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The benefits of Australian native plants

Michael Goodman

High on the list of the many reasons I love living in Australia is the natural beauty of the country. One of the key contributors to our magnificent landscapes is the enormous variety of wonderful native plants. I spent the first ten years of my life living in Montreal Canada, another beautiful country. I find it special that the forests of Canada and the Australian bush are both so pleasing to the senses, yet so different. The world would be much less interesting if the plant life were the same wherever you travelled. Why is it that plants differ from country to country? The answer is evolution. Each has developed in accordance with its own circumstances. Australian native plants require less water than their Canadian counterparts because, over a huge span of time, evolution favoured plants in Australia that require less water to thrive. So, we can see two benefits of Australian native plants, beauty, and water efficiency, but there are others including erosion control, versatility and water usage as we have seen. There are also benefits such as quality, financial advantages, habitat enhancement, environmental protection and ease of maintenance. Let’s explore each in a little more detail.

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Erosion Control

Native plants reduce the impact of erosion in that they help stabilise riverbanks and soil. They are effective at minimising land damage and salinity.

Versatility

This type of vegetation has many uses. If you simply want a nice garden, you can achieve this. If you wish to stabilise land, create a screen, generate shade, grow wonderful flowers, protect our heritage, or build a rockery, you can do this as well.

Water

Only 1% of the earth’s water is accessible for drinking despite over 70% of the planet’s surface being water. Most of it is salty. Good, potable water is therefore very much a limited resource and should not be taken for granted. Many of our facilities, from firefighting to public pools also need good quality water. The cost of water is increasing all the time. Native, or indigenous, plants generally need half the water of alternatives, because they have evolved in Australia’s tough, dry conditions and are therefore very hardy. In fact, many indigenous plants can survive by taking the water they need from rainfall alone. Australia often suffers from droughts. The less water we use on plants, the more will be available for emergencies.

Financial Advantages

Using less water reduces the cost of both water itself and energy. Native plants also save on fertiliser and pesticides. They are adapted to the local soil already. They are inexpensive and local councils will often provide you limited quantities at no cost. Farmers can benefit enormously by increasing outputs and saving on irrigation, pest management and other costs. All of this leads to higher land values.

Habitat and Biodiversity

The need to protect our local animals does not just apply to country areas. Around 50% of our wildlife that is under threat lives close to built-up areas. It has been suggested that by ensuring suburbs have at least 30% indigenous street trees, local bird species can be increased by over 10%. Because Australian animals have evolved along with the plants of the country, each supports the other. Australian wild animals are at home with their local plants, which provide sustenance for the food chain’s lowliest creatures, which ultimately feed larger fauna. The plants also provide shelter to creatures of all sizes and complexities. Planting intelligently can actually see native animals that have been lost to your area come back. They also help animals to move between areas they would not be able to get to without using a “roadway” of native plants. A variety of plants and animals, or biodiversity, makes an important contribution to water, soil, and air quality, as well as food and other natural resources. It is also a factor in climate stability. Australia has many threatened species that will benefit as more and more indigenous plants are available for their habitat. We all know that koalas are one of the animals threatened with extinction. To survive, they need the right varieties of eucalyptus trees.

Environmental

Water is critical to the environment, so anything that preserves water is a good thing. Using less energy and pesticides also supports the environment. Native plants can help reduce the number of environmental weeds moving from gardens into surrounding areas. Land use creates 20% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. The more sensible we are in using our land, including what we plant in it, the better off the planet will be.

Maintenance

Being suited to the local conditions, these plants are more comfortable in those conditions and thrive more easily with less care. They are simple to maintain, particularly once they have been settled in the ground for around one year. This establishment process is easier than for many non-indigenous alternatives. These plants become weeds less often and local pests and disease are less likely to impact them. As well as saving money, you will save time.

Beauty

Whether in the city or country, the local landscape and character is protected and improved by the inclusion of beautiful native vegetation in and around your own home. There are over 24,000 species of Australian indigenous plants and many of them do not grow in any other country. A great number of them are particularly distinctive and often grow flowers, which only adds to the overall positive impact. Of course, we are not just talking about small gardens; farmers, councils, enterprises, government, schools, and many others can contribute to an overall beautification effort. Native birds, butterflies and frogs are attracted to native vegetation. Adding these to the attractiveness of the plants themselves only serves to increase the appeal.

Hopefully, this will have given you encouragement to favour Australian natives when looking to plant either in a garden or elsewhere. A tremendous amount of information on the subject is readily available including in the various resources mentioned below. Depending on what you want to accomplish, you can be confident that Australian indigenous plants will be able to assist you in achieving it. Enjoy the beauty and – Happy Planting!

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