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15 March, 2022

Radke honoured with lifetime membership

AN honour has been bestowed upon one of the Tablelands most well-known native plant experts in recognition of his many decades of commitment to and knowledge of native species.

By Robyn Holmes

Peter Radke in his Mareeba garden.

Peter Radke, who most Tablelanders will know through his association with Yuruga Nursery for three decades and his role Saturday morning ABC Radio talkback show, has been awarded a life membership of the Queensland region of the Society for Growing Australian Plants (SGAP).

Peter is thrilled with the honour, saying the special recognition “takes my breath away”. 

An avid promoter of natives for decades, Peter has been associated with the SGAP for more than 40 years, holding the roles of president and excursion officer on and off throughout that time. 

He is still organising excursions today, sometimes for groups of up to 70 people, to share his passion for Australian natives.

Peter says he became aware of SGAP nearly 50 years ago when he and his wife, Ann, attended a flower show in Brisbane.

Excited about being around people who shared the same passion for growing native plants as they did, the couple became very involved in the society and took on the excursion officer role for the Queensland region. 

“They would go out bush, researching and finding areas where they would go and collect native plant specimens to identify, press and label. Gradually, they built on their knowledge, expertise and grew their network,” long-time friend and SGAP member Serge Venturato said. 

“Going native with Peter Radke is a day out like no other. Our members flock around and listen to Peter tell stories about plants. It’s a great experience, educational and good fun.” 

In 1979, when Peter and Ann moved to the Tablelands, they initiated a local branch of the SGAP and the response was overwhelming.

With his drive, the branch began to organise Native Plant Expos and then secured the SGAP state conference for the Tablelands. 

Peter has also been involved in the development of a number of books and journals over the years – he co-authored the Australian Plant Journal in 1983, Field Guide of Rainforest Proteaceae of North Queensland in 1986, North Queensland Native Plants in 1988, Native Plants for North Queensland in 1990, Growing Australian Tropical Plants in 1993.

Because of his extensive knowledge, Peter is often called upon by James Cook University to aid botanists from southern universities to collect and propagate cuttings from high altitude rare plants which are under threat from climate change.

These days, Peter is happy creating his own native habitat at his property near Mareeba.

 “I had a few key factors I was looking for – a low maintenance property, privacy, no exotic plants and no Myna birds,” he said.

“Planting natives has so many advantages – they attract native birds and don’t require as much watering.

“I have about 20 different species of native birds coming to the property now and that chases off the Mynas.”

Anyone wishing to join the SGAP Tablelands branch can do so by coming to one of the group’s monthly meetings which are held at the CWA Hall in Tolga on the fourth Wednesday of each month followed by an excursion on the following Sunday.

Previous excursions have been to Irvinebank, Tate River, Chillagoe, Elm Beach in Hopevale and Mt Lewis. Contact Peter on 0418 719 748 for more information.

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