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Australian Plants online

First Cuttings..an Editorial Rant!

The feedback on what readers would like to see in APOL has been interesting and a little surprising in some ways. The break down of responses is as follows (based on the form on the "Subscribe" page):

Plant Propagation80
Overseas Experiences22
Australian Plants as Weeds39
Conservation and Environmental Issues55
History of Cultivation36
Places to see Australian Plants50
Descriptions of Specific Plant Groups72
Aboriginal Use of Plants47
Australian Food Plants56
Plant Photography54
Internet Sites67

In addition, a number of other topics were requested by one or more subscribers. These included:

  • Australian plants suitable as cut flowers
  • Landscaping and design
  • Grasses, cycads and palms
  • The ethics of non-indigenous plants
  • Seed preservation and seed collecting
  • Bush regeneration
  • Plant diseases and causes of death
  • Tropical plants
  • Details of plants indigenous to specific areas
  • Legalities of growing Australian plants
  • How exotic species might be used to complement Australian plants
  • Views of conservation and environmental groups
I was a bit surprised to see Plant Propagation feature so highly. Does this mean that there are lots of frustrated propagators out there? Or do people just want to see what tricks and bits of magic others have discovered? Probably a bit of each, I suspect. The number wanting to see more "Plant Photography" was fairly significant but, due to the question being ambiguous, it's not clear whether that means more plant photographs or articles on photographing plants. I guess we'll find out as time goes on. The low percentage requesting information on "Overseas Experiences" is understandable given that the majority of subscribers are Australian-based.

Anyway..."your wish is our opportunity to ignore you" (just kidding). We'll certainly take these responses into account when we're putting together future issue.

Don't Plant Australian!!

What's this?? The Society for Growing Australian Plants advising against the cultivation of Australian plants? Well, there's a place for everything but there are also places where certain things shouldn't be....

In "Editorial Mailbox" in this issue, Amy Ferriter has taken me to task for advocating the growing of plants she sees as environmentally damaging. Please read Amy's message (and my response) as it's an important issue. Amy's concerns started me thinking about a related matter....the international seed trade. We have a number of seed companies supplying overseas customers (quite legally!) and, no doubt, there are many overseas companies supplying Australian customers. I wonder whether there are any restrictions on the species that can be supplied to particular geographic areas. Certainly many countries require Phytosanitary Certificates to accompany seed being imported before it will be allowed in. But that just certifies that the seed has been examined and is free of insect pests. What about the actual seed species themselves? Is it legal to import Melaleuca quinquenervia into Florida, for example? And, if it isn't, how easy is it to police the importation?

".... the last thing that SGAP wants to be guilty of is encouraging the growing of Australian plants where it is clearly inappropriate."

It is a problem and the last thing that SGAP wants to be guilty of is encouraging the growing of certain Australian plants where it is clearly inappropriate. Horticultural escapees have been the cause of serious weed infestations in many countries...the "Prickly Pear", in Australia, Hakea sericea in South Africa, Melaleuca quinqunervia in the Florida everglades...we even have weed species of Australian plants in Australia! So before you import that seed, perhaps a phone call to a local botanic garden or the environmental science faculty of a University might be worth considering.

Of course, Australian plants have no more or no less potential to become weedy that plants from other countries. All plants grown outside of their natural habitat have this potential. Most behave themselves....but a few become serious pests of both agricultural and natural areas.

A Feedback Page??

One of the most commonly requested features for the SGAP Home Page has been a forum for feedback and contact between people interested in Australian Plants. An area were people can make comments or ask questions and see responses from other enthusiasts.

Of course there is already a sort of forum available for this in the newsgroup "aus.gardens" where a reasonable portion of the traffic concerns Australian plants. There are, however, a couple of areas where the newsgroup doesn't quite "fit the bill":

  • It's main concern is gardening and many Australian plant enthusiasts have wider interests (eg, conservation, endangered species, photography, natural ecosystems, local flora, flora of specific regions).
  • As a newsgroup in the "aus" heirichy, it may mot be widely available outside of Australia.
There are a couple of ways in which a more specific forum for Australian plant enthusiasts could be accommodated:
  • A mailing list. These have a similar format to neswgroups but operate via email. Subscribers to the list receive daily messages from other subscribers and have the opportunity to respond if they so desire. Mailing lists are usually operated automatically by a computer programme.
  • A forum on the SGAP web site. This would operate by people sending email comments or questions which would subsequently be posted on the web page so that others can read them. Responses would be posted in the same way.
There are for and against arguments for each option. A mailing list is fairly quick with postings being distributed in less than 24 hours. It is, however, restricted to those who specifically subscribe. The web forum would require manual posting of messages by the webmaster and may take anything from 1-4 days. It would also be accessible to anyone who visited the web site.

If you have any thoughts on this, let me know. Until next time...good growing.

Brian Walters

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Australian Plants online - September 1996
The Society for Growing Australian Plants