Members of the community contact the APS NSW office email with a wide variety of questions. Glenda Browne summarises recent queries.
At the APS NSW email we get occasional emails from overseas requesting information or seeds or even research collaborators.
Commercial applications of plants
For example, we have had enquiries from people in Sri Lanka interested in medicinal plants and from a Latvian studying food phytochemistry by determining profiles of compounds in various species to identify bioactive compounds with health benefits for humans.
A kangaroo apple in Ireland
One gardener in County Wicklow Ireland had what he thought was a kangaroo apple thriving in a wildish area of his garden. He wondered whether the ‘apples’ were edible, and whether he should prune it. We were able to confirm that it was a kangaroo apple (Solanum aviculare), a tomato relative. Kangaroo apples tend to be short lived ephemerals that come up after disturbance events in Australian bushland.
The conclusion was that it is not recommended to eat the fruits as, although they are related to the tomato and potato, they contain alkaloids that can be poisonous. Apparently Indigenous Australians used the berries for contraception and abortion. Still a nice plant with nice flowers!
We wondered how the plant got into his garden The enquirer replied ‘I have no idea how this plant got here. I believe that some of my shrubs could be a native of New Zealand, so the previous owners must have made a trip to the Antipodes at some point. I will just admire the fruit and leave it to the birds, but, curiously, none of the fruit has ever been nibbled by any bird or animal. I guess they have their own internet/web for such matters.
The plant profiles on our website are heavily used. Readers sometimes send us corrections or extra information.
Hannah Ray bottlebrush
Callistemon ‘Hannah Ray’ is a form or cultivar of Callistemon viminalis (weeping bottlebrush) named after Mrs Hannah Hazlewood (nee Miss Hannah Ray). The Hazlewoods were a well known nursery family. One correspondent let us know that in the entry for this plant on our website his grandmother’s surname was spelt incorrectly, as it should have been Hazlewood not Hazelwood. This has now been corrected here
It used to be thought that there was just one Australian rhododendron species, but recent research has discovered a second. A correspondent from the Australian Rhododendron Society provided details which have been added to the website here.
People from other organisations with similar aims to our own often make contact either to share information or to suggest joint activities. Some of these are regarding local BioBlitzes.
Wikipedia explains a BioBlitz is an intense period of biological surveying in an attempt to record all the living species within a designated area. Groups of scientists, naturalists and volunteers conduct an intensive field study over a continuous time period (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BioBlitz).
Another correspondent was a tour guide, keen to improve her knowledge of Australian native plants and bush tucker to share with her international visitors. She was also keen to get in touch with other tour guides in our society. She was already familiar with the first person whose name cropped up.
Thanks to John Aitken, Mark Abell, Ralph Cartwright, Rhonda Daniels, Alix Goodwin, Heather Miles, John Nevin, Merle Thompson, Dick Turner and our external correspondents.