The Culture of Weeds

Noxious weed devil

Noxious weed display at the North Coast show, Nambour, 1960 (Heritage Library, Sunshine Coast Council).

A weed is usually defined as a plant out of place. Here we extend the idea of weediness to other biota and whole landscapes. We first consider the history of garden aesthetics as a major driver of deliberate plant introductions (94%). Secondly we examine the biota that accompanied European settlement, supporting the colonial project (ecological imperialism). Pasture grasses and stock worked as foot soldiers of empire, often ahead of the human settler frontier. Because of long continental isolation, Invasion Biology is a key science in Australia. Part 3, Fear of Ferals focuses on how science and historical ideas of nature shape ecology, aesthetics and identity, and Australia’s role in global biodiversity management.



Controlling Aliens: Invasion biologies and theorising the native.
November 2012, Environmental Humanities Laboratory, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Sweden.

Keynote audio recordings:

  • Nancy Langston, “Why blame the non-native? Historical perspectives on invasive species, fisheries collapse, and multiple stressors in the Great Lakes of North America.”
  • Bill Adams, “Unnatural Times: order, control and the policing of wild nature.”
  • Lesley Head, “Eradicating bodies in invasive plant management: perspectives from northern Australia.”

Read a report on the workshop by Lesley Head of the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research (Facebook page).



Research Partners: the National Museum of Australia and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne.


  • Libby Robin
  • Joslin Moore, ARCUE, University of Melbourne.
  • Dave Kendal, ARCUE, University of Melbourne.
  • Cameron Muir
  • Sharon Willoughby, Fenner School, ANU.

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