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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!!


Desert Star Flower

Could you please provide the botanical name for the 'Desert Star Flower' featured in the current series of Australia Post's 'Nature of Australia' 50c stamps series?

  Calytrix brevifolia
  Calytrix brevifolia
Photo: Keith Townsend
Click for larger image


It's Calytrix carinata. I don't have a photograph of this species available but C.brevifolia is similar.

For further information on the Australia Post stamp issue see this link.


A Frosty Problem

I was recently given (as a gift) four tubes of Pandorea jasminoides...and upon reading the information I could access on the net, I am not sure that it is suited to our cold winters. The gift is a sentimental one and the plant sounds terrific is there any way I can get it to stay alive during our heavy winter frosts?

Pandorea jasminoides  
Pandorea jasminoides
Click for larger image

We have a pergola where it would be sheltered from the frost but not the cold and wind, if I got it to grow here would I be wasting my time and would it still flower out of direct sunlight?

Orange, New South Wales

I think it will be OK, particularly if you can plant it with some protection such as under your pergola or under trees. It's a vigorous climbing plant and, even if damaged by frost, I would expect it to recover.

I've seen the plant growing successfully at Burrendong Arboretum near Wellington and I think they get similar winters to those at Orange.

It will flower out of direct sunlight provided there is reasonable light and the shade is not dense.


Caring for a Zieria

I have a Zieria smithii and can find no info on the internet on how to care for this plant and its needs. Can you give some advice as I am desperate?

There are about a million whitefly on it at the moment and nothing I do seems to get rid of them - any ideas??????


Zieria smithii is regarded as a very hardy plant although it's not particularly spectacular. The small white flowers are similar in appearance to those of Boronia (to which it is related) but they are nowhere near as attractive.

The plant doesn't require any special conditions except that soils should be reasonably well drained - it won't tolerate constantly waterlogged conditions. It can become leggy and untidy with age so it is a good idea to prune it back by about a third after flowering. A annual application of a slow release fertiliser after flowering will probably be beneficial but is not essential.

As far as the whitefly infestation is concerned, I don't have any real suggestions other than the usual insecticides which I guess you've already tried. If they don't work I would just let nature take its course - the plant should recover.

I have several of these in the garden and, during the recent drought they completely defoliated and I assumed they had died - but after the recent rain they are showing new growth. They're tough little buggers!!


Propagating a Grass Tree

  Grass Tree

When we started our garden we planted a lovely little Australian Grass Tree. It loved its spot so much it grew several inches in 6 months and then sprouted a spear followed by flowers. The flowers have dried out and look like they are seeds? I would love to ensure that these are used as much as possible to become plants but would like some information before I possibly wreck the lot. Are you able to help?


The seed pods on the spike should eventually open to release small black seeds. You might need to keep the spike under observation to make sure you don't miss the seed when it is shed.

Once you've got the seed, it's just a case of planting it in a seed raising mix, cover lightly and then keep moist. No pretreatment is required. Seedlings should appear in a month or two although you probably won't get 100% germination. If no seedlings appear in that time, don't throw the seed tray out - sometimes germination may take considerable time.

Good luck!


Euodia - a Danger to Foundations?

I hope someone can solve a debate. I live in a new housing estate and the developer has put in street trees in all streets except ours, which is a laneway. We approached the local council to have some trees in and they planted Euodia species. We asked about denseness and root systems and were told that they were no problem. I know they have an open crown, because there are a few mature ones around here.

However, a local nurserywoman has contacted me saying that the roots are invasive, shallow and will break up the roadway, not to mention damage our homes. She says she knows this because of ones she has herself. However our local school has a number, one of which is next to a retaining wall on one side, and a paved area on the other. It over 15 years old and hasn't caused any problems.

Does anyone know the the facts about these beautiful trees, before they get ripped out and replaced.


It's difficult to give a definitive answer as I'm in southern Australia and have no direct experience with euodias as they aren't widely grown in my area.

The limited references that I have mention that the plant is commonly used as a street tree but there is no mention of it causing damage to roadways or houses.

Given that your own experience suggests that the trees are not likely to cause a problem, I would be seeking expert advice before I would be prepared to accept the advice of the nurserywoman.

I suggest you contact the Brisbane Botanic Gardens and be guided by their opinion.


Propagating Acacia

  Acacia baueri
  Acacia baueri
Photo: Barbara Henderson
Click for larger image

I was wondering if anyone could provide me with any information relating to the propagation of Acacia baueri? Are propagative measures for this species the same as for all Acacia species (i.e soaking in boiling water etc)? Are there any other requirements?


Although I've never grown A.baueri, to the best of my knowledge A.baueri responds to the conventional boiling water treatment. For further details of this see our web site page on growing plants from seed.


Bush Alcohol

Do you know if any Australian Aboriginals made alcoholic drinks from plants and honey before contact with Europeans?


I can't give a definite answer but Aborigines in various areas used nectar-rich flowers as a source of food and the following extract from Tim Low's book "Bush Tucker" suggests that production of alcoholic drinks was carried out but I don't know how widespread the practice was:

"According to ethnographer Walter Roth, in his 'Notes of savage life in the early days of West Australian Settlement', an alcoholic brew was prepared by soaking the blossoms in bark vats. Mead was made from grasstree flowers (Xanthorrhoea species) in much the same way".

I hope this helps.


Source for Verticordia

Verticordia grandis  
Verticordia grandis
Click for larger image

Do you know if there is a grower in western Europe or Israel who is growing the plant Verticordia grandis. Or do you know a address where I can get more information about this item (a grower's name somewhere around the world with big plants or (unrooted) cuttings.

The Netherlands

Unfortunately I can't help with this inquiry. It's very difficult to get information on overseas growers other than those who tell us about themselves. The few that I do know about are listed on the nurseries page of our web site.

Verticordias are extremely hard to grow and there would be very few growers even in Australia who could supply plants. You could try contacting some of the Western Australian nurseries listed on our web site. They are the most likely to have plants but I doubt that rooted cuttings would be available from anyone.

You might be better trying to obtain seed. See the list of suppliers on the web site.


Fertilising Australian Plants

I am gardening in Brisbane and after our recent good rain I would like to mulch the grevilleas and lily pillies etc. When I mulched my exotic plants I put down thick newspaper with chicken manure and blood and bone then sugarcane mulch. I put the fertiliser in the mulch to help break it down and to improve the soil. I realise that this may not be appropriate for the natives.

What do you suggest?

Brisbane, Queensland

The problem here is that the term "native plants" covers a very diverse group with different needs.

The use of layers of newspapers around the plants combined with sugarcane mulch is good as this will certainly help conserve soil moisture. However, the chicken manure could be a problem with grevilleas and other related plants such as banksias. These have a specialised root system (proteoid roots) which are designed to allow plants to take up nutrients from the nutrient deficient soils that these plants naturally occur in. Excess fertilizer under garden conditions can cause them to take up too much nutrient and can lead to poor growth or death.

Plants such as lily pillies are less fussy but I'd avoid chicken manure even with these as it may also contain too much phosphorus which can be a problem with many native species.

Blood and bone used sparingly should be OK. Personally I prefer to use a small amount of slow release fertiliser at planting time (eg 9 month Osmocote) and then leave the plant alone. I rarely fertilise after planting at all.


Australian 'Nightshades'

I am writing to enquire if there are any nightshades indigenous to Australia. If you do not have that information could you direct me to another source?

United Kingdom

  Solanum petrophilum
  Solanum petrophilum
Click for larger image

"Nightshades" are members of the Solanaceae family. It's an interesting family because it contains members that are highly poisonous as well as some widely cultivated commercial plants such as tomato, eggplant, chili, potato and tobacco.

The family is widespread throughout many countries and there are some Australian members. Some of the Australian members are edible but others are highly poisonous - definitely not a group of plants to experiment with unless you really know what you are doing! Unfortunately, some of both the edible and the poisonous ones are called "bush" or "wild" tomatoes" which can give the impression that they are safe to eat - they may not be!!


Daisy or Grass?

I have recently been given some "Cymbogon ambigues" seedlings yet have no idea what they are. They appear to be some sort of daisy but this is just a guess.

I have looked it up in a number of my plant books to no avail. It doesn't even strike a mention in Flora of New South Wales so I'm guessing its from elsewhere.

Could you please give me some info on this species, what it is and where it is from?

New South Wales

I think what you have is Cymbopogon ambiguus. This is not a daisy - it's a tussock grass which is widespread in mainland Australia. It's regarded as an attractive species for a rockery but I have no direct experience in growing it. The leaves apparently have a lemon aroma when crushed.


Is this a Native?


Could you please help me to identify this shrub, photo taken in mid-December fully flowering. The plant was found in the Yarra Valley region of Victoria.

I think it is an Australian native (but I could be wrong) I am am having no luck trying to find out the name of the plant, can you help me? Also do you know where I could purchase this plant?


  Epacris longiflora
  Click for larger image

No, it's not an Australian native - it's an Erica, probably one of the cultivars based on the South African members of that genus. A number of ericas have become naturalised in the Australian bush and many people believe (wrongly!) that they are native species.

Ericas are somewhat similar to members of the genus Epacris (which IS a native genus), as indicated by the photo of Epacris longiflora, a plant found in moist heaths and open forests of New South Wales and southern Queensland.

I would expect that most larger nurseries would stock a range of Erica cultivars.


Establishing Plants under Eucalypts

I am interested in plants that are compatible with (will grow in the immediate vicinity of, and underneath a canopy of, eucalyptus trees -- a variety, including blue gum, the white bark type, and a couple of others.

Do you have a list?


No - we don't routinely produce such lists for a couple of reasons:

  • it would be necessary to produce lists for each climate zone and soil type and we don't have the resources to do this, although some of our district groups do produce lists of plants suitable for their areas.
  • we have no real way of knowing the availability of plants in all of the different regions of Australia - so we could be producing lists of plants that can't be easily obtained.

In regard to your question, I don't think compatibility is the issue. Most plants that you can buy in specialist native nurseries are capable of growing under a eucalypt canopy (that's how they grow in nature). Some will not grown well in dense shade but, generally, eucalypt canopies tend to allow reasonable light.

The problem, however, it that it can be difficult to get plants to grow under established trees, not because of incompatibility but because of lack of moisture. The trees will tend to have a lot of feeder roots which will take up water quickly and leave the small plants to struggle. The only real way to handle this is by providing assured water to the smaller plants. A good system is to install a drip irrigation system to the small plants. I've done this and had reasonable success with a wide range of plants - but the plants do tend to be a lot slower growing than the same plants in areas without the competition from the trees.


Spotted Gum - Fire Safe??

Can you tell me why Corymbia (Eucalyptus) maculata is regarded as a good tree to plant in fire prone areas, as opposed to say Corymbia citriodora, a similar tree. Does it not have as much oil in its leaves?


I think Corymbia maculata (spotted gum) is regarded as less fire prone than some others because it has a smooth trunk and a high canopy so, presumably, would be less likely to support a crown fire in moderate fire conditions than stringy bark or ribbon bark types. However, I would have thought that C.citriodora (lemon-scented gum) would be in the same category as C.maculata as it has a similar tall, clean trunk. I'm not aware of any significant differences in the oil component of the leaves, but I don't have any direct knowledge of this.

Note, however, that there has been little research into plants for fire prone areas and most the the available information is anecdotal.


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Australian Plants online - March 2003
Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants