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Our members love sharing their stories, insights and experiences with others. Below are a selection of posts. Members are welcome to post their stories. 

Warren and Gloria Sheather regularly post articles on their garden experiences. See their Garden Diary here.

Members' stories are also regularly published in GardenDrum, an online gardening magazine - a selection of these are provided for your interest. 


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  • 6 Dec 2017 9:03 PM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

    Mark Henley (Newcastle Group) has shared the great work being done by Top End birdwatcher and natural history and cultural guide, Denise Lawungkurr Goodfellow. 

    Denise is hoping to raise funds for the local Darwin River Volunteer Bushfire Brigade, through the sale of the increasingly rare tropical cypress, Callitris intratropica.  While this tree is declining in numbers in the Top End of Australia it is thriving on Denise' property where there are several specimens over 20 metres tall. Hundreds of smaller specimens are growing under powerlines and need to be removed.  The trees for sale are 1 to 2 metres tall, either as Christmas trees or dug up and replanted (details below).

    Denise' property has a large range of diverse fauna and flora including over 90 bird species, the moth Opodiphthera carnea, a moth rarer than the Atlas Moth. This diversity may be representative of properties throughout the Berry Springs/ Darwin River area. Yet, the role of their volunteer fire brigades in saving their fauna and flora has received little attention.  Denise says that their place has nearly gone up in flames on three occasions this year, one because of some bloke using a grader on a stinking hot day, another caused by an arsonist, and the third by the powerline breaking.  Thank goodness for the firies who turned up on time. 

    Denise has made a significant contribution to her local area plants and indigenous people. 

    She was elected to Darwin City Council in 1981 on the platform of conserving mangroves and evidence-based policy.  Bagot Aboriginal Reserve was within her ward and discovering the residents had no representation she set out to win their trust.  The president, a very fierce Larrakia woman called Mrs. Thompson, told her to catch a water python as a test of her resolve. This entailed four hours in a lake inhabited by large estuarine crocodiles. The Indigenous women were horrified when Denise was then threatened with prosecution, and to protect her, they adopted her. 

    Denise began guiding in 1983 with most of her clientele being well-educated, well-travelled Americans who heard of her by word of mouth. As biological consultant she has conducted fauna surveys in the remote Top End, often solo. 

    At the request of her adopted Aboriginal sisters, Denise helped establish an appropriate tourism project on their country, Baby Dreaming, in western Arnhem Land. Elders also decided to make their prized hunting waterhole a sanctuary for birds. The sensitive visitation enhanced the status of women and families.   

    Denise has worked as a wildlife and Indigenous adviser to television, including on programs like the BBC’s Deadly 60! In 2000 she was contracted as an interpreter/transcriber on the Lonely Planet’s Guide to Aboriginal Australia. 

    Her book Birds of Australia’s Top End has been described as winning ‘top honors’ (American Birdwatcher’s Digest), and ‘impressive’ (American Birding Association’s Winging It).  Her autobiographical Quiet Snake Dreaming is used for literacy projects in European educational institutions and cross-cultural awareness courses.  American author, Jonathon Franzen, said this book gave him ‘great insight’ into the lives of Aboriginal Australians.  Indigenous people including Leon, a Tiwi Islander, have said the book will be good for bringing people together (Sept. 2013).

    Another of Denise’s books, Fauna of Kakadu and The Top End, has been a “core text” of the University of NSW’s summer school since 2000.

    In 2009 Denise was invited to speak in the US on conservation, wildlife of the Top End, and Indigenous issues and tourism, giving 33 lectures in 2 1/2 months.  

    Denise has recently finished her PhD on American couples who travel internationally to watch birds and is travelling to Lismore next week for her graduation ceremony!  The PhD has sparked a lot of interest, having been downloaded nearly 190 times in 30 different countries.  Denise finds that amazing!

    To support Denise's drive to raise funds for the Fire Brigade while saving the Callitris, any Southern-State APS members who would: 

    • Like to buy a tree for a friend or relative in the NT
    • Know someone in NT who might like to buy one, or
    • Like to make a donation to help out the Darwin River Volunteer Bushfire Brigade,  
    please contact the Darwin River Fire Brigade Treasurer, Beverly Shuker, on shukerfarm@bigpond.com. The photo above shows Denise with MLA Gary Higgins, who with his staff member, Tasma, kindly printed off the posters advertising the Callitris for sale. 

    Denise can be contacted on goodfellow@bigpond.com.au. 

    Thanks Mark, for the wonderful introduction to Denise.

  • 6 Dec 2017 8:28 PM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

    Des and Marie O'Connor recently visited the stunning native garden of Gordon and Maria Reynolds in Toowoomba. This garden was awarded the Grand Champion in the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers festival, a huge, annual festival. 

    The garden was characterised by little grass, only avenues of plants!

    The local Chronicle magazine says:

    ….its colourful avenues delight at every turn, setting a new standard of excellence in Australian native gardening. See more information from the Chronicle here.

  • 19 Nov 2017 8:17 PM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

    We had a wonderful gathering at Ku-Ring-Gai Wildflower Garden hosted by Barry Lees and the North Shore Group last Saturday, 18 November. 

    We started with a bush walk around the garden, which in many areas is showing the impact of a tough, dry winter, followed by heavy rains. While most of the flowers are finished, we found some wonderful surprises. 

    This was followed by a fascinating talk by Bronwen Roy, a PhD student, who is studying the impact of viruses on honey bees and the potential impact on our own native bees. More information on the talk will come in the next Native Plants for NSW journal. 























    Pictures in order:

    •  Multiple cones of Banksia robur
    • Dicksonia antarctica in the fern house
    • Blandfordia, Christmas Bell, arising from a rocky outcrop
    • Ceratopetalum gummiferum, NSW Christmas Bush
  • 13 Nov 2017 5:21 PM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

    Grass Trees, Xanthorrhoea spp.

    I have always been fascinated with Grass Trees and they are such an iconic emblem of our bush. Those of you who have travelled to and from Inverell and Guyra via the Ensmore and Tingha Roads will have seen some great specimens (see left) along the northern section of this route which winds among the hills and crosses Paradise Creek and the Macintre River in its upper reaches.

    In September Eric and I joined the Inverell Bushwalkers for an outing to the Paradise Creek area where we saw some magnificent specimens, all of which must be quite ancient. 

    Some, then relatively small, were included in the well known art work “Bailed Up” which Tom Roberts painted on Paradise Station in 1895 (see below). 

    Grass Trees grow only in Australia and occur in all States, growing in heaths and dry forests. There are over 30 species in all; locally, in the Armidale region, our common species are X. johnsonii and X. glauca. They are closely related to the Lomandra spp.

    'Xanthorrhoea' means 'yellow flow' in ancient Greek and refers to its resin. This resin was much prized by Aboriginal people, being used as a glue or as a coating/waterproofing material. The early settlers also found it extremely useful, as a glue, a varnish, polish and a coating of tin materials. It was used in the sizing of paper, in soap and perfumery and even in the manufacture of early gramophone records. 

    Nowadays, Grass Trees are becoming much prized as garden plants and many of our members will have one or more in their garden. They are extremely slow growing, estimated to grow 1-2cm per year, though it varies between species and conditions. A 5 metre tree could be 200 - 600 years old. 

    One suggestion from an old timer for ensuring garden survival is to add 1 cup of brown sugar to a bucket of water and apply monthly for the first 2 years. This, he claimed, helps feed the mycorrhiza in the soil which are critical for Grass Tree survival. Unfortunately grass trees are threatened by the root rot disease Phytophora cinnamomi. In a garden setting, scale infestation can be a problem and this can be managed (with difficulty) by repeated applications of white oil.

    Some species will branch if the growing point is damaged. The stem/trunk is built from accumulated leaf bases, cemented together with resin. The trunk is hollow and nutrients move up inside via aerial roots. 

    The close up picture of the trunk (below) shows how hard and furrowed it can be. One species X. acaulis which is found west of the Divide in the Piliga area, does not develop an above ground trunk.

    Most Grass Trees are able to survive fire as the growing point is below ground level where it is protected by the outer trunk. 

    Fire will also promote flowering and blackened trunks, topped by short skirts of leaves may have multiple flower heads rising above them. One suggestion for gardeners is to pour smoked water into the Grass Tree centre to promote flowering.

    Flower spikes which can grow to 2-3 metres are magnificent; the multiple small flowers, full of nectar, are mobbed by insects and birds. 

    The specimens observed by us on our walk through the paddocks are all old giants. Young plants are destroyed by grazing animals, cattle sheep and feral goats. 

    Grass Trees are protected in reserves and national parks but are at risk by clearing and harvesting from the wild. Harvesting from the bush is regulated and legally harvested plants will have certification. 

    Transplanting is difficult with a high failure rate. Young, seed grown plants can be purchased from nurseries. Just be patient.

    For more pictures members can visit Armidale District Group's web site

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  • 10 Nov 2017 10:09 AM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

    Thanks to Noel Rosten, from the North Shore Group, for sharing these beautiful images. 

    New Holland Honeyeater


    Yellow Robin


    Yellow-faced Honeyeater

  • 10 Nov 2017 7:23 AM | RALPH CARTWRIGHT (Administrator)

    I know this is nothing to do with native plants, but rather native wildlife that is essential to the long-term health of our forests and is now a threatened species.

    Walking home a couple of days ago, I heard an unusual squeaking sound which turned out to be a very cute, baby grey-headed flying fox.

    I phoned WIRES and they came and collected it very quickly.

    A 2 month old baby, according to the rescuer, dropped by it's mother during the night and was quite weak. Still strong enough to be difficult to remove from the railings and it had good lungs to make all that noise.

    Luckily a dog or cat didn't get it during the day.

    My reason for posting here is that the video I took has gone viral. It has been shared over 100 times now and I'm getting friend requests on Facebook from as far away as Japan, Mexico, USA and Canada to name a just a few !

    I'm unable to load the video on this site, but if you'd like to watch it, (it's only 19 seconds), use this link to go to the APS Sutherland Facebook page and view it there: Cute baby bat video


  • 2 Nov 2017 3:38 PM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

    Over 130 people attended our quarterly gathering at Coffs Harbour in September. Here are some of the beautiful plants and vistas on show. 


    Alloxylon flammeum, Tree Waratah


    Beautiful reflections in the river


    A bit of paradise on the morning beach walk


    Kookaburras greeting the morning. 

  • 1 Nov 2017 2:32 PM | RALPH CARTWRIGHT (Administrator)


    This is Cymbidium suave, or Snake Orchid, usually found in stumps and in forks of gum trees but this one was at ground level, so got some easy pictures. Apparently, once the pods turns brown the kernel can be eaten raw and has a similar taste to peanuts. The juice from the stems was once used as a glue and applied directly to wounds (particularly burns).


    Everyone knows the Sydney Rock Orchid, Dendrobium Speciosum, but more unusual to find one with seed pods on it. These were growing in full sun on an exposed rock shelf in the Royal National Park, Sydney. Tough plants.



  • 26 Oct 2017 4:57 PM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

    We recently received this picture from Bruce Duncan, who runs an olive farm in Mokine, Western Australia (Clackline Valley Olives). He reports that thanks to the information  about plants on our APS NSW website, he’s been able to identify a plant in his yard.  This Ricinocarpus pinifolius is certainly extremely happy! Thanks Bruce.

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GardenDrum stories from our members

As well as the stories above, we regularly share members stories with a wider audience through GardenDrum, a leading online gardening magazine with:

  • Over 75,000 unique user visits a month (source Google Analytics April 2016)
  • International traffic ranking currently 264,650
  • Success based on independent, well-researched and high quality journalism and photography. 

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