic and Paralympic Bouquets
Eucalyptus cabinet timbers
Eremophila as Cut Flowers
Eremophila Seed Germination
Cassia and Senna in Australia
Australian Ferns - Growing them successfully
Smoke induced germination
Tea trees
The "Honeypot" Dryandras
Bernawarra Gardens - Tasmania
Plants for wet areas
Philotheca and Eriostemon - name changes
Lilly Pilly cultivars
Tropical legumes
Eucalyptus cinerea - lignotuber studies
Nutritional needs of Proteaceae
Labichea and Petalostylis
Xyris in Australia
Ferns in a garden
Yellow Waratah...Telopea truncata form
"Pines" of Tasmania
Tasmanian plants in horticulture in Britain
Eucalypts of Tasmania
Cut flower production trials
Emu Bush - Growing Eremophila
Kangaroo Paws - for colour
Creating a native garden...For beginners
Native honeysuckle; The genus Lambertia
Fertilizing for grevilleas
Creating homes for birds and mammals
Mistletoe; their natural biological control
Myrtaceae - Bottlebrush-type plants
Growing Callistemon in Large Pots
Banksia Cultivation and Propagation
A Plantation Timber Industry
Hakea for Cultivation
Grafted Hakea
Ornamental Eucalypts for cut flower production
Leptospermum - colourful cultivars
Australian Rushes
Native Bees and Seed Dispersal
Sun Orchids - Thelymitra
Eucalyptus Foliage - Cut stems and postharvest
Vegetation of Macquarie Island
Grevillea - care and maintenance
Proteaceae of the rainforest
Richmond Birdwing butterfly
Terrestrial orchids of Royal National Park
Bladderworts - carnivorous plants
New Banksia releases
Edible wattle seeds - southern Australia
An introduction to legumes of Australia
Orchids as garden features
Native lowland grasslands of Tasmania
Orities - Tasmanian endemics
Gardening in clay
The daisy family
The tea tree oil industry
Riceflower - an everlasting daisy as a cut flower
Corkwood as a source of medicine
Outback Gardening - Achieving water efficiency
Pioneering Quandong as a fruit
Commercial cropping in the dry Interior
Bush food plantations
Rainforest plants - horticulture and bush tucker
Native fruits - Aboriginal food
About plant roots
NSW Christmas Bush: Cut flower industry


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Australian Plants online - March 2002
Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants