Grass Trees: Armored and prepared for disaster

Grass Tree

Australia is an amazing place. There are more than 25,000 different plants that grow there, many of which do not grow naturally anywhere else in the world. One of the plants that is unique to Australia is the Grass Tree. While similar plants can be found in other parts of the world this particular one prefers the area around the southeast coast of Australia in New South Wales, South Eastern Queensland, and inland into Victoria.

Excellent for xeriscape gardening

The Grass tree’s spiky, grass like appearance when young and its tree like appearance as it grows make it a beautiful addition to low water or xeriscape garden plans. In addition, the tall bloom stalk that emerges seasonally and that puts on a proliferation of waxy white blooms is also a big plus in the appearance department. If you are gardening for bees or other pollinators, these blooms are popular with both bees and nectar eating birds. Still more birds enjoy the seeds that emerge after the plant has finished blooming.

Armored and prepared for disaster

There are many places in the world where the plant life is designed for periodic burn-off. We humans have grown accustomed to thinking of fire as something that humans start. But lightning, excessive daytime temperatures, and even volcanic activity can create wildfires. After all, humans discovered fire, they did not invent it.

Fire is, as the old proverbs say, a good servant but a bad master. When out of hand, it can be terrifying. Humans and animals alike try to flee from forest or grass fires. Plants have no such choices. Instead, they adapt so that what was once a disadvantage becomes an advantage.

Moderate amounts of fire will stimulate bloom and seed production. The fire clears away undergrowth, loose plant materials and competing plant species, as well probably chasing off a few consumers in the process, while turning some of the loose materials into desirable fertilizer for growth.

Glauca Grass trees do not require forest fires. Nor will the adult plants survive a super fire. However, their seeds are remarkably hardy and can help the land begin to recover after it has been burned over.

Underground helpers

Glauca grass trees can be transplanted, which is good news for nursery growers. However, a word to the wise: you should not go out into the wild and just start digging up grass trees. For one thing, they are protected. You need a special license or permission, such as we have at Bluegrass Designer Trees, to harvest these unique plants. For another, glauca grass trees require a unique set of mycorrhiza that are specifically adapted to grass trees, and grass trees are adapted to them. Without a starter of that unique fungus, your tree will struggle.

Fortunately, it isn’t difficult to get some going for any grass tree. Just mix a cup of brown sugar with a bucket of water and use the mixture to water the tree once a month for about a year, or until it is well established.

Having a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhiza is not unique to grass trees. Most forests have an active underground life that helps sustain the right sort of nutrients for the plant life in that area. This is one reason why in some areas the importation of earthworms, normally considered beneficial to plant growth, is a concern. Like any invasive species, the invading worms eat up the debris normally available to native species as food or shelter, or even cover for tree roots can become disturbed.

But to get back to grass trees, they are required for the health of your glauca grass tree. Fortunately, a little starter earth and a sweet drink of sugar water will usually get the hidden helpers into good shape.

Planning Your Landscaping

While grass trees can have a beautiful appearance, there are some things that you need to know about them. They do need their dead leaves trimmed back a little each year to encourage growth. When working with these trees, it is a good idea to not only wear protective eye wear, but to also protect your ears. The stiff leaves, which are pointed and needle sharp on the end, are sufficiently narrow to enter the ear canal causing damage to the ear drum and inner ear.

As with most tree-like plants, it is a good idea to position them a distance away from your house. This protects your house from roots that invade foundations, limbs that scrape against walls, and mitigates fire spread in case of an accidental blaze.

Summing up Glauca Grass Tree

With that said, if you need a plant that is resistant to drought, requires very little attention, and creates a pleasing appearance, the glauca grass tree is definitely for you. Tough, hardy once established, and attractive to bees and birds, as well as being visually pleasing, you could not ask for a better addition to your xeriscape garden.


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