Plant Index

Plants are listed alphabetically by their layer in the forest garden.

Canopy Layer

The top layer of the forest garden, these trees are usually 9m or more in height. In smaller forest gardens, this layer can be shorter. The canopy typically includes timber trees and large, light-loving fruit, nut, and nitrogen fixing tree species.


Subcanopy Layer

The subcanopy is made up of smaller trees, typically 3 – 9m tall, which prefer a semi-shaded or protected environment. In temperate climate forest gardens and orchards these species can be used to make up the acting canopy layer, but in the harsher mediterranean / semi-arid environment of Western Australia they may need the shade of a true canopy layer or shade structures in the summer. The majority of fruit trees fall into this layer.

  • Cacao (Theobroma cacao), aka Chocolate
  • Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos)
  • Moringa (Moringa oleifera) aka drumstick tree, horseradish tree
  • Persian silk tree (Albizia julibrissin) aka pink siris, sleeping tree
  • Pomegranate (Punica granatum)


Shrub Layer

Shrubs are woody plants up to about 3m tall, although it can also include large, fleshy plants (e.g. some cacti). This layer includes fruiting shrubs, nut-bearing, medicinal and flowering (insectary) woody plants, as well as many other beneficial plants.


Herbaceous Layer

Herbaceous plants do not produce woody stems the way the shrub layer plants do, and often die back in winter. Most culinary and medicinal herbs are in this layer, as are many annual flowers and vegetables.

  • Amaranth (Amaranthus spp.)
  • Black Mint (Tagetes minuta)
  • Pineapple (Ananas comosus)
  • Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) aka rosella
  • Sword fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia) aka erect or narrow sword fern, ladder fern, fishbone fern, herringbone fern


Groundcover Layer

There is some overlap between the herbaceous layer and the groundcover layers; however groundcovers grow much closer to the gorund, quickly spread to cover bare patches of soil, and can often tolerate some foot traffic.  Many groundcover plants are also somewhat shade tolerant.

  • no groundcovers profiled yet 🙂 check back later


Underground (Root Crop) Layer

Root crops, bulbs, corms and tubers make up this layer. This layer can also include the mycelia of many fungi.

  • Sword fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia) aka erect or narrow sword fern, ladder fern, fishbone fern, herringbone fern


Vining or Climbing Layer

Vines and climbing plants use vertical space, spanning multiple layers of the forest garden. This layer also includes epiphytes (plants which grow on other plants, e.g. many ferns, orchids, and mosses) and arboreal fungi. These plants are a great way to add more productivity to a small space, but can easily get our of hand.

  • Sword fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia) aka erect or narrow sword fern, ladder fern, fishbone fern, herringbone fern


Credit where credit is due – the  idea for this page is stolen directly from John Kitsteiner’s Temperate Climate Permaculture site. The image at the top is similarly stolen, and all credit for it goes to John Kitsteiner 🙂

1 Comment

  1. Hi,

    I’ve been selling heritage (heirloom) vegetable seeds in the U.S. for twelve years , have spent several years urging a my seed friends in Oz to get involved, but they did not see the merit.

    Well, YOU have!

    If there are seeds you cannot get, please let me know. I’m well acquainted with AQIS, ship everything according to their regulations, and own, or have access to many strains. If you need anything, please let me know. Time has come for me to change directions, as scoundrels, frauds, and the Chinese are destroying the market here (plus I have nothing more to say about tomatoes after a decade.)

    I may come back to you for some bush tucker in the future. The brilliant U.S.A. has yet to discover Permaculture, but they’re on the verge.

    In any case, If you need something I have, let me know. If you need something tracked down, let me know. I’m at your disposal.

    Mia Myers
    aging heirloom seed vendor
    1 909 576-6206

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