As our cities expand, trees get felled, concrete increases and food sources for our native wildlife decreases. This is causing a decline in numbers for many species, including our local brushtail and ringtail possums.
To help out our fury neighbours, there are some things you can do in your own backyard, such as planting some of our possum’s favourite foods. This is also handy for wildlife carers, who are always on the look out for bountiful gardens to harvest from, feeding the animals they are caring for.
Below are some hardy species, that suit residential gardens in Wyndham.
Lilly pilly is an excellent varietal. It will form the bulk of the possum’s foliage diet if it has access to some. This plant is very hardy. It is fast-growing, ever-green, and has dense foliage. This means it is also great habitat for the possum to live in and hide in. The density provides good sun and weather protection, and also helps block out the view of your neighbours. Everyone wins!
There are several varietals of lilly pilly. Take care to check that the varietal you are planting is not going to get too wide or too tall for your space. The “Lilly Pilly Australe Resilience” varietal is a great choice for Wyndham and the possums love it! Other good choices are Acmena Smithii Firescreen and Syzygium Peniculatum.
Lilly pilly is great in residential yards. It grows quickly and replenishes when possums have nibbled on it. It is evergreen and dense, making it excellent habitat for both possums and birds. It can be planted along a rear fenceline, as a front or side hedge, or as an individual tree.
Note that if you are choosing a lilly pilly varietal that also produces berries, then possums and birds will love to eat them. However, be aware that if you plant it next to your driveway, you will have squished slippery berries on your concrete, so best plant it in the backyard near the back fence away from human foot traffic.
Dwarf Willow Myrtle (Agonis Flexuosa Nana)
Agonis Flexuosa Nana is a bush that grows up to 2m wide by 2m high. It thrives in all-day sun, and offers wafer-thin peppermint fragranced and flavoured leaves for possums to eat. Observations in care is that this is often the first leaf that a baby possum will have a go at sinking its teeny tiny teeth into. The peppermint fragrance is lovely. Tear a leaf in half, squish it in your fingers and have a sniff. You’d be pretty happy if that was your dinner.
Grevillea is a fabulous native which has minimal water requirement once established, and flowers most of the year. There are many varietals, but the two that produce big chunky flowers and which seem to thrive most in the City of Wyndham are Grevillea Superb, and Grevillea Peaches and Cream.
The possum diet is incredibly varied, but is limited to what grows in its territory (approximately five houses). If you don’t fancy planting one of the above, don’t have space, or would like to splash something a bit different into your neighbourhood possum’s diet, there are many things you can choose from. Below are some other suggestions depending on the space you have
Be aware that these can grow large, and the roots can seek out water which can damage your underground water pipes. If you have the space, the most desirable gum tree is probably Red Box.
There are many varietals. Some produce yellow puffy wattle flowers. If you are wanting to provide something that is the bulk of a possum’s diet, Acacia Pycnantha is a great choice. Note that it isn’t a great choice for your yard if you only have space for one thing, as it isn’t hugely attractive. It is more suited to larger yards with a bit more space for diversity of plantings.
Melaleuca Nesophila Little Nessie
Little Nessie is small and compact, waist level at most. This plant can be difficult to find and will probably have to be purchased online. But it makes an awesome native hedge, and in my opinion smells like bubblegum when a leaf is torn and squidged and sniffed.
This is a deciduous plant and is only in flower for a small portion of the year, but puts on a fabulous display when in flower. Choose a musk pink or hot pink varietal as this colour is most preferred by possums. Crepe Myrtle is generally grown as a feature tree in the front yard of a cute house.
This is a plant that likes to grow spilling over a fence and looks great in cottage style homes or older heritage look homes. The possums prefer blue plumbago. They’re not as keen on white plumbago.
Thank you to wildlife carer Jacqui Middleton from Wyndham’s Ringtail Possum Retreat for compiling this information.