Biodiversity Tour

Join us on a tour to find flora and fauna in unexpected places! Learn how to use the Questagame app to record your sightings.


We are standing on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people who have lived in this area for more than 60,000 years. Pre white settlement this was grassy woodland, rich in wildlife with Red Gums and Yellow Box trees.

Tour Info

  • Please check our Events page for upcoming tours.
  • There are alternating Biodiversity and Sustainability tours every month.
  • Runs for 1 hour with an upper limit of 20 participants (approx 1 ¾ hours for self guided tour).
  • Covering information about the University's biodiversity values and initiatives as well as interesting facts and stories about the campus.
  • Download the Questagame app to be used during tour, and join the Wildversity Clan (optional)

Download a copy of the Biodiversity Tour

1888 Building

1888 Building

Front garden

  • Thought to have been designed by William Guilfoyle – the person who designed the current layout of the Royal Botanic Gardens
  • Large trees date from 1890s and several are on the Heritage register


  • A creek flowed down towards the Yarra to the left of us – down what is now Bouverie Street
  • Eels migrated up the creek to breed each year – they were one of the seasonal foods of the people who lived here
  • It is said that eels still move up the storm water drains from the Yarra and are sometimes found in the ponds on the University campus!
  • Many birds including several parrot species use this garden
  • The gardeners are careful to use the minimum of chemicals which allows a rich array of insects, fungi and other organisms to flourish as food for the web of life found on this campus

Rear of building

Plane Tree (Tsubu Courtyard). The tree is on the National Trust Significant Tree Register for its outstanding height, spread, trunk girth and form.

Tsubu Courtyard

Student Community Garden

Community Garden


  • Took 15 years to get permission to build the garden – students kept pushing!
  • Structure established and maintained by grounds staff
  • Plantings, harvesting and composting carried out by students
  • Uses otherwise underutilised space
  • Tanks installed for watering
  • Some of the structures are wicking beds
  • Drainage system underneath
  • Fenced area for compost bins keeps it looking tidy


  • Well-being / health
  • Increased biodiversity - the front area has indigenous food plants
  • Community participation
  • Learnings spread to others via workshops
  • Working bees held every Friday at 4pm

South Lawn / Ellis Stone Garden

South Lawn

South Lawn

  • South Lawn is said to be the largest green roof in the Southern Hemisphere!
  • It covers a carpark built in 1972 which was featured in the film Mad Max and more recently Master Chef!
  • engineered so that no buildings could be built above it
  • the largest open space on the Parkville campus
  • all the trees on the Lawn are planted directly above the columns in the car park beneath - where the soil is deepest
  • Reflection pond – uses harvested recirculated rainwater (interestingly was filled in with mulch during the drought!)

Ellis Stones Garden

Designed by eminent landscape architect Ellis Stones, this “most important extant example of Ellis' rockwork, certainly in a public place” was finished only two years before Ellis died in 1975.

It was becoming straggly and unattractive in the last few years so it was completely overhauled and replanted in the spirit of the designer's intentions and is now flourishing again!

Ellis Stones Garden

Cussonia Court

Cussonia Court

  • Only court in the University grounds named after a plant and not a professor!
  • This Cussonia spicata (Common name Cabbage-tree) is on the Heritage register of significant trees – along with several others in this historic courtyard (Crab apple, Magnolia grandiflora, Queensland bean)
  • The specific name spicata means spike-like in reference to the arrangement of the flowers
  • This tree was propagated from a cutting of the original tree planted in the 1880s by Professor McCoy, one of the University's first four professors
  • It is thought that the original Cussonia tree died due to not having ideal conditions. After research revealed what it needed, the current tree was planted in an elevated bed with gravelly soil and companion plants similar to those in its native South Africa
  • You will notice that some of the trees have a plastic band around their trunk – this is to protect their leaves from being eaten by the two species of possum that inhabit our campus – Ringtail and Brush tail possums!

System Garden

System Garden

  • It was established by the University’s first Professor of Natural Sciences, Frederick McCoy and was inspired by Cambridge Botanic Garden's Systematic Beds
  • Is the only garden of its type in the grounds of a University in Australia containing garden beds that display the evolution of plants, starting with early land plants, mosses, Lichens & ferns, Cycads & conifers. A small representation of the Gnetale group that evolutionary sits somewhere between Gymnosperms (Non flowering) and then all flowering plants are grouped into 11 different subclasses (e.g. Conifers to the right along the back of the Botany building)
  • Originally it was a large circular area encompassing around 2 acres Building development over the years has left only a little less than 1.4 acres
  • In the beginning it had a large circular greenhouse but this was dismantled and sold to pay off the debts run up by a University accountant early in the University’s history!
  • Tower is the remains of a glasshouse that once contained rare tropical plants (see photos inside). It acted as a mechanism to ventilate the glasshouse

Tree Frog

  • In the furthest corner is a rainforest garden that showcases features of Australian rainforests such as  epiphytic plants (those that grow on other plants), Australian fern diversity & Australian palm diversity. This garden provides the perfect habitat for Southern Brown Tree Frogs that love living in the bromeliads.
  • Some plants remain from the original garden - these are now mature trees that are on the National Heritage tree register, e.g. Osage orange at entrance, Phoenix canariensis & Jubea
    that are found in the Palm Bed
  • It is constantly upgraded as a scientific and teaching garden and is now a secure public garden to be enjoyed by all

Beehive Tower

  • Bees: French style bee hive with entry / exit chimney for happy bees and humans!
  • Compost: Compost bin for staff to bring kitchen scraps
  • Biodiversity: The hidden gem of the University in terms of flora and fauna – it features over 100 plant families!
  • Tree frogs, butterflies, possums, many birds including the occasional powerful owl all love to visit or live in this garden

Red Gums

  • These four magnificent Red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) are thought to be the only remnants of the original vegetation of this area
  • Imagine being here a few hundred years ago – we would have been near the bank of a creek (now underground) with many more of these trees all around, tussock grasses, wattles, fungi after rain and an amazing array of other biodiversity: birds, insects, mammals
  • Take a minute to look up and watch and listen to all the life that still inhabits these trees – Wattlebirds zoom out to catch insects on the wing, Willy Wagtails dart about catching insects from the ground
  • In order to keep these trees healthy and safeguard them into the future it has been suggested that we stop mowing around them, leave any dead limbs that fall, plant some indigenous understory and allow any natural regeneration of red gum seedlings – what do you think?