Native Australian Grasses

 

 

The use of Australian native grasses has many benefits for the Australian environment. There are both practical and aesthetic benefits from using native grasses that can be utilised in a wide variety of projects. Native grasses have been the dominant vegetation type for hundreds of thousands of years in Australia. This natural environment before European settlement was characterised by highly weathered, shallow and infertile soils, regular drought, high summer temperatures and spasmodic grazing from highly mobile soft-footed herbivores. Much of our native grasslands have been lost to agriculture and urbanisation and now only remnants remain. There are many threatened and endangered species of plants and animals whose habitat has been lost. By using native grasses, we are helping to restore habitat and preserve biodiversity.

Australian native grasses are adapted to soils that have been subject to millions of years of weathering and erosion and so are able to grow on soils that are more like subsoils in other parts of the world. Soil depths of 50 to 100 mm (2 to 4 inches) are quite common across the grasslands of Australia and our native grasses have adapted to grow where soil depth is shallow. Native grasses are an ideal solution for revegetation on roadsides or mine-sites where topsoil is either absent or returned as a veneer over the reconstructed subsoil.

Australia regularly suffers from severe droughts and low rainfall. Australian native grasses are well adapted to this and are usually the first grasses to recover after a drought. They have a variety of mechanisms for drought avoidance, either through entering a prolonged dormancy, or through having a below-ground crown which is capable of surviving drought and grazing. These grasses are usually advantaged by the impact of drought and become more prevalent following the breaking of the drought. Once these grasses are established they can survive with minimal watering or irrigation. When native grasses are used for lawns, landscape and amenity uses, there is a much lower (sometimes nil) water requirement. In pastures, native grasses have a far greater capacity to tolerate drought without the need to re-sow the pasture following the breaking of the drought. In horticulture, supplementary irrigation in the space between the rows of vines or tree crops may not be needed.



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