Why Native Plants Are Crucial in Landscape Architecture

Thursday, July 18th, 2013
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Using native plant species in landscape architecture helps to preserve the historic biodiversity of the area and the country.

Designers, landscapers, architects and homeowners often tend to want to change the look of an area if given the opportunity, but using plants that are naturally suited to the area is integral.

Replacing native plants with exotic or foreign species diminishes a vital part of the landscape. Native plants are home to a wide variety of wildlife dependent on the plants for survival.

The Victorian state government’s Department of Environment defines native vegetation as trees, shrubs, grasses and herbs that grew naturally before European arrival. It includes plants specific to a certain area of Australia and not originating from any other countries.

Local government lists the following benefits of native plant species:

  • Providing habitat for animals
  • Preventing erosion and land degradation
  • Minimising the impacts of the greenhouse effect
  • Ensuring productive capacity of land long-term
  • Providing shade and shelter
  • Protecting water quality
  • Providing genetic resources and maintaining a distinct ‘Australian’ landscape

As cities become denser and populations continue to grow, native plants are being bulldozed and replaced with skyscrapers and roadways at a rapid rate, and the loss of a plant can rapidly spiral through the food-chain and eradicate an entire ecosystem.

Landscapers must take a critical step toward protecting the biodiversity of the local area and ensuring that native wildlife has a home for the future.

The biodiversity of Australia is astounding with more than 80 per cent of the flowering plants, mammals and reptiles unique to Australia.

Native Australian plant species

Native Australian Plant Species

From a landscape architecture point of view, the use of indigenous plants is of great benefit due to their ability to adapt to local weather conditions. Native plant species will typically survive through droughts, heat waves and local soil conditions.

Being the driest inhabited continent in the world, Australian soils are dependent on native vegetation cover to provide stability and create nutrients. Poor conservation of soil plus the increased land clearing have had a detrimental impact on the native flora and fauna.

In Victoria alone, an estimated 66 per cent of native vegetation has been cleared. Of what is left, 1.1 million hectares worth of plants are on privately owned land and 7.4 million hectares are on public land.

While 30 per cent of the important locations for threatened species are on private land, placing increased importance on homeowners and landscape architects to preserve native species, 60 per cent of native vegetation on privately owned land is under threat of extinction.

The outlook is not much brighter in other states across the country.

“The south east region of South Australia has lost almost 90 percent of its native vegetation since European settlement,” said Oisin Sweeney of South Australia’s Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources.

Native Western Australian Flora

Native Western Australian Flora

The Australian Garden – Preserving Biodiversity

The Royal Botanic Gardens in Cranbourne, Victoria are home to the recently finished addition called the Australian Garden. The 15-hectare garden is an impressive display of native plants, landscapes, architecture and art.

The garden mimics the landscapes across the country, ranging from bountiful rivers to arid desert, allowing visitors to experience the diversity of natural elements in our landscapes.

The garden aims to send visitors a strong message about the importance of landscape conservation and the meaningful relationship between people, plants, and landscape.

As the largest garden of Australian flora, more than 170,000 plants across 1700 species are used across the site. The site holds significant educational and conservation value and assists scientists to understand the past and future purposes for native plants.

A guide for personal landscaping, the Australian Garden protects integral ecosystems and defends Australia’s biological heritage.

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