Adding local bush foods to your garden can add new flavours to your diet while sustaining wildlife as well. There is a native plant to fill almost every purpose from food to fiber to timber, and they come in all growth forms from vines to giant trees. The lists below will help you to find a useful local plant suited to our climate and landscape.
There are many reasons to include bush foods in your garden design. Local native plants are easier to look after than exotic plants as they are well adapted to local conditions of climate and soil. They’re also less susceptible to pests and diseases and can assist with pest control as they provide habitat for native insects and birds that feed on pests. Growing native plants attracts wildlife to your garden which gives you an added connection with your natural environment and helps to increase biodiversity. Bush foods can also be included in bush regeneration plantings to increase the productivity of native plantings on site.
Many local native plants have the bonus that they add different, interesting foods to your diet. Bush foods include spices like native pepper, vegetables like warrigal greens, fruit like native raspberry and nuts like macadamia. Learning about local bush foods acknowledges the way indigenous people lived in the environment, and this understanding promotes respect for the land.
On larger Permaculture properties bush foods have potential for being grown commercially. There is increasing demand for bush foods, with industry associations that are working to build markets for their products. Lemon myrtle, Davidson’s plum, macadamia nuts, and native limes are all grown in commercial quantities. Rosella and other bush food jams are often available at Farmers Markets.
Most of the plants listed below are rainforest species. They require well drained soil, with high levels of organic matter and will not tolerate long periods without moisture. Most will tolerate shade, but require sun for the best fruit or seed production.
Zone 1: Home garden
|Common Name||Botanical Name||Growth Form||Uses|
|Flax lily||Dianella caerula||Hardy plant with strappy leaves, attractive flowers and fruits||Edible blue fruits|
|Native raspberry*||Rubus rosifolius var rosifolius||Prickly canes, suckers readily, full sun||fruit eaten fresh or in jam|
|Native Turmeric (Cape York Lily)||Curcuma australasica||Ginger-like plant, large leaves, attractive flowers||Rhizomes used like turmeric|
|Native violet||Viola hederacea||Low groundcover||Flowers and leaves edible|
|Nyullee (pigface)||Carpobrotus glaucesens||Succulent groundcover, full sun||‘Salty strawberry’ fruit|
|Rosella||Hibiscus sabdariffa||Annual shrub||Red calyx used in jams, teas, chutney|
|Scrambling lily||Geitonoplesium cymosum||Small vine, likes shade||Shoot eaten raw|
|Scurvy Weed||Commelina cyanea||Perennial prostrate herb with blue flowers||Leaves eaten raw or cooked|
|Spike rush (water chestnut)||Eleocharis dulcis||water rush that grows in water or boggy ground||Edible corms|
|Warrigal greens*||Tetragonia tetragonioides||annual groundcover, salt tolerant, sun or partial shade||Edible leaf (must be boiled first), used as a spinach|
Zone 2: Home orchard
|Aniseed myrtle*||Backhousia anisata||small to medium tree||aromatic leaves with aniseed flavour, used in teas|
|Bolwarra||Eupomatia laurina||Shrub||Edible fruit|
|Blue tongue||Melastoma affine||Shrub with mauve flowers||Grainy purple fruit|
|Burdekin plum*||Pleiogynum timorense||medium tree||Purple fruit in winter, eaten fresh or used in jams|
|Cedar Bay cherry*||Eugenia reinwardtiana||shrub, full sun||sweet, pink-red fruit eaten raw|
|Cinnamon myrtle*||Backhousia myrtifolia||shrub with white flowers||aromatic leaves for tea, spice|
|Davidson’s plum*||Davidsonia pruriens||small tree||Sour fruit used in jams, wine|
|Finger lime*||Citrus australasica||small tree, best in partial shade||small fruit (red, purple or green) used in drinks, marmalades,|
|Lemon aspen, common aspen*||Achronychia acidula||medium trees
|lemon flavoured fruit, use in sauces, drinks|
|Lemon myrtle*||Backhousia citriodora||medium tree, hardy||aromatic leaves contain ‘citral’, used in teas, sauces, cosmetics|
|Lilli pillies||Syzygium spp.||small – medium trees||fruit used in jams, drinks, sauces|
|Lime berry||Glycosmis trifoliata||Shrub||small juicy pink fruits eaten fresh|
|Macadamia*||Macadamia integrifolia||Medium/large tree||edible nuts with high oil content|
|Midyim berry||Austromyrtis dulcis||low shrub, ground cover||small, speckled edible fruit|
|Millaa millaa vine||Eleagnus triflora||clumping vine||Small, tasty fruit, high in lycopene|
|Native ginger||Alpinia caerulea||attractive understorey shrub||spicy seeds, shoots edible, leaves used to wrap fish in coals|
|Native pepper*||Tasmannia lanceolata||shrub for cool, moist areas, with purple or white berries||dried leaves and seeds used as pepper|
|Native tamarind*||Diploglottis australis||Tall slender tree||Sour yellow fruit used for jams, drinks|
|Peanut tree||Sterculia quadrifida||small-medium tree, deciduous||Edible black seed in a decorative red pod|
|Riberry*||Syzygium luehmannii||small – medium tree, pink new foliage, white flowers, red fruit||fruit used in jams, drinks, sauces|
|Round lime*||Citrus australis||small to medium tree||round green fruit used in jams, drinks|
|Sandpaper fig||Ficus coronata||small trees||fleshy purple fruit, edible raw or in jams|
|Small leaved tamarind*||Diploglottis campbellii||medium tree, hardy,
glossy green foliage
|fruit with red, edible aril, used in jams, drinks|
|Walking stick palm||Linospadix monostachya||attractive understorey shrub||refreshing small red fruit|
|Zig zag vine||Melodorum leichhardtii||vine||Tangy ‘orange sherbet’ fruit|
Zone 3: Commercial orchard
*Species marked with an asterisk in the lists above and below have commercial potential.
Zone 4: Windbreaks, Erosion control, Stock shelter belts
All the species listed above can be used, plus those in the table below.
Zone 5: Bush Regeneration areas
All the species listed above plus those in the table below.
|Acacias (wattles)*||Acacia spp||fast-growing pioneers, small to large trees, add nitrogen to the soil||many have seed that is edible after roasting and grinding, used for coffee substitute, and in desserts|
|Black apple||Planchonella australis||large tree||edible fruit|
|Blue quandong||Elaeocarpus grandis||large tree||fruit used for drinks|
|Brown pine plum*||Podocarpus elatus||large tree||fruit used for jams, sauces|
|Bunya pine*||Araucaria bidwilli||large tree||edible nuts, boiled, roasted, dried, ground for flour|
|Cockspur vine||Maclura cochinchinensis||clumping, thorny vine||edible yellow or orange fruit|
|Kangaroo apple||Solanum aviculare||pioneer shrub||fruits edible in small amounts when completely ripe|
|Native grapes||Cissus antartica||vines||some have edible fruit|
|Native hibiscus||Hibiscus tiliaceus||pioneer, small flowering tree||flowers edible in salads or jam, leaves edible when boiled|
|Native mulberry||Pipturis argenteus||pioneer small tree||fruits edible|
|Native tamarind*||Diploglottis australis||medium-large tree||fruit with yellow aril used for jams, drinks|
Tim Low (1988) Wild Food Plants of Australia, Angus and Robertson, Sydney
Cribb, AB & JW. (1974) Wild Food in Australia, Fontana Collins, Sydney
Australian Native Foods and Botanicals – www.anfab.org.au