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Keywords:

  • biogeography;
  • nativeness;
  • alien;
  • plant;
  • indigenous;
  • Australia

Abstract

The usefulness of the concept of biotic nativeness has been challenged in both the social and natural sciences, for different reasons. This paper explores the particular construction of nativeness in Australia in relation to plants, showing that the definition builds on and inscribes more deeply the boundary between humans and the rest of nature seen in the wider literature. In this context two further boundaries are etched: between some humans and others, and before and after European colonisation. Such a use of nativeness as an axiom of environmental management is argued to be problematic, foreclosing a number of future options just when we need to increase our capacity to deal with contingency and unpredictability. But if Australia has experienced distinctive historical processes of entrenching these boundaries, it also has a distinctive heritage of destabilisation in a range of geographic work. The paper discusses how we might build on this heritage to imagine more open futures in which the problematic boundaries were removed. Some of these futures resonate with vernacular recombinations of plants from diverse origins.