District Group 2023 Highlights Part 1


With 19 local groups around NSW, there is always a lot of regional activity – bushwalks, meetings, talks, garden visits, plant sales, bush care and propagation. Here are some highlights from 2023.

APS Armidale and District

Without a doubt the Highlights of our year were the garden visits and the excursions to local bush  areas. The latter involved private properties which were under Conservation Orders. One day in April we were able to visit two very different gardens in the same area. The owners of both  gardens are involved in planning and working on bush plantings and restoration projects around the  town and immediate surroundings. 

The first was an urban garden in Uralla, now approaching 10 years of age. The display of flowering  Banksia species was breath taking, prominent being B. integrifolia ‘Angourie’ and B. serrata while  lower growing forms were scattered through the garden. Colour and interesting forms in the  understory were provided by Grevillea, Epacris and Correa spp. Some species are rare locally and  are grown as part of conservation efforts. Small honeyeaters were obviously enjoying this haven. 

The second garden was on the outskirts of Uralla. Here, on the 10 acre block, there were sweeping  views across formed garden beds backed by wide lawns, leading to a rise with scattered eucalypts;  trees and shrubs edged the long driveway and are used in windbreaks on the borders of the property.  Once again, the birds filled the air with their calls. On a lower section of the property reclamation of the creek was underway with many appropriate plantings along the edges. When the owners moved  to live on the property 4 years ago vegetation was limited to a few eucalypt and Angophora trees. 

One of our early excursions was to properties to the west of Armidale. Led by a local botanist we were  able to visit, by 4WD and on foot, four differing communities – grassy woodlands dominated by  Eucalyptus species, a Cypress pine (Callitris endlicheri) woodland surrounded by granite outcrops  and a riverine community with Casuarina cunninghamii. There was evidence of trees dying in the  recent drought but there had been no fires through for about 30 years. Interesting discussions were  held about fire regimes with the take home message that every area needed to be assessed on its own merits.

Visit to Eucalyptus prava woodland and  Cassinia laevis discussing fire 18 March  2023.
Visit to Eucalyptus prava woodland and Cassinia laevis discussing fire 18 March 2023.
Uralla garden beds under the eucalypts.

Blue Mountains

During the year the group visited the Cumberland Plains Woodland in the nearby Castlereagh Nature Reserve and Agnes  Banks Nature Reserve, an endangered ecological community once prevalent across the Sydney  Basin, which had a surprising diversity of beautiful plants.  

We also hosted a talk on this topic by Peter Ridgeway, author of a Wide Open Land: Walking the last  of Sydney’s Woodlands

We also explored the unfamiliar in our own back yard. 

The group visited a rainforest garden at Springwood in the Blue Mountains which featured many  intriguing plants that most of us were unfamiliar with, with many of the mature specimens now  producing their unusual fruits and flowers. The garden is situated on a bush fire prone ridge and has  been intentionally designed to reduce fire risk by planting less flammable broadleaved species to  protect the house and also provide a cool shady summer retreat. 

Later in the year, a night walk through our own Glenbrook Native Plant Reserve, revealed some of  the nocturnal wildlife and many insects and invertebrates that inhabit our little patch of native  bushland. 

Our annual Spring Fair in September was a huge success which this year drew bigger crowds than  ever before. 

This year’s event also featured a guest bush tucker plant stall and a bird poster stall, as well as plant  propagation demonstrations, guided walks in the Reserve, plant sales and advice on growing Australian native plants. 

Increasing our social media profile with an active Facebook Page for the Glenbrook Native Plant  Reserve with links to local community groups has increased interest in the Reserve and its activities  and boosted attendance and plant sales. This project is ongoing and we are continuing to attract new  followers. 

Another memorable occasion was the celebration of the 90th birthday of one of our long time  members with their family and friends at a BBQ party held at the Reserve, celebrating also the many  friendships made over many decades of volunteering at our Glenbrook Native Plant Reserve.

Above: Dick Turner leading a propagation workshop.

Left: Excursion to Agnes Banks Reserve. 

Central Coast

The year saw a boost in meeting attendance due to post-Covid confidence, improved transportation, and engaging guest speakers. Unified marketing strategies, conceived by Jennifer Newland, attracted new members. Membership numbers remained above 140, with retirements balanced by new members. The onboarding process was enhanced to better meet new members’ needs, with David Boccalatte working with the State Membership Officer, Merle Thompson, to improve professionalism.

The group mourned the loss of life member Audrey Taggart, who was instrumental in advocating for native plants and contributed significantly to local councils. 

The online plant sale was successful, with propagation days becoming a popular social event. The revenue from the sales balanced the group’s books and led to more endemic native plants in Central Coast gardens. Preparations for the 2024 plant sale have begun.

The 2023 APS Bequest fund grant applications were unsuccessful. However, the proposal for equipment to improve propagation efficiency and community outreach was resubmitted. The application for a DNA study of the rare Grevillea shiressii was not resubmitted due to various reasons.

Coffs Harbour

After the COVID-ravaged years of 2020 and 2021 and the rain-drenched disruptions to the 2022  program, we finally had a year that went according to plan. We had a full program of 6 meetings  (including the last AGM) and 5 outings, with a sixth to come later this month. Attendance numbers  on outings have generally been on par with previous years but, for whatever reasons, have been  down somewhat at most meetings. A notable exception was the very popular talk on plant fossils by  Heidi and Keith Holmes. The outing with Heidi and Keith to Nymboida also attracted significant  numbers. 

A significant development is that we now have a Northern Rivers sub-group that has also been very  active with a full program of monthly outings. This arose some time back when a group of native plant  enthusiasts in the Lismore area wished to obtain the benefits of APS NSW but lacked the resources  to establish a new (formal) Group. Then State President, Heather Miles, and Membership Office, Merle Thompson, suggested that they could link as an affiliated sub-group of the Coffs Harbour Group. We agreed to facilitate their needs and, after some teething problems, the arrangement is  now working very well. 

Following the sad passing of Alex Floyd, esteemed botanist, rainforest expert and founding member  of our Group, a Tribute Day was organised by the North Coast Regional Botanic Gardens. As our  contribution to the program, and thanks mainly to the tireless efforts of Rob Watt, Coffs Harbour APS  Group produced a video featuring several of our members paying tribute to the life and work of Alex.  The video was very well received and will soon be made available on our website. 

Lastly but by no means least, Coffs Harbour members thank our outgoing President Morrie Duggan  and join him in recognising the extraordinary contribution of outgoing secretary, Robert Watt, to our group.


Illawarra Group

With 12 months to plan, we started propagating seeds and cuttings and by September we had 300 tube stock for sales. 

Our biggest event of 2023 was to organise and host The September Quarterly Gathering for APS  NSW. It was a big undertaking for our fledgling group but a challenge we embraced and thanks to  the efforts of a willing team, we enjoyed a very successful gathering in September.  There were three simultaneous morning walks. Attendees could choose either Wollongong Botanic  Garden, University of Wollongong Campus grounds or Puckey’s Estate Reserve which is in fact an  annex of Wollongong Botanic Garden and located just north of Wollongong.  In the afternoon we had some engaging speakers followed by plant and book sales plus author signings. We are very grateful for the assistance and expertise from Sutherland APS and John Aitken. Illawarra Group have conducted monthly excursions throughout 2023 and these included the  Tallawarra Wetlands, Barren Grounds joint walk with the Southern Highlands APS Group, Darkes  Forest, Cascade Falls near Macquarie Pass, the Illawarra Escarpment Forest Track, Bass Point  Marine Reserve, and Croome Reserve Albion Park which was followed by our guest speaker, Dr  Kevin Mills talking on ferns of the South Coast. 

The last event for the year was our first Christmas Party at the shared Kembla Joggers Clubhouse. Our group is in the process of signing an memorandum of understanding with Wollongong City  Council and Landcare Illawarra at Integral Energy Park to become a new Landcare group, called,  Stream Hill Landcare group. This group will engage with the West Dapto community and restore the  degraded riparian community land which I discovered, after starting bush care there, has sightings of Platypus. 

This riparian corridor now has an elevated importance. We are not just restoring the bushland; we  are assisting in local mammal survival in our changing environment.

The APS Illawarra Group, Bass Point Marine  Reserve.
The APS Illawarra Group, Bass Point Marine Reserve.
APS September 2023 Gathering, hosted by the Illawarra group


Our group continues to be small and of course getting older which limits our activities. In April we visited Arthur Kelly’s property in Grassmere for a tour of his gardens, in particular the  variety of trees. We then had a propagation workshop with emphasis on eremophilas. In May we hosted an enjoyable lunch at a rural café, with the prime purpose of encouraging active  membership. Then in June, we had a guided tour of the Robin Davies Wollondilly Community Nursery  and afterwards observed the propagating area in action. We all got to take a plant home afterwards. On 2nd August, our very popular life member, Ron Davies, passed away. Many of us attended his  funeral which was so big, it filled the vast Camden Civic Centre. 

Also in August we visited Malle and David Eden’s 150 plus acre property at Oakdale. Among other  things, we had an interesting Wattle Quiz prepared by Carol, followed by a scavenger hunt for a  cutting of the many varieties growing there to bring back and match them to our answers. In September, at the Wollondilly Community Nursery, we had guest speaker Damion Stirling,  Sustainability Projects Officer at Wollondilly Shire Council. He spoke about bush regeneration and  native plants around Wollondilly and their uses by indigenous people. 

In November, Ibrahim Muharrem, again from the council, talked about linking plants to birds in the  area. 

We finished off the year with an enjoyable Christmas morning tea gathering.


Our members attended Charlottes Pass in our bi-annual stay at the Pygmy Possum lodge with the  Sutherland Group. We participated in many of the walks with the peak being the 9km Charlottes Pass  to Guthega walk on the newly built trail where wildflowers were in abundance. The Tip nursery which has produced thousands of Allocasuarina for the Save our Species program has now closed. 10,000 plants will now be propagated for Greater Sydney Landcare.


The Group had 10 meetings and interesting talks, one of which was accompanied by a bushtucker supper.

One annual plant sale with the proceeds going to nursery maintenance.

For anyone in the area of the Newcastle Wetlands Centre, the Newcastle Group nursery is open on Thursday mornings for plant sales as well being the morning when the propagation team does their work.  There is always an excellent range of plants, many of which are hard to come by.