There is something magical about spring, and if you’re an avid nature lover you’ll be anticipating its arrival together with longer days and warmer weather. Rhonda Daniels, local writer and volunteer at Joseph Banks Native Plants Reserve, shares her love and knowledge of Australian natives…
Joseph Banks Native Plants Reserve is one of the few specialised public gardens in Sydney devoted entirely to Australian native plants. Visit in spring to enjoy the many plants in flower, showcasing the beauty and diversity of our native flora. You will not be disappointed with the display!
Acacias, also known as wattles, light up the Australian landscape with their lemon, yellow or gold flowers. Many flower in winter through to spring and Wattle Day is celebrated on 1 September. Enjoy the groundcovers, shrubs and trees in the Acacia garden, one of the theme gardens at the reserve. Acacias have had an undeserved reputation for causing allergies, but the heavy, sticky pollen is dispersed by animals, not by wind.
Kangaroo paws are also bursting into flower in yellows, oranges and reds, together with pink paper daisies from Western Australia and yellow button groundcovers at the entry. The sunny garden near the information kiosk is the place for plants which flower well in the sun featuring ever-popular, bird-attracting grevilleas in a myriad of flower colours and sizes, with colourful groundcovers edging the paths.
Other theme gardens in the 2.2 hectare reserve are the bush food garden, which has native raspberry shrubs in fruit and finger lime shrubs, the silver foliage garden with tough hardy plants, rainforests, cycads, ferns and a shade garden with a Wollemi pine. The shadier areas show how to have colour with less sun – look for the mauve flowers on mintbushes, red berries on cordylines and the red new growth of rainforest plants.
See natural sandstone flora in an area of the reserve left unplanted, with the two vegetation communities of Sydney Sandstone Ridgetop Woodland Remnant and Sydney Sandstone Gully Forest Remnant. A controlled burn in 2009 encouraged regrowth of plants such as flannel flowers and grass trees and there is little sign of the fire.
Originally set up in 1970 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of James Cook and Joseph Banks visiting Botany Bay on Endeavour in 1770 to collect botanical specimens, the reserve has matured into a peaceful and serene environment. Eucalypt and angophora trees filter sunlight onto a diverse understorey including banksias, a distinctive group of Australian plants named after naturalist Sir Joseph Banks.
The north and east facing sloping site has varied topography with large outcrops of sandstone, creating interesting nooks and crannies to explore. Visitors can walk around the reserve on sealed paths without steps.
Something for everyone
With the variety of theme gardens and paths, there is something for everyone right through the year. A new picnic terrace and deck with several tables and electric BBQs was officially opened by Sutherland Council in July 2017, and picnic tables are scattered throughout the reserve. Community groups can sit and enjoy the vistas while more active members take a short or longer stroll. Families with children will welcome the safe environment to explore nature and have a picnic or BBQ. Garden owners can get landscaping ideas for their own garden and see what grows well in Sutherland Shire. Students will appreciate the over 500 plant species in the reserve labelled with their botanical names. Photographers will enjoy the opportunities for close ups and landscape shots – and the plants tend to stay still. Enjoy the view north over the Georges River to the city skyline beyond from the lookout.
Sit and watch lizards sunning themselves, and birds and insects at work and play. Watch the native bee hive on the orchid walk to the new terrace. The tiny stingless bees are more active when it is warmer, travelling up to one kilometre from their hive to collect pollen and make honey to keep them going in the cooler months.
The Australian Plants Society has recently installed interpretive signs on a wide range of topics, so look out for those as you wander around. The main entrance has a map and there are brochures with a map to take with you.
The reserve has accessible paths, accessible toilets, picnic tables, electric BBQs, undercover information kiosk, and carpark with an accessible space and bicycle parking.
Stop nearby for food and coffee, or bring your own morning tea or lunch. There are food outlets in nearby Marshall Road, Kareela Golf Club is opposite the Bates Drive pedestrian entrance and Kareela shopping centre is off Bates Drive. Sutherland Council Community Nursery is 10 minutes away at 345 The Boulevarde, Gymea, selling many species of local native plants to the public.
The reserve is open 7 days a week from 9 am to 5 pm. Closed Christmas Day and Good Friday.
The reserve entrance is in Manooka Place, Kareela, approximately 5 minutes drive from the Princes Highway via Bates Drive and Alpita Street. There is also a pedestrian entrance on Bates Drive, opposite Kareela Golf Club.
For public transport access, take Route 967 or 968 buses from Jannali or Miranda stations and get off at stops in nearby Garnet Road or Marshall Road, or walk from Kirrawee or Gymea stations. Check www.transportnsw.info for public transport details.
For cyclists, the reserve is a few blocks north of the cycleway along Waratah Street, and the reserve has bicycle parking.
Entry is free.
For more info click here
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