Helping members and the public with their queries – the Experts Group

By Glenda Browne

Australian Plants Society members and non-members from around Australia come to APS NSW as a source of expert knowledge about Australian plants.

Floydia praealta

Questions arrive mainly via email, and occasionally through our Facebook and Instagram pages.

I receive the questions and redirect them to our Experts Group. The group has eleven members who were recommended to me as being knowledgeable about Australian plants, and happy to share their knowledge.

If you know a fair bit about native plants and would like to be a member of this group, please let me know at office@austplants.com.au.

What do people ask about?

We receive questions and comments on a wide range of topics, most often about identification of specimens, ideas on what to plant and where to buy plants or seeds, or help with solving growing or planting problems.

Identification

The identification questions range from the common to the obscure.

One challenging tree for identification looked a lot like a macadamia, but turned out to be Floydia praealta, which was named after APS life member and Australian Plants Award recipient, Alex Floyd.

Another looked like the weed Bidens pilosa, but turned out to be Tagetes minuta, which has the common name stinking roger. Bidens pilosa also has descriptive common names. To me it is blackjack or farmers friend; to others it is known as beggarticks, cobbler’s peg, cobbler’s tack, devil’s needles, hairy bidens, Spanish needle, farmer’s friend, devils pitchfork or sticky beaks.

Buying and planting

For enquiries about where to buy plants or seeds I direct people to our website – https://resources.austplants.com.au/information/buying-native-plants-and-seeds/ – and also share the question with the group, as people often have specific knowledge.

Often questions about what to plant are from people seeking indigenous plants (those local to their area). For example, one person wanted to plant indigenous grasses as pasture grasses in the Cootamundra area. Kangaroo grass (Themeda australis) was mentioned as being local to that area. In addition, people recommended talking to local APS members, Landcare groups, and FOG – the Friends of Grasslands group in the Southern Tablelands/ACT area.

Problem solving

Requests to our email address cover a range of issues. Many people write asking about journal articles, to get copies, to seek permission to quote or share, or to make contact with the author. Other people write seeking to be put in contact with members, as in recent contact by the ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ TV show.

Struggling plants

Hakea bakeriana – this one is flowering!

Questions relating to plants are often about struggling specimens. For example, one person wrote about their Acacia baileyana purpurea not flowering. Responses noted that this acacia might need a nitrogen boost. Other questions include ones about Hakea bakeriana not flowering, and a straggly protea!

Learning to propagate

Many people are interested in learning to propagate plants. Where possible, we put them in touch with likely classes (eg, run by local APS groups, TAFEs or Councils) and provide basic information. We also help troubleshoot when people have tried propagating and failed.

Many thanks to our experts who generously share their knowledge: Mark Abell, John Aitken, Ralph Cartwright, Dan Clarke, Geoffrey Clarke, Rhonda Daniels, Alix Goodwin, Heather Miles, John Nevin, Merle Thompson, Dick Turner