Native Plants for Bushfire Zones

Native Plants For Bushfire Zones

The vegetation of much of Australia has been shaped over many thousands of years by bush-fires that have occurred naturally or deliberately during indigenous “fire-stick farming”. Different species have evolved a variety of strategies to enable them to survive these periodic onslaughts. Fire tolerant species have features which protect inner tissues. Many types of plants that are not themselves fire tolerant produce woody seed capsules which are opened by the heat of the fire, allowing germination of their seeds to produce a new generation. Others have underground tubers or bulbs that are not affected by fire. Yet others do not ignite readily during moderate intensity fires.

For those living on the edge of the bush, fire prevention close to buildings is important. The general consensus from studies of fire management, include the following practices:

  • Trees should be planted at least 5m from buildings. The steeper the slope, the greater the buffer zone required.
  • Green, ground cover plants should be predominant in the buffer zone with paved pathways and herbs around built structures.
  • Trees and shrubs should be spaced to avoid continuous canopies and should be pruned back when fire threatens.
  • Plants that have a high moisture or salt content and low volatile oil content in their leaves and that do not produce large amounts of leaf and/or bark litter should be selected.

Although all plants will burn in high intensity fires, the presence of the right kind of plants can slow down or divert many bush-fires. Small, compact trees like the narrow leaf lilly pilly (Syzygium smithii), the cheese tree (Glochidion ferdinandii), Queensland ebony (Diospyros germinata) or pink euodia (Melicope elleryana) could be good boundary plants. They can provide a wind break which contributes to slowing down fire by reducing wind speed and preventing the spread of embers. They can also provide a refuge for wildlife fleeing the fire.

Glochidion ferdinandi – Photograph by Mark Marathon – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Suitable shrubs and lower-growing species could include the river lily (Crinium pedunculatum), blue tongue (Melastoma affine) with its mauve flowers and edible fruit, or Brisbane laurel (Pittosporum revolutum) with its lightly scented lemon flowers. Another suitable shrub is the native hibiscus (Hibiscus heterphyllus). The flax lily (Dianella caeruleae) and matrush (Lomandra longifolia) both have low ignition rates.

Pittosporum revolutum – Photograph by Melburnian – Own work (digital photograph by author), CC BY-SA 3.0,

The climbing guinea flowers (Hibbertia scandens) with its beautiful yellow flowers makes a spectacular, dense ground cover as does native sarsparilla (Hardenbergia violacea) with its delicate, purple, pea-like flowers. Both can slow the spread of fire.

The nursery carries a good variety of fire-resistant plants. The staff will be delighted to assist you in selecting species suitable for your location and requirements. Visit us at Paten Road, the Gap or check the website for plant availability.

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