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!

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.

Native plant identification resources

· Guest post by Tim Doolan ·

Tipping my hat to the present COVID-19 restrictions (not that my hat gets much wear now) I hope everyone is enjoying their meditation on solitude. What better time to discover some new resources for native plant identification!

Apart from asking someone who knows better, or going straight to Google, I’ve always wondered where your average punter goes for species information. When I was just starting out in the space it wasn’t easy to find resources on the subject, so this article is one of those ‘services to a past version of myself’ type of things.

Over the years I’ve found myself coming back to the same resources over and over, so I thought it might be worth listing my favourite three. This is by no means a definitive list. A lot of the Landcare crew are associated with JCU or happen to have botanical encyclopedias inside their heads. But for us mere mortals the following resources might be useful to know what you’re looking at.

  1. Field Guide to Plants of the Dry Tropics – Keith Townsend (available from Mary Who Bookshop)
Field guide book cover

Best bits: Visuals are top rate making identification easy.

Since it’s a small field guide, it’s not full of a huge amount of information. For example, I like to know as much as possible about natural habitat so I can make deductions about other things. But that said, what is provided is excellently condensed into a single paragraph for each particular species and really is fit for purpose for a small manual like this one.

  1. Across the top: Gardening with Australian plants in the tropics – Keith Townsend (available from Mary Who Bookshop)
Across the top book cover

Best bits: Considerable species compilation. Also, the first 50 pages or so are a decent and rare summary of common gardening issues in Townsville.

This book provides bare bones information. The sporadic visuals mean it’s not the most useful layman field manual.

  1. Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants at this website

Best bits: Extensive resource for Australian tropical rainforest plants. Both scientific and lay identification information with useful visuals and other interesting tidbits and trivia.

Note that the focus is on ‘tropical rainforest plants’ and misses a lot of the dryland ‘Brownsville’ species.

  1. Honourable mention – even bigger plant nerds than me

Quite often there are people at CDTLI, James Cook Uni, Society for Growing Native Plants, etc that can tell you things you won’t find written down anywhere. It’s just the nature of the thing that there is too much out there to be able to catalogue, so we all have our gems of knowledge. Which is why I suppose we like the adventure of it all so much.

Best bits: wealth of information sometimes documented nowhere else but inside their brains.

Note not as easy to access as a book from a library or a website

Bottlebrush or paperbark? Callistemon or Melaleuca?

· Guest post by Malcolm Tattersall ·

This all began with a somewhat puzzling comment in the gardening column of our local newspaper, “The Tinaroo Bottlebrush (Melaleuca recurva but still sold as Callistemon recurvis) is…”

“Isn’t a Melaleuca a paperbark?” I wondered. A bit of digging (no, not in the garden) showed me that what I thought I knew wasn’t true any more.

We have two kinds of names for plants, common names and scientific (Latin) names, and in this case both are problematic.

Scientific names

Scientific names are more precise than common names but they are sometimes changed by the taxonomists, and any changes take time to percolate through to the rest of the scientific community and the general public. In this case we had two closely related groups of plants long classified in two genera, Callistemon and Melaleuca, recently merged under a single name. Callistemon [species name] therefore became Melaleuca [species name] overnight.

The rationale for the merger is explained in this excellent article on the Australian Native Plants Society (Australia) website:

…the problem with the current classification on the basis of the arrangement of the stamens is that this supposed difference is not clear cut and Callistemon tends to merge into Melaleuca rather than being unambiguously distinct. The well known Callistemon viminalis is one that has often been discussed as not easily fitting the accepted definition of Callistemon. …A paper by Lyn Craven of the Australian National Herbarium (Novon 16 468-475; December 2006 “New Combinations in Melaleuca for Australian Species of Callistemon (Myrtaceae)”) argues that the differences between the two genera are insufficient to warrant them being retained separately and that they should be combined. As Melaleuca has precedence, adoption of Craven’s work would transfer all species of Callistemon into Melaleuca. Some state herbaria have adopted this change but, at this stage [2018], the re-classification has not been taken up in the Australian Plant Census, which ANPSA recognises as the authority on plant nomenclature. While all Callistemons have their flowers arranged in a “bottlebrush” shape the inflorescences of Melaleuca may also have a globular or irregular shape. It should also be remembered that there are other genera in the myrtle family which may have free or united stamens combined with “bottlebrush” flowers. Botany was never meant to be easy!

So the debate began more than ten years ago and the result is still not universally accepted. The Bush Garden Nursery, however, has made the change: you won’t find a Callistemon on the stocklist. One last little wrinkle is that the form of the species name must match that of the genus, which is why Callistemon recurvis became Melaleuca recurva rather than M. recurvis.

Common names

Paperbarks are named for their bark and bottlebrushes for their flowers. Given that some bottlebrushes have papery bark and some paperbarks have bottlebrushy flowers (sorry, but it’s hard to be more serious), the separation of their common names must always have been blurred. In fact, one particular tree in our own garden  worried me for years on just this account.

We have two small trees which are unambiguously bottlebrushes, one huge tree which is unambiguously a paperbark, and a tall but very scrawny tree with loose flaky bark (photo below) and red bottlebrushy flowers (pictured above).

Image of flaky bark

Should we call it a paperbark or a bottlebrush? We can call it whichever we like, since common names are like that. Is it a Melaleuca or Callistemon? Well, it’s now a Melaleuca, whatever it used to be.

My Friendly Local Expert put my mind at rest when I asked, informing me that it’s the rare red-flowering form of the common Melaleuca viridiflora, so it has always been a paperbark and a Melaleuca. I should have asked long ago!

Just for the sake of completeness

  • Banksias also have bottlebrush-shaped flower spikes but are distinctive enough not to be easily confused with Melaleucas.
  • Grevilleas are more closely related to Banksias than to Melaleucas but some have flowers which might mislead the casual onlooker. The common name of large species is “Silky Oak” but most species are known by the Latin name.
  • In some ways Hakeas forms a link between Grevilleas and Banksias, having hard woody seed pods with Banksia-like seeds while the flowers occur in Grevillea-like clusters.
  • Leptospermums are in the same family as Melaleucas (Myrtaceaeand share their common name, “Tea Tree” (also spelt “ti-tree”), with paperbarks.

This article first appeared on Green Path, Malcolm’s wildlife and environment blog, in 2018.

The importance of soil type

· Guest post by Timothy Doolan ·

Something to think about when choosing native plants for your garden or revegetation project is which plants are suited to your soil type.

There are a number of different soil types in the Townsville region. Higher quality soils are generally found along waterways and their immediate floodplains, e.g. Hermit Park, Mysterton, Mundingburra, and poorer quality soils are generally up on the flood free flats, eg Kirwan, Currajong, West End.

Townsville soils overall are typical of much of Australia with poor nutrient and water holding capacity, highly leached. This is yet another reason why Local provenance native plants are so important, as they are adapted to the local soil types as well as the local climate.

But even local plants can be subject to high variation in suitability given a patchwork of local soil types and the wonderful diversity of biomes within the greater Townsville region. So, which species for which soils?

Back in the 1970s there was a comprehensive soil survey of the Townsville region, with the results freely available online at the Queensland Government Publications website. Short of getting your own soil survey done, this is probably the best macro level source of information. There is also an accompanying ‘Land Capability Map’ on this site which gives brief comment on the agricultural merit of the different soils surveyed.

In general, the poorer quality soils of flood-free areas are more suitable for the ubiquitous Australian dryland species (gums, wattles, grasses), and the better quality ‘younger alluvial’ soils will more easily sustain a diversity of species and a more ‘rainforesty’ type of garden.

Of course, soil type is just one factor to consider, but it can definitely help with minimising water use, ensuring good plant growth and promoting a healthy ecosystem and native biodiversity.