It is particularly delightful to go walking in the bush as this time of year as the land seems to burst out with a profusion of colour after being replenished by the rains. From the golden wattles that brighten even the greyest day to the tiny orchids and flowering bulbs there is so much to see.
Sadly Australia has one of the world’s worst extinction records in modern times. In total 126 species of plants and animals have vanished in just 200 years. In addition 182 species are classified as endangered, and 201 more are threatened.
Biological diversity – or biodiversity – is a term used to describe the variety of life on Earth. It refers to the wide variety of ecosystems and living organisms: animals, plants, their habitats and their genes. Each species has a role to play in an ecosystem – much like each part of our body has its own function. Often in nature though several species may fulfil a similar role in a particular ecosystem. This ensures if one species is lost the ecosystem as a whole will continue functioning. However if too many species are lost, as is happening not only in Australia but around the world, then the system starts to break down. Scientists see this loss of biodiversity as a major trigger that, like global warming, could shift the planetary conditions towards one that are not favourable to human beings.
Maintaining or restoring the biodiversity of our local area is one way in we can contribute a more sustainable way of life. Planting native plants in you garden helps conserve native plants and provide shelter and food for other native species. Some plants can also be a healthy source of food for humans. The Muntrie, for example, makes a great groundcover, has very tasty, nutritious berries (4 times more antioxidants than blueberries!) for humans and blue-tongue lizards.
What we don’t plant in our gardens is also important. A lot of exotic plants that are now crowding out native plants in the wild are “garden escapees”. Seeds from garden plants can be spread far and wide by birds, wind and rain plus the dumping of garden waste into natural areas spreads weeds that grow from corms, bulbs and stems. Loss of native plants obviously has negative consequences on the birds, animals and insects that depend on those plants for food. Additionally it costs governments and private landholders a lot of money to combat the spread of these weeds.
Sadly a lot of the plants that are considered major weeds in the Adelaide Hills and Mt Lofty Ranges are still commonly cultivated in gardens and sold in garden centres. These include: Agapanthus; Arum Lillies; Kikuyu grass; Fountain Grass; Gazanias; Topped Lavendar and succulents. See the Enironmental Weeds of Adelaide and the Mount Lofty Region Brochure compiled by the South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources for full list.
So next time you are considering what to plant in your garden why not choose one or our beautiful and unique native plants? The Backyards 4 Wildlife Database is a great source of information on what plants grow in your area. Also get out to your local national or conservation park and enjoy the beauty on offer for free.