When most of us think of seasons, we think of four – summer, autumn, winter and spring, but for the local Indigenous people, each year brings six seasons which better capture Melbourne's climate. Over thousands of years, Indigenous people have developed an intricate understanding of the environment, carefully forecast by the effects of changing weather on native flora, fauna and landscapes and movement of the stars in the night sky. Discover the six seasons of the Kulin Nation below!
Late Summer (February to Mid-March)
Late summer is depicted by eels, Galaxia (small freshwater fish), baby animals and mistletoe as well as eeling and fishing. Hot, dry days mean a scarcity of surface water and high bushfire risk. Late summer brings the peaking of eel and Galaxia migration, young birds and mammals emerging, boxing kangaroos, and snakes basking in the sun. Stick insects and spitfire grubs attack tree foliage, messmate and mistletoe flower, and the night sky is bright and full of stars.
Early Winter (April and May)
Early winter is when rains would begin, and the billabongs would start to fill. All sort of fungi would appear while dews were abundant and the ground was still warm, with old man weed (Centipeda cunninghamii) is starting to grow on the wetlands. Wareeny (wombat) would emerge to bask and graze in the sun, brush-tail and ringtail possums would mate, and eastern grey kangaroos and wallabies would feed on the new grass growth. The Creator Being Bunjil (wedge tailed eagle) would build his nest and birds would moult their feathers. Different moths would emerge and become food for birds and small marsupials, while tadpoles would fill ponds and mature eels would head out to sea to breed.
Deep Winter (June to Mid-July)
Deep winter slowed but didn’t stop plant growth. Echidnas were breeding, rivers and creeks would flooded, and koalas, possums, and wombats could be found in sheltered spots in the uplants. Leaves of the water plants would become dry and brown, but the small tuberous herbs were growing, and cherry ballart (Exocarpos cupressiformis) formed fruit.
Early Spring - (Mid-July and August)
Early spring brings the ‘big wet', when heavy rains start to fall, wetlands fill up and river and creek banks burst. Many including Muyan, silver wattle (Acacia dealbata), and Guling, orchids, burst into flower, and the flowers of the yellow box (Eucalyptus melliodora) produce nectar. By early August, Murnong, yam daisy (Microseris lanceolata) starts to bud, in full golden bloom. Bees and insects become active as the flowers bloom, eels swim upstream, birds nests, and sillywinds blow in all directions.
True Spring (September and October)
True Spring is depicted by bird eggs and wildflowers. This time of year sees the fattening up period when the chicks and young are raised, and fish and eels feed in the shallows. Grass and shrubs grow, yam daisy (Murnong) and lily tubers are harvested, and bees are busy making honey. The end of springtime is drying out time. when northerly winds blow, the weather heats up, grasses seed and dry out, and reptiles become active.
High Summer (November, December and January)
High Summer season is depicted by echidna and wetland plants (cumbungee and water ribbon). As the weather stabilises, the heat starts to dry the country, and butterflies chase and in the warm sun. Echidnas dig for ants, and wetland plants flourish as banksias burst into full flower to the delight of honeyeaters.
Victoria's flora and fungi are under increasing threat from climate change, environmental weeds, agriculture, forest clearance and urbanisation. Climate change will especially impact on plants restricted to the coldest environments on mountain summits, which are likely to lose their only suitable habitat. At Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, studies of taxonomy, distribution, population genetics, propagation, translocation and seed banking all contribute to the conservation of Victoria’s and Australia's plants and fungi.
In Victoria, there are nearly 700 native species of threatened plants (among the approximately 3,200 species recorded from the state) along with many others that are rare. Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria plays a leading role in programs to conserve these endangered species in order to stabilise or increase populations in their natural habitat. Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria is particularly involved in the conservation of native terrestrial orchids. Victoria is a 'hotspot' for orchid diversity, with 23 per cent of Australia's orchid species occurring in just 3 per cent of the land area. Most of the native orchid species found in Victoria are terrestrial, and at least a third occur nowhere else.
Botanic gardens throughout the world play a significant role in helping scientists and the public understand the evolution and history of plants, their present day uses as well as what the future may hold for plants in natural environments. Across our two locations at Melbourne and Cranbourne, our experienced horticulture teams manage 45 plant collections as well as a significant area of precious bushland at Cranbourne Gardens. All of our collections feature plant labels which show each plant's scientific name comprised of a genus and species.
Our horticultural and environmental research is focused on responding to future challenges such as water availability and changing climatic conditions and looking at how these may impact on plant and landscape conservation within the gardens.
At both Cranbourne and Melbourne our land management teams focus on irrigation management, finding alternate water sources, water quality and biodiversity of the lakes system; reducing weeds, protecting plants against pests and diseases and managing soils.
We are constantly striving to improve irrigation efficiency, stormwater treatment, lake ecosystems and water quality in the lake system. Recently the Working Wetlands project was completed at Melbourne Gardens, reducing reliance on potable water by 40%.
How we garden in botanic gardens, how you garden at home and how we all garden as a community has big impacts on the biodiversity and sustainability of urban Australia. The Australian Garden at Cranbourne is designed to showcase how native plants can make a spectacular and waterwise home garden. There is an Australian plant suitable for virtually any situation in your garden, from tall trees to ground covers, aquatic plants to those growing in low light or in full sun. Australian plants attract native birds and butterflies, and brighten up your garden with wonderful seasonal colour. Visit the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria to find inspiration and great tips for using Australian native plants at home.
Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria has a special place in the hearts and minds of all Victorians. The Gardens has played an important role in the cultural development of Melbourne and can continue to flourish with the help of passionate individuals. There are many ways to get involved with the Gardens and we value any level of support, whether you are a friend or a donor, a member of our Director’s Circle or one of our volunteers. There are also ways to honour those you love by dedicating a tree or a bench within the Garden of your choice.
Many people share the Gardens with those they love and some visitors choose to mark a significant occasion by dedicating a tree or a bench to someone special. In the Gardens you’ll notice each bench has a dedication plaque featuring a favourite quote or the recognition of an anniversary, achievement or occasion.
The Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria at Melbourne and Cranbourne offers a rich learning environment for students of all ages and abilities. Our Education Services team develops adaptive, strategic curriculum based programs to assist teachers and provide an enjoyable and valuable learning experience for students from kindergarten to university. Each education program is designed to support teachers in achieving the Victorian Essential Learning Standards and is delivered by a qualified teacher.