A challenge for our values: Australian plants as weeds

Tim Low, 6 Henry Street, Chapel Hill, Queensland 4069, Australia.


Australian plants can become weedy when they travel outside their original range as seeds transported accidentally or as cultivated plants. Few accidentally translocated plants become serious weeds but many cultivated plants have, especially garden plants. Many species also become highly invasive within their original range.

Garden writers have been advocating Australian plants since the 1830s. Very few native plants were popular in gardens until recently, but those that were include several of today's worst weeds. These plants had a long head start over species entering cultivation more recently. We can thus expect many more serious weeds in future, for example possibly Pittosporum ferrugineum. Victoria has the most weedy Australian garden plants. Several species have established south of their original range, and others have spread from eastern to western Australia, and vice versa.

In Australia today an 'exotic' plant to most people is one from overseas, and a 'native' plant a plant from Australia. But 'exotic' should apply to any plant established outside its normal distribution. Gardens of Australian plants should not be called 'native gardens' but 'national gardens'. Whether gardeners grow Australian or foreign plants matters less than whether they grow invasive or benign plants.


Plant Protection Quarterly (2001) 16 (3) 133-135.