Nature Notes | Native flora guards its growing secrets well

LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Pink-bells (left) and mountain grevillea (right), photographed last week at Werona, are simply stunning natives.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Pink-bells (left) and mountain grevillea (right), photographed last week at Werona, are simply stunning natives.

Grevilleas, melaleucas, hakeas and many other native plants are relatively easy to grow, but there are still many others that are either difficult to propagate, or difficult to keep alive in gardens.

It is a pity that, after more than 200 years, we have not yet learned the secrets of so many native plants.

Our own indigenous plants include the beautiful purple coral-pea, many ‘bush-peas’ or ‘egg-and-bacon’, blue pincushion, trigger-plants, rice-flowers, pink-bells, sundews and more. 

Many Australian plants have a symbiotic fungal association, in which the plant gains access to nutrients in the soil, protecting against toxicities and disease.

The native plant gets phosphate and other minerals through the fungus, and the fungus gets sugars from the plant roots.

By connecting with the fungal hyphae (root system), the native plant’s root system is increased and extended.

The lack of these ‘friendly fungi’ in potting mixes and garden soil no doubt contributes to the difficulty of growing many native plants in cultivation.

The effect of fire on growth of native plants is still incompletely understood.

This too contributes to the difficulty in propagating some species.

Neither of the two plants pictured – pink-bells and mountain grevillea (or cat’s-claws) are easy to grow.

They propagate best from cuttings, but the strike rate is poor, and growth is slow.

The same is true for many other native plants, and this makes them commercially unviable.

Who wouldn’t be glad of both of these colourful small plants in their garden, along with other local wildflowers such as pink heath, hyacinth orchid, waxlips, fringe-lilies and more?  

There are no grevilleas or melaleucas indigenous to Ballarat proper, but we have the Enfield grevillea (G. bedggoodiana) within 15 kilometres.

There is one hakea, the bushy needlewood (Hakea decurrens).

We also have some decorative grasses, and the weeping grass (Microlaena) is a suitable indigenous substitute for a small patch of lawn.

Despite some difficult species, there are many indigenous plants that can be grown, including a pelargonium (austral storksbill), silver banksia, most of the local wattles, two or three everlastings, ivy-leaved violet, two sheoaks, river bottlebrush, austral indigo, three or four tea-trees and more.

There is at least one nursery in Ballarat specialising in indigenous plants.

YOUNG MAGPIES OUT and about

Drivers beware: young magpies with no road-sense are on the roads again.