CVA Updates

Building back our beautiful native habitat with Nature Blocks™️

When you look around at the gardens you walk past, or the parks you walk through, or the forests you hike in, do you know what you are looking at?

Imagine if you could identify the various flowers, trees, ferns, and shrubs, and you knew what they all do in the habitat where they are planted. You would be able to read the landscape.

Photo by siva xu on Unsplash

Botany is the study of plants and their names. Botanists study plants and how they evolve and adapt to changing climates and environments.

Botanists, including some of us at Conservation Volunteers Australia, have a proactive role in mitigating the loss of biodiversity; we created Nature Blocks™️ to do just that.

Nature Blocks is about building back nature one block at a time, and four of the CVA designed Nature Blocks involve planting native species. Each one has a suggested recipe of plant varieties and habitat elements that work together to help nature flourish.

The Nature Blocks that you can create are Nature Pots, Pollinator Garden, Rain Garden, and Nature Strip. Download the CVA Community Hub app to find out more details on each block.

Our new way to act for Nature from the comfort of your own home, supported by The Bupa Foundation

Botany as the basis of biodiversity regeneration

We see a future where everyone is interested in botany and biodiversity. From little things big things grow; once you know more, you can do more.

If we all take action for nature, we can encourage the regeneration of Australia’s biodiversity. One of our first lessons is learning how to understand the scientific plant names, which are in Latin.

Science gives every plant a universal name

The horticulturalists or botanists reading this will know that Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish naturalist, developed the universal plant naming system in the mid-1700s.

Scientific naming allows botanists to group plants according to similarities, such as leaves flowers and fruit. These names are mostly based on the Latin language, but also Greek and Arabic. This means it can be a universal reference point and common language that all nature lovers, botanists, and horticulturalists around the world can understand.

All plants are classified into several taxonomic groups. At a high level, all plants are part of the plant “Kingdom”. They are then also part of a broader “Family”. From there, each plant has a “Genus” (always capitalised), and this can be further classified as a species with its “specific epithet” (which is always lowercase). Its binomial name is comprised of the Genus and the specific epithet.

Photo by Yoksel Zok on Unsplash

Time to get to know some plants by their universal and common names

Let’s look at the gorgeous red maple. In scientific terms, the red maple is from the Sapindaceae (soapberry) Family. For day-to-day use, its binomial name is Acer rubrum, where Acer is the Genus and this means “maple” and rubrub refers to the specific epithet which in this case is the colour red. Acer rubrub: red maple.

Often the common name is easier to remember, but the universal name comes in handy when you go to your local garden centre, and you want to ask for a specific plant or variety that you have seen in a book or on a show.

Photo of asplenium astralasicum by John Robert McPherson on Wikimedia Commons

One of our favourites is Asplenium australasicum or ‘Australian bird’s nest fern’. Let’s continue our botany lesson and apply our Latin learning. Asplenium nidus is a bird’s nest fern. Why? Asplenium is the Genus, meaning fern; nidus is the specific epithet, which means nest. So, an Australian bird’s nest fern is an Asplenium australiasicum.

Scientific plant names sometimes contain entire stories

Not all scientific to common name translations are as straightforward, and, on many occasions, the two parts of a binomial name can each be derived from different sources such as the name of people, the name of places, or various languages such as Greek. A great example is the red silky oak, Grevillea banksii, where the Genus and the specific epithet were named after two botanists, Charles Francis Greville and Sir Joseph Banks, respectively.

Another example is Chrysocephalum baxteri, commonly known as the ‘fringed everlasting’. The Latin binomial contains the Genus Chrysocephalum, which is derived from the Greek chryso, meaning ‘golden’; the Greek word cephalus, meaning ‘a head’, refers to the golden yellow flower heads of some species; and the specific epithet baxteri is named after the botanist William Baxter.

Similarly, Xanthorrhoea australis, commonly known as the grass tree, has an indirect translation. The Genus name Xanthorrhoea is taken from the Greek words xanthos, meaning ‘yellow’, and rheo, meaning ‘to flow’, a reference to the resin that is obtained from these plants; and the specific epithet australis, meaning ‘southern’, refers to the distribution of the species. It is so fascinating once you start to learn more.

Photo by Jannet Serhan on Unsplash

Australian native plants are the basis of our Nature Blocks

We have a range of beautiful native plants in our Nature Blocks, which have been custom designed by our nature experts to encourage a regeneration of biodiversity.

Take the next step to build back nature

Simply download the CVA Community Hub app and start your Nature Blocks journey today by choosing a block and planning your shopping trip. Happy planting!