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Issue 16

New plant names

by Elwyn Hegarty

Botanists working in Australia (and overseas) have only been collecting and naming uniquely Australian plants for a couple of hundred years. Sometimes they have had just a few Herbarium specimens to look at. Inevitably, there have been second thoughts about the identity of some of the preserved specimens, in the light of further collections

Even when names are given or updated, they are not always accepted by all authorities. The National Herbarium in Canberra has an extensive website with photographs and current botanical information.

At http://www.anbg.gov.au/anbg/plant.names.html

you can look up the history of botanical names of a plant if you have one name for it. These lists are a little tricky to work back through, but the tags at the end of the current and previous Latin names show the abbreviated names of taxonomists who have described the species over time. Many well-known cultivated plants, and a few Australian plants first found in other places, may just list "L." after the species name, after Carl Linnaeus of Sweden, who in 1753 began the present system of naming plants by genus and species. While distinctive characteristics of floral parts are the traditional basis of plant classification, differences involving other parts, sometimes including their chemical constituents, are used in support.

Sometimes a single species has been recorded under more than one name, in which case the protocol is that the first name registered, if it's otherwise valid, should take precedence. This explains why Eremocitrus (or Atalantia) glauca, and the several Australian Microcitrus species are all now known as Citrus again. So we have Citrus glauca (Lindleyi) Burkill, and, for example, Citrus australasica F.Muell. and Citrus australis (Mudie) Planchon. (Ref. Mabberley (1998) Telopea 7(4) 333-344. As with plants in general, diverse and generally true-to-type colours of flowers and fruits such as those of the finger limes are not regarded as indicating botanically distinct species, although such variations may be included in the criteria for varietal names.

Sometimes, a named subspecies or variety of a species is found to be botanically different enough from any other subspecies to be upgraded one rank to a separate species. This has happened with an Australian subspecies - (rockinghamensis) of the widely distributed candlenut, Aleurites moluccana (Willd). It is now recognised as a separate species, Aleurites rockinghamensis (Baill.) P.I.Forst. (Reference: Forster (1996) Muelleria 9: 5-13). The distribution of the two species overlaps in North Queensland, and there is some evidence that the seeds of A. rockinghamensis are the more toxic of the two.

Some single species have been split into two, on the grounds of consistent taxonomic differences. This has happened with Tetragonia tetragonioides (Pallas) Kuntze in Australia, (in earlier days referred to as T. expansa) with one part recently split off as a new species, Tetragonia moorei M.Gray. The leaf of this species is oval to diamond-shaped, rather than spade-shaped, while the small projections from the fruit are claw-like and incurved rather than horn-like and divergent. The spelling "tetragonioides" rather than "tetragonoides" is now regarded as correct. There are nine other native, and at least four naturalised (African) Tetragonia species in Australia. (Reference Gray (1997) Telopea 7(2) 119-127).

Sometimes the name of the both genus and species changes over time. This has happened with Tasmannia species, for example Tasmannia lanceolata (Poir.) A.C.Sm. has been known under generic names of Winterana and Drimys and the specific names of aromatica.

Then there are plants which are newly-discovered, or already well-known as un-named or "undescribed" species. They can only receive a scientific name when their characteristics and distinguishing differences have been described in extensive detail, including a Latin description, in a taxonomic publication such as "Austrobaileya" from the Queensland Herbarium. This is what has happened with the endangered smooth Davidson's plum, now named Davidsonia johnsonii J.B.Williams & G.Harden. (Reference: Harden & Williams (1999) Telopea 8(4) 413-428).

The names of many species or groups of species are still being reviewed, and sometimes updated by taxonomists, as more samples and information become available. This is the case for some of the mint family Lamiaceae (formerly Labiatae) including the very numerous and variable Prostanthera species. In such cases, although species and subspecies may be defined, identifications can still be complicated by natural variations due to environment and/or wide but patchy distribution, as well as natural crosses - not to mention the often-frustrating absence of flowering material!

Before investing in trials of any prospective bushfood plant, either nursery-raised or wild-collected, it is as well to collect small flowering or fruiting branches for identification by a State Herbarium or similar authority, for your records. They can also tell you if there are any current legislative restrictions on collection and propagation. If a flavour based on the essential oil is relevant to future use of the plant, you could have the oil extract checked in case it has too much of any undesirable components, before investing too heavily in a particular source of material.

From the Editor


From Mary King


Gold Fields Bushfoods

Wild Harvest News

What's the right price?


Plant Hardiness Zones

Oops column

Lesser known species


Wattleseed Feature

Sell Before You Sow


New Plant Names

Production Info...


Book Review


Web sites



From the List

Production systems info.

Horticultural Production and the Bushfood Industry - By John Rayner, a Lecturer at Burnley College with a special interest in bush foods

Bushfoods are an exciting new group of plants with great potential for further expansion and development both in Australia and overseas. Like any new crop there are issues concerning uses and processing of products and promotion and marketing. Hther than one based around wild harvesting of material.owever, the bushfoods industry has developed very quickly and has some unique production based problems of its own. Perhaps foremost of these is the need for an industry based on horticultural production (however that may be achieved), ra

Moving towards a production-based industry brings with it some new challenges. In the first instance this includes improving the generation and exchange of information on bushfood plants.

Agronomic information

There is a paucity of accurate and reliable agronomic and horticultural information on bushfood plants. Species information is often restricted to botanical descriptions and culinary uses of selected plants, with comparatively little in the horticultural domain. Where species have been cultivated there is little published material that would indicate the critical requirements for plant establishment and maintenance and what the origin or source of the plant material was.

What is needed is some basic agronomic information for different plants. This should include:

  • · optimum environmental and cultural requirements for plant performance, such as planting, nutrition, spacing, pruning, light, water-relations, etc.

  • · harvest details including the best times/periods for harvest, methods employed, post-harvest treatments to maximise product quality and uniformity. 

There is some limited agronomic information on bushfood species produced by Australian Native Produce Industries Pty Ltd and in the RIRDC report on "Prospects for the Australian native bushfoods industry". These are useful beginnings, but are still very generalised and lack significant cultural information.

This lack of information is partially understandable given the nature of the plants being cultivated and the present stage of industry development. It does however indicate the amount of work still to be undertaken and a range of research and development opportunities.

Plant propagation information

Likewise there is little information in the public domain on propagation protocols for different species. For most bushfood plants, clonal propagation methods will need to be developed to assist with rapid production of improved forms of the plant. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the propagation of many bushfood plants is poor. Typically, cuttings material harvested from wild plants always yields poorer results when compared to material taken from container-grown plants. This is well described in a paper on the propagation of five different species/groups of bushfood plants and from the results of trials undertaken at Burnley College. Factors of juvenility, plant pathogens, plant growth stage and unsuitable cuttings material all help to explain this. More propagation research is clearly needed.

Moving bushfood plants from the bush to the farm will be a difficult transition. There has been some useful discussion on the merits of different production systems for bushfoods, such as polycultures/permaculture and monocultures. The report on "Prospects for the Australian native bushfoods industry" provided figures on establishment and maintenance costs and anticipated returns for some sixteen bushfood crops. However, this seems very general and appears to have been derived from limited sources of information. Clearly more agronomic information is needed to provide more accurate information to growers on possible returns for selected crops and horticultural approaches for bushfood production.

The future

More R&D is needed into bushfood production. In the meantime details of growers experiences with different crops will provide a means of assisting the exchange of information where so little exists. Certainly, grower-based groups and their newsletters are proving to be a vital resource in this regard.


Australian Bushfoods magazine, 1997, Issue 1, Maleny, Qld.

McCarthey, J. 1995, The Australian Native Foods Industry: New Challenges for the Plant Propagator, IPPS combined proceedings, Volume 45.

RIRDC 1997, Prospects for the Australian native bushfoods industry, (compiled by Graham C. and Hart D.), Research paper No.97/22


Snippets from the online discussion group...

Highlights from the bushfood discussion group - if you wish to join, email


Peak Industry Body

With reference to John King's Email on a peak body for the Bushfood industry. 

John, you have raised some very good points. I would like to add my thoughts. There may be other people involved in this industry besides myself that would be a little disturbed about the lack of communication across the board on matters that can directly affect current and future investment in the industry. 

I have spent 9 years researching native food plants (muntries and wattle in particular) before I decided to go into our agri-business Muntari Wild Food Plants and have been trading for 6 years. In that time little has changed in my enthusiasm for the potential of the industry, my opinions however, have. Some of us have had experience with the `ANBIC' promise and it's eventual failure and do not wish to see that kind of fiasco repeated again. I am sure the "Umbrella group" have the best intentions and will not be able to please everyone all the time but I would ask a simple question. If this proposed association is to represent all interests, should the proposal not be posted to this list for all to see? This list I am sure was created for just this kind of discussion and it is capable of reaching a wide audience quickly. It need not be political nor ego driven discussion just plain old truth and facts should do, then everyone will know where they stand nationally. There are many factors and market niches that make up what we call "the Bushfoods Industry" and that's the great thing about it, I guess, people from all walks of life can become involved with it. However, this can also work against the industry, what with wildly different prices for the same product, unreliable supply and food safety aspects still not completely convincing main stream markets we need to be very aware of just how young the industry is and give it all the help we can. No one has all the answers just yet and it is a leap of faith to invest hard dollars and plenty of time for some native food crops. We certainly need grower groups & associations at regional levels to give strong local support that will then give a solid foundation on which to build. We also require government to get serious and realise the potential of this industry and not just wander around the peripheral. I know there is research funding, CSIRO & RIRDC involvement etc but a few hundred thousand dollars here and there for an industry that RIRDC estimates should be valued around $100 million per year within 5 years? 

Who is setting the agenda for Bushfoods in this country? 

Do you want to Know? Do you you need to Know? Do you want to have a say? How will you be able to voice your opinions? What safety or quality procedures do you need to follow? If you are a member of an association eg: the Quandong Association, questions like the above could be answered and your opinions no doubt heard. Government will usually listen to a collective well organised group more readily than any individual. Marketing produce is generally easier and the experience of a collective can be tapped into when required. Research dollars may be more readily available also. I would like to see the following:

a) Regional grower groups. Why? Local shared site knowledge readily accessible. Growers with mixed plantings can be a member of one or more associations.

b) Associations for each fruit group. Why? Each fruit etc has it's own set of problems and I doubt a national body could fill the requirements of all sector's problems in an effect way.

c) National body. Why? Focal point for research $ and marketing which this industry requires and I doubt if government will like the hassle of dealing with smaller associations when it comes to funding projects. I strongly believe that for this industry to be both economically and ethically sustainable there needs to be both decisive and timely action on all levels of management, be it production,marketing or research. Failure to respond to any of these things will see our fledgling industry offshore quicker than you may think possible. Israel already is very keen on the quandong and Africa and the US on wattleseed. 

Cheers for now, Brian King,

I would just like to add a few comments to the ongoing discussion about a Peak Industry Body (PIB)

1. The history of PIBs are that they are only effective when they are truly representative, and are recognised as such both within and without the industry. Further, PIBs that do not have the support of major industry players are never effective and, even with the best of intentions, groupings do not really become PIBs just because they announce that they are.

2. Many significant industry players, nationwide, are not currently members of `Bushfood Associations' and have little interest in such organizations, but instead closely associate with their commercial market channel partners. As far as I can see these market channel partnerships are seemingly being ignored by current PIB proposals, and in turn these partnerships are probably ignoring current PIB discussions.

3. The industry in South Australia is developing rapidly without the benefit of an umbrella organization, which seems to indicate that such groupings are not necessarily fundamental to industry growth and development.

4. Many native citrus growers, who also grow conventional citrus, do not necessarily see a `Bushfood Association' or `Bushfood PIB' as representing their interests, instead considering the Australian Citrus Growers and their regional/state citrus bodies as the appropriate organizations. Considering the well established and effective nature of these organizations one wonders if there is any need at all to have parallel `bushfood' structures for native citrus.

5. Given that even in levy-paying rural industries, a significant proportion of R&D funds comes from the tax-payer, it is unrealistic to expect that Government will not have a significant say in how that money is spent. Industries simply can't say `give us the money and we will decide how it is spent'.

6. There are many paradigms around for what the `bushfood' industry is all about (even the name is subject to dispute). Is it fundamentally about wild harvest, cultivation, polyculture, permaculture, organic production, biodynamics, monoculture, agribusiness, cooperatives, bioregionalism, export, community consumption, biodiversity, genetic purity, cottage industry, niche products, mainstream products, indigenous involvement, indigenous ownership, indigenous intellectual property, commercial intellectual property or a combination of these and perhaps other factors? Given this diversity of industry models it is hard to see how any PIB can be both representative and coherent and it may be necessary for some of these paradigms to largely fall by the wayside before a PIB is really feasible.

7. If reform of the current RIRDC decision-making process is really the main aim of PIB proposals perhaps aspirations should be confined to this more modest and achievable aim, rather than trying to tackle it through a PIB (although I believe the caveats under my point 6 still apply).

8. Personal or (unsupported and ill-informed) professional-competence attacks, even if veiled as `viewpoints' or `constructive comments', are unlikely to progress the issue much, though one tends to reap what one sows. 

Anthony Hele

I've been following this discussion with great interest - with a different hat on (chairman of an essential oil grower coop) I have been involved with RIRDC since it was invented; canvassing research priorities with growers, collaborating with research providers to put forward preliminary and full proposals and helping to formulate the last RIRDC Research Plan in that industry. I endorse John King's comments about a reasoned development of the research plan; some parts of the public face of our industry would make any self-respecting bureaucrat charged with administering public funds, run a mile. Here's my one suggestion to guide the discussion: minimise the prominence of complicated personal and political agendas - they foment rebellion, and as we can all see, the `Bushfood Industry' needs all the cohesion it can get. Focus on R & D issues which are broad based, and foundation building and avoid mixing up ideological positions on (for example) environmental management in a plan to identify research priorities in the first instance. Mixed agendas make civil servants nervous. (Don't mistake me - these matters are fundamental - but there will be one position for every speaker on the subject, and this stuff needs time and space to evolve. The priority is to get something on the ground around which we can base ideological discussions in the future.) Most importantly - more power to Sammy in her efforts to keep the conversations flowing. In the scheme of things, work like this is probably just as important as a well funded research program!!

Chris Read Diemen Pepper

I totally support everything that Brian King has to say about industry bodies. They need to be effective and to do that they have to be inclusive, not an exclusive, secretive club working for the benefit of a few. We will lose our industry overseas if we are too slow or too silly to get our act together - look what happened to the macadamia! Regional groups are the go - I'm still interested in hearing from anyone in the Taree area, or indeed people involved or interested in bushfoods from anywhere on the mid-north coast and Hunter Valley. A local information exchange could develop into such a regional body if enough people are interested.

David Williams


As a very small grower and `street harvester', I am not quite sure how I can lend energy to greater participation by Aboriginal people in what is, after all, their food. However, I do know that we should be talking about it, canvassing opinions, arguing and sharing thoughts now, not later. I have come across two nearly opposing camps - those who feel that some form of Aboriginal ownership is paramount and we should all work together now - and those who feel that the black fella will wait until there is some major success and then want a cut. I don't feel eithe argument really addresses the reality - a small, embryonic industry which is geographically isolated, based (largely) on cottage industry, noted for its distinct lack of `real' success stories and still struggling to come together and really produce a product - and some sustainable profits. I don't think there is any ready-built bridge to encourage Aboriginal involvement. I don't think the majority of people in the industry would even know where to begin. I have a concept I'll throw in - perhaps we should formally allocate wild harvest rights to Aboriginal communities, along with the onus of sustainability and economic viability. The quid pro quo would be no food right or cultural heritage claims upon plantation grown bushfoods. There is a precedent for this in Canadian wild rice. Well, that's enough for a Thursday evening -speak up! I miss the messages. Sammy Ringer, Moderator

I am working with the Yulngi people of Wulkibimirri and Murwangi in North-Central Arnhemland. I have been here for two years now. We are setting up a small trial garden and nursery at Wulkibimirri and at Murwangi (which is an Aboriginal owned cattle station) we are looking to do some native grass, legume and fodder tree revegetation.

Matthew Bunenyerra

I am also starting to work with aboriginal people and bushfoods, in the Taree area. I first became interested in bushfoods when I lived in Maleny so I'd love to know what's happening up there. It seems very few aboriginal people are involved in the "bushfood industry" although it based on their knowledge and the plants that they have used for tens of thousands of years. As a high school teacher I thought that Bushfoods could be a good subject to pursue, with both Koori and non-Koori children. I'm starting a short program, covering both traditional and commercial uses of bushfoods, including a planting at the school (Chatham High). Hopefully this will lead to bigger and better things, and more aboriginal people reconnecting with their traditional knowledge, as well as gaining possible employment in an industry that connects them with their culture.

David Williams

The sooner we stop thinking and talking in terms of `our' food and `their' food the sooner native foods will become a part of the mainstream food industry. Rather than trying to come up with conciliatory measure that give us the warm and fuzzies, let's try to harness the knowledge within the Aboriginal community, recognise the cultural significance of many native foods and bring these components together to create an edge in the food market. This can only happen if we, as Australians, work together and all add value to this thing we are trying tp create. At the risk of be labelled an economist, I say that the only way groups/industries/etc can sustain an involvement in a system is if they add value to that system. It is pointless for one group (the `whites') to say we must involve another group (the `Kooris') in the native food industry if, (a) that group does not wish to be involved and/or (b) that group does not add value to the industry. Let's face it, in the mainstream food industry, the really compelling things about native foods are the stories behind them, their role in Aboriginal culture, etc (i.e the things that can't be copied or artificially synthesised) and, to a lesser extent, their flavour/texture/etc. If generic `native foods' are to be widely accepted they need to be able to compete (in terms of value, not price) with competitor products, and this won't be helped by a division of `ownership'. In the extreme, the natural extension of the concept of ownership of the native food system is that Aboriginal people should be excluded from participating in non-traditional Aboriginal industries (e.g. cattle, sheep, farming, etc). This is too ludicrous to contemplate. I'm not sure what the answer is but am sure that it does not lie in further division of industries, resources, etc.

Regards Hugh Macintosh

It's been my experience that the commercial bushfood industry in coastal NSW has had very little aboriginal involvement.

Of course aboriginal people are part of the bushfood "scene" - it's their "scene" and their traditional foods.are just not as vocal as the members of this list. Our bush tomatoes and some of our wattle seed is harvested by Aboriginal people on their traditional lands when it is available. I know that many processors and industry members are actively seeking more Aboriginal involvement and there is nothing stopping people from all cultures & backgrounds getting involved. Locally, my business is assisting the Dharuk people establish and plan a bushfoods plantation and some innovative landcare programs involving bushfoods. In the medium term we hope to source the bulk of some of our produce locally, with funds being returned to local Aboriginal businesses and conservation programs for further work. In my experience Aboriginal people in western Sydney are more involved with the final use of bushfoods at a consumer and food service/catering & tourism level than in growing, processing & sourcing produce (the very vocal & frantic section of the industry & themain focus of this list). I'm sure as you get more involved with your local Aboriginal communities you will realize that they are very much a part of the local bushfoods scene and always have been. Its just us commercially focused people who make all the noise!

But commercially, aboriginal involvement is small. Greater involvement of aboriginal people in the development of the bushfood industry would ensure culturally appropriate development of bushfoods and an economic livelihood for aboriginal communities. Without direct involvement, aboriginal communities will fail to share in the future profits of the bushfoods industry. This means that they have to own and manage the plantations and processors etc, if they are to really benefit. Of course, there are many projects that I am not aware of and I am encouraged to hear that Aboriginal people are getting involved in other areas of the country. I'm very interested in the landcare programs mentioned using bushfoods.I picture using bushfoods as part of a landcare planting with harvesting rights allowed- it sounds excellent. 

Dave Williams

Nutritional Values

Re nutritional values for bushfood plants, not everyone may know of this very useful reference: Brand Miller J, James KW & Maggiore P M A (1993). Tables of Composition of Australian Aboriginal Foods. Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra. Various libraries have it. It summarises large sets of results of nutritional analyses of a wide range of Australian bushfoods, in text and spreadsheets. It shows how much protein, fat, carbohydrate, dietary fibre etc. were in one or often several samples, how many kilojoules (energy value) and also the values for some major elements including sodium, potassium, phosphorus, and for some species the minor elements copper, lead and cadmium etc. Best regards,

Merv & Elwyn Hegarty, Plantchem Pty Ltd.


WA Website

The WA website is now at the following address:


Please consider letting us know what is happening in your part of WA. Helen Coleman