Join or renew your membership online

This year (2022) we have new memberships available which will be available from 1st October 2022. We still have the basic annual membership for only $10 but we also now have a family membership for up to four people, a Frequent Planter Membership which offers discounts at our Bush Garden Nursery and a Business Sponsorship giving local business’s a way to support our local revegetation activities.

All funds go back into supporting our local Landcare activities across the local Townsville area. To join now or renew an existing membership for 2023/2024 year by using the links below to pay by card on our secure Square payment platform. Memberships are valid from 1st November to 31st October.

Basic Membership – $10 – Join here

Family Membership – $35 – Join here

Frequent Planter Membership – $30 – Join here

Business Sponsorship – $250 – Join here

Membership cards so you can redeem your nursery discount will be available from the nursery after 1st November 2023.

Thank you for your support!

When will my native plants flower?

· Guest post by Julia Hazel ·

Short answer: hard to predict. Long answer: please read on…

Expect natural variation

Native plants at CDTLI’s nursery are grown from locally-collected seed to maintain the natural characteristics of each species, including natural variability between individual plants.

This variation between individuals is essential for native species to survive in the wild. It’s also valuable in revegetation planting and can be good for gardens too. But it means we cannot expect our native plants to behave like commercially cultivated species. Those have been selected, over many seed-generations, for predictable growth in human-regulated farms and gardens.

The planting guide said…

Flowering periods mentioned in books and web pages usually indicate ‘typical’ or ‘average’ timing for a species if it’s growing in the area(s) known to the authors. Even if you are in the same area, each of your plants will be influenced, sometimes in unpredictable ways, by very localised variations in soil, climate and weather.

Hibiscus townsvillensis
Photo: Julia Hazel
Give them time

Small, short-lived species will typically flower during their first year. Slower-growing shrubs and trees are likely to need a few years of growth before their first flowering. Then they may start with rather sparse flowers and take a few more years to reach peak flowering.

Can we help them flower sooner?

To some extent, yes. Do some research first, and choose each plant to suit the particular spot you have for it. Some species like part shade but many of our native plants flower best with lots of sun. Take care, however, at the planting stage: tiny plants may need temporary shade.

Get your new native plants off to a good start. Early progress will help them flower sooner. Ensure they get regular water and a little native plant fertiliser at first. Transition to less frequent watering as the plant gets established, and allow it to adapt gradually to natural conditions. For some species, flowering is triggered by the onset of rain after a prolonged dry period.

Pavetta australiensis
Photo: Julia Hazel

Another tip: don’t prune unnecessarily. More branches and leaves help the plant take in extra energy for growth and flowering. Also consider where on your plant the future flowers will appear. If you cut back a species that produces its flowers at the ends of the branches, the plant must grow new branches before it can flower.

For many species, flowering is influenced by natural changes in day length, temperature and dry season/wet season moisture levels – but the interaction between all those factors is complex and hard to predict. Some people like to intervene, for example giving copious water at certain times, and it can be fun to experiment.

It’s often easier to let your established native plants do their own thing. Most likely they will give you a some nice flowering surprises over time.

Grevillea parallela
Photo: Julia Hazel

2022/23 – Meet the Committee

Thank you to everyone that came to the AGM on Saturday 15th October 2022. We had a great turn out and have a new Management Committee for the upcoming year.

New Management Committee 2022-2023

President: Vacant
Secretary: Brittany Butler
Treasurer: Michael Tompkins
Committee Members: Greg Calvert, Scott O’Harte, Crystal Falknau, Bernadette Boscacci

Leucaena leucocephala: friend and foe

· Guest post by Dave Pratchett ·

Goondaloo Creek Landcare site became the focus of my Landcare volunteering in 2019, soon after we moved to Townsville. Assisting with weed control and watering in the newly planted section opposite Tech NQ, I could look upstream to an area rejuvenated through years of sustained effort. But downstream was dominated by leucaena trees, heavy with seed pods. From a local Landcare perspective, these trees are a major foe.  

I cannot help but feel partly responsible for the invasion by this particular weed species, because early in my career in Australia, I worked hard to grow it!

The establishment of leucaena as a cattle fodder in Australia was led by Dr Ray Jones and is a fascinating story. The plant contains toxic mimosine and Ray proved that ruminants can tolerate this only when they have a very specific gut bacterium; he identified the bacterium (which was then named Synergistes jonesii) and by sheer persistence, brought samples to Australia.

In the 1980s I worked with Ray running trials in the Ord River Irrigation area to determine the optimal stocking rate and plant density for finishing cattle bred on Kimberley stations. Although various problems reduced marketing potential, the value of leucaena as a fodder crop was proven spectacularly as we reached 1500 kg (5 head) per hectare.

I noted “Leucaena seedlings are difficult to establish under dryland conditions and under irrigation. Germination and emergence are usually not a problem, provided the seed is treated with hot water to break dormancy. Once the seedlings are two to three centimetres high, growth slows down and weeds can compete with and smother them’.

No one has boiled the seeds of the leucaena plants which have now invaded much of Northern Australia and they establish particularly well along river banks, and in cleared areas. The species is however a useful fodder plant cultivated by cattle producers in parts of Queensland, including our local area. It is also a ‘friend’ to many in  its native South America and countries such as Indonesia and India, where leucaena is a valuable dryland fodder and has an amazing variety of other uses, including human nutrition.

So, like all weeds, leucaena is a problem only when it invades areas where it is not wanted. It is certainly not wanted on our Landcare sites and I look forward to spending my later years in Australia working with Coastal Dry Tropics Landcare volunteers to reduce the damage it has caused here.

Birdwings and butterfly vines

· Guest post by Malcolm Tattersall ·

Many of us know that we should grow a particular vine to attract Birdwing butterflies to our gardens but just what the vine is called, and which butterflies rely on it, are recurring questions.

Very briefly, the caterpillars of one group of Swallowtail butterflies feed exclusively on one group of closely-related plants. The butterflies are the Troidini, a “tribe” (in scientific language that’s a level between “family” and “genus”) of Swallowtails (Papilionidae) and the plants are the Birthworts (Aristolochiaceae).

Our Troidini are the Clearwing Swallowtail (Cressida cressida), Red-bodied Swallowtail (Pachliopta polydorus) and all of the Birdwings (Ornithoptera species). The Aristolochiaceae we’re interested in are in the genus Aristolochia, or used to be. Many of them are commonly known as Dutchman’s Pipe vines.

Everything gets messy at the next level of detail. If you want to avoid that but still attract the butterflies to your garden, this is all you need to know:

  • Aristolochia acuminata, also known as Aristolochia tagala, is a food plant of all our Birdwing species and of the Red-bodied and Clearwing Swallowtails, and it is the vine most widely grown in Townsville gardens. It is sold by the Bush Garden Nursery as Aristolochia acuminata.
  • Richmond Butterfly Vine, Pararistolochia praevenosa, is a food plant of all Birdwing species and the Red-bodied Swallowtail. It is the vine widely promoted in SE Queensland as the “birdwing butterfly vine.”
  • Dutchman’s Pipe Vine, Aristolochia elegans also known as Aristolochia littoralis, is the main one to avoid. It’s an exotic, introduced from South America, and it poisons our butterflies. The adults lay their eggs on it but the caterpillars rarely survive.
  • If you stick to the Latin names, there should be no confusion about which vine is which.‬

One reason that the questions never seem to go away is that there have been changes in the scientific names of both the vines and the butterflies. Another is that “common names” (the names in English) are used inconsistently to cover several similar species. And, finally, there are several other native vines which are food plants for one swallowtail butterfly or another. All of these are discussed in the longer original version of this article on my blog “Green Path”.

How the “coronavirus tree” got its name

· Guest post by Adam Goulding ·

Before COVID-19 caused temporary closure of CDTLI’s Bush Garden Nursery, our Saturday sessions were often busy and tended to attract passing walkers, cyclists and runners. We even had a couple come in half way through our volunteers’ smoko, only to be rather disappointed that we were not a coffee shop, as they originally thought.

On our last open Saturday, we had four running types who were interested in native plants. One of them had a picture of a tree for me to identify. So, gingerly maintaining my 1.5 metre social distancing, I looked at their photograph.

It showed the round flower head of what they called the “coronavirus tree” . And yes, it indeed looks similar to a greatly-magnified coronavirus!

I was able to identify the tree species and pointed to one of these trees growing at the Nursery. As botanical readers may already have guessed, it is the Leichhardt Tree, Nauclea orientalis.

To me henceforth Nauclea orientalis will be referred to as the “coronavirus tree”. I will be planting one of them in my garden to remember the global pandemic.

The image accompanying this post is “Australia’s ‘coronavirus tree’ ” created by Julia Hazel as a derivative of “Nauclea orientalis” by Tony Rodd (used under CC-BY-SA) and “Computer render of SARS-CoV-2 virus” by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (in the public domain). It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Guest post by Tim Doolan

Worm farms have become all the rage recently, and I’ve been lucky enough to have received one for my birthday.

For the uninitiated, worm farms are a container where you throw food scraps and provide an environment for particular types of worms to flourish. In return they give you worm juice and castings to purportedly make your soil healthier and plants grow better. It seems to make sense, but I’m yet to experience this in practice.

The most popular at the moment as far as I can tell is the Worm Café, which is what I’ve got. The photo above shows the worm farm stack positioned in my downstairs laundry. The photo below shows the inside, covered by a hessian sack.

People also commonly make their own worm farm using something like an old bath tub or old wheelie bin.

The particular types of worms aren’t your regular earthworms. They are special little gutses who eat a lot faster and break down waste into useful garden products. There’s various types, I have read Blue Worms (Perionyx excavatus) being well suited to warm climates but there’s differing opinions, there are also cool sounding names like Red Wrigglers and African Nightcrawlers. The photo at the top of this post shows the wrigglers at work in my worm farm.

Whatever the worm, they break down waste and produce worm juice and castings. It’s not exactly fertiliser but more about the microbes that break organic material into usable nutrients and well-structured soil for plants to thrive. Worm castings are basically the same sort of thing as worm juice but in solid form to also add bulk and structure to the soil. The goods – castings from the bottom bin – can be seen in the photo below.

I’ve had the worm farm for about 10 months now, so I’m hardly an expert, but these are a couple of things I’ve found to be of some relevance trying to set up a worm farm in our climate:

Land planarian – These worm/slug flat looking things eat your worms and are apparently rife in the tropics. I had a bunch that were eating my worms so picked them all out by hand and haven’t seen any since. I think they got in there in the first place from contaminated worms.

Ants – From time to time I’ve had ants try to set up a nest or steal food, but it’s usually because it’s a bit dry in there. Add water and wah-lah, they are gone. Also helps to cover the top of the food with a hessian sack.

Acidity – There was a stage at the beginning where it smelt a bit like a dodgy seafood basket the second time around, but that was because I was adding too many acidic things (oranges, lemons, onions). Once I stopped doing that and added some alkaline crusher dust things balanced out and the smell went away. Your worm farm should magically smell pretty much like nothing, or damp soil if you really put your nose in there.

Temperature control – This was a big problem until I found a suitable place in the dark out of the wind. The worms tried to escape or retreated to the wettest coldest corners of the container away from the food (and their job!) to try to not get cooked in the heat.

Other creatures – there’s a lot of other life in my worm farm, little crustaceans, crawly things, but it all seems to co-exist with the worms just fine.