Log in

Our stories archive has moved - click here to go the new site

Stories archive

Our members love sharing their stories, insights and experiences with others. In June 2020 we transitioned all our stories to a new platform to make them easier to view and search. 

For the latest stories and many of the previous ones on the new platform, click here

To see the stories archive (prior to June 2020), click here 

To see all the latest stories, click here.  To see the archive, click here

  • 3 Jan 2020 3:54 PM | enewsletter Editor (Administrator)

    Randwick City Council nursery is pleased to offer a 10% discount on plant purchases to members of the Australian Plants Society NSW.

    The nursery specialises in Australian natives and Eastern Suburbs indigenous species in tubestock to 300 mm pots.

    It is open Monday to Friday 9 am to  3 pm, plus the first Saturday of each season.

    Find a plant list and nursery information here.

    Location: 2B Barker St, Kingsford NSW.

    Phone: (02) 9093 6250

    For more APS member benefits, check here.

  • 3 Dec 2019 8:12 PM | enewsletter Editor (Administrator)

    The Rudder garden at Maroubra recently won the Native Garden Section of the Randwick Council Garden Competition for the 16th year in a row. Kim wrote to share his own Wollemi pine, after missing our November 2019 quarterly gathering on the Wollemi pine.

    My Wollemi pine

    Here is my Wollemi Pine. It was given to me as a small tree about 30 cm tall, close to the first public release, somewhere like 17–18 years ago. It is now 4–5 metres tall. It has branched 3–4 m above the ground (when the top growing tip was damaged). Where it has lost leaves in the lower part of the trunk, it has several small branches, all actively growing. The longest of these is about 50 cm long and has just broken out into new growth. Last year it produced a female cone about 1.5 x golf ball size: this year two more.

    Wollemi pine

    Wollemi pine at Maroubra

    It was planted directly into where it is today. I have not directly fed it. It is well mulched. It is in questionable sandy soil not far from Maroubra Beach, with five houses between our place and Arthur Byrne Reserve behind the beach. It is fairly close to a couple of large Callitris pines.

    Living with salt spray

    The only care I give it is to give the foliage a spray with the hose every 2 or 3 days to wash off any salt residue.

    I have never been sure about this... the car gets a little salty so I figure the plants also get a bit salty. It’s not a major problem, but I have given most of the plants a rinse regularly over the last 20 years or so. I don’t give much thought to the fact that the salt I wash off goes into the soil, and have never thought to test this, but there never seems to be a problem.

    The rest of the garden - flowers

    Grevillea with red flowers

    Grevillea oleoides

    Garden paths and shade for summer

    Lawn in shade

    Mulch path

    Shady seating area

    Tree fern

  • 29 Nov 2019 3:29 PM | enewsletter Editor (Administrator)

    Sustainable Natives is a wholesale native plant nursery located in Somersby on the Central Coast.

    It has been operating for over 10 years on the mountain but will have to move to another site nearby and has to sell its stock!

    The SALE DATES are:

    Saturday 30 November and Sunday 1 December 2019

    Friday 13, Saturday 14 and 15 December 2019

    Sustainable Natives is moving to another site TBA and need to clear at near wholesale prices plants which range from tubestock ($3–$4) to 140 mm plants ($7.50–$10), 200 mm pots ($12.50–$17.50) and semi advanced ($35–$60). All prices are only available during these special open days in November and December 2019 only! 

    Plants will make great Christmas Gifts and there is plenty of Christmas bush for sale.

    Location: 972 Wisemans Ferry Road, Somersby.

    There is a clearly marked sign at the property. Drive through past the shed and house and through to the back of the property. 


    Contact Jonathan Steeds 0415 465 162 or Olga Blacha 0414 557 581.

  • 29 Nov 2019 3:10 PM | enewsletter Editor (Administrator)

    The University of Newcastle is offering a free online short course in natural history illustration, starting 4 March 2020

    The six week course covers:

    • Core scientific observational skills
    • Field drawing and sketching techniques
    • Concept sketch development
    • Composition for natural history illustration
    • Form, proportion and structure essentials
    • Drawing and rendering techniques.

    Taught by staff from the Bachelor of Natural History Illustration program, it aims to help people learn how to see and draw nature like an illustrator and build observational and visual interpretation skills in an interactive and enjoyable way.

    There is an option to pay US$49 to complete the assessment and receive a certificate.

    APS members Liz Aitken and Leonie Hogue completed the course in 2019 and recommend it.

    See more information, including a short video from the teaching staff: here:

  • 25 Nov 2019 8:56 AM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

    The number one priority of our trip to the Blue Mountains on 7th September was to hear Liz Benson’s talk about the Wollemi Pine at the Wentworth Falls History Centre. While we were there, as well as absorbing the views around the falls, we wanted to do some plant exploring on Kings Tableland, and also take a look at the location of Grevillea ‘Lawson Queen’, discovered by Pip Gibian in 1988.

    After Liz Benson’s fascinating presentation, our first stop was Wentworth Falls Lake, which was created to supply water for the steam engines on the nearby railway. It’s a delightful park, very scenic and extensive, and features large sandstone sculptures of the seedpods of plants native to the area. Two endangered species, the Giant Dragonfly and the Blue Mountains Water Skink, live here. I shouldn’t really say this, but when I was a child I accidentally fell into the lake from the wharf – it was winter too.

    Wentworth Falls Lake. Photo Lesley Waite.

    I should mention the weather. It was extremely cold and windy. I checked the actual weather readings later for nearby Katoomba, and the day’s temperatures ranged between 2 and 4 degrees. The wind blew from the west-south-west at 46 kph with gusts much higher. At the lookouts near the top of the falls people were getting drenched as the water was blown up by the strong winds. On occasions not a drop of water seemed to be going down!


    Photos above: The ‘upside-down’ waterfall. Photo Lesley Waite: Pherosphaera fitzgeraldii.  Photo Brian Walters

    A small shrub that enjoys these constantly moist situations is Pherosphaera fitzgeraldii (formerly named Microstrobus fitzgeraldii) or Dwarf Mountain Pine. It’s an endangered species that only grows on wet rocks and ledges on south-facing waterfalls between Wentworth Falls and Katoomba, and we could see it in the distance.

    The views of Jamison Valley and Mount Solitary were magnificent as usual. Now and again I get envious of people living in the mountains so close to such natural wonders. Except for the sometimes-extreme weather, of course.

    In 1836 a young Charles Darwin visited the falls on his way to Bathurst. He wrote: “there is a view exceedingly well worth visiting . . . Below is the grand bay or gulf, for I know not what other name to give it, thickly covered with forest. The point of view is situated as it were at the head of the Bay, for the line of cliff diverges away on either side, showing headland, behind headland, as on a bold Sea coast . . .

    This kind of view was to me quite novel and extremely magnificent.”

    Jamison Valley and Mount Solitary viewed from the falls. Photo Lesley Waite.

    After a quick lunch we went across to Kings Tableland - along Tablelands Road, parked in Chester Road and took a wander down the bush track to Rocket Point Lookout. Here, right at the lookout and rather appropriately sprawled over the rocks opposite the falls was Darwinia fascicularis subsp.oligantha. This is an attractive decumbent shrub I’ve been growing in the garden for years. It’s very hardy, and where the branches contact the soil they usually take root.

    The genus Darwinia was named after Charles Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, who was a well-known English physician. He was also a natural philosopher, physiologist, inventor and poet.

    On this walk we noticed the flora was generally stunted, no doubt due to the harsh conditions and rocky terrain. The Proteacae family had by far the greatest representation here - Banksia cunninghamiana, B. ericifolia, B. oblongifolia, B. serrata, Hakea dactyloides, H. teretifolia, Isopogon anemonifolius, Petrophile pulchella and Lambertia formosa were spotted.

    We bumped into (sometimes literally) a Hakea with yellow flowers and needle-like leaves that was vaguely familiar. I pondered over its identity for a few days, and came to the conclusion that it must be Hakea propinqua. Now, my reference books are fairly old, and after a bit more time I finally woke up. I noticed in my Fairley and Moore a note under Hakea propinqua that says: “A yellow flowered form in the higher Blue Mountains is now regarded as a new species, H. pachyphylla.” And do you know what? A few years ago, Alan Fairley had given me a plant of it (along with a few other unusual ones), and it’s still growing here! Hakea pachyphylla.   Photo Lesley Waite.

    Next, on to Lawson. Pip’s Grevillea ‘Lawson Queen’ is thought to be a natural hybrid between G. sericea and G. oleoides. It has large deep pink flowers and grows in a very small area north of Lawson. Pip has registered this plant with the Australian Cultivar Registration Authority, and her application notes said: “Thought to be a Grevillea sericea hybrid, possibly with G. oleoides which also occurs in the area. The differences are in the deepness of the pink in the flower colour and the leaf characteristics. The very best-coloured G. sericea comes nowhere near it. The leaves are much wider than G. sericea. The leaf is a much darker green than G. sericea. Grevillea sericea can be quite variable in leaf, and for a while it was thought it could possibly be a new species however it does not set seed suggesting it may be sterile hybrid.

    It has been in the applicant’s garden since it was first collected.”

    Today we found that the fire trail leading to the site of G. ‘Lawson Queen’ has a locked gate. It was late afternoon, and although quite close to its location we didn’t have quite enough time to continue our journey on foot. However, we did have a short meander in the bush just past the gate. There was plenty of Grevillea sericea and what I thought was G. oleoides here, the latter having large rose-pink flowers. However, when Pip saw Lesley’s photo below of one of these plants she thought it could be a hybrid. After all, there are many intergrades and look-alikes in the area, but there’s none as pretty as G. ‘Lawson Queen’.


    Left to right: Grevillea ‘Lawson Queen’. Photo Rob Horton; G. sericea. Photo Brian Walters; Is this a rose-pink form of G. oleoides, or is it a “brother or sister” of G. ‘Lawson Queen’? Photo Lesley Waite.

    Here too was Woollsia pungens, on which most plants had a mixture of white and pink flowers. We had never seen this before – perhaps the pink flowers change colour to white as they age?

    On a previous visit I had seen an unusual form of Grevillea laurifolia growing in this vicinity, with long upright leaves like rabbits’ ears.

    It was getting dark. It had been a fabulous day, and we couldn’t have crammed anything more into it. Our passion of being totally immersed in native plants had been temporarily satisfied!

    Woollsia pungens.  Photo Lesley Waite

  • 25 Nov 2019 8:38 AM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

    I’ve been growing a Hoya carnosa in a concrete trough for several years, and each year in the warmer months it puts on a nice display of pink flowers over a long period.

    Hoyas seem to like their roots restricted, and I haven’t seen a need to repot it yet. I found that the medium should be well-drained and open, so I gave it half pine bark and half potting mix. It gets a 9-month slow-release fertilizer each spring, and is placed in bright filtered light away from frosts.

    My Hoya is supported by plastic stakes slightly more than a metre high, which it soon covered and made invisible. One thing to remember is that it flowers each year from the same stems, so it shouldn’t be trimmed too much.

    I’ve found it’s easy to grow, needs little care, and has had no pests so far. It’s also very easy to propagate from cuttings.

  • 21 Nov 2019 10:25 PM | enewsletter Editor (Administrator)

    Cover of Spring 2019 issue of Australian Plants journal

    The Spring 2019 issue of Australian Plants was mailed to members and subscribers in late November. Members of the Australian Plants Society NSW receive Australian Plants four times a year as part of their membership.

    The Spring issue is a theme issue on mini-myrtles, the smaller members of the Myrtaceae family, produced by the WA Wildflower Society. It has articles on:

    • Mini myrtles
    • Starflowers (Calytrix) diversity and identification guide
    • The pomegranates – Balaustion and Cheyniana
    • Hypocalymma - the myrtles
    • Rinzia – my special choice
    • Seed propagation of 'mini myrtles'
    • Mini myrtles: grow from cuttings
    • Myrtle rust impacts in Eastern Australia
    • Myrtle rust impacts in Western Australia

    Subscribe now

    Non-members can subscribe to Australian Plants. Annual subscription (four issues) is $30 including postage. Overseas subscription is A$45.


    Subscription Officer

    PO Box 3066

    Bowenfels NSW 2790

    Single issues

    Limited supplies of recently published past issues are available for $5 per issue plus $2 postage in Australia. 

  • 12 Nov 2019 8:54 PM | enewsletter Editor (Administrator)

    Jennifer Farrer from APS Parramatta Hills Group shares the life of Olive Pink, 1884–1975, from a book celebrating her life.

    Olive Pink: Artist, activist and gardener. A life in flowers by Gillian Ward. Hardie Grant Books, 2018.

    Cover of book Olive Pink activist, artist and gardener

    Visit the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens

    Perhaps you have visited the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens in Alice Springs. It is certainly one of the best places to see Central Australian flora and as a bonus there is an excellent café. So who was Olive Pink?

    Olive Pink's early life

    Olive Pink was born in Hobart in 1884 and learned to love the Australian bush and its unique flora on rambles with her father on Mt Wellington. Her life was influenced by the Quaker philosophy of social justice she encountered at the private Girls High School in Hobart, run by a Quaker family. This influence can be seen in her later activism on behalf of Aboriginal people, which made her an unpopular figure in government circles. It was easy for people to dismiss her as an eccentric old woman.

    Olive first learned to paint at the Girls High School. Her teacher was Mary Augusta Walker, a successful painter who had been trained in London and Paris and believed that to achieve success as an artist, a woman had to make art her first priority before social life and family. Olive’s teachers were role models of strong, creative and independent women.

    As a young woman in Hobart Olive began to pursue her lifelong passions of art, Aboriginal welfare and plant conservation.

    Life in Sydney

    Olive continued her art studies in Hobart but after her father’s death moved to Perth where she gave art lessons. She met the love of her life who was sadly killed at Gallipoli. Later in 1915 she moved to Sydney where she continued to teach art. She completed a Town Planning Diploma at the University of Sydney and was employed in various government jobs which gave her financial security but she did not enjoy the work. She attended evening classes at the Julian Ashton School. She began to design cards and calendars depicting flowers and birds which she continued to do for the rest of her life.

    Olive’s connections in Sydney, including the Association for the Protection of Native Races, inspired her to travel to the outback. She met Daisy Bates and visited her camp on the edge of the Nullarbor Plain. Olive spent her annual holidays there in 1926 sketching, painting, recording Aboriginal words and observing Aboriginal customs. Daisy Bates invited her back the following year.

    In 1930 Olive took six months leave from her job at the Railways and embarked on a sketching tour from Port Augusta to Darwin, of the flora of Central Australia as well as further investigation into how Aboriginal people lived. These experiences were life changing for Olive. She learned the desert survival skills which gave her the confidence to live in the most difficult conditions.

    Back in Sydney she attended anthropology lectures at the University of Sydney and submitted a thesis on the ritual ceremonies she had observed in Central Australia. Qualified as an anthropologist she resigned her public service job and applied for grants to continue her anthropological research. She wrote several research papers for conferences and publication, all done in very primitive conditions and on a “microscopic” income. She also relied on friends and family support and in 1937 returned to Hobart for a year to write up her research.

    Olive Pink in Alice Springs

    A small donation from a Quaker benefactor, which included money to purchase a truck, and a small annual allowance from the Sheet Metal Workers Union allowed her to return to Alice Springs in 1940. In 1942 she set off for Pirdi Pirdi near Thompsons Rockhole in the Tanami Desert. She remained there until early 1946 when severe drought, extreme heat and lack of food forced her to return to Alice Springs.

    After WWII she moved into an ex-army sleeping hut made of unlined corrugated iron. She lived in half of the hut and the other half was used to house her collection of Aboriginal artefacts and her paintings. She opened this collection to visitors for a small fee. Her other source of income was the sale of plants and flowers and her hand painted cards and calendars. She also cleaned the Alice Springs courtroom. This gave her an income, and also enabled her to observe how fairly or unfairly Aboriginal people were treated in the white legal system. Her efforts were not popular with the staff at the courthouse or the police.

    Her life in Alice Springs took a dramatic turn when she was evicted from her beloved Home Hut. She applied for a licence to move to a vacant quarter acre block on the other side of the Todd River. In late 1956 she pitched her tent at this beautiful site. In 1958 after protracted negotiations her hut was re-erected nearby.

    Olive Pink Botanic Garden

    Wherever Olive Pink lived she created a garden. In her last home she created a garden that has been named after her – the Olive Pink Botanic Garden in Alice Springs. She persuaded the Northern Territory Government to create a flora reserve to conserve the native vegetation, to plant arid land plants and to protect the beautiful location from development. Her desire to protect endangered species and to preserve the local flora was ahead of its time when the Australian Arid Regions Native Flora Reserve was gazetted in September 1956.

    Until 1961 Olive Pink worked alone. Aboriginal gardeners were employed to assist her after she was assured they would be paid the basic wage. For 12 years her assistant was a Warlpiri man, Johnny Tabijinba Yannarilyi , whose knowledge of local plants and growing conditions was invaluable.

    Olive died in July 1975 but her garden lives on as a place for the peaceful contemplation of nature and education about local plants.

    About the book

    Some 200 of Olive's botanical paintings and sketches are held in the Library of the University of Tasmania. This biography of Olive Pink has been written by Gillian Ward who curated an exhibition of these paintings at the University in 2004. Almost half of the book comprises a selection of these flower paintings which have been botanically identified and paired with a photograph of the plant. The book is also generously illustrated with photos from Olive Pink’s life and times.

  • 12 Nov 2019 8:41 PM | enewsletter Editor (Administrator)

    The authors of this book, Judy, Peter and Kate Smith, are members of APS Blue Mountains Group. Judy Smith explains the content of the book and the significance of its timing.

    Native Fauna of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. Judy, Peter and Kate Smith. 172 pages, soft cover. Published by P & J Smith Ecological Consultants, October 2019. RRP $35. Details:

    Book cover of native Fauna of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area

    The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area is an area of spectacular views, eucalypt forests and woodlands interspersed with swamp, wetlands, escarpments, rainforest and heath, together with some 1500 different plants. The area has 98 different eucalypts (Angophora, Corymbia and Eucalyptus species) as well as iconic endemic plants, such as the Wollemi Pine and Dwarf Mountain Pine (Pherosphaera fitzgeraldii, formerly Microstrobus). The area is also home to an outstanding and diverse native fauna. Native Fauna of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, published in October 2019, provides the first comprehensive account of this fauna.

    The book includes descriptions of the area’s environment and fauna habitats and details the status, local distribution and ecology of each of the 432 native vertebrate fauna species (68 mammal, 254 bird, 74 reptile and 36 frog species) that have been reliably recorded in the area since European settlement. The number of species, including almost one third of Australia’s bird species, is astounding. A checklist indicates in which of the World Heritage Area’s eight constituent reserves (Blue Mountains, Gardens of Stone, Kanangra-Boyd, Nattai, Thirlmere Lakes, Wollemi and Yengo National Parks and Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve) each species has been recorded together with dates of the last records. The 28 mammals, 34 birds, 4 reptiles and 7 frogs considered threatened at national or state level are highlighted. Over 200 colour photos (Peter’s work), 20 illustrations (Kate’s) and two locality maps are included.

    Celebrating 20 years

    As the 20th anniversary of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Listing approaches in 2020, this book celebrates the diversity, scientific value and conservation importance of the area’s fauna.

    About the authors

    The authors, Peter and Judy, are ecologists who have lived and worked in the Blue Mountains for almost 40 years. Their daughter Kate grew up in the Blue Mountains and now works as a visual artist in Canberra.

    Dr Judy Smith and Dr Peter Smith

    P & J Smith Ecological Consultants

    44 Hawkins Pde

    Blaxland NSW 2774

  • 7 Nov 2019 9:12 PM | enewsletter Editor (Administrator)

    Bruce Thompson, Senior Horticulturalist at IndigiGrow Nursery, is calling for volunteers.

    IndigiGrow welcomes volunteers at our nursery which is a not-for-profit nursery and social enterprise of First Hand Solutions Aboriginal Corporation. Please check our website for more information:

    We grow and sell Australian native plants, bush food and medicinal plants. 

    IndigiGrow nursery is open Mon to Fri 9am to 5pm and our plants are also available online. Customers can also call us to order plants from our Growing List that can then be mailed to them.

    Check the Current Growing List and Plant Information Guide.


    La Perouse Public School

    8-18 Yarra Rd, Phillip Bay NSW 2036

    Free volunteer checks

    As we are based at La Perouse Public School, volunteers need to have a Working With Children check and a Police check conducted for members wishing to do volunteering between Mon to Fri 9am to 5pm.

    It is free for volunteers to get their Working With Children check and a Police check conducted using IndigiGrow's partner organisations. 

    More information

    Bruce Thompson

    Senior Horticulturist


    M: 0439 327 933


P.O. Box 263
Cremorne  Junction NSW 2090

Copyright © 2020 The Australian Plants Society - NSW. All Rights Reserved  •  Site by

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software