Grevilleas are one of many native plants irresistible to birds like the rainbow lorikeet.
Grevilleas are one of many native plants irresistible to birds like the rainbow lorikeet. Photo Thinkstock

Help grow our Australian spirit

AUSTRALIA has more than 24,000 species of native plants. Compare this with the 1200 species native to England, and you can begin to see what an extraordinary treasure our native flora is.

About 85% of our native species are considered to be endemic, which means that they occur here and nowhere else on the planet.

Since European settlement in 1788, more than 60 plant species are known to have become extinct, and more than 1200 species are listed as being endangered.

I think we all acknowledge the importance of preserving our native flora, and thankfully some very skilled plant growers have continued to propagate and trial different species, making a wider range available to the home gardener.

Plant breeders have developed cultivars which are well-suited to ornamental gardens, thanks to compact growth habits, and long flowering times. You can now use native plants to create just about any style of garden.

Lilly pillies (Syzygium and acmena spp.) are great for hedges and for topiaries. Many of the rainforest shrubs such as native gardenia (Randia fitzalanii) or golden penda (Xanthostemon chrysanthus) are perfectly suited to a tropical garden, with their lovely glossy leaves and showy flowers.

The ivory curl tree (Buckinghamia celsissima) is a beautiful flowering shade tree, absolutely smothered in lovely cream flowers during summer. In the cottage garden, swan river daisy (Brachyscome multifida) and tea trees (Leptospermum) look right at home.

Some Australian native plants are also suitable for bonsai. Ficus and banksia are particularly popular. The bonsai study group of the Australian Native Plants Society lists 576 species being grown as bonsai.

An added bonus of native plants is the close relationship they have with native fauna. The richmond birdwing vine (Pararistolochia praevenosa) is the primary source of food for the larvae of the vulnerable richmond birdwing butterfly.

I planted one of these vines more than 10 years ago and over Christmas we were thrilled to spot a gorgeous male richmond birdwing butterfly in our garden. A few days later, we saw the female.

If you want birds in your garden, you need plenty of nectar-laden grevilleas and banksias which are absolutely irresistible to a large selection of gorgeous birds.

If you're interested in learning more about Australian native plants, visit the Australian Native Plants Society site at http://www.anpsa.org.au.

Got a gardening question? Email maree@edenatbyron.com.au.


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