Through years of urban expansion, Melbourne’s Docklands was transformed from native wetlands into an industrial hub. In the past decade alone, we’ve seen Victoria Harbour continue to evolve as a thriving precinct where Melburnians work, live and play.
Lendlease - the developer responsible for transforming Victoria Harbour into the hub we know today - is celebrated for its best practice methods in the master planning of sustainable communities; securing a rating of Six Green Star Communities by the Green Building Council of Australia.
Plant life in the precinct is a major factor that influences the sustainability of the precinct. Currently, the streets and parks of Victoria Harbour are filled with a mixture of native and exotic plant species. But as the decades-long redevelopment continues to flourish, Lendlease is continuing to renew the various native plant life as the final buildings and public spaces in the development also come to life.
We asked Darren Brincat, Development Manager for Urban Regeneration at Lendlease to help us learn more about the native flora in the precinct.
Why do we plant natives?
“The use of native plant species is a key aspect in creating meaningful public spaces that reconnect to the original ecology of the Docklands area,” said Darren.
Increasing the amount of native flora in our urban environment is beneficial beyond providing a shady canopy for locals to enjoy. These drought-resistant species including White Cedar and Tuckeroo can withstand the unpredictable and often harsh Melbourne environment as it changes throughout the seasons. There are also many local indigenous plant species in the area, including Pigface and Silver Wattle, which have traditionally been used for medicinal purposes.
Planting native flora in urban areas also helps to encourage the return of native fauna - especially birds, bees and butterflies seeking their optimal habitat - to the area.
Find these natives near you
If you’re not a horticulturalist it can be difficult to tell the difference between native and exotic plants, particularly when you find them in an urban setting. Here are two species of native plants to look out for in Victoria Harbour:
Coastal Banksia (Banksia integrifolia)
This hardy plant is native to the east coast of Australia, with the Coastal Banksia being one of the most widely distributed of the banksia varieties. These trees display large lemon-coloured flowers from autumn to spring which have an appearance similar to a bottle brush. The flowers produce nectar which attract native wildlife including bees, butterflies and nectar-eating birds such as honeyeaters.
Pigface (Carpobrotus glaucescens)
This floor-covering native succulent is widely regarded as having one of the most spectacular displays of bright flowers, with vibrant pink blooms sprouting en masse in the spring. Every part of this plant is edible or medicinal. Its leaves are used like aloe vera to soothe burns and stings, and can be eaten raw or cooked. Some foraging websites have even started showcasing pigface pickle and jam recipes, a resurgence from early settler times.
What’s still to come
In the coming years, works will begin on the Victoria Harbour’s Eco Park, a new public space which will provide a green oasis for many varieties of large specimen trees, native shrubs, grasses and aquatic plants, as well as access to the water’s edge. “Eco Park which will showcase the site’s ecological origins including an Indigenous Healing Garden, which will evoke awareness of native healing plants and the wisdom of Traditional Owners.”
While it won’t be a complete return to pre-settlement times, the next phase for Victoria Harbour will be an interpretation of a native ecosystem that will encourage the growth of local flora and fauna. Included in the precinct’s plans is a floating wetland for Victoria Harbour’s edge. With self-supporting beds of plant materials with dense systems of submerged roots, the new trees will act as a nursery for plant life, while also treating the water around it.