Indian Hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica), a slow-growing, evergreen horticultural shrub from eastern Asia (and notably not from India).
Tolerant of saline environments and disturbed soils, this species is often used in Japan to revegetate road cuttings and other cleared slopes. In Australia, it is a popular ornamental shrub, and modern cultivars are available which produce little or no viable fruit.
Indian Hawthorn is an identified environmental weed in coastal NSW and QLD, and on NZ’s north island. In Victoria, it has been known from just a single collection of naturalised material made on the Research-Warrandyte Road, on the north east edge of the metropolitan, as well as list occurrences at Ringwood and Frankston.
The photographed plants are established in a broad section of the Coburg Cemetery, growing mostly in protected inner seams between the kerbs of adjacent monuments, on an open, west-facing slope. In this section of the cemetery, which has been devastated by excessive herbicide use and consequent loss of topsoil, this incipient ‘Indian Hawthorn scrub’ forms the principal surviving biomass.
The chemically-decimated and eroding moonscapes of this and other trust cemeteries should be an embarrassment felt across Victoria. Decades of ‘efficient’ management using glyphosate have overseen the total ruination of what should be some of our community’s most valued ornamental landscapes.
The appearance of Indian Hawthorn as a ‘weed’ in this landscape can only be understood in that context of complete over-management and destruction of every other bit of plant life and soil structure, an atypical situation in which this legacy planting has not only survived the destruction but also succeeded in seeding and perpetuating itself. While unlikely to spread more widely, in its local availability there is always the possibility that the species may show up at other area sites with similar environmental scenarios: the northern suburban rail corridors, the Newlands Road industrial subdivisions, or the quarries, race course and former tip at Campbellfield.