Gardening by Em: Native edible plants for people and for wildlife

Written by Em Bowman - Stem Landscape Architecture and Design

If you want to bring some interesting flavours to your cooking, to impress yourself, family and friends then this piece may tickle your senses. Here, I want to introduce some native edible plants that you can incorporate into your garden. The other great thing about planting native edible species is you are also providing a food source to your local wildlife.

Edible Australian plants are getting more and more popular, however, it is hard to believe that macadamia nuts are the only commercially produced native food distributed worldwide, so basically, we consume an almost completely exotic diet.

Here are a few handpicked species that I am familiar with and some that I too would love to have in my garden.


Olearia axillais- Wild Rosemary:

Wild rosemary comes from W.A, it’s a very hardy shrub and a great addition to your herb garden, it has a similar flavour to rosemary, but I especially love the silver foliage as it’s a great eye catcher and contrast within the garden.

Insects love this plant, and it also ironically doubles as an insect repellent.


Apium annuum - Sea Celery:

This is one of my favourites, its tastes the same as celery and you harvest it the same too. I tend to use the leaves in salads and soups as the flavour can be found in the leaves and I like seeing people trying to find the non-existent celery chunks. Again, this plant is insect attracting so you are helping those local pollinating insects.

Apium annuum is found throughout coastal areas of W.A, S.A and Vic.


Barbarea australis- Native wintercress:

Native wintercress belongs to the brassica family, and if I were to describe the flavour, it is similar to rocket, as it has a peppery flavour. The leaf, stem, flower and seeds are edible and can be used in a variety of foods.

This insect attracting plant is found in Tasmania and unfortunately because it’s very palatable, this species has become endangered.


Fruiting Species

Austromyrtus dulcis - Midyim Berries:

I really enjoy the flavour of this fruiting shrub and so does my pet Lorikeet Pringle. This plant is a favourite amongst our first nations people and it’s also a food source to a variety of birds, mammals, reptiles and insects!

You can find this plant naturally occurring in forest in NSW and QLD. The berries are ready at the end of summer, start of autumn. It’s shrubby like form is great for those areas you want good cover, and you can trim it up to keep it clean, bushy and fruiting.  


Ficus coronata - Sand Paper Fig:

This plant is for those who live in NSW and QLD and a certain area’s of Northeast Victoria where fig wasps are present.

The Sandpaper fig relies on the fig wasp to pollinate its flowers which it then produces these small fruits that drop on the ground and have been described as sweet and delicious. Considering the symbiotic relationship between these species it may be beneficial for people to have a sandpaper fig in the garden to aid in a conservation effort to protect these species.

Due to its fruiting nature this species is enjoyed by many critters, from birds, to marsupials, reptiles, insects and humans.


Podocarpus elatus- Illawarra Plum:

This tree is a rainforest species endemic to the east coast of Australia.

Like the Tasmanian Pepperberry, this species is dioecious, meaning you need a male and female plant to produce fruit. You need to wait for the fruits to drop off as this signals that they are ready to eat.

This is a great plant for either full sun and part shade, and it can also withstand salt spray, so many coastal dwellers would find this species appealing. Another important note is it attracts and feeds bird and insect species.



There are so many edible species that I simply can’t cover in this writing, but here are a few more you may want to look into; Billardiera scandens, Syzygium oleosum, Davidsonia jerseyana, Elaeocarpus angustifolius, Microseris lanceolata, Coprosma quadrifolia, the list goes on.

You can find many edible species at as well as asking your local indigenous nursery. By introducing these plants into your diet and garden, you are familiarising yourself with some native foods and providing a food source to local wildlife. Bon appetite.

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