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  • 28 May 2020 8:53 PM | enewsletter Editor (Administrator)

    This article by Rhonda Daniels is based on her presentation to APS Sutherland Group on 20 May 2020 by Zoom. A recording is available on the APS NSW YouTube channel here.

    The basics of botanical names

    Botanical names can seem initially confronting but it all makes sense when you understand the origins of the names. Botanical names have several benefits over common names:

    • They help ensure a unique name for each species for clear communication for research and study.
    • They avoid the confusion of common names which can vary for the same plant or vary across locations.
    • They convey relationships between plants.

    The binomial system was first formalised by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753. The binomial system has two parts: a genus name and a species names. Banksia serrata is an example. Names are written in Latin, with many derived from Latin and Greek words.

    Banksia serrata showing the serrated leaves

    The how of botanical names

    Binomial names for plants have been created since 1753 which means there have been many different people naming plants over time with different experiences. Names usually refer to characteristics of plants or have some connection to the plant. Names are mostly logical, but they are sometimes creative or obscure. This can happen because new plants are discovered, but suitable names are already taken. Not every plant with long leaves can be called longifolia. Names can also change over time.

    There are many sources for genus names, with many named after people or a feature of the plant. For instance, the Banksia genus was named by the son of Carl Linnaeus in 1782 after Sir Joseph Banks who collected banksias in Australia in 1770. The Acacia genus is named from the Greek words ‘ake’ or ‘akis’ = sharp point referring to the thorns of many African acacias.

    Acacia ulicifolia, named because the leaves are like the genus Ulex (gorse).

    The origins of species names

    Many species names relate to a feature or characteristics of the plant such as the flower, leaf, fruit, seed, bark, size, shape, colour, texture, habit or habitat. The feature may be distinctive or not so, and the feature and name may not be unique to only one species. There can be more than one way to describe a similar feature such as a yellow flower, a large fruit or small leaves.

    Species names have common components. The species name can be a one-word descriptor like minor, referring to small leaves or flowers, or a longer word which is a combination of a prefix and a suffix. Learn to recognise and mix ‘n match common prefixes and suffixes to make life easier. Names use words of Latin and Greek origin, many of which have an English equivalent still used today. The Latin word pungens means sharp or pointed (think of pungent).

    Single word descriptors

    Descriptors can refer to size or shape such as minor = small in Actinotus minor, or to other features. Maculata means spotted or blotched. Think of the word immaculate which means spotless. Eremophila maculata refers to the spotted flowers, whereas Corymbia maculata refers to the mottled bark. Undulatum means wavy (think of undulating hills), used for the wavy leaf edges of Pittosporum undulatum.

    Pittosporum undulatum with wavy leaf edges.

    Prefixes = beginnings of words

    Here are some common prefixes to look out for:


    • uni-, mono- = one
    • bi- or di- = two
    • tri- = three
    • quad-, tetra- = four

    Size and position

    • micro-, parvi-, min- = small
    • macro-, grand- = large
    • sub- = below, slightly
    • de- = down, away
    • re- = back
    • long- = long
    • angust- = narrow
    • brachy- = short


    • a-, an-, ana-, ab- = no, without
    • con-, com-, sym- = with, together
    • hetero- = different
    • al- = similar, like
    • xero- = dry
    • xylo- = woody


    • Black: mela-, niger, nigrans
    • White: leuc-, niv-, alb-
    • Silver and grey: argent-, glauc-
    • Yellow and gold: chrys-, xantho-, flav-, lut-, aur-
    • Reds: ruf-, rub-, ros-, eryth-, fer-, ferr-, flamm-, haem-
    • Purple: purpur-, viol-, indig-
    • Green: vir-, ver-, verd-
    • Blue: cyan, caerul-

     Correa alba has white flowers (think albino).

    Suffixes = endings of words

    Parts of the plant

    • -flora, -anth, -stemon, -styla = flower
    • -folia, -phylla = leaf
    • -nerv = veins
    • -carpa, -sperma, -spora, -gyne = fruit, seed
    • -cephalus = head
    • -rhiz = root
    • -dend = tree
    • -oxylon = wood
    • -pogon = beard, hairs
    • com, trich, pil = hair


    • -oides = like
    • -aceus = like
    • -ens, -ensis = place
    • -escens
    • -fera = bearing
    • -ula = diminutive

    Here are some examples:

    • a + phylla = without leaves
    • micro + phylla = small leaves
    • longi + folia = long leaves
    • grandi + flora = large flowers
    • macro + carpa = big fruit
    • tri + nervia = three veins on leaves
    • quinque + nervia = five veins
    • resin + fera = bearing resin
    • indigo + fera = bearing indigo flowers


    Species names about foliage

    Many names refer to foliage, based on either the Latin folia or the Greek phylla meaning leaf.

    • Acacia aphylla = without phyllodes
    • Banksia serrata = serrated leaves
    • Callicoma serratifolia = serrated leaves
    • Lomandra longifolia = long leaf
    • Epacris microphylla = small leaf

    Names may refer to the leaf tip, texture or leaf margins.

    • Grevillea mucronulata = small mucron or leaf tip
    • Banksia spinulosa = leaves have/are little spines
    • Banksia integrifolia = entire or integral leaves
    • Banksia marginata = downcurled leaf margins


    Some names refer to foliage that looks like something else:

    • Banksia ericifolia = leaves like Ericas (heaths)
    • Acacia podalyrifolia = like South African Podalyria genus
    • Acacia ulicifolia = like Ulex (gorse)
    • Acacia myrtifolia = like Myrtle
    • Grevillea buxifolia = like Buxus
    • Isopogon anemonifolius = leaves shaped like anemone
    • Melaleuca thymifolia = leaves like thyme

    The -oides ending = like: Eriostemon myoporoides = like Myoporum and Leptospermum arachnoides = like a spider.


    Names about other characteristics include:

    • scent (-odora): Acacia suaveolens and Cymbidium suave = sweet, Backhousia citriodora = lemon-scented
    • showiness and beauty: Dendrobium speciosum = showy and Telopea speciosissima = very showy. Also Crowea exalata and Doryanthes excelsa
    • growing habit or size: Billardieria scandens, Hibbertia scandens = climbing (think ascend, descendant)
    • bark: Eucalyptus squamosa = scaly bark (think skin cancer)
    • texture: Grevillea lanigera = woolly (think lanolin), Acacia pubescens = finely hairy, downy leaves (think pubescent), Patersonia sericea = silky flowers, Grevillea sericea = silky hairs under leaves
    • edible (or not): Austromyrtus dulcis = sweet fruit (think dulcet tones), Smilax glyciphylla = sweet leaves (think glycerin or glycaemic) and Leptomeria acida = sour fruit.


    Species names about places include:

    • actual place names (-ensis ending): Acacia chinchillensis = from Chinchilla in Queensland, Banksia vincentia = from Vincentia in NSW and Banksia croajingolensis = from Croajingolong in Victoria (derived from Krauatungalung words = belonging to the east)
    • type of place or habitat: Casuarina littoralis = coastal, edge, Lomandra fluviatilis = river, Indigofera australis = southern.


    Croajingolong National Park (

    Species names about people
    Some species are named after people including (mostly male) collectors, patrons, explorers and botanists. Grevillea banksii is just one of the 80 species named after patron of the sciences Sir Joseph Banks. Wollemia nobilis was named more recently after NPWS ranger David Noble. Eucalyptus bosistoana was named after Joseph Bosisto, a pioneer of the Eucalyptus oil industry with a brand name still available. Olearia flocktoniae is one of the few species named after a woman, botanical artist Margaret Flockton, which explains the -iae ending (-ii for a male name).

    Conclusion: Demystifying names – it all makes sense (more or less)

    • Look at the plant – what are its noticeable characteristics?
    • Look at the origin of the botanical names.
    • Think of links to English words to remember Latin and Greek words.
    • Use name origins to help identify and remember species.

    For instance:

    • Chrysocephalum apiculatum: Chrys = yellow + cephalum = head, apiculatum refers to the little tip on the leaf, from apex = tip.
    • Elaeocarpus reticulatus (Blueberry ash): elae = olive + carpus = fruit, reticulatus = network of leaf veins.


    Reference books, such as Les Robinson's Field Guide to the Native Plants of Sydney, often explain the origins of names. There are also books that just focus on origins of plant names. Read about a dictionary of Australian plant names here.

  • 28 May 2020 6:17 PM | enewsletter Editor (Administrator)

    This story by Mark Abell appeared in the APS Hunter Valley Group April 2020 newsletter.

    What is a mulch?

    A mulch is any covering put over the top of the soil, such as bark, woodchips, leaves, gravel and groundcovers – even a layer of leaf litter counts as a mulch.

    There are a number of different types of materials that are widely used as mulches. These fall into two main categories:

    • organic mulches, which do break down over time and thus will need to be periodically reapplied. They include things like pine bark, wood chips, leaves, grass clippings, straw, and even groundcover plants.
    • inorganic mulches, which do not readily break down, but can become untidy when leaves fall on them. They include things like gravel, scoria, pavers and weed mats.

    Why use them?

    Mulches can help to save water, suppress weeds, moderate the soil temperature, and add nutrients and organic matter to the soil. They can also be used for decorative purposes.

    How mulches work

    Moderate the soil temperature – By both shading the soil surface and in providing an insulating layer, mulches can provide a more constant soil temperature. This in turn can protect the surface feeder roots from damage and reduces the evaporation from the surface of the soil.

    Water saving – Mulches can help to save water by reducing evaporation from the soil surface. This provides an insulating layer of still air that reduces the rate of water loss.

    Weed suppression – Mulches can inhibit the germination and growth of many weeds. Many weeds require light to stimulate germination, so shading of the soil surface by mulches restricts weed germination. Many mulches can also provide a physical barrier that weeds may find difficult to grow through.

    Soil conditioning – Mulches can add nutrients and organic matter to the soil as they breakdown. This is applicable to organic mulches only.

    Erosion control – Mulches can slow the flow of water over the surface of the soil. This not only helps with water absorption, it can help to reduce erosion of the soil surface.

    Some caveats

    Mulches can absorb water – To get to the soil, any water applied to the top of the mulch needs to pass through the mulch layer. This will absorb some of the applied water. The amount that is absorbed by the mulch is largely based on surface area of the mulch pieces and its composition, so a thick layer of fine mulch can absorb up to 20 mm of rainfall.

    Nitrogen drawdown – Organic mulches can take nitrogen from the soil surface as they break down. This can be countered by applying an appropriate fertiliser. The nitrogen is eventually released back as the mulch completes its break down.

    Plant transpiration – While mulches can reduce water loss from the soil, it should be remembered that the plants still transpire and use water. In beds with larger, more mature plants the relative water saving from mulches will be much less than from garden beds with small plants.

    Collar rot – This can occur when mulches are placed up to the trunk of plants. The mulch can increase the humidity around the trunk which can lead to fungal infection. It is most prevalent where there are deeper layers of fine mulch. It can be easily controlled by ensuring that there is a gap between the mulch and the plant trunk.

    Putting it all together

    For water saving:

    • Use coarser mulches rather than fine – as they absorb less water.
    • Use a 2–6 cm layer, which is enough to get the benefits, but any deeper and it absorbs more water.
    • Place any drip irrigation underneath the mulch layer.
    • Avoid finer mulches for water saving, as too deep a layer affects water absorbing mulches.

    For weed suppression, a thicker layer of finer mulch may work better.

    For soil conditioning, composts, straws and lucerne hay are all good, as they do break down quickly.

    References: Chapter 9 - Good Gardens with Less Water - Kevin Handreck (CSIRO Publishing),

  • 21 May 2020 6:21 PM | enewsletter Editor (Administrator)

    Congratulations to Ian Cox from Parramatta Hills Group who was awarded Life Membership at the APS NSW AGM, held by Zoom on 16 May 2020. This summary is based on the nomination from Parramatta Hills Group, with added detail.

    APS Parramatta Hills are delighted to have Ian as a continuing member of our group and we much value his contribution. He is worthy of Life Membership both for his promotion of the aims of the society and his practical contribution to the governance of the Australian Plants Society.

    Serving the Australian Plants Society

    Ian Cox has been a member of Parramatta Hills Group for many years and remains active today. The majority of Ian’s career was spent in the head offices of various public companies. He has used his expertise as a qualified accountant and company secretary to help govern the Australian Plants Society.

    He was President of Parramatta Hills Group from 1999 to 2002 and Vice-President for a period before that.

    His roles in the Australian Plants Society include serving as APS NSW Vice President for a number of years, treasurer of the federal body (two years), federal delegate to the Australian Flora Foundation (four years), representative on the Nature Conservation Council of NSW (two years), and delegate to APS NSW for the Parramatta and Hills District Group (four years).

    He has represented NSW at federal conferences, has been treasurer at Rouse Hill Spectaculars and Mt Annan Plant Sales, and has served on the Publishing and Management Committees. He carried out a major update of APS NSW’s Articles of Association. He has also been active on two organising committees for national plant society conferences in Sydney 1993 and Newcastle 2007.

    Ian and his late wife Tamara have also done voluntary work at the APS NSW office over the years.

    Supporting the Australian Flora Foundation

    Ian is the secretary of the Australian Flora Foundation and has held that position for many years. The foundation is a not-for-profit charity that each year funds several projects for scientific research on the biology and cultivation of Australia’s flora. Many of the researchers are honours or postgraduate students, and their grant success often stimulates their interest in doing further research of our unique and diverse plants throughout their careers.

    Sharing his garden and knowledge

    Ian and Tamara have created a magnificent native plant garden at their home in Kenthurst and regularly welcome visitors to inspect and learn. Ian has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Australian plants and is always willing to share that with everybody.

    He has been heavily involved in a number of Study Groups including Eremophila (currently), Grevillea, Banksia, Fern and Garden Design groups at various times.

    Ian has contributed articles to our society journals and websites and maintains contact with various research botanists to share information.

    Ian was a member of the Cattai Catchment Management Committee (four years) and has been a volunteer firefighter with the Rural Fire Service.

    Photo below: Ian's garden open during the APS quarterly gathering in October 2018 (Heather Miles).

  • 21 May 2020 6:15 PM | enewsletter Editor (Administrator)

    Congratulations to Chris and Leigh Cousins from Hunter Valley Group who were awarded Life Membership at the APS NSW AGM, held by Zoom on 16 May 2020. Here’s the nomination from Hunter Valley Group.

    Chris and Leigh Cousins joined the Hunter Valley Group of the Society for Growing Australian Plants in 1983 and have been active members ever since.

    Ambassadors for Australian plants

    Chris and Leigh have been outstanding ambassadors for the Australian Plants Society and the promotion of Australian native flora. Their own suburban garden has become a showcase of how to establish and nurture a native garden, and they have generously opened it to the public on many occasions.

    Each year between 2000 to 2004, they won 1st prize in the Maitland Garden competition for Specialised Garden, Native Garden (three times) and Most Water Efficient Garden. In 2008 their garden was part of the Australian Open Garden Scheme and raised funds for Alzheimers Australia. Arguably the promotion of native plants in a garden setting is of special importance, given that most people garden on that size of land.

    Local APS groups, Newcastle and Hunter Valley, with members from Singleton and Aberdeen, have been welcomed to the Cousins’ garden on many occasions. Chris and Leigh have supported plant stalls and displays at events such as Steamfest, Tocal Small Farms Field Days and Bicentennial celebrations. They have attended APS conferences in Sydney and assisted with a quarterly gathering hosted by Newcastle Group at the Wetlands Centre.

    Supporting Hunter Valley Group

    They have held virtually every position of office during their membership. Between 1985 and 1996, Chris held positions of Secretary, Treasurer and a three year stint as President. Leigh was Publicity Officer during this time, successfully organising media coverage in the local and regional press. When Chris stepped down from office to further his studies, Leigh took over as Treasurer. For many years between 1987 and 2002 they were joint editors of the group’s newsletter Gum Leaves, and Chris was Treasurer again from 2002 until 2017. It should be noted that all of this effort and donation of time occurred while Chris was in full-time employment.

    Chris’s technological expertise has enabled guest speakers to give PowerPoint presentations on a wide variety of topics. APS NSW has also benefitted as this comment from APS NSW Membership Officer Merle Thompson OAM indicates: “I have never met them face-to-face but have spoken to Chris on the phone. He did the audit for me when I was Treasurer and set up a wonderful interactive spreadsheet for my record keeping. I have used that format since and he helped me amend it”.

    Hunter Valley Group has always been a comparatively small group of enthusiasts, its areas encompassing the Upper Hunter with membership varying from suburban, rural residential, to agricultural areas. This necessitates considerable travel by some members, and it is distance that affects the viability of the group. Without the commitment of members like Chris and Leigh Cousins, the Hunter Valley Group may well have struggled to survive, which would have left APS NSW with no group between Newcastle and Tamworth.

    Of necessity, in a group the size of Hunter Valley Group, members need to be willing to take on whatever role is required. Chris and Leigh have never hesitated to offer their services when needed. In addition, Chris and Leigh have always been and continue to be courteous, cheerful and helpful to all – qualities which encourage new members to join and to remain.

    Before and after

    The photos below are from the Cousins' garden (thanks to Mark Abell, from the Hunter Valley Group newsletter).

  • 1 May 2020 12:59 PM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

    This article by Jeff first appeared in GardenDrum in 2015, for the Australian Plants Society NSW. 

    I have been growing Australian orchids in my Sydney native garden for nearly 30 years. Every year, I get a stunning display that wows everyone who sees it.

    Our front courtyard filled with Australian plants, including many orchids

    Orchids in history

    I’m not the only one fascinated by orchids. Apparently, the world’s first book on orchids was published in China in 1228 and the second in 1247. Orchids were used to treat venereal diseases, diarrhoea, boils, neuralgia and sick elephants!

    Orchids are still being used today for medicinal reasons. Not sure about the elephants though!

    Gathering at the Orchid Pavilion, Qian Gu (Chinese, 1508–ca. 1578) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

    Gathering at the Orchid Pavilion, Qian Gu (Chinese, 1508–ca. 1578) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

    Charles Darrow who invented the game of Monopoly, retired with all his Monopoly money at the age of 46 and devoted himself to gathering and breeding wild orchids.

    The name orchid derives from the Latin orchis which means testicle – referring to the testicle shaped tubers of the plants roots and the long-held idea that orchids sprang from the spilled semen of mating animals.

    Close up of Thelychiton speciosus, growing under trees in the Hunter Valley. Photo Heather Miles

    But enough of that! Onto more prosaic matters.

    Hardy Australian orchids

    In Australia, we have over 800 species of orchids in 107 genera, all belonging to the Orchidaceae family.

    My favourites are the Thelychiton, formerly called Dendrobium. These orchids are very hardy and can endure extreme drying out. In fact, many are killed by too much kindness and water.

    They flower best in full sun to one quarter shade.

    Native orchids thriving on rocks in Sydney backyard, with a backdrop of Grevillea ‘Misty Pink’, Banksia and Senna artemisioides, the yellow flowering shrub. Photo: Jeff Howes

    How to grow Thelychiton

    One of most frequent questions I receive is how do I manage to grow Thelychiton kingianus and Thelychiton speciosus orchids on my rocks and ‘apparently’ in the ground?

    Thelychiton speciosus, formerly Dendrobium speciosum, growing happily in the courtyard of our Westleigh home. Photo: Jeff Howes

    To establish them on large rocks, follow these simple steps:

    1. Obtain some shoots that have been removed from existing orchids or cut off from existing clumps. These are called aerial roots and ideally have three or four pseudo-bulbs.
    2. Hold them down with small rocks (or even tie them down with old stockings) and surround them with plenty of old leaf litter. Use an open, friable litter that does not hold too much moisture and drains well.
    3. Keep the orchids moist (not wet) until new growth commences and then only water occasionally and apply more mulch as they grow.
    4. You can apply liquid fertilizer monthly during spring and summer at half strength if you wish, but this is not really necessary, as they get enough nutrients from the decaying leaf litter.

    To appear to get them growing in the ground (which they won’t), place a few 50 mm thick paving blocks on the ground and follow the above method. In no time at all, they will multiply and reward you with an abundance of flowers.

    Thelychiton kingianus (formerly Dendrobium kingianum), is commonly known as the Pink Rock Orchid. It has masses of beautiful regally coloured flowers in late winter and early spring. Photo: Jeff Howes

    Bugs in orchids

    Do any bugs attack orchids? Unfortunately yes!

    An import from Queensland, these orange and black beetles grow to about 10 mm long and can fly. In summer months, the adult beetle eats the new leaves of orchids. They then lay eggs in the soft, new stems and the larva, a soft white maggot-like grub hatches, then eats and destroys the stem and growing tip. At their worst, they will destroy all the new seasons’ growth on your orchids.

    Dendrobium beetles (Stethopachys formosa), photo Jeff Howes

    You can control by spraying an insecticide when you see them. The easier and more challenging way is to sneak up on them (there is always two of them), place your hand slowly below the leaves being eaten by the buggers and then, with your other hand, try to grab them. If you miss, they will hopefully drop into your other hand as their defence is to drop to the ground when disturbed. Now with a smile on your face, crush them.

    Figuring out which plants work for you

    Whenever people see my orchids, they ask: which ones do I grow, how do I grow them, how do to keep them healthy?

    I start off by saying that Australia has over 20,000 unique plants, including the orchids. They grow from coast to desert, north to south, in many different conditions. So I suggest that people ask themselves a few simple questions, to better understand their microclimate. These include:

    • How much sun is present?
    • What type of soil is it? 
    • Is it well drained or does it retain water?
    • Will my plants compete for nutrients with other plants?

    There are some great resources to draw on to help you with the answers to these questions including specialist orchid nurseries, a great book called Native Orchids of Australia, by David Jones, published by Reed Books and our Australian Plant Society website has some great information: Starting out with Native Orchids by Brian Walters and Les Nesbitt’s, Australian Native Orchids.

    Thelychiton x delicatum is the pink orchid at the front of the photo. This orchid is a cross between Thelychiton kingianus and Thelychiton speciosus and has a stunning fragrance that you can smell as soon as you enter the courtyard. Photo: Jeff Howes


    Why not give these beautiful orchids a go in your garden? You’ll be amply rewarded for many years with exquisite, fragrant blooms.

    Just a word of warning…

    ‘Beauty can be painfully tantalizing, but orchids are not simply beautiful. Many are strange-looking or bizarre, and all of them are ugly when they aren’t flowering. They are ancient, intricate living things that have adapted to every environment on earth. They have outlived dinosaurs; they might outlive human beings. They can be hybridized, mutated, crossbred, and cloned. They are at once architectural and fanciful and tough and dainty, a jewel of a flower on a haystack of a plant…To desire orchids is to have a desire that will never be, can never be, fully requited.’  

    Susan Orlean 2011, The Orchid Thief, A True Story of Beauty and Obsession, Random House

    Thelychiton speciosus loving full sun and part shade. Photo: Jeff Howes

  • 29 Apr 2020 12:16 PM | enewsletter Editor (Administrator)

    On Thursday 23 April 2020, Sutherland Group member Ralph Cartwright, also Treasurer of the Friends of the Royal group, featured in a Sydney Morning Herald story on bushwalking in the time of coronavirus.

    Ralph Cartwright explains how it happened:

    “I was contacted by the SMH Urban Affairs reporter, Angus Thompson, who got my contact details from the Friends of Royal page who wanted to talk to someone still bushwalking in the Royal in the time of coronavirus. We had a brief chat for quotes and he sent a veteran photographer, Peter Rae, to meet me. We walked to the end of the wheelchair-accessible Bungoona path near the park entrance at Loftus for the shoot. The lookout offers fantastic scenic views of Hacking River as the photo shows".

    Ralph did mention he was also a member of APS, but it didn't make it into the story.

    Read the article here: 

  • 23 Apr 2020 1:55 PM | Secretary APS NSW (Administrator)

    This story was written by Brian Roach and first appeared in GardenDrum, in 2016 

    I feel confident anyone reading this would agree that gardeners have a better insight than most into changing weather patterns. Whatever the reason, the hot days seem to be getting hotter and the cold days colder but it’s usually the former that presents the greater challenges in selecting the right plant for the hot spot.

    Enter stage right our wonderful grey-foliaged native plants.

    Maireana oppositifolia

    Maireana oppositifolia at Broken Hill. Photo by Brian Roach

    Maireana sedifolia at Broken Hill. Photo by Brian Roach

    Maireana sedifolia at Broken Hill. Photo by Brian Roach

    On a recent trip out through Broken Hill to the Flinders Ranges I could only look in awe at the great swathes of blue-bush, Mariana oppositifolia and M.sedifolia that adorned the hot and often rugged countryside. Obviously these plants are wonderfully adapted to a hostile landscape where water is scarce and sunshine plentiful.

     Eremophila glabra ‘Kalbarri Carpet’ growing at Hay. Photo by Brian Roach

    Eremophila glabra ‘Kalbarri Carpet’ growing at Hay. Photo by Brian Roach

    On our return trip we stopped off at the new Shearers’ Centre at Hay. It was hellishly hot but what was loving the weather in the garden was Eremophilla glabra ‘Kalbarri Carpet’. I’ve been growing this plant for a few years now and it’s as tough as old boots once established. The ochre coloured flowers contrast beautifully with the shimmering, silver foliage which seems to actually reflect the heat of the sun.

    Calocephalus brownii along the Great Ocean Road. Photo by Brian Roach

    Leucophyta brownii along the Great Ocean Road. Photo by Brian Roach

    A few years earlier we drove out along the Great Ocean Road and there was Cushion Bush, or Leucophyta (formerly Calocephalusbrownii coping so well with the harsh salt-laden air and hot, sandy conditions. I was amazed at just how big these plants could grow. Unfortunately, my experience in Sydney is that these plants do not cope with our humid, summer conditions.

    Calocephalus brownii in Sydney. Photo by Brian Roach

    Leucophyta brownii in Sydney. Photo by Brian Roach

    So nature has been able to work it out…so why can’t we? To coin an old racing adage, it’s all about ‘horses for courses’.

    One of the very first native plants I grew around 40 years ago was Olearia phlogopappa. It was worth growing just to rattle off that wonderful name to anyone who would listen. But in recent times another Olearia with wonderful grey foliage has come into my garden.

    Olearia languinosa ‘Ghost Town’ is one of those unkillable plants and thrives in a hot spot with very little demand for water. It’s low growing to around half a metre high and if left to itself, will certainly spread a couple of metres over time but it’s very amenable to severe pruning. The foliage has a delightful aroma when cut or crushed. It’s not the small, white flowers that make this plant well worth growing, but rather the silvery, grey foliage that fairly laps up the hot sun. An added bonus with this plant is that cuttings strike with ease.

    Olearia languinosa ‘Ghost Town’, an unkillable shrub which thrives in a hot dry spot. Photo by Brian Roach

    Olearia languinosa ‘Ghost Town’, an unkillable shrub which thrives in a hot dry spot. Photo by Brian Roach

    A wonderful new plant was only discovered in the wild about a dozen or so years ago up around the Copeton Dam near Inverell. Members of the Grevillea Study Group were on the prowl for an elusive grevillea when they spied a stunning, yellow flowering plant. It was keyed out and found to be Homoranthus prolixus and apparently never before brought into cultivation.

    It has wonderful blue/grey foliage with red stems on the new growth and stunning bright yellow flowers across the horizontal growth of the plant in late spring and early summer. Growing naturally on granite outcrops in an extreme climatic environment, this is yet another great plant to cope with our topsy-turvy climate.

     Homoranthus prolixus, with stunning yellow flowers and horizontal growth. Photos by Brian Roach

    Homoranthus prolixus, with stunning yellow flowers. Photo by Brian Roach

     Homoranthus prolixus, with stunning yellow flowers and horizontal growth. Photo by Brian Roach

    Homoranthus prolixus, with horizontal growth doing well here in a pot. Photo by Brian Roach

    The grey, strappy Conostylis candicans has been around for quite a while but I’ve never managed to maintain one for any appreciable time. Related to the Kangaroo Paws as it is, I suspect it’s one that doesn’t enjoy our humid summers.

    Conostylis candicans. Photo by Brian Roach

    Conostylis candicans. Photo by Brian Roach

    However, around 20 years ago my mate, Peter Olde, sent me some material he’d collected in WA – as he has done from time to time – and he labelled it as Conostylis aurea. I’ve been growing the plant ever since with wonderful results. It’s a low, clumping plant to around 20cm high with very grey foliage and masses of yellow flower stems from late autumn through into early spring. It really is a stunner and is as hardy as anything else in the garden. I find it strange that I’ve never seen this plant for sale in all the time since I first received it.

    Conostylis aurea flower head. Photo by Brian Roach

    Conostylis aurea flower head. Photo by Brian Roach

    Conostylis aurea. Photo Brian Roach

    Conostylis aurea. Photo by Brian Roach

    Any mention of grey-foliaged native plants would be remiss without mentioning Actinotus helianthii, our wonderful east-coast Flannel Flower.

    Actinotus helianthi, our iconic Flannel Flower. Photo by Brian Roach

    Actinotus helianthi, our iconic Flannel Flower. Photo by Brian Roach

    13 Flannel Flower_800x533

    Actinotus helianthi, our iconic Flannel Flower. Photo by Brian Roach

    Okay, so they’re difficult to maintain in the garden for more than a couple of years, but ain’t it worth it! With a bit of luck there’ll be a bit of self-seeding, especially if you pluck off the dying flower heads and sprinkle the seed about.

    Senna artemisoides, with its lace-like foliage and bright yellow pea-flowers.

    Senna artemisoides, with its lace-like foliage and bright yellow pea-flowers.

    But if I had to pick my favourite on the basis of toughness and display in my Sydney garden, I think I’d have to opt for Senna artemisoides. That wonderful grey, lace-like foliage is contrasted so stunningly by the bright yellow pea-flowers. And again, let the seed pods develop and lots of little babies are sure to put up their hands to be dug up and potted on. And don’t be frightened to cut it back quite heavily after flowering to maintain a dense plant as shown in this photos.

    So let’s hear it for Amazing Greys – how sweet the ground that sees a stretch of these.

    Brian Roach

  • 2 Apr 2020 10:57 AM | enewsletter Editor (Administrator)

    ABC TV's Gardening Australia show featured a segment with Menai Group on Friday 27 March 2020.

    Life member and Menai driving force Lloyd Hedges gave host Clarence Slockee a tour of the Illawong Fire Station garden maintained by the group and demonstrated how to create smoke water to germinate flannel flowers while nursery volunteer Pam Forbes highlighted the group's project to propagate casuarinas to provide food and habitat for glossy black cockatoos in the Southern Highlands.

    Watch the episode on iview here. Menai Group appears about half way through.

    See photos from the Illawong Fire Station garden here.

    Read about another native propagator Brian Roach appearing on Gardening Australia here and other APS members in the media here.

    Below: Hakea purpurea from the Fire Station garden (photo Lloyd Hedges)

  • 30 Mar 2020 4:09 PM | enewsletter Editor (Administrator)

    Enewsletter editor Rhonda Daniels attended the community launch of the website on 14 March 2020  at Dapto Ribbonwood Centre and won a Brachychiton to carry home on the train.

    Audience at launch of website

    The website:


    The Growing Illawarra Natives website showcases native plant species local to the Illawarra to encourage greater appreciation and cultivation of native plant species in the Illawarra.
 The area has a rich diversity of plant communities with over 850 indigenous plant species, many of great value in cultivation.  

    The website has detailed descriptive information and photos of plants of the region, advice on cultivation, how and where to grow the plants, and a lot more. It helps the community identify which local native plants will best suit their garden, landscaping or other application and help improve biodiversity that has been reduced by urban development. By enhancing local plant biodiversity, local habitats will be more attractive for local birds, insects and animals.

    Illawarra refers to the coastal area between the escarpment cliffs and the sea, from Stanwell Park (Bald Hill) to the Shoalhaven River (excluding Bomaderry).

    Photo display at the launch

    Background to the project

    The completely voluntary project was led by Emma Rooksby and Leon Fuller, with a very large team of community contributors including Carl Glaister and other plant enthusiasts from the region. Leon Fuller has worked for many years on tree identification of the Illawarra. He is the author of Wollongong Native Trees and co-author of Native Trees of Central Illawarra covering areas between Wollongong and Foxground. He has great knowledge and understanding about the benefits of regional biodiversity. Leon landscaped the grounds of the University of Wollongong 40 years ago with the vision to re-establish biodiversity in an urban garden environment. Rather than writing another book, he felt a website would be more beneficial for a broader and younger audience. Starting in 2104, community workshops were held to develop the project and content.

    The community launch

    Community launch

    The website was formally launched at a community celebration event on 14 March 2020 at Dapto, with live music, plant photos, plant display, raffle and giveaways, and afternoon tea. Emma Rooksby and Leon Fuller spoke briefly, referring people to a large display board which listed all the contributors who have helped in some way. Clarence Slockee, ABC TV Gardening Australia presenter, cut a virtual ribbon and officially declared the website open. The music and afternoon continued.

    Clarence Slockee

    Congratulations to all the contributors


    Contributor names

    The organisers said afterwards: “Thanks to everyone who attended the Growing Illawarra Natives website launch on Saturday. It was a fantastic community celebration, and we were very lucky to host the event ahead of tighter restrictions on public gatherings.”



    The Growing Illawarra Natives Facebook group allows interactive discussion of local native plants, so feel free to join in there:

    If you'd like to provide feedback on the website, there is a survey running at - all comments and suggestions welcome!

    Buying Illawarra natives

    Wollongong Botanic Garden has native plant sales once a month on the third Friday. Note: temporarily suspended due to coronavirus.

    The Garden’s Greenplan nursery has an extensive collection of local native trees, shrubs, groundcovers and grasses, as well as worm farms and compost bins for sale every month.

    Visit the Garden’s website at a week before each sale for a list of native species available and prices.

    The Garden’s nursery is located on Northfields Avenue in Kieraville (next to soccer fields). The car park entrance is marked with bright flags.


    Launch photos: Ralph Cartwright and Rhonda Daniels

  • 29 Mar 2020 9:03 PM | enewsletter Editor (Administrator)

    Less time being out and about and more time at home to protect community health from COVID-19 is a chance to do some activities you might not usually have time for. Here are some ideas, both for individual members and for APS Groups to consider if you don’t want to clean the cupboards or the garage. There are also some websites to explore.

    Outside in the fresh air

    • Plant some seeds and record their progress. If you have enough seed and space, get scientific and trial different mixes and treatments and record the results.
    • Observe changes in your garden over time by taking a photo each day of the same flower, plant or garden view.
    • Try to identify likely pollinators for some of your plants through careful observation of flowers.
    • Create a new garden area or feature, whatever you have been planning but not actually done. It could be a compost heap, new garden bed, vegie patch, a piece of artwork, bee or insect hotel, or garden furniture.
    • Running out of things to do in isolation? Get back in the garden with these ideas from 4 experts by Anthea Batsakis, The Conversation

      A behavioural science expert, a botanist, an environment media expert and an entomologist suggest ways to connect with nature in your garden.

    Inside at the computer

    • Organise all your plant photos – digital (or even hard copy), and try to ID the tricky ones.
    • Investigate online plant sales, remembering some nurseries and stock levels may be affected by drought or bushfires or future public health restrictions. See some nurseries here.
    • Explore websites on native plants – both new and old. See suggestions below.
    • Follow APS NSW on Instagram and check APS NSW on Facebook.
    • Join an Australian Native Plants Society (Australia) Study Group in your area of interest and share your experiences. There are 18 active groups to choose from including the new Australian Plants for Containers. There are many newsletters from both active and inactive groups to read. Details here.
    • Read back issues of your Australian Plants journal or Native Plants for NSW – hard copy or online.
    • Comment publicly on aspects of Australian native plants and the environment by sending letters to the editor, or commenting on online stories on newspaper sites or The Conversation website.
    • Write or record your history of involvement with native plants and/or APS NSW.
    • Participate in citizen science with these ideas by researchers from the University of Sydney: Citizen science: how you can contribute to coronavirus research without leaving the house.

    Possible Group projects

    • Prepare a history of your Group, or update an existing written history. The history doesn’t need to be a long book. It could be a Powerpoint presentation based on photos with captions or a website, organised by year.
    • Develop resources on native plants in your local area such as plants for gardens, or rare or notable plants. Use the Growing Illawarra Natives website as a guide and adapt.

    • Prepare activities for when Group meetings resume such as writing a quiz with local questions or preparing a presentation about a holiday or your garden to give at a meeting.
    • Prepare an index of your Group’s newsletters or review which plants are mentioned most often in your newsletters.
    • Develop an anniversary issue of your Group newsletter by selecting representative articles from across the years, similar to the Australian Plants 60-year issue.


    For APS NSW

    • Write plant profiles or other resources to share on the APS NSW website.
    • Develop online courses in native plant identification or gardening with natives.

    Some projects require more coordination than others, so check with your Group or the APS website coordinators Heather Miles or Simon Bastin through


    Websites to explore

    • The Australian Native Plants Society (Australia) ANPSA website including plant profiles, Study Group newsletters and more.
    • Gardening with Angus website, by Angus Stewart. Sign up for a monthly email newsletter from Angus. Recent topics include Kangaroo paws, insects, and the March 2020 Newletter 57 Let's garden.
    • Australian National Botanic Garden website, with botanical resources.
    • Plantnet, Royal Botanic Garden, with a page on each native species in NSW.
    • Sir Joseph Banks' papers online archive at the State Library of NSW website.
    • Growing Illawarra Natives, with advice on choosing and growing native plants in the Illawarra region.

    Websites maintained by member Brian Patterson at Ourimbah

    The Conversation website publishes short articles every day by university researchers with "academic rigour, journalistic flair" on a range of topics including bushfire recovery and the environment in general:


    More digital and online resources

    • Download and explore a free app: Plants of South Eastern NSW by Betty Wood, with over 3,000 plants.
    • Join Native Plant ID on Facebook.

    Peter Wauchope from Southern Tablelands suggests:
    • Facebook site being run by SA moderators for the entire continent (30,000 members): Australian Native Plant Enthusiasts forum and their sister group (newly formed 4,000+ members) that includes advertising of sales, personal and District Group: Australian native plant noticeboard & marketplace

    Why not write a review of a website for the enewsletter or your Group newsletter?

    Send suggestions or reviews of interesting websites and resources to explore to the enewsletter editor Rhonda Daniels at

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