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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.


More on "Flora for Fauna"

In the last issue we reported on the "Flora for Fauna" project and website - an initiative of the Nursery and Garden Industry supported by the Federal Government through its Natural Heritage Trust.

Flora for Fauna LogoSpacer

While applauding the concept, closer inspection leaves something to be desired regarding the advice provided on suitable plants for different regions.

One of the main features of the site is the plant selection database where users can enter criteria such as "climber", "ground cover", "shrub", "tree" etc and the database will come up with a selection of "suitable" Australian native plants. Apart from the fact that the site calls these plants "indigenous" when many are hybrids (and therefore clearly not indigenous), the database turns up some recommendations which I consider inappropriate.

As an example I searched for recommendations suitable for the Sydney area. Among the recommendations "that will flourish in your local area" were:

   Correa pulchella
   Hibbertia stellaris
   Unreliable in Sydney
Correa pulchella
Hibbertia stellaris (bottom)
Click for a larger image
  • Anigozanthos humilis (Catspaw)
  • Anigozanthos manglesii (Red and green kangaroo paw)
  • Beaufortia squarrosa (Sand bottlebrush) *
  • Boronia muelleri 'Sunset Seranade'
  • Chamelaucium uncinatum 'Purple Pride' (Geraldton wax)
  • Correa pulchella (Salmon correa) *
  • Eremophila calorhabdos (Red rod)
  • Eremophila maculata var. brevifolia (Lipstick plant) *
  • Eucalyptus erythronema (White Mallee, Red Flowered Mallee) *
  • Eucalyptus ficifolia (Red flowering gum)
  • Eucalyptus forrestiana (Fuschia gum)
  • Grevillea thelemanniana ssp. fililoba) (Ellendale grevillea)
  • Grevillea pteridifolia (Fern-leaved grevillea)
  • Hibbertia stellaris (Star guinea flower) *
  • Kunzea baxteri (Scarlet kunzea)
  • Telopea spp (Waratah)
  • Templetonia retusa (Cockies tongue)
  • Verticordia chrysantha (Golden feather flower) *

Most of these are marginal at best in the Sydney area and, in my opinion, those marked * are quite definitely unsuitable unless you are an enthusiast looking for a challenge. I haven't checked the database against other areas but readers may like to do so.

By the way, the complete database of plants can be downloaded as an Excel spreadsheet.


A Roadside Arboretum

A few weeks ago I received a request from Hugh Danaher, who lives near San Francisco, for help in identifying a mystery eucalypt. Thanks to some good photos that Hugh supplied I was able to establish that his mystery plant was, in fact, brush box (Lophostemon confertus).

The reason for Hugh's interest was the "Roadside Arboretum" project he and some friends have started. Hugh wrote....

"I am currently developing a non-profit website which attempts to create an arboretum based upon the trees and plants along the city streets of Fremont, Newark and Union City, California. Fremont is the site of the California Nursery, a late 19th century commercial enterprise which imported, cultivated and sold trees throughout California and Coastal South America--their gardens were extensive. Because of this, there are numerous exotic trees in the area, with many from Australia. My modest effort can be found at http://www.ironorchid.com/museum/trees

Roadside Arboretum logo

Hugh is far too modest - it's a wonderful site with interactive maps and lots of information about the trees involved.

It's well worth a look! - maybe it will inspire others to undertake similar projects.


New Book on Garden Design

ASGAP's Garden Design Study Group has produced a new book called "The Australian Garden: Designing with Australian Plants". The book is the culmination of the work of the first nine and a half years of the Study Group. The book includes a foreword by John Landy AO and a prologue by Professor George Seddon AO. There are photos and descriptions of many different styles of gardens featuring Australian plants.

The book has five main sections. These are:-

  • Beginning with design
  • Garden styles
  • Roles of (Australian) plants in design
  • Design elements
  • Learning along the way (Problems and challenges; Managing your garden).

The approach to the subject material is original, as to date it has been rare to link Australian plants with design. Included are lists of various categories of plants, for example suggested indigenous plants for each of the capital cities.

The recommended retail price is $55 and it should now be available through good bookshops.


Greenhood 'Hijacking'

"Botanical 'terrorists' strip Australia of naming rights to local orchids" was the headline to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of September 14-15 September 2002.

The story concerned the renaming of dozens of Australian native orchids by a Polish scientist, Professor Dariusz Szlachetko of Gdansk University. Professor Dariusz and his team have apparently based their publication solely on specimens located in European herbaria without studying the orchids in the field and ignoring work being carried out by Australian scientists.

Renaming species in the genus Pterosylis (greenhoods) has caused a deal of justifiable anger among Australian researchers who have spent considerable time and effort in the field and who are using DNA techniques to help separate the various species.

Another concern is that the actions of the European botanists may spark a naming race which could force the Australian scientists to publish incomplete work.


Fungal Threat to Eucalypt Forests

The eucalypt forests and woodlands are at risk from an exotic disease - a rust fungus capable of attacking a broad range of our unique vegetation.

Scientists at CSIRO have mounted a three year program to reduce the risk of the rust Puccinia psidii, (guava rust), which damages eucalypts and related trees and shrubs in South and Central America, from reaching our shores.

Puccinia psidii

"This rust is a serious disease of young eucalypts, it attacks shoots of juvenile plants and can kill up to 90 per cent of seedlings. We know from our research in Brazil that many of Australia's native tree species are susceptible to it," says fungal authority Dr Inez Tommerup of CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products.

"The rust has the potential to invade and damage ecosystems across the continent and, once established, there would be little we can do to prevent it. It could be very damaging," she says.

The fungus originates in South America and has never been seen in Australia, attacking native plants of the Myrtaceae family, for example guava. Unfortunately, guava rust has proved to have a very wide host range and once Australian trees and shrubs such as eucalypts , melaleucas and callistemons were widely planted in Brazil, the rust somehow jumped host barriers, to attack these species.

"The big issue is: how do we keep it in South America?" says team leader Dr Ken Old. "Its spores are so fine they can be carried on clothing, shoes, equipment, even on spectacles and camera bags. They remain viable for months, so a perfectly innocent traveler could easily bring it back with them without knowing it."

If the fungus got loose in a major forest, or National Park the chances are it would pass unnoticed for months or even years, by which time it would be firmly established and spreading.

The team is developing a DNA fingerprinting test capable of detecting and identifying the invader no matter which host plant was infected. The detection system will also be useful in screening importations of seed of eucalypts and related plants to assist quarantine measures to exclude this disease from our shores.

The rust was first recorded on eucalypts as long ago as 1912 but little notice was taken of it until the 1980s, when it became a problem for the world's largest plantation eucalypt industry in Brazil. Dr Old says it is also in Brazil's big cities such as Brasilia and Sao Paulo, carried on guavas and other fruit.

The stealthy spread is what has the scientists worried, as it increases the possibility of the rust reaching an airport on somebody's clothing - and hitchhiking a ride to Australia. Still unknown is how many of Australia's native tree species are susceptible. Tests so far indicate that common garden bottlebrushes, and the main species of eucalypts used in plantation forestry are all vulnerable to some extent.

Because mature eucalypt leaves are immune to infection, the rust would do little damage to big trees in existing forests. It has, however, the potential to destroy a large proportion of seedlings of susceptible species during the critical phase of seedling establishment after planting or germination after fire. Melaleucas appear to be especially susceptible, posing a threat to the Ti tree oil industry. Sub tropical, wetter areas such as the North Coast of New South Wales and coastal Queensland appear to be especially at risk, but further work is needed to fully establish the extent of high-risk areas in Australia.

"We can breed resistant tree strains, as they are doing in Brazil, but this is only a solution for plantation forestry and bush replanting programs - not for native forests and National Parks," says Dr Tommerup.

She says the rust can be controlled by spraying fungicide, but this would be prohibitively costly across large areas, as well as undesirable from an environmental standpoint.

CSIRO Media Release


Beetle on Warpath against Bridal Creeper

Crioceris beetle  

The release of a foliage-eating beetle in Western Australia marks the third full-frontal attack mounted by the CRC for Weed Management Systems against one of Australia's most destructive plant pests - bridal creeper.

According to CSIRO Entomology's Kathryn Batchelor, bridal creeper is one of many varieties of imported garden plants that have 'gone bush' to begin slowly strangling large areas of natural vegetation throughout southern Australia.

"After three years of testing, this beetle (Crioceris sp.) has been given the all-clear by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service and Environment Australia to join the fight against this Weed of National Significance," she said.

The beetle - which, like bridal creeper, is native to southern Africa - is active from March/April until August then hibernates in pupae-form through spring and summer.

"Its larvae can cause major damage to bridal creeper by stripping the shoots and leaves that enable it to climb," Ms Batchelor said. "If we can stop bridal creeper from climbing we can stop it from fruiting and spreading to new areas."

CSIRO and the Cooperative Research Centre for Weed Management Systems have been waging biological warfare against bridal creeper since 1991.

Once it has established itself, Crioceris sp. will be part of a major redistribution project involving two other natural control agents - the leafhopper (Zygina sp.) and the rust fungus (Puccinia myrsiphylli) - which were released in June 1999 and June 2000 respectively.

The leafhopper is causing major damage to bridal creeper infestations in Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales.

"Many schools and community groups have rolled their sleeves up and joined in the battle by rearing and releasing large numbers of the leafhoppers and monitoring their impact," Ms Batchelor said. "After spreading from its initial release sites - again with the aid of community groups and funding from the Natural Heritage Trust - the rust fungus is also beginning to cause significant damage to bridal creeper infestations," she said.

Further information about bridal creeper rust fungus and the leafhopper can be found on the CSIRO's website.

Answers to common questions about control of bridal creeper:

What is biological control?
It is the use of natural enemies to suppress a pest or weed to lower densities.

Why should we control bridal creeper?
Bridal creeper is highly invasive in natural environments. Dense infestations crowd out natives species and reduce regeneration of orchids and other small plants, trees and shrubs. Several native plant species are threatened with extinction.

Will the weed be completely eradicated by the bridal creeper beetle?
No. The beetle needs the weed as a food source so where bridal creeper is dense, the beetle builds up in numbers to, incidentally, control its spread. However, between herbicide, the leafhopper, rust fungus and leaf beetle, the chances of controlling this weed are now better than ever.

Will the bridal creeper beetle become another 'cane toad'?
No. Australian government authorities have required strict and thorough testing of all biological control agents to ensure they are safe to release. Experts from 21 organisations from throughout the country examined the results of the testing and advised the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service and Environment Australia that the bridal creeperbeetle was safe. The cane toad was not subject to these testing protocols.

How long will it take for the bridal creeper beetle to have an effect on the weed population?
Biological control is a slow process depending on increases in numbers of the bio-control agents and persistence of standing plants and seeds already in the soil. A range of biological control agents may be needed before bridal creeper becomes visibly less common.

These processes may take many years.

CSIRO Media Release


"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":

Popular Hybrids: Grevillea
Propagating Grevillea by Seed and Grafting
Developing Grevillea as Cut Flowers
Correa cultivars
Boronia and its relatives
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
Coir: Saving Peat Ecosystems
Cinderella Grevilleas
Container plants for balconies
The genus Flindersia
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


Brian Walters

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