Sydney, ANZAC and Glebe Island Bridges, Sydney - photo Marghanita

Ecologically Sustainable Sydney


Camphor Laurel and Other Weeds in Sydney

School Building, Street, Street Trees and Camphor Laurels

Row of 11 Camphor Laurels, School Grounds in Annandale (April 2009)

"In the late 1870s, certainly by 1880, Sir Henry Parkes, Premier of NSW, wanted to see a new oil industry created" - Camphor Laurel: Historical mistake.

Parkes was possibly also responsible for the planting this Eucalyptus torelliana, Cadagahi, in Annandale, where he lived and died .

"From the environmental point of view, most of the camphor laurel trees growing on Australian roadsides, riverbanks, degraded pastures and abandoned properties, etc, are not ideal 'citizens of the ecosystem'. Dense stands of mature specimens tend to 'camphorate' the surrounding soil through their roots in order to inhibit competition from trees of their own or other species. Where understorey species are unable to establish, soil erosion can become a problem, especially on steeply sloping areas." - Salvage Timber Species:Camphor Laurel - A Weed with a future

Plants which have an adverse affect on human health, the environment, livestock on agriculture can be declared a noxious weed. The NSW Noxious Weeds Act 1993 requires the control or removal of plants declared noxious weeds.

Like the Cane Toad some noxious weeds, have been deliberately introduced as Garden Plants, agricultural crops and animal fodder and then turn out to be better adapted to high levels of nutrients, storm water runnoff and free of predators.

As these plants take over from the local provenance vegetation, native animals which relied on the local species loose their source of food and habitat. The local provenance plants, may have also relied on these butterflies and insects for cross polinatation.

Sticky or Asthma weed a native of the mediterranean arrived as seeds in clay clinging to Italian marble which was made into fireplace surrounds -Parietaria Judaica. In the dry exposed climate of Malta and the Mediterranean the sticky stems help the plant cling to rocks and it provides food source and habitat to the Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) Butterfly for example. However, in Sydney, with more sunlight, more water, ideal nutrients, wind and animal dispertion, no predators it is a noxius weed.

Fruit and Seeds from Garden plants can be carried by the wind or birds into the bush or neigbouring gardens and become environmental weeds.

Plants that can be seen in Sydney Bushland and which spring up in gardens uninvited include:

Australian Native species such as the Cootamundra Wattle have also become weeds, when relocated to other parts of Australia. While West Australian natives adapted to dry sandy alkaline conditions often do not do well in Sydney.

Large Pale Yellow and Black Butterfly on a Purple Flower made up of flowerettes

A Butterfly on a Butterfly Bush (Buddleia). Foot of the Acropolis, Central Athens (May 2008).

Long cultivated Camphor Laurel (provides Camphor Oil and Timber) and Mulberry Trees (food for silkworms) untended have become weeds and damage the ecosystem, in Australia. Australian Eucalypts and Accacias have also become problematic elsewhere in the world where they were used for reforestration projects. As well as providing habitat and food, plants also affect they draw on nutrients, affect the soil, water table, create microclimates.

There are a wide range of plants that are native to the Sydney Area. The Rozelle Bay Community Native Nursery in Annandale, propagates plants from nearby bushland and has successfully reintroduced a wide range of Local Provenance Plant Species to Inner Sydney - which has attracted a wide range of native birds and Butterfles.

Native Bees can be seen buzzing around the blue flowers of Commelina Cyanea but not the similar looking, noxious weed Tradescantia fluminesis, which has white flowers). Commelina is a native of NSW and Queensland and Tradescantia is a native of South America. Commelina is a self sowing annual, whereas the heavier Tradescantia can be seen all year round.

The Sydney Weeds committee has created a pamphlet to encourage gardeners and nurseries to choose and stock alternatives to plants that have become weeds in Australia. For alternatives see Nursery Industry Garden Escapes Project - "Grow Me Instead!"

References and Further Reading © Ramin Communications 2009-2010. Last modified 29 Nov 2013.