About this project

Weeds of Melbourne is an experiment in bootstrap botany, a visual glossary of weeds and weedy heritage that is under active development. 

The Weeds of Melbourne project is interpretive, tentative where necessary, and will always be incomplete. It is not and should not be treated as an authority for identification, management decisions, or scientific purposes, although some of the observations here may have scientific value and ultimately will be documented for other archives.

Weeds of Melbourne consists of an ongoing series of occurrences recorded and researched organically, as a consequence of observing plants in the city. 

The website archives material typically first published @weedsofmelbourne on Instagram.

Contextualising weeds

Featured species are typically profiled with as little moralism or prescription as is practical.

The ‘weed’ epithet, as implied in a plant being featured by the project, is employed to describe a context, and should not be read as a pejorative. Some of the plants featured are barely weedy by conventional measures—they are adventives, enduring garden remnants, or plants capable of spreading only under very particular circumstances. Others are plants which seem to be exceeding the weediness attributed to them in the authorities, but for which this project will hardly be the last word. 

The text will typically make clear where plants are declared, noxious weeds in Victoria (meaning they are agricultural pest plants), or where they have been recognised in other authorities as being environmental weeds (that is, plants which have proven capable of invading valued natural areas).

Some plants are native or indigenous species. ‘All native plants are good’ is as misguided a tenet as ‘all weeds are bad’. Although written from a perspective that accepts the high value of indigenous ecological function and plant communities, this project does not subscribe to the easy moral assessments attached to ‘native’ status. Locally indigenous species that prove capable of colonising Melbourne’s urban landscapes represent both amusing curiosities and important evidence of the ecological potential of these species. At the other end of the impact scale, the negative consequences wrought by a host of introduced, Australian native plants outside of their previous ranges are well-documented in Victoria and should be necessary background for anyone involved in planting or land management at all scales.   

For more about the philosophy of the project, read the introductory essay

Limitations

This website is incomplete, a work in progress in which plants are researched and profiled ‘as they are seen’ (and conclusively identified). 

At present, there are many holes and lacunae in the distribution of plants profiled, particularly among grasses, trees, aquatics, dense herbaceous groups like the Mustards (Brassicaceae), and plants whose principal introduced range is in the eastern ranges. These gaps will resolve over time, but get in touch if you’d like to assist in bringing one of these aspects of the project up to speed.

Some groups of plants will also be over-represented, based on ease of identification, seasonal and spatial availability, and the personal interest of the observer. Ferns growing as spontaneous weeds on urban structure and infrastructure are a good winter obsession.

As described above, this is an effort at bootstrap botany. Identifications are made cautiously, to the extent that this limits the frequency and volume of posting; to the extent practical, we will avoid errors in identification and description. Errors may nonetheless occur; queries and corrections are always welcome.

When in doubt or when it will matter, please consult the actual authorities.

About the author

Michael David Cook is a landscape architect, heritage consultant and occasional public artist. He resides in Melbourne, Australia. Contact him by e-mail at info@weedsofmelbourne.org