Botany

Native Australian Groundcovers which Provide Food for Birds



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Australian gardeners are mostly pleased to see birds visiting their gardens. Birds play an important part in a garden and have a role in maintaining the balance of nature. For birds to be attracted to a garden, three basic requirements need to be met. These are food, water and shelter.

Food may be in the form of nectar, insects, seeds or nuts. Planting a variety of Australian natives will encourage local birds to check out the area. Small birds especially appreciate a dense, maybe prickly shrub where they can flee from domestic cats or larger birds. Nectar-producing plants will also be appreciated. Birds will take care of many of the insect pests which plague gardeners.

The following are a selection of Australian native groundcovers and small shrubs which are great favourites with birdlife. These plants will be sure to entice more birds to your garden.

Anigozanthos flavidus or Tall Kangaroo Paw is endemic to Western Australia. It is clump-forming with long, strap-like leaves. Flower stems are produced from October to February and may grow to 3 metres tall. The tubular flowers may be green, yellow, orange, pink or red. It likes a sunny position and moist soil.

Another Western Australian native is Astroloma ciliatium or the Candle Cranberry. This bush has small, bright green leaves tightly packed along the stems. The flowers are cigar shaped, bright red tubes tipped with greenish-yellow and black. The main flowering period is from May to November. Light pruning is recommended to promote bushy growth.

Blandfordia grandiflora is also known as Christmas Bells. It is a tufting, grass-like plant with large, very showy, bell-shaped flowers on stems which grow above the foliage. The (usually) red or orange with yellow flowers appear in December and January. It prefers moist soil and is suited to garden beds or containers.

Grevillea juniperina (low forms) or Juniper Grevillea is a native of New South Wales. It is a variable species with small, usually prickly leaves. Buff, yellow or red flowers are produced with the main flowering period being from July to November. All forms respond well to pruning and all are excellent nectar producing plants.

Grevillea rosmarinifolia ‘Lara Dwarf’ is native to Victoria. It is a small shrub with narrow, slightly prickly leaves. The main flowering period is from June to October when pink to red with cream flowers appear. It likes a sunny well-drained position and makes an excellent container plant. It was once known as Grevillea Glabella.

Kennedia glabrata is a Western Australia native with shiny, dark green leaves. Fragrant, brick-red pea flowers appear on stems above the foliage from November to December. It is very quick growing but often short-lived. It is useful for an initial quick cover in new garden areas. The plants flower and seed profusely.

Prostanthera monticola or Monkey Mint-bush usually grows as a dense, bushy plant with dark green leaves. The tubular flowers are 2-3cm long and are mainly seen from November to February. The flowers are an unusual shade of green streaked with purple. It responds well to pruning.

Most grevilleas and callistemons, in particular, are great favourites with birds but there are a number of other species as well that will provide food and/or shelter for birds and beauty for the garden.

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