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Articles reproduced here come from past Rottnest Society Newsletters and other documents up to 2005.

Grow Your Own Rottnest  (From a Rottnest Society Newsletter)

General comments.

The idea of "growing your own Rottnest" arose from the pleasure of encountering typically "Rottnest" plants when on the mainland.  The plant life of Rottnest is dominated by a handful of plants that are really common, widespread and, consequently, typical of the Island.  It should be comparatively easy to grow your own Rottnest by cultivating plants of the 20-odd really common native species that are so characteristic of the Island.

Many of the plants that are typical of Rottnest are also found in the Perth metropolitan area, in remnant coastal vegetation, and in various reserves and parks. 

In addition, several Rottnest plants are widely cultivated; for example, the Rottnest Island Pine (Callitris preissii) which is widely used in the landscaping around UWA, and the Rottnest teatree (Melaleuca lanceolata) which is often grown as a street tree and garden specimen.  Some other widely cultivated species are mentioned in the table.

One point to note is that this article is all about the native plants of Rottnest - due to the intensive disturbance that the Island has experienced since its settlement began in the 19th century, it has acquired a large number of alien species, ie. weeds.  Some of these are so common that they, too, are characteristic of Rottnest - just think of the Onion weeds (Asphodelus fistulosus and Trachyandra divaricata) and Hare's tail grass (Lagurus ovatus) that are found everywhere on the Island.  In addition there are several introduced tree species that give the Settlement its distinctive character, in particular Norfolk Island pine, Moreton Bay fig, Port Jackson fig, Date palms, Aleppo pines, Tuart, Olive and Peppermint.

Getting the right conditions in your garden.

Because the plants of Rottnest are generally adapted to growing on infertile, alkaline (lime-rich) soils in exposed conditions that lack shade and shelter, they are likely to be difficult to grow in established gardens that are shady and have enriched soils that are less alkaline. Actually, the ideal situation would be if one were planting a new garden, especially in a coastal suburb, where the soil and exposure should be just right for Rottnest plants.  Seek advice from the nursery that supplies the plants (see below).

Knowing what the plants look like.

This is easy, because there are several excellent sources of information that illustrate and describe the plants of Rottnest.  Specifically, these are the various pamphlets and booklets, as well as the poster (island) and the book (from good bookshops) that contain the beautiful and accurate illustrations by Elizabeth Rippey.  I do not know whether the RI pamphlets and the poster can be obtained from the RIA headquarters in Fremantle, but they are definitely available from the visitors' centre on the Island. Elizabeth Rippey's book can be bought from UWA Bookshop, and other good bookshops.

Sources of Information of the Plants of Rottnest Island

Poster  “Wildflowers of Rottnest Island” by Elizabeth Rippey.

Pamphlets (available at the Visitors' Centre on the Island)

  • Plants
  • Salt lakes
  • The Quokka
  • Cape Vlamingh heritage trail
  • Vlamingh memorial heritage trail
  • Rottnest Island bicycle guide

Book “Plants of the Perth Coast and Islands” by Elizabeth Rippey and Barbara Rowland. Published by University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands, 1995.

Where to get the plants

While several species are 'mainstream' nursery plants, many are not. I recommend visiting the specialist nurseries, including Lullfitz Nursery (Wanneroo), Zanthorrea Nursery (Maida Vale), Carramar Coastal Nursery (Baldivis) and APACE W.A. (North Fremantle). See telephone directory for addresses and details.

The finished product.

To give a taste of things to come if you do decide to grow your own Rottnest, I recommend visiting the South Beach Reserve in Fremantle, where a large number of typically Rottnest plants have been used in the extensive landscaping carried out there a few years ago by Ecoscape.

Jon Dodd