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Conservation of exotic, economic and ornamental plants

The Australian Network for Plant Conservation’s mission is ‘To promote and develop plant conservation in Australia’, and you can read more about what that means here.

For the most part, the work of the ANPC focusses on the conservation of Australian native plant species and ecosystems. But we also recognise and value work, here and overseas, to conserve what are often called ‘old varieties’ of agricultural and ornamental plants of Australian or exotic origin, many of which are in danger of becoming extinct.

Here are links to a few of the organisations working in those areas, or which may be able to refer you to further sources of information.

Australia: Registration bodies for cultivated plants and names

Note: Both these sites have look-up tools for names registered under each system; there is limited overlap between them. Be aware that many named cultivars (horticulturally selected varieties) and hybrids of plants bred in Australia, are not registered under either system, but that commercial rights to the plants and their names may still apply.

Australia: Information hubs for ornamental and economic plant conservation

Australia – ‘heritage seeds’

  • A Google search on this term will yield many results. We are not listing them individually here, as we cannot attest to the quality or comprehensiveness of information or product. If ordering heritage seeds or plants through Australia-based websites, you should seek reliable information from the supplier that the material you are seeking (a) does not come from overseas, unless they have appropriate import permits, and (b) will not transgress any international or domestic quarantine rules, and (c) is not regarded as a weed or potential weed in your part of Australia.

International:  Name regulation, governance and registration bodies, and major crop banks

Note: these are some sites among many.

International ‘heritage seeds’

  • Many people want to be part of a global effort to save heritage and ‘heirloom’ plant varieties. A Google search on this term will yield many results, offering to supply as seed or in other forms. But there are major risks from casual and unregulated importation and exchange. We strongly advise against ordering heritage seeds or plants through these or any other overseas websites, and against bringing them into the country personally. Failure to observe biosecurity rules may result in penalties, and may endanger our native plant heritage.
  • Importation by you on your person or in luggage: see . Basically, you cannot bring in live plants or flowers, or in most cases live seed, as a casual in-person importer. Some forms of seed are permitted but only of limited types and you must have specific certificates in advance.
  • Importation by mail, including online ordering from overseas: see and click on ‘seeds’ to see conditions. It is far safer for our country not to order any live seed (or plants, bulbs, etc) from overseas – always look for legal and best-practice domestic sources.
  • If you receive unsolicited seeds or other live plant material by mail: you should secure the goods by making sure the package is re-sealed and bagged so that nothing can get out, and report it immediately on 1800 798 636 or via the online form

Illegal or reckless importation of plant material, including seed, can introduce serious pests and diseases to Australia, imperilling both our native species and agriculture.  DON’T DO IT.

See this article from the Australian Seed Federation to find out about some of the risks: the article applies to agricultural seed, and the risk is even higher with casual importation of culinary herbs, other plants, and all seed.

Contributing to the conservation of old varieties is best done through joining one of the reputable societies and focussing on varieties already well-established in Australian horticulture (but still with due respect to State-level biosecurity laws).

Commercial and private importers should engage fully with Australia’s import conditions, which vary depending on the seed species and the country you’re importing them from. It’s important to check the import requirements before you order seeds. Some species are not permitted entry due to their potential weed risk to Australia, and others may require specific testing and certification to ensure they are free from pathogens of concern.