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