Conserving Australasian plants; how we can have a real impact.

During our special general meeting on 15th November 2014 it was decided that we, as a society, needed a clear guide as to what we wanted to achieve. A mission for the society was created which would drive everything the society does into the future. We became

The Australasian Plant Society
- for promoting the cultivation and conservation of Australasian plants and their closest relatives in the northern hemisphere

The cultivation aspect of this is comparatively easy to achieve as we all love growing amazing plants from Australia and New Zealand but the conservation aspect is a little trickier. We have decided to take a two-pronged approach

Clianthus puniceus (Kaka Beak) is endangered in the wild yet grown regularly in gardens.
Clianthus puniceus (Kaka Beak) is endangered in the wild yet grown regularly in gardens.

1 – Protecting Australasia’s cultivated plant varieties

Australasian plants form an important part of the world’s garden flora. They extend the season of interest in gardens right through the winter and provide much needed food for pollinators during difficult times. They are unique, they challenge us and they give us a taste of the exotic. Yet, this exact set of attributes puts these antipodean gems at risk in cultivation outside of their native lands.

Many have been grown in Europe for over 200 years yet are considered tender and difficult, a label which is often unwarranted.

To help us combat the loss of cultivated varieties of Australia and New Zealand’s plants we have joined forces with Plant Heritage (The world’s leading cultivated plant conservation charity) to help stop the loss of these cultivars and varieties from our gardens. Several members of the APS hold National plant collections and go a long way to keeping these plants in cultivation and we are also now able to go a step further through the Plant Heritage Plant Guardians scheme. If you grow an Australasian plant that you know to be rare in cultivation (a good guide is if it is listed by two or fewer nurseries in the RHS plant finder) you could register as a Plant Guardian. You don’t have to be a member of Plant Heritage to do so as you can do it directly through your membership of the APS.

By conserving plants this way we can help the world meet important international targets through the Aichi Biodiversity agreement (part of the Convention on Biological Diversity) Target 13 – By 2020, the genetic diversity of cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and of [their] wild relatives, including other socio-economically as well as culturally valuable species, is maintained, and strategies have been developed and implemented for minimizing genetic erosion and safeguarding their genetic diversity.

If you would like to know more about the Plant Guardians scheme or would like to conserve a threatened plant through it, contact our chairman by email at

2 –  Conserving Australasia’s Threatened Plant Species

Australia has over 20,000 species of vascular plants and New Zealand has a further 2,500 (most of which are endemic). It is an unfortunate fact that many of these species are severely threatened with extinction. In 2002 the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) was adopted by the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. It was a bold step for the conservation of the world’s plants

Part of the GSPC is concerned with the conservation of plants through cultivation and this goal was laid out in Target 8 of the strategy. – At least 75 per cent of threatened plant species in ex situ collections and at least 20 per cent available for recovery and restoration programmes.

Through an agreement with BGCI (Botanic Gardens Conservation International) we are now able to make the plants our members are growing in their gardens count toward this target. BGCI is the world’s largest plant conservation network and it is through its Plant Search database that the GSPC Target 8 is assessed.

We are now able to upload information to the database enabling us to make sure the plants conserved in members gardens really count for conservation internationally. If you have a collection of Australasian plants that you would like to count towards worldwide conservation targets, then please complete a copy of the Excel spreadsheet below, save this file in .CSV format (File>SaveAs>CSV (Comma delimited), and return it to If you have any questions or queries about this initiative, please drop our chairman a line at the same email address.

Access the spreadsheet and plant upload instructions by clicking on the picture below



N.B. BGCI is an independent organisation and is governed by the Data Protection Act. Any information passed to them will be anonymous and only the details of the species held by APS members will be shared.

With over 400,000 known plant species, and such vast diversity in Australasia, the challenge of conserving plant diversity is too big a job for just a few people. It is with your help that we, as a society, can really step up to this challenge and make a difference for the plants we all grow and love.

There were once over 200 cultivars of Epacris impressa in British cultivation but now its not available at all.
There were once over 200 cultivars of Epacris impressa in British cultivation but now its not available at all.