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First Cuttings

..odds and ends from the world of Australian plants....

Organic Pest Control; Well, sort of....

Occasionally there are postings to newgroups or mailing lists which cry out for wider exposure. Recently on Oz-flowers a question was raised about "non - violent means" of dissuading dogs from urinating on freshly planted Australian native plants. This was raised by an Australian member of the mailing list but this didn't stop Andrew Wilson, of California, suggesting the following (yes, this is the same Andrew Wilson who contributed "A Protean Garden" to this issue) and he is happy for me to reproduce his posting despite his concerns about it causing "a few chuckles about crazy Californians but, what the hell!".

Cat cartoon

"Peter, I don't know if it would work for you but in these parts (California) the use of coyote urine is probably the best method that I think is non-violent. Mountain-lion is another one that fairly discourages all would-be urinators. The urine of these animals is commercially available."

And a later contribution....

"......there really are people who do this collection process. It appears that with this product 'a little goes a long way'. I have also heard that In England they have synthesized the stuff. Probably better than the real article but it does take the challenge out of it.

As a matter of real fact I know protea growers who use mountain-lion urine to prevent deer from eating their crop each year. I did notice the last time I was at a plantation owned by some friends of mine that there were also some 2.5 meter fences up - just in case. Deer will clear 6 feet."

I'm not quite sure how one would collect urine from a mountain lion! In fact I think I'd rather remain ignorant of the procedure.

And I'm sure the brand names must be imaginative.....

Organic Pest Control; Hot and spicy....

While on the subject of organic pest control, I came across the following concoction from the SGAP Mackay (Queensland) Group. Called "Organic Insect Spray" it comprises:

  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 litre water

Mix all ingredients together well, let stand for about half an hour and strain through a stocking. The mixture will keep for about one week in summer out of the refrigerator and should be applied after rain.

(.....and if there's any left over, a dash or two of soy sauce turns it into a great marinade for your next bar-b-cue.....Ed.)

"Flowerful Australia" Exhibit Wins Silver at Aalsmeer

The following item (abridged) was posted to the ozflowers mailing list a month or two ago:

The combined `Flowerful Australia' exhibition of fresh and dried flowers and foliage recently won the Silver Medal in the Division for Finished Product at The 1997 Aalsmeer International Flower and Garden Show in The Netherlands. This year there were 390 exhibitors in total including 160 from overseas. More than 50,000 professional visitors from more than 40 countries attended the 1997 Aalsmeer Flower Show.

The `Flowerful Australia' exhibit was co-ordinated by the Flower Export Council of Australia Inc (FECA) and sponsored by Agriculture WA, Agriculture Victoria, Business Victoria, The Melbourne Market Authority and Flower Design Australia (FDA).

Ellen Weller, Melbourne FDA member was responsible for the design of the Silver Medal display. A series of large format flower posters were used as a backdrop in the `Flowerful Australia' exhibit. Each of the posters featured single photographs of different Australian export flowers, all were enlarged to stand out against the black background of each poster. FECA product posters and Australian Flora Protea Growers Association (AFPGA) brochures were also distributed to numerous overseas visitors from the Australian exhibit.

The Australian floral display featured numerous large and medium size arrangements featuring dried and fresh flowers in separate arrangements. Products featured included; kangaroo paws, king and queen protea, leucadendron spp, waxflower, rice flower, twisted wattle, mulla mulla, Leucospermum spp, Banksia ashbyi, Verticordia plumosa, limonium, Xanthorrhoea spears, Stirlingia, steel grass, woolly bush, emu grass, barker bush, bottle brush and numerous other Australian flora. The Australian native flowers and foliages were used in conjunction with a wide range of traditional flowers including; asiatic lily, LA lily, rhododendron and Princess Caroline delphinium.

An excellent result....but the irritating inference that proteas and leucadendrons are "Australian native flowers" perpetuates a fallacy that seems to be widely held among Australian florists.

Australian Plants to Feature in Olympic Bouquets

Any of you who watched the recent World Swimming Championships from Perth were probably as embarrassed as I was by the pitiful floral bouquets presented to the winners. A single catspaw among an unidentifiable bunch of weeds is about the kindest description. True, summer isn't the ideal time for native flowers but those bouquets gave new meaning to the term "slim pickings"!

Olympic rings

At the 2000 Olympics things will, hopefully, be different. It was recently announced that the bouquets will comprise 100% Australian native flowers supplied by the Australian Flower Company. The company will be required to produce over 2500 bouquets for 295 medal ceremonies and will draw on material from growers in all Australian states.

Mystery Plant No Longer

Some time ago Gurf Yeo from Hazelbrook in the Blue Mountains sent me a photo of a plant he had found in the local bushland asking if I could identify it. Well, that was always going to be a long shot so I took the easy way out and sent the photo off to John Wrigley. John's view was that the plant was not native but he was not able to positively identify it from the photo.

Eventually John and Gurf corresponded and Gurf sent a specimen of the plant. Here's the result as written by John to Gurf:

Dear Gurf,

Your mystery plant is no longer a mystery. We checked the identity with our own herbarium at Coffs Harbour and it seemed to be an exotic escape, Crassula ericoides. As this species is not recorded as an escape in NSW, I sent the specimen to Sydney Botanic Gardens for checking and as you will see from the attached copy of their letter, they confirmed the identity.

This species is native to southern Africa and has been recorded as an escape in Victoria as you will see in the attached copy from The Flora of Victoria . Dr Barbara Briggs has requested that you look around and see if you can find any evidence of it escaping into the nearby bushland. The Botanic Gardens have kept your specimen and I have given them your name as the collector for their records as requested. Thanks for your interest. It has been a long drawn out exercise but an interesting one.

The lesson here is that though Gurf's observation we now have a potential weed under observation at the early stages of infestation.

So, please, when you're out in the bush, keep your eyes open for plants that look like they shouldn't be there.

Dry Land Sailing

If you're in the Point Piper area (east Sydney) and notice a tall ship on dry land, you haven't had one too many at the Cruising Yacht Club.

Some time ago a miserable excuse for a human being (I'd say "pathetic dickhead" but this is a family publication) poisoned a 100 year old Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla) because, presumably, it was blocking the view from the penthouse. Woollahra Council decided that some form of direct action was needed and so large "sails" were placed on the dead trunk and branches to effectively block off the view.

Soon a new tree will be planted - it is sincerely hoped that the sails on the dead one will be retained until the new one reaches the same height.

And in a related incident, up to 100 plants of Glochidion ferdinandi (cheese tree) have been poisoned in Mosman, on the opposite side of Sydney Harbour. A report to Mosman Council recommends against removal of the trees so that further poisonings are not encouraged.

From reports in the Sydney Morning Herald of 12 December 1997 and 28 February 1998.

Cultivar Watch

New cultivars of Australian plants appear at regular intervals, some aimed at the commercial cut flower grower and others at ornamental horticulture. Some will become firmly established in gardens and others will disappear without trace....

Here are a few which have appeared recently. Keep a look out for them at your favourite nursery:

Cultivar NameDescription
Ceratopetaum gummiferumLate flowering varieties "Festival" (deep red), "Linden Late" (brick red), "Martin Place" (Deep Red), "Christmas Belle" (Deep Red), "True Blue" (Rose Red)
Syzygium paniculatum "Beach Ball"A shrubby form of the "Magenta Cherry Lilly Pilly" - 1.5 m x 1.5 m dense dark green foliage; good for hedges and containers.
Austromyrtus "Aurora"Small shrub - deep red to burgundy growth.
Bracteantha "Nullabor Flame"Paper daisy hybrid involving B.bracteatum - 40mm diameter rounded flower heads of deep red colour with yellow centre.
Grevillea "Long John"Not new but now the officially recognised name for the plant formerly known as "Elegance". This is a hybrid between G.longistyla and G.johnsonii.

Media Watch

These are a few items from various sources. Please send any similar items that you think could be of interest to other readers.

How Many Trees?Australasian Science, February 1998, reports that the CSIRO has determined that "we need to plant 80,000 hectares with trees each year" to effectively reduce carbon dioxide, reduce erosion and help with salination. Currently Australia is planting 25,000 ha annually.
Weeds vs NativesJudy Fisher, a researcher at the University of Western Australia has been investigating soil seed banks in good condition bushland and poor condition bushland. I badly degraded areas she found few native seeds and abundant weed seeds, as expected. However, she also found that in healthy bushland there was abundant seed of both native species and weeds. She found roughly 66.000 (good condition bushland) to 445,000 (poor condition bushland) weeds per cubic metre of soil. Original source unknown; reported in the November 1997 issue of the newsletter of the Wildflower Society of Western Australia).
Axing EucalyptsThe Weekend Telegraph (England) has recommended that "It's time to take an axe to the tree from Down Under before it takes over'. The writer continues "If God had wanted England to have gum trees, he (sic) would also have provided koalas and kangaroos. Eucalypts simply don't look right here. This is specially so in winter when they stick out like giant plastic ornaments in the austere, grey winter landscape."

Until next time...good growing.

Brian Walters

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Australian Plants online - March 1998
The Society for Growing Australian Plants