Landscaping for bushfire garden design and plant selection



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2. What type of tree is it?

Eucalypts


  • Can have woolly fibrous bark (stringy bark), deeply corrugated and dense bark (iron bark), ‘chippy’ or platy bark (box bark) or smooth (gum bark).

  • All flower and have leaves that hang vertically.

  • Their bark can be extremely flammable.

  • Examples include trees from the genera Eucalyptus, Corymbia (includes Flowering Gums) and Angophora (includes Smooth Barked Apple and Dwarf Apple that are similar in appearance to smooth barked gums).

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Conifer or conifer-like


  • Develop woody cones and have needle-like or scale-like leaves.

  • Examples include pines, hemlocks, spruces, junipers, cedars and cypress.

  • Native Australian examples include Cypress Pine, Cherry Ballart and she-oaks.

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Other tree types


  • This category contains all trees that are not eucalypts, conifers or conifer-like.

  • Leaf type can vary greatly. For example:
    – the small leaves and phyllodes (lea-like structures) of wattles such as Blackwood and Silver Wattle
    – the medium-sized leaves of Lilly-pilly and Southern Sassafras
    – the deeply lobed leaves of Silky Oak
    – the wider, broad leaves of Kurrajong and non-native species such as maples, oaks and elms.

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3. What type of bark does the tree have?

Stringybark eucalypt with coarse, loose fibrous bark


  • Examples include Messmate and Red Stringy Bark.

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Sheds large ribbons or sheets of bark annually


  • Strips or ribbons of bark are caught and held in the tree.

  • Examples include many smooth or gum-barked eucalypts such as Manna Gum and Mountain Grey Gum.

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Does not have stringy bark or ribbons of bark

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4. NOT FIREWISE


  • Trees with this type of bark are extremely flammable.

  • This type of bark acts as a ladder carrying fire into the canopy of the tree and produces masses of embers.

For more information, see Section 3: Rules for clearance around existing homes or Section 5: Choosing suitable plants.

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5. What is the height of the lowest branch?

Low


Branches are less than 2 metres above the ground.

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Good separation


At least 2 metres between ground and branches.

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6. LESS FIREWISE


Trees must be under-pruned up to 2 metres if possible and dead branches and fronds removed to ensure a more firewise characteristic.

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7. Does it shed large amounts of leaves or needles?

Yes


The conifer sheds large amounts of leaves or needles.
For example, Monterey Pine.

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No


The conifer or conifer-like tree does not shed large quantities of leaves or needles.
Examples may include native Cypress Pine, she-oak and Cherry Ballart.

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8. LESS FIREWISE


  • Pine needles need to be periodically removed from roofs, other plants and the ground near structures.

  • Eucalypt bark and foliage should also be routinely removed from the tree and the ground.

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9. What is the height of the lowest branch or frond?

Low


Branches or fronds are less than 2 metres above the ground.

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Good separation


At least 2 metres between ground and branches.

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10. LESS FIREWISE


  • Trees must be under-pruned to a height of 2 metres if possible and dead branches and fronds removed to ensure a more firewise characteristic.

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11. Does it have papery or loose bark?

Yes


Trunk has papery bark or loose fibrous bark.
For example tea-trees and most paper barks.

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No


Trunk does not have papery bark or loose fibrous bark.

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12. LESS FIREWISE


  • Papery bark and fibres may act as ladder fuels.

  • Requires appropriate placement in your garden.

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13. What is the plant’s texture?

Fine texture


  • Texture is used to describe the overall appearance of the plant from a distance.

  • From a distance of about 3 metres it is not easy to distinguish individual leaves or branches on plants with a fine texture.

  • Examples include diosma and some paper barks with thin, narrow leaves. The fineness of foliage (the surface area-to-volume-ratio) is a very important determinant of flammability.

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Medium texture


This category includes many azalea and holly species as well as the natives Sarsaparilla and Hairpin Banksia.

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Coarse texture


  • It is easy to distinguish each individual leaf or branch from a distance of about 3 metres.

  • Examples include hydrangea, cotoneaster, hazel pomaderris and blanket leaf.

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14. LESS FIREWISE


  • Plants with a fine texture have a higher surface-area-to-volume ratio and tend to dry out more readily than medium- and coarse-textured plants. This makes them generally more flammable.

  • Require appropriate placement and routine pruning.

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15. How dense is the plant?

Very dense


  • So dense that it is very difficult to place a hand in the plant and touch the main stem. These plants have dense branches.

  • Examples include shrubby grevilleas and junipers.

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Moderately dense


  • Sufficiently dense to not be able to see through the plant, but reasonably easy to place a hand into the plant and touch the main stem.

  • Examples include some lavenders, rosemary and some correas.

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Sparsely dense


May have open branching patterns, making it easy to see through the plant.
Examples include many wattles, rhododendrons and some hydrangeas.

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16. LESS FIREWISE


  • Dense plants have a larger amount of fuel packed closely together, which encourages the spread of flames within the plant.

  • Require appropriate placement and routine pruning.

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17. NOT FIREWISE


  • Vines are extremely flammable as they typically add fuel directly to a structure. As such, they act as ladder fuels bridging gaps between surface fuels and canopy fuels.

For more information, see Section 3: Rules for clearance around existing homes or Section 5: Choosing suitable plants.

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18. Is it a grass greater than 30 centimetres tall?

Yes


Grass is greater than 30 centimetres tall (for example grass in the Family Poaceae or Gramineae).

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No


Short grasses and all other herbaceous plants or grass-like plants.

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19. NOT FIREWISE


  • Regardless of how many LESS FIREWISE results you may get, tall grasses are extremely flammable because they readily dry out and rapidly carry fire.

For more information, see Section 3: Rules for clearance around existing homes or Section 5: Choosing suitable plants.

Go to 29 (END)

20. Does the plant retain dead leaves or twigs?

Yes


Plant retains dead leaves or twigs mixed with the living leaves.

  • Retention of dead leaves or twigs increases the flammability of a plant. Fine fuels readily dry out and increase the fuel available within the plant for fire.

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No


Plant does not usually retain dead leaves or twigs, except when shedding leaves.

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21. NOT FIREWISE


  • Regardless of how many LESS FIREWISE results you receive for this plant, plants that retain dead foliage throughout the year are extremely flammable.

  • Dead foliage has very low leaf moisture content and is therefore highly susceptible to ignition.

For more information, see Section 3: Rules for clearance around existing homes or Section 5: Choosing suitable plants.

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22. Are the leaves waxy or oily?

Yes


Leaves have a waxy coating or numerous oil glands dotted on the leaves.

  • The leaves of plants containing significant amounts of oils and waxes will often have a strong scent when crushed. The presence of these chemicals often contributes to plant flammability.

  • Plants with waxy leaves are often grey, silver or whitish and the waxy ‘bloom’ can be scraped off the leaf with a fingernail. For example, Wax Myrtle and gallberry.

  • Plants in the families Myrtaceae, Rutaceae, Lamiaceae and Pinaceae are examples of plants with numerous oil glands.

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No


Leaves do not have a waxy coating or numerous oil glands.

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23. LESS FIREWISE


  • Plants with large amounts of oils and waxes are more flammable than those without these chemicals.

  • Require appropriate placement and routine pruning.

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24. Is the species seriously susceptible to disease, insects or pests?

Yes


Species is known to be seriously susceptible to disease or insect pests.

  • Plants seriously susceptible to disease are likely to become stressed and have less vigorous growth.

  • When this happens, there is a lower foliage moisture content and a greater number of dead leaves are retained. This in turn makes the plant more flammable. For example, elm trees.

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No


Species is not known to be particularly susceptible to disease or insect pests.

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25. LESS FIREWISE


  • Routine monitoring and appropriate treatment for the disease or pest is recommended.

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26. Is the plant deciduous or evergreen?

Deciduous


Plants drop all leaves once a year and the new leaves usually have higher moisture content than evergreen plants.

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Evergreen


Plants retain leaves for several years.

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27. Are the leaves soft, thick or fleshy?

Yes


Plant leaves are soft, thick, succulent or fleshy.

  • These types of leaves often have a higher moisture content than hard, thin and needle-like leaves, making them less flammable.

  • Moisture can often be seen on the exposed edge of torn leaves.
    Examples include cactus, agave, some myoporums such as Creeping Myoporum, many Lilies, some saltbush species and geraniums.

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No


Plant leaves are not obviously succulent; they may have various shapes and vary in thickness.

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28. LESS FIREWISE


  • Require appropriate placement and routine pruning.

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29. END

How many LESS FIREWISE ratings did your plant score?


None:

  • Your plant is FIREWISE

  • Flammability is low

  • These plants can be used in a garden as they are not known to be particularly flammable.

Scores one or two against items 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25 or 28:

  • Your plant is MODERATELY FIREWISE

  • Flammability is moderate

  • These plants can be used in a garden but they need regular maintenance to keep them in a less flammable condition.

Scores three or more against items 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25 or 28:

  • Your plant is AT-RISK FIREWISE

  • Flammability is high

  • Avoid using these plants in a garden. If you are on a large property, they may be planted outside the defendable space.

Was your plant NOT FIREWISE?


  • Your plant is NOT FIREWISE

  • Flammability is extreme

  • These plants should not be planted in a garden or used when landscaping for bushfire.

WHAT TO DO NEXT


  • It is important to consider the role that plant selection plays in enhancing defendable space.

  • If the plant is ‘Firewise’ or ‘Moderately Firewise’, locate it according to the design principles as outlined in Section 4. Remember, the location and arrangement of plants has a significant effect on reducing the bushfire risk within your garden, but during summer as soil dries out, the moisture content of plants will decrease and their flammability will increase.

  • If the plant is ‘At Risk’ or ‘Not Firewise’ it should not be planted within the defendable space. For further information, see Section 3: Rules for vegetation clearance around existing homes or Section 5: Choosing suitable plants.

  • You can also book a free Home Bushfire Advice Service visit where a member of CFA will assess your property and provide a range of options to assist you to develop your Bushfire Survival Plan. Go to cfa.vic.gov.au/hbas for information and bookings.

RECORD SHEET


Use the record sheet from the PDF on the CFA website to record the plant name and how many ‘Less Firewise’ or ‘Not Firewise' results the plant receives as you work through the Plant Selection Key.

Plant name:

Circle the questions that had a ‘Not Firewise’ outcome: 4. 17. 19. 21.

Circle the questions that had a ‘Less Firewise’ outcome: 6. 8. 10. 12. 14. 16. 23. 25. 28.

Firewise Rating: NOT FIREWISE (any ‘Not Firewise’ results) / AT-RISK FIREWISE (3 or more ‘Less Firewise’ results) / MODERATELY FIREWISE (1 or 2 ‘Less Firewise’ results) / FIREWISE (no ‘Less Firewise’ results)

Flammability: Extreme / High / Moderate / Low

Repeat for all plants that you want to rank.

SECTION 8: FURTHER RESOURCES

CFA

cfa.vic.gov.au


  • Fire Ready Kit

  • On the Land: Agricultural Fire Management Guidelines

  • A Guide to Retrofit your Home for Better Protection from Bushfire

  • Fire Service Guidelines:
    Land Use Planning 0002: Requirements for Water Supply and Access in a Bushfire Management Overlay
    Land Use Planning 0003: Assessing Vegetation in a Bushfire Management Overlay

OTHER

dpcd.vic.gov.au/planning/bushfire


  • Fact Sheet: Planning and Building for Bushfire Protection

  • Advisory Note 39: Amendment VC83 Bushfire Protection Vegetation Exemptions

  • Advisory Note 40: Amendment VC83 Bushfire Protection Bushfire Planning Provisions

  • Practice Note 64: Local Planning for Bushfire Protection

  • Practice Note 65: Bushfire Management Overlay and Bushfire Protection: Planning Requirements

planningschemes.dpcd.vic.gov.au


  • Clause 13.05 Bushfire

  • Clause 44.06 Bushfire Management Overlay

  • Clause 52.17 Native vegetation

  • Clause 52.43 Interim Measures for Bushfire Protection

  • Clause 52.47 Bushfire Protection: Planning Requirements

  • Clause 52.48 Bushfire Protection: Exemptions

  • Planning for Bushfire in Victoria (CFA and DPCD, forthcoming)

Department of Sustainability and Environment

dse.vic.gov.au

land.vic.gov.au

Department of Primary Industries

dpi.vic.gov.au

Municipal Association of Victoria


Council details can be found at mav.asn.au/about-local-government/council-details

CSIRO


Ramsay, C and Rudolph, L, 2003 Landscape and Building Design for Bushfire Areas, CSIRO, Melbourne.

Standards Australia


Standards Australia AS 3959-2009: Construction of Buildings in Bushfire-prone Areas

REFERENCES


ACT Planning and Land Authority, 2005, Fire Wise Home Gardens, Australian Capital Territory Government, ACT Planning and Land Authority, Canberra.

Behm, A, Long, A, Monroe, M, Randall, C, Zipper, W and Hermansen-Baez, L, 2004, Fire in the Wildland-Urban Interface: Preparing a Firewise Plant List for WUI Residents, University of Florida and USDA Forest Service Centre for Wildland-Urban Interface Research and Information, Florida.

Chladil, M and Sheridan, J, 2006, Fire Retardant Garden Plants for the Urban Fringe and Rural Areas, brochure, Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, Forestry Tasmania, Tasmania Fire Service, Parks and Wildlife Service Tasmania, Tasmania.

Country Fire Authority Headquarters, 2010, Fire Ready Kit, CFA, Melbourne.

Doran, J, Randall, C and Long, A, 2004, Fire in the Wildland-Urban Interface: Selecting and Maintaining Firewise Plants for Landscaping, University of Florida and USDA Forest Service Southern Centre for Wildand-Urban Interface Research and Information, Florida.

Gill, A and Moore, P, 1996, Ignitability of leaves of Australian Plants, Australian Flora Foundation, Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research CSIRO Plant Industry, Canberra.

NSW Rural Fire Service, date unknown, Garden Design and Plant Selection in a Bush Fire Prone Area, brochure, NSW Rural Fire Service.

NSW Rural Fire Service, 2006, Planning for Bush Fire Protection, NSW Rural Fire Service.

Randall, C, Hermansen-Baez, L and Acomb, G, 2004, Fire in the Wildland-Urban Interface: Reducing Wildfire Risk while Achieving other Landscaping Goals, University of Florida and USDA Forest Service Southern Centre for Wildand-Urban Interface Research and Information, Florida.

Ramsay, C and Rudolph, L, 2003, Landscape and Building Design for Bushfire Areas, CSIRO, Melbourne.

Rural Solutions SA, 2005, Landscaping for Fire Protection, Government of South Australia Eyre Peninsula Natural Resources Management Board, Adelaide.

South Australia Country Fire Service, 2000, Community Fire Safe Fire Retardant Plants, brochure, Country Fire Service, Adelaide.



White, R and Zipper, W, 2010, Testing and Classification of Individual Plants for Fire Behaviour: Plant Selection for the Wildland-Urban Interface, International Journal of Wildland Fire, CSIRO publishing.
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