Growing Illawarra Natives website

By enewsletter Editor

Enewsletter editor Rhonda Daniels attended the community launch of the website on 14 March 2020 at Dapto Ribbonwood Centre and won a Brachychiton to carry home on the train.

Audience at launch of website

The website: www.growingillawarranatives.org

The Growing Illawarra Natives website showcases native plant species local to the Illawarra to encourage greater appreciation and cultivation of native plant species in the Illawarra. The area has a rich diversity of plant communities with over 850 indigenous plant species, many of great value in cultivation.

The website has detailed descriptive information and photos of plants of the region, advice on cultivation, how and where to grow the plants, and a lot more. It helps the community identify which local native plants will best suit their garden, landscaping or other application and help improve biodiversity that has been reduced by urban development. By enhancing local plant biodiversity, local habitats will be more attractive for local birds, insects and animals.

Illawarra refers to the coastal area between the escarpment cliffs and the sea, from Stanwell Park (Bald Hill) to the Shoalhaven River (excluding Bomaderry).

Photo display at the launch

Background to the project

The completely voluntary project was led by Emma Rooksby and Leon Fuller, with a very large team of community contributors including Carl Glaister and other plant enthusiasts from the region. Leon Fuller has worked for many years on tree identification of the Illawarra. He is the author of Wollongong Native Trees and co-author of Native Trees of Central Illawarra covering areas between Wollongong and Foxground. He has great knowledge and understanding about the benefits of regional biodiversity. Leon landscaped the grounds of the University of Wollongong 40 years ago with the vision to re-establish biodiversity in an urban garden environment. Rather than writing another book, he felt a website would be more beneficial for a broader and younger audience. Starting in 2104, community workshops were held to develop the project and content.

Community launch

The website was formally launched at a community celebration event on 14 March 2020 at Dapto, with live music, plant photos, plant display, raffle and giveaways, and afternoon tea. Emma Rooksby and Leon Fuller spoke briefly, referring people to a large display board which listed all the contributors who have helped in some way. Clarence Slockee, ABC TV Gardening Australia presenter, cut a virtual ribbon and officially declared the website open. The music and afternoon continued.

Clarence Slockee

Congratulations to all the contributors

Contributor names


The organisers said afterwards: “Thanks to everyone who attended the Growing Illawarra Natives website launch on Saturday. It was a fantastic community celebration, and we were very lucky to host the event ahead of tighter restrictions on public gatherings.”


The Growing Illawarra Natives Facebook group allows interactive discussion of local native plants, so feel free to join in there: https://www.facebook.com/groups/272511306484693/.

If you’d like to provide feedback on the website, there is a survey running at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/J2K27J6 – all comments and suggestions welcome!

Buying Illawarra natives

Wollongong Botanic Garden has native plant sales once a month on the third Friday. Note: temporarily suspended due to coronavirus.

The Garden’s Greenplan nursery has an extensive collection of local native trees, shrubs, groundcovers and grasses, as well as worm farms and compost bins for sale every month.

Visit the Garden’s website at www.wollongongbotanicgarden.com.au a week before each sale for a list of native species available and prices.

The Garden’s nursery is located on Northfields Avenue in Kieraville (next to soccer fields). The car park entrance is marked with bright flags.

Launch photos: Ralph Cartwright and Rhonda Daniels