Flora For Wildlife In Care

A Quick Pictorial Guide to Plants for Food and Habitat.  

Animals in care should be provided with food and an environment, which closely resembles that of the wild.

Watch each species in its natural habitat - What does it EAT?  What does it SHELTER or HIDE in?  What does it build its NEST or DREY with?  Use this knowledge in setting up your cage or aviary and in selection of food for the animal.

Habitat Flora

These are plants, branches, floor leaf litter etc. that are important in making a suitable environment for the animal/bird while in care. 'Familiar' habitat helps to lessen stress, makes release an easier transition, and gives essential climbing, exercising, hiding and nest building practice.

For birds leave space to fly!  Branches for perching or climbing should be of varied thickness and texture but avoid sharp points that might injure.
Included in your 'habitat' add some non-native equipment such as ropes, ledges, thick wire - remember these are urban animals, they need practice in negotiating and using many city surfaces.

Always use as large a variety of plants as possible.  Towards release time try to use flora which the animal will find at the release site.

Habitat flora does not have to be replaced every day, unlike food flora.  However it does help to change the plants and set-up regularly to give practice in adapting to change needed after release.

Food Flora

Balanced nutrition, appropriate quantity and variety are important.  Always feed at least 3 different types of foliage.  Generally, for possums in care, you will need a good handful bunch per possum each day.

Food flora must be fresh - pick each day and keep in water.  If possible pick early in the day when plants are holding more water in their leaves.

Don't pick foliage from the roadside in heavy traffic areas as the leaves may be contaminated.

For birds, select according to their needs, e.g. flowers for Nectivores, fruits, seeds or insects in leaves for birds needing these.  However, many birds are not exclusive in their needs, so provide a variety.

Ringtail possums usually eat only the fresh tips of leaves - make sure you supply these.  Brushtail possums are easier - they will eat more of the plant.

When feeding possums, check the foliage for lurking insects or spiders, and dispose of these before putting in the cage.  Young possums have died from 'allergic' reaction to bites from insects introduced to the cage.

Be aware of your local Council's regulations about taking flora from street trees or from reserves and parks in your area.  Most Councils are sympathetic with our cause but do ask that we practise environmentally correct procedures, e.g. taking only a few flowers or sprigs from each established plant, not touching small young or struggling plants.  Also we should be discreet in collecting - or risk accusations from members of the public!

Always feed native plants in preference to 'exotics'.  We don't want possums being familiar with e.g. roses, then making nuisances of themselves after release when they attack people's gardens! However, at certain times of the year it can be very difficult to find enough native foliage, so a number of suitable non-natives are included in this guide.

If not sure about a native plant crush a leaf and smell it.  If it has a Eucalyptus or citrus smell it is probably OK.  Lemon and Orange tree leaves are acceptable food for possums but should not be encouraged as they are not found in the bush and again, as with roses, attacking people's gardens does not make your possum popular.

BEWARE of toxic plants.  They can and have killed young possums in care.

If in doubt about a plant don't risk it - don't feed it to the animal.


TOXIC - Leguminous plants eg. pea-like flower and seeds in pod
e.g. Pea, Bean, Sweet Pea, Cassia, Lupin


TOXIC Sweet Pea

TOXIC Cassia

TOXIC - Kangaroo Apple


TOXIC -  Nightshades

TOXIC - White Cedar

TOXIC - Pepper Tree

TOXIC - Illawarra Flame Tree

TOXIC - Privet

TOXIC - Tomato plants

TOXIC - Morning Glory

TOXIC - Frangipani

TOXIC - Hibiscus

TOXIC - Azalea

TOXIC - Green Cestrum

(small yellow trumpet shaped flowers)


TOXIC - Hop bush

TOXIC - Oleander - Common large street bush.

Flowers pinks, reds, white.
(Note typical white flowers in inset)

TOXIC - new growth with red colouring in stems in Eucalyptus.


TOXIC - Hydrangea

TOXIC - Avocado

TOXIC - Camphor Laurel


ACACIA ( WATTLE) Many varieties.

Bush to small tree.  Seeds (similar to legumes) in pods
Seed-eating birds. Possums (sparingly with other flora)


Medium to large tree.
Fruit-eating birds. Possums.


BANKSIA  Many varieties.

Small to large tree
Nectivorous birds. Possums. Flying foxes


Many varieties. Bush to medium tree.
Nectivorous birds. Possums. Flying foxes.



CASUARINA ( SHE-OAK, SWAMP OAK) Medium to large tree

Seed-eating birds. Possums. Good habitat foliage.

EUCALYPTUS (GUM) Medium to large tree

Nectivorous birds. Possums. Flying foxes. Koalas.

FICUS (FIG)  Medium to large tree

Fruit eating birds. Possums. Flying foxes.

GREVILLEA  Most are bushes. 'Robusta' is a tree.

Nectivorous birds. Possums ( prefer the red flowers)

KUNZEA (TICK BUSH) Scrubby bush

Insectivorous birds. Possums (also good for drey building).

LEPTOSPERMUM (TEA-TREE) Bush to small tree.

Nectivorous, Insectivorous & Seed-eating birds. Possums.                      


Nectivorous birds. Possums. Flying foxes.





TRISTANIOPSIS ( WATER GUM) Large tree, yellow flowers.


PLUMBAGO Non-Native. Garden bush, blue or white flowers.


LIQUIDAMBAR Non Native. Large tree. Deciduous.

Seed-eating birds. Possums. (Note green seed pods in lower picture)



NEW ZEALAND CHRISTMAS BUSH  Small to medium tree.

Nectivorous birds. Possums.


Non-Native garden bush to medium tree with flowers.



Non-Native mauve flowering  medium tree.


Non-Native garden bush, red tipped leaves.



(Prunus) Non-Native small tree. Purple leaves. Deciduous.


WISTERIA  Non-Native climbing garden vine.


COTONEASTER  Non-Native spreading garden bush, with red berries.

Possums (leaves only)

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