Thursday, 25 January 2018

Permaculture with Illawarra native plants

Many Australian and Illawarra native plants are used in permaculture, and many more have the potential to be used. The area has plenty of edible and habitat plants, as well as ones that attract insect pollinators. So I thought I'd do a post on a few of my favourites!

Several of the introduced weed species that are popular for foraging also have local native relatives, including Swamp Dock (Rumex brownii), Forest Startwort (or Chickweed) (Stellaria flaccida) and Variable Plantain (Plantago varia). They are all easy enough to grow. Why cultivate weeds when you can grow local instead? Harvest those introduced species one last time and let the natives take over!

Below are some of the more useful and widely available species. I'm not saying that these are all perfect permaculture plants and that they should be used exclusively instead of introduced species. But they have their uses and would be worth a try in the right spot.
Trees for shade and food
Notes
A small tree to around 6m high. The leaves have a pleasant, cinnamon-like scent and can be used in cooking. Some people use them like bay leaves.

This plant grows well in full sun or part shade and copes with long dry periods, though will be more bushy and provide better shade for plants underneath if it gets regular water. Pruning of lower branches can be used to create a more tree-like form and create more space for under-planting.
A slow-growing tree that will reach 6m to 12m in cultivation, but can be kept pruned. It's hardy and handsome, with closely-spaced glossy green leaves and juicy, edible fruit that can be made into preserves or sauces. It will grow in sun or shade, and copes with coastal winds and salt spray.

Brush Cherry (Syzygium australe)
Photo by Mithra Cox.
In cultivation, this is a small tree to around 8m high with a rounded or 'lollipop' shaped crown. It bears masses of edible pink fruit which are also enjoyed by animals such as possums.

It grows well in full sun but will also cope with part shade.

Black Apple (Planchonella australis)
Photo by Leon Fuller.
An attractive small to medium tree that usually reaches around 6m to 10m high. It can be bushy in form, but lower branches can be pruned off. It has tasty fruit around the size of a plum, and a flavour between a plum and a custard apple. Each fruit contains 2-3 large shiny seeds.

This tree grows best in full sun or part shade and copes with most soil types.
Support trees

A small, sometimes shrubby and weak-limbed tree to around 5m high, with appealing soft, heart-shaped leaves. It improves soil, provides protection for young or small plants, and provides habitat for native birds and insects.

It grows best in part shade and benefits from additional water during dry periods.
A fast-growing large shrub or small tree to around 5m tall; improves soil (by fixing nitrogen), and provides protection for lower plants. Grow it in full sun or part shade.
This tall shrub or very small tree (to around 2.5m high) improves soil by fixing nitrogen, and provides protection for lower plants. It will grow in full sun or part shade.
Native Peach (Trema tomentosa var. aspera)
Photo by Byron Cawthorne-MacGregor.
A small bushy tree that improves soil structure and provides protection for low plants. It brings in masses of birds for its small black fruit and these will leave behind droppings as they feed.

Full sun is best for rapid growth and early fruiting.



Native Rosella (Hibiscus heterophyllus)
Photo by Byron Cawthorne-MacGregor.
A robust and fast-growing tree that improves soil structure and provides protection for low plants. Its flowers bring in pollinating insects. It can be grown in full sun or part shade, but will grow much faster in full sun.
Support shrubs

A bushy rounded shrub to around 3m high that fixes nitrogen in the soil. It often grows wider than it is high, and lower branches may need to be kept pruned back if a tree form is desired. It can be grown in full sun or part shade.
Photo by Leon Fuller.
A dainty shrub to around 1.5m high that improves soil (by fixing nitrogen), and provides protection for lower plants. The purple flowers flowers attract bees and other insect pollinators.

Plants can be grown in full sun (where they will flower best but may need extra water) or in part shade.

Golden Tip (Goodia lotifolia)
Photo by Leon Fuller.
A bushy shrub to 4m that improves soil (by fixing nitrogen), and provides protection for lower plants. Its yellow pea-style flowers attract bees and other insect pollinators. Plants can be pruned or coppiced.

Best grown in part sun, though it will grow in full sun with plenty of water. It likes rich, well-drained soil.

Lantern Bush (Abutilon oxycarpum)
Photo by Carl Glaister.
A shrub to around 2m that flowers much of the year and attracts bees and other insects. In natural conditions it is often twiggy and sparse, but with good sunlight and extra water it is denser. It is useful as a 'chop and drop' plant. Best grown in part shade.
Supporting groundcovers

A pretty, fast-spreading groundcover that may scramble up some plants but helps prevent erosion or evaporation in bare areas. The flowers are insect attracting. It grows best in full sun or light shade.
A spreading and dense-growing groundcover. The leaves are edible once steamed, and taste a bit like spinach or silverbeet. Grows in full sun with extra water or in part shade.
A low and dense-growing groundcover with edible leaves and flowers. It is also known as Scurvy Weed. It grows best in full sun or part shade. May require some management to prevent excessive spreading.
Photo by Kirsten Vine.
A super-tough succulent for sunny, sandy sites. The fruit are tasty, though they contain a large seed, and the young leaves can be blanched and eaten.

Grow this plant in full sun. Sandy soil is best, but it will also grow on other soil types.

Photo by Mithra Cox.
An edible light groundcover or twiner reported to be a ‘dynamic accumulator.’ It can spread quite rapidly in good conditions and scramble up other plants, and may need active management. It grows well in part shade or full sun.
Water plants

Very fast-growing water plant that fixes nitrogen and is useful for enriching soil or compost. Be aware that it can cover the water surface very densely and tend to make life difficult for frogs, as the tadpoles can't get enough oxygen. Can be grown in full sun or part shade.

References
Some of the information on this page is drawn from Grow Local: Illawarra Edible Garden Guide (Happy Earth, Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama Councils and Environment Trust NSW).



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