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January 25, 2016

Struth! Like watching grass trees grow

IN the wild, Australian grass trees in their natural state
at Sydney’s North Head Sanctuary. (GardenDrum.com)

If you’ve admired them growing majestically in the wild and are among increasing numbers of home-gardeners adopting the uniquely Australian grass tree (Xanthorrhoea) David Ellis says you’ll need plenty of patience if you want to track their growth.,

Because they add a mere 1-to-2.5 centimetres (that’s just under an inch) a year to their trunk height – meaning as one of the slowest growing plants in the world, they can take between 200 and 600 years to reach full size of five metres or so.

And in fact many fully-grown specimens that plant nurseries are now selling have come off land being cleared for farming, and are so old they could quite possibly have taken root hundreds of years before white man ever set foot in this country.

Aboriginal people long made clever use of different parts of the plant for food, drink, fibre, for making weapons, and even a super-glue, and yet without ever killing it.


AND cleverly used in a suburban front garden. (Cambridge Council, WA)

Now also being propogated by specialist nurseries from seed that can take up to a year to germinate, grass trees can cost from $50 for the tiniest fit-in-your-palm specimens, to $1000-plus for those more fully-grown.

And they can take up to three years to decide whether they’ll live or die in the garden spot you’ve chosen for them – if they live, eventually throwing 1- to 3-metre long cylindrical spikes smothered annually with little white to yellow florets loved by insects and birds.

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