Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Australian Botanic Garden


How big is the landscape?

By comparison to the Australian Botanic Garden’s 416 ha (1028 acres), the PlantBank landscape is quite small at just 0.6 ha (1.6 acres); however, the area needed to be rehabilitated from the subsoil up. Almost 1700 m3 of top soil was imported to ensure the plants would have suitable growing conditions. The soil was imported from a nearby industrial construction site that once also supported Cumberland Plain Woodland. The soil was rigorously tested for suitability before use.

Australian Botanic Garden
Click on map to enlarge 

How was the landscape designed?

The PlantBank landscape, designed by landscape architects 360 Degrees, has three main elements.

The first section, or 'woodland creep', adjacent to the critically endangered Cumberland Plain Woodland, brings together a continuous groundcover layer of native grasses (e.g. Themeda australis, Microlaena stipoides) and a dispersed shrub layer (e.g. Bursaria spinosa, Indigofera australis and Dodonaea viscosa subsp cuneata), planted with a density that balances biomass with Bushfire and Asset Protection Zone (APZ) constraints. Architect Liam Bowes of 360 Degrees says the 'soft approach is intended to appropriately integrate the integrity of the adjacent woodland, the significance of the adjacent Stolen Generations Memorial and the purpose of the Australian PlantBank building'.

The second section, the entry 'cut' through the embankment, is a dramatic introduction to the building that engages and welcomes visitors and staff to the Australian PlantBank. The architect says 'The cut's location is marked to the south by a thicket planting of Cumberland Plain eucalypts (e.g. E. crebra; E. tereticornis and E. moluccana ) with woodland shrub species (e.g. Rhodanthe anthemoides, Mentha satureioides, Wahlenbergia communis, Wahlenbergia stricta, Chrysocephalum sp.) under planted in a layered, ornamental expression.'

The third section is the Living Laboratory or 'an abstracted woodland garden', a collection of plant experiments, vital to the Australian PlantBank’s conservation research. Here visitors and staff observe and study local wild plants. The architects explain: 'Here is the work of the Australian PlantBank distilled, using the Woodland as a microcosm. The botanical elements of the "unremarkable" Woodland are celebrated en masse in a tapestry of tilted planes, with diversity of interpretative expressions.' Many Australian plant species are just beginning their journey from wild habitat to suburban garden; others have the potential to provide food, textiles or medicines.

All the plants have been grown from seeds and cuttings, gathered from the surrounding Cumberland Plain Woodland. This critically endangered ecosystem is under threat from invasive species and the urbanisation of Western Sydney. A mere 6 per cent (6400 hectares) of the original 107,000 hectares of Cumberland Plain Woodland remains.

Individual species are displayed in the Living Laboratory in large triangular garden beds to enable visitors to focus on the significant understorey component of the Cumberland Plain Woodland. Much of the diversity of this vegetation community is in the lower level, where grasses and small herbs dominate.

Woodland creep

Meadow plantings

Abstract landscape


How many plants were planted in the landscape?

The Australian Botanic Garden nursery grew 25,000 plants for the PlantBank landscape. The plants were grown from seeds or cuttings, carefully harvested from the adjacent critically endangered Cumberland Plain Woodland.

Planting of the landscape

What species are in the garden beds?

The understorey species are showcased in the landscape beds and include, Cheilanthes sieberi, Cheilanthes distans, Pellaea falcata, Poa labillardierei, Einadia nutans subsp. linifolia, Indigofera australis, Themeda australis, Plectranthus parviflorus, Ozothamnus diosmifolius, Hardenbergia violacea, Pimelea spicata, Goodenia hederacea, Chloris truncata, Scaevola albida, Sida corrugata, Eremophila debilis, Microlaena stipoides, Wahlenbergia stricta, Calotis lappulacea, Chloris ventricosa, Lomandra filiformis, Ajuga australis, Chrysocephalum apiculatum, Mentha satureoides, Rubus parvifolius, Sorghum leiocladum, Rhodanthe anthemoides, Ranunculus lappaceus and Linum marginale.


What is Cumberland Plain Woodland?

This vegetation community occurs only in western Sydney on the shale based clay soils. It is now listed both federally and at a state level as a critically endangered ecological community and is therefore legally protected from further reduction. The main threat to habitat loss is urban development. Remnant areas are also impacted by weed invasion, illegal dumping and fragmentation.

Eucalyptus crebra

What species occur in the woodland?

The key feature of Cumberland Plain Woodland is the diversity of the understorey vegetation. At the Australian Botanic Garden the woodland is comprised of three main tree species (Eucalyptus moluccana, Eucalyptus tereticornis and Eucalyptus crebra), several shrub species (including the dominant Bursaria spinosa) and over 120 small herbs and grasses.

Click here for further information on the ecology of the Cumberland Plain Woodland.


What is in the rock garden?

The rock garden is composed of 150 m2 of sandstone from the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney and Sydney Hospital.  With almost 200 years of history, each rock has a story. Here you can see the old walls, gate posts, statue plinths, coping stones and even a chimney flue from the two historic sites. The sandstone pieces were replaced over time as the stone eroded or was damaged, and the damaged pieces were placed in storage till a use could be found for them.

The rock garden isn’t just a sculpture or art installation; it is the ultimate recycling project.  It has taken a team of stone masons nearly six weeks to create.  Our scientists will be experimenting with different ways to encourage the growth of primitive plants  and the rock garden will one day be home to a myriad of lichens, mosses and liverworts

Lichen Garden

What are lichens, mosses and liverworts?

Mosses are non-vascular land plants that are typically 1-10 cm high. There are over 12,000 species of moss. They do not produce flowers and produce spore capsules instead of fruits or seeds. 

Liverworts are also non-vascular land plants and are typically very small.  Over 9000 species of liverworts exist.  Some produce a flattened leafless thallus but most produce leafy forms that look like a flattened moss.

Lichens are not one but two organisms - a fungus and either an alga or a photosynthetic bacterium - living together in a structure called a thallus. The thallus is created by the fungus growing around the algae and both organisms share resources. It’s estimated there are over 30,000 species of lichens worldwide

Hederodea muelleri