Macquarie University’s Which Plant Where Project

Macquarie University’s Which PlantWhere Project has identified trees that will make the best shade for Western Sydney school yards as hotter summers make it harder for kids to get out and play.

As part of a project aimed at identifying school microclimates and how to cool them down, Macquarie University Distinguished Professor Michelle Leishman led a team that looked at the 30 most commonly planted trees in Western Sydney and selected the best ones for school playgrounds.

This is no easy task once you ask these questions: Are the leaves poisonous? Do they drop soft fruit that children could slip on? Do they produce pollen that is an irritant? Do they have green limbs that are at risk of dropping?

“We know it’s important to have trees. The next question is, which trees?” Leishman told the university website. “This is where the Macquarie University’s Which Where Plant Project comes in.”

The Which Plant Where Project is about “selecting the right plants for the right urban space with an eye on the future”.

“We need climate-smart trees that can cope with the increase of 49°C days we are expecting,” Leishman said.

The right choice

“The most suitable trees we found for school yards in the Western Sydney area were jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia) and weeping lilly pilly (Syzygium floribundum), as well as weeping bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis) and Queensland brush box (Lophostemon confertus)

Intense summer heat can be dangerous for children as their smaller bodies make them far more vulnerable to intense heat.

An adult’s optimal thermal comfort is 21-22°C but a UK study found a child’s is 1.9°C – 2.8°C lower than that of adults.

Leishman hopes the project findings will be used to inform school design and shading and to retro-fit current schools.

Read the full report and stay in touch with the project at

Image: Macquarie University
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