Skip to main content
Completed project

Which plant where, when and why database for growing urban green space (GC15002)

Key research provider: Macquarie University, Western Sydney University, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage
Publication date: Wednesday, March 30, 2022

What was it all about?

This investment, which ran from 2016 to 2022, brought together a consortium of researchers to investigate the suitability of various plant species under current and future climate scenarios. The project was the first of its kind and culminates in the launch of an online interactive tool that maps the distribution of suitable habitats for various plant species across Australia.

The tool is available from the Which Plant Where website and was designed for use by a wide range of stakeholders from nursery and turf growers to developers, landscape planners and designers, councils and individuals. Users will be able to select from a range of filters to choose the right species of plant for various urban areas – from street plantings to housing developments and open spaces.

The program consisted of four key areas of research:

  1. Species attributes and climate tolerance: a database of over 2,500 species, hybrids and cultivars was collated including key information on plant form, environmental tolerances, co-benefits (shade, carbon, biodiversity) and risks. Bioclimatic modelling was undertaken for all species for which sufficient data was available, resulting in the development of national-level maps of climatic suitability for each species.

  2. Success and failures: 12 living labs were developed in collaboration with local councils in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, information on urban forest inventories and on the success and failures of urban plantings was compiled, biodiversity and cooling benefits of urban plants were assessed, and an urban forest demonstration site was developed.

  3. Heat and drought tolerant species: a protocol for assessing heat and drought tolerance of species was developed. A total of 113 plant species were grown in common glasshouse environments and subjected to an experimental heatwave and/or drought.

  4. Species selection online tool: an online climate-ready plant selector tool was developed using the knowledge generated through this research program, along with best practice guidelines and articles that are easy to understand for multiple stakeholders. The tool provides unique, evidence-based support for urban greening initiatives.

Throughout the program, the research team engaged with over 1,000 people through National Roadshows, national industry events, substantial media coverage, state industry events, research outcome webinars, as well as workshops and focus groups for the development of the online plant selector tool.


Access the online tool from the Which Plant Where website.



Funding statement:
Which plant where, when and why database for growing urban green space (GC15002) is funded by the Hort Frontiers Green Cities Fund, part of the Hort Frontiers strategic partnership initiative developed by Hort Innovation, with co-investment from Macquarie University, Western Sydney University and NSW Office of Environment & Heritage (now NSW Department of Planning and Environment), and contributions from the Australian Government.

Copyright © Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited 2022. The Final Research Report (in part or as a whole) cannot be reproduced, published, communicated or adapted without the prior written consent of Hort Innovation, except as may be permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth).