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The Australian Native Plant Pages
News, information & resources about Australian native plants & gardens with emphasis on Brisbane & Qld

Xanthorrhoea

Grass Trees


Grass trees are a group of very distinctive and highly valued Australian native plants. Over the years, many people have desired to have advanced specimens in their gardens. Unfortunately, the slow growth rates have encouraged harvesting from the bush, threatening not only the trees but their associated ecosystems.

Today, these activities are regulated (see below). Harvesting of plants from natural areas solely for the landscaping trade is not desirable, especially given the difficulty of transplanting Xanthorrhoea and the high failure rate. However, removal of whole plants from areas which are going to be developed is preferable to their being bulldozed and lost completely. Buying only legally obtained plants from reputable operators should give you a better chance of your trees surviving.

Seed-grown plants might not yet have the characteristic trunks, but given the current fashion for ornamental grasses and other strappy-leaved, tussocky or clump-forming plants, why not try some young grass trees in your landscape? Providing the conditions are right, they could be a long-lived, low-maintenance, drought-tolerant alternative, and you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping to conserve grass trees without removing whole plants from the bush.

More information on culture of Xanthorrhoea in future updates.

Species which occur naturally in Queensland include:
Xanthorrhoea johnsonii
Xanthorrhoea fulva
Xanthorrhoea glauca
Xanthorrhoea latifolia
Xanthorrhoea macronema

There are a number of other species occurring in Australia (see the Australian Plant Name Index). Kingia australis occurs in WA.


Only buy plants which have been legally obtained

In Queensland, certain types of native plants, including Xanthorrhoea species, are subject to special regulations to help protect them in the wild. These laws cover activities such as harvesting, propagating, movement of and trade in whole pants and plant parts. When purchasing grass trees, look for plants carrying an official government tag indicating they have been supplied by a licensed operator.

The following links have been provided for general information but they (and the information contained in them) are NOT necessarily complete or up-to-date. Be sure to CHECK WITH APPROPRIATE AUTHORITIES yourself if you think such laws may affect you (including private individuals). If you're outside Qld (or trading with others outside Qld) check with relevant bodies governing those locations.

If you want to find out more about current laws concerning propagation, movement or trade in protected plants in Qld, visit the Department of Environment and Resource Management website. For some factsheets to get you started, try: www.derm.qld.gov.au/services_resources/item_list.php?series_id=200678. Contact the department for further information if you wish to engage in such activities.

Some garden centres might carrry grasstrees from time to time. Native plant specialists are of course your best bet. Call ahead and ask what they have in stock and whether they can order any in for you.

For very large feature specimens, you will probably need to go through a specialist supplier and will probably need to engage a landscaper to install. You won't want to take chances with such expensive and precious plants.

More Links

Download: Xanthorrhoea: A review of current knowledge with a focus on X. johnsonii and X. latifolia, two Queensland protected plants-in-trade Download the PDF file from this page. Environmental Protection Agency/Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Queensland Government
Pine Ridge Environmental Park Society for Growing Australian Plants Queensland Region, Inc. (reference to X. fulva)
The Vets' Grasstree Xanthorrhoea australis (Xanthorrhoea glauca) Post at the Toowoomba Plants blog
Xanthorrhoea australis Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants
The Grass Tree: Its Uses and Abuses Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants
Growing Grass Trees Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants
Electronic Mailbox (Some information on cultivation) Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants
Xanthorrhoea preissii Kings Park and Botanic Garden, Western Australia
Xanthorrhea johnsonii "A View from Yallaroo", NSW
Growing Grass Trees - The Queensland Experience Includes hints about growing from seed. Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants
Phosphorus Needs of Some Australian Plants Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants
Transplanting Grasstrees Kings Park and Botanic Garden, Western Australia
The Passage of Fire (includes some comments about Xanthorrhoea) Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants
Grasstrees (Xanthorrhoea spp.) and the fire history of sites Conference Proceedings, Australian Bushfire Conference, Albury, July 1999

Some references about the relationship between Xanthorrhoea and other species and ecosystems:
The Plight of the Critically Endangered Eyre Peninsula Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos Department for Environment and Heritage, South Australia
The role of grass trees as shelters for vertebrate wildlife in the Mount Lofty Ranges of South Australia Sustainable Environments Research Group, University of South Australia

Some references about use of Xanthorrhoea by humans (apart from landscaping):
Xanthorrhoea species (use by aboriginal people) Australian National Botanic Gardens
Aboriginal Uses of Plants Around Sydney Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants
Colonial Slab Huts of Australia Australian National University

Possible misspellings: Xanthorhoea, Xanthorhea, Xanthorrea, Xanthorea, Xanthorea, Xantharrhoea, Xantharhoea.

Warning: collection, propagation, movement, sale or purchase of any Australian native plant may be subject to laws and regulations. Be sure to check with appropriate authorities before engaging in these activities, even on private property. Other laws may also apply to the treatment and movement of plant or soil material (for example, to control the spread of weeds, pests and diseases.)


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