about this blog



I started this blog in 2008. It started mainly as a way of tracking the evolution of my dry garden, and that led to an interest in photography and in the creatures that live in the garden. It's still about the garden and wildlife, but now my passion is thinking about how we humans can learn to co-exist with wild animals and plants, especially in urban areas.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

indigenous plants



Indigenous plants in Australia have a very precise definition. They are plants that grew in a locality before European settlement, about 200 years ago. Most of these plants have disappeared. And many of the fauna that depend on these ecosystems are extinct or struggling to survive.

Lomandra spp.
But still, in many places in Melbourne there are remnant stands of indigenous plantings. Seeds can be collected from these plants, and used to propagate new plants that can be grown in public and private spaces.


The argument is that the fauna evolved alongside these plants, so these plants will best attract and support indigenous wildlife - birds, butterflies, insects, spiders, frogs, mammals and reptiles.

Clerid beetle (Eleale lepida)

If you are going to have an indigenous garden, you must use plants that come from your particular local area.  Many plants are widely distributed as well as growing locally. There may be subtle genetic variations between them. If you want it to be genuinely indigenous, you need to source seed that comes from your particular area.

Grasses, with Australia bluebell (Wahlenbergia stricta),
Common Everlastings (Chrysocephalum apiculatum) and indigenous litter

If you want to grow indigenous plants, you have to shop at the indigenous nurseries in your local area. VINC (Victorian Indigenous Nurseries Co-operative) sells plants indigenous to the north and east of Melbourne.



In a local hardware shop, I recently found a lovely Hop Bush, Dodonea viscosa, a plant that is indigenous to my area. But it also grows in other places, and there is no knowing where the original parent plant of this specimen came from.

Since the Hop Bush was sourced by a large hardware chain, it was unlikely to be produced from seed - an unreliable, slow and inefficient means of propagation. It would likely be produced by division or cuttings, a method that ends up with a cloned plant. It won't help with preserving genetic diversity if all the plants are clones. And it won't help the fauna that feed on the plants if they all flower at the same time. Staged flowering times will be more likely to provide food for fauna so they can stay in the garden long enough to complete their life cycle and breed.

Basalt daisy (Brachyscome basaltica var. gracilis)
Only at indigenous nurseries can you sure the plant you are buying is truly indigenous. These nurseries tend to be much cheaper than commercial nurseries. They are staffed by people, paid and volunteer, experts and learners, who are all passionate about their local ecosystem, and are helping to preserve and save it in a practical way.



24 comments:

  1. This is interesting seeing you have indigenous nurseries - very cool too. I don't know of that here, we have native plant nurseries, but that is very different. Each locale has their own indigenous plants, and they are not always the same as native plants which might have a broader area of growth.

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    1. Indigenous nurseries are cool, it's a shame you don't seem to have anything like them there. I know local governments use these nurseries for planting out public spaces, and organizations like schools use them too.

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  2. Interesting information and a great point about clones not being the best choice for fauna. We have a few nurseries that specialize in native plants and a wonderful program of volunteers who go out and dig native plants when roads or other construction will be killing them.

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    1. those volunteers do sound like they're doing a wonderful job.

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  3. Native plant swaps are good for this purpose, too. That reminds me--I want to make sure to join in one this season. I have many indigenous plants to share and ones I would like to obtain. Great post!

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    1. Plant swaps are great - like direct action, bypassing the commercial altogether.

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  4. I agree with every word! People over here are becoming far more conscious of the origins of their plants. Buying mixed seed for a meadow means it has to be from this country and not the meadows in Europe where the plants are so different..We must take care of our indigenous plants.

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    1. Thanks for this, Pauline. I think there may be a slow shift in awareness of the importance of indigenous plants.

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  5. It is sad that so many indigenous plants are disappearing. I'm so glad there are some local native nurseries now. Definitely the best for the environment!

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  6. It’s good to take an interest in native plants and try to keep them for the future. There is a growing interest for native plants over here in UK too, although what we call native plants in UK must have been here for slightly longer - native trees and shrubs are those species that have occurred naturally in the UK since the last Ice Age, about 12.00 years ago.

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    1. I used to live in England, and was always amused at the different time scale there. If we look at Aboriginal culture it has been going for thousands of years, but when we talk about European settlement, then 200 years is very old.

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  7. You have brought up many interesting issues. I hadn't really considered the effect that cloning plants from root cuttings might have on limited genetic diversity for instance. Here we tend to favour hybrid garden plants over local natives. Even when most gardeners say they have native plants they are usually hybrid versions of native plants. Sadly, it seems to be a global gardening phenomena to under appreciate local indigenous plants.

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    1. I think it's interesting how plants evolve. It's not really natural selection, it's selection by the nursery industry of sturdy plants that people will like.

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    2. Always uneasy about Shiny New hybrids no longer supporting wildlife. I am trying at least to get the true species.

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  8. I also see Californian gardeners (Town and Country Mouse) writing about plants that are REALLY from their own particular corner.
    That is an option I don't have - but I will be at the Kirstenbosch sale, doing my best with what I can buy.

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    1. I look forward to seeing what you come away with from Kirstenbosch, Diana.

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    2. delete this?
      In answer to your comment -
      I've deleted the cringeworthy fillers. Much like pruning, weeding and deadheading in the garden, and a blog doesn't need mulch ;~)

      Paraphrasing William Morris, what stays is either useful or 'beautiful' to me.

      I think your blog style is different to mine - and I would miss your older posts too.

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  9. The loss of indigenous plants is a problem in many developed parts of the world. We don't know enough about the interconnectedness of wildlife and plants and the importance of preserving an ecosystem. Humans may never understand all the consequences we suffer as well.

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    1. There's a lot we don't understand, and a lot we don't want to understand for lots of reasons - like accepting the importance of something we don't do, makes us feel uncomfortable.

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  10. Very interesting, not so sure about my efforts as being indigenous but I have been making an effort to plant some natives.

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    1. HI Alastair, I think it's important the indigenous movement doesn't become preachy like a religion. All plants help wildlife and air purity.

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  11. I am happy we at least have native plant nurseries....I do like the idea of indigenous plants better though.

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    1. none of them are commercial, all nonprofit supported by local governments, maybe that's why you don't have them? but native nurseries are good too, I still get stuff from a specialist native nursery not far from here when I want something Australian that isn't indigenous.

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