News of Friends of Grasslands
Supporting native grassy ecosystems
January - February 2018
Also available as a pdf file (2.4 MB) in original format with photos
In this issue
- Stirring times, Geoff Robertson
- Welcome to new members!
- February visit to Nerriga’s natural beauty, Lauren Booth
- World Wetlands Day stall
- Workparties in February
- Annual wildflower walk
- ‘Scottsdale’ monitoring
- Hall, Yarramundi, Stirling Park, Cooma
- FOG advocacy
- News from the FOG Committee
- 2018 membership and donations
- St Mark’s Grassland morning, Kym Witney-Soanes
- Monaro Golden Daisy Day, Geoff Robertson
- Close-up: Diminutive daisy duo, John Fitz Gerald
- Northern cemeteries trip, October, Helen Macartney & Rainer Rehwinkel
- What’s going on in the ACT weeds world, Sarah Sharp & Geoff Butler
- Treasure-hunting an orchid, Helen Macartney & Michael Bedingfield
- Spotted Grass Frog, Michael Bedingfield
- ALERT! Coolatai Grass
- FOG Contacts
Geoff Robertson, President
The NSW Government’s changes to its native vegetation and biodiversity legislation have resulted in some confusion. To appease the NSW National Farmers Federation the government repealed the Native Vegetation Act. However, as vegetation clearing largely falls under the revised Biodiversity Act and Local Land Services Regulations, the impact of the repeal of the Native Vegetation Act is unclear.
The impact on grasslands is of more immediate concern to FOG. Here officials have flagged that Natural Temperate Grassland (NTG) will be listed under the Biodiversity Act and Local Land Services (LLS) Regulations. However, the announcement by Deputy Premier Barilaro that work on mapping native grasslands, an apparent prelude to grassland listing, would stop, has placed a question mark over this. Recently, LLS has appointed grassland specialists including David Eddy (long-time FOG member and co-author on FOG’s two flora ID guides) to help resolve the matter. Whether or not NTG is listed under the NSW Biodiversity Act, those grasslands are protected under the Commonwealth EPBC Act. The Commonwealth is also taking steps to prosecute some NSW landowners for clearing NTG.
Watch this space!
Help us strengthen FOG
Several key FOG members have indicated that they will stand down from the committee and or some responsibilities during 2018. This will leave some big holes in our organisation. Hence we need help with tasks that range over the many activities we undertake. FOG is a highly respected organisation for its commitment to grasslands, its innovative and forward thinking, and its members’ experience and skills.
Volunteering to assist FOG is a two-sided activity. It is an opportunity to contribute to grassland conservation as it develops its strategies and undertakes tasks. It can be very rewarding as it provides an opportunity to learn and develop skills and build self confidence. On the other hand, volunteering for FOG can impose a heavy workload if there are too few volunteering to help.
To support FOG, knowledge of ecology of grassy ecosystems is not a requisite skill. All that is required is a concern about conservation and a willingness to contribute. Some of these tasks can be undertaken without being a committee member.
If you can assist or want to make enquiries, please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org, 6241 4065, 0403 221 117).
Alan and Annette Appelbe, of Leopold, Victoria
Mira Kwasik, of Canberra; and Sharon Koh, of Canberra.
Photos here flag some of the stories in this edition: l–r, t–b: FOG visit to Nerriga next February (Dillwynia glaucula by Lauren Booth); ‘Monaro Golden Daisy Day’ (Bulbine Lilies, by Andrew Zelnik); Northern cemeteries trip last October (Ingalba NR, by Rowena Whiting); Hunt for Golden Sun Moth (York Pk, by Kat Ng); Working bee reports (the team at Yarramundi).
Things to do, with FOG, in early 2018
Visit, 10–11 February 2018, to see the natural beauty that abounds in Nerriga, NSW
FOG is invited (with ANPS folk) to visit Norm and Lauren’s property a few kilometres from Nerriga village and adjacent to Morton National Park. Please register with Margaret.Ning@fog.org.au, before 7 February.
In 2004 my husband Norm and I purchased an 80 acre bush block near Nerriga, in the Southern Tablelands of NSW, about 80 km east of Goulburn. The property had originally been granted to an Irishman in the 1860s and in the 1890s was the centre of a rich gold mining area, with many relics still visible, including mine shafts and a water race which brought water from a nearby creek to the mine site. Later land use included grazing and mixed farming. Timber was logged from the native forest and in the 1930s eucalyptus distilleries were common in the area.
Located only a few kilometres from Nerriga village and adjacent to Morton National Park, this is an area of amazing natural rugged beauty and incredible biodiversity.
We spent about two years of weekends clearing rubbish, and tackled weeds we’d never seen before, such as Serrated Tussock, which is a WONS and a serious environmental problem in the grassy ecosystems of the tablelands. Luckily we didn’t have much of an infestation, so we were able to dig it out by hand and carefully spot-spray new growth. We inspect the paddocks every time we visit and now we are pleased to be free of Serrated Tussock.
We quickly realised the property contained a wide range of native species we had never seen before, so we started taking photos and identifying each plant. In 2012 I conducted a vegetation survey and have currently identified almost 150 shrubs, groundcovers and orchids, and we haven’t even started on the trees or grasses yet! Spring comes to Nerriga a bit later than Sydney, with October–November the best time for identifying plants as they are mostly flowering then.
A review of recorded species from the Atlas of Living Australia identified several endangered and rare plants in the area, so we set about searching for, and identifying these. We quickly located:
- Black Gum (Eucalyptus aggregata) – Vulnerable
- Nerriga Grevillea (Grevillea renwickiana) – Endangered (photo right)
- Dwarf Kerrawang (Commersonia prostrata, previously Rulingia prostrata) – Endangered (photo right)
- Michelago Parrot-pea (Dillwynia glaucula) – Endangered (photo p. 1)
A few years ago Keith McDougall from the Office of Environment & Heritage visited us and collected leaf samples of the Nerriga Grevillea for DNA analysis, which showed this particular plant is genetically identical to another plant located several kilometres away. As this plant does not reproduce by seed, but spreads by underground growth, this indicates that the plant had slowly spread apart to cover this distance, dying out in between, eventually leaving isolated but genetically identical plants several kilometres apart. This process would be extremely slow, making it likely that the Nerriga Grevillea on our property is hundreds if not thousands of years old.
The Black Gum (E. aggregata) has previously been found in the vicinity of Grevillea renwickiana at other locations, as it prefers the same soils, aspect and drainage. This species is currently listed in NSW as Vulnerable and is threatened by clearing, hybridisation in small populations and a lack of natural regeneration.The Dwarf Kerrawang is happily growing in our paddock and we had actually been mowing over it! However it grows very close to the ground and is not affected by mowing. We have since found two more patches further down the paddock. It is listed as Endangered and has its very own Recovery Plan!
The bushland in this area is classified as Southern Tablelands Dry Sclerophyll Forest, with predominant species on the property including trees 15–20 m tall such as E. dives (Broad-leaved Peppermint), E. rossii (Scribbly Gum), and E. macrorhyncha (Red Stringybark). The understorey comprises species of Acacia, various species of heath, such as Melichrus urceolatus (Urn Heath) and Monotoca scoparia (Prickly Broom-heath), and various Banksia, Hakea, Leptospermum and Persoonia species. Smaller shrub and groundcover species include Dianella, Billardiera, Stypandra, Chloanthes, Conospernum, Dampiera, Dillwynia, Hibbertia, Isopogon, Lomandra, Mirbelia, Kennedia, Hovea, Pimelea, Scaevola and Tetratheca. We have discovered many orchids on the property, some of them only recently, which demonstrates how the climatic conditions influence the flowering of these plants. Species include Caleana, Calochilus, Chiloglottis, Dipodium, Diuris, Orthoceras, Petalochilus, Spiranthes, Stegostyla and Thelymitra.
The property offers visitors...
· some shared accommodation in caravans,
· plenty of mowed open space for campers, caravans or camper trailers,
· a cabin with kitchen (with all cooking and eating utensils and tea/coffee etc., see photo on p. 2) and a BBQ,
· a lounge area with potbelly for the cold nights and a bathroom with hot shower,
· a pit toilet nearby (but far enough away!),
· an outdoor firepit area, plenty of seating and tables and a small pizza oven, and
· very very little mobile reception (effectively none).
Bring your own: bedding, food and drinking water; esky; torches/lanterns etc. (no electricity at the property).
The Nerriga pub is 10 minutes up the road, with meals, drinks and ice (no groceries). Margaret can advise about options when you register.
We look forward to meeting everyone in February!
World Wetlands Day ‘Open evening’, 3 Feb 2018
FOG will have a stall at Jerrabomberra Wetlands to celebrate World Wetlands Day, in the evening, Saturday 3 February 4–8 pm, at Jerrabomberra Wetlands, Dairy Road, Fyshwick.
Capital Brewing Co is sponsoring the event, and will be running a bar.
Helpers for the FOG stall will be appreciated! Please contact Paul.Archer@fog.org.au
Workparties in February 2018
Weeding workparties are planned for the dates below, all between 8.30 am and 1 pm unless otherwise stated.
Your help is needed and always welcome.
Tools are provided. You need to wear protective gear (including hat) and footwear appropriate for the work and the weather, and bring your own drinking water.
Each workparty convenor provides morning tea, making these into pleasant social occasions.
Please register by two days before the date of the workparty so there are enough tools and tea for everyone, and to find out where to meet if you are not sure, and so you can be told if the weather forecast has led to a cancellation.
Workparties are cancelled if: the forecast is for 35oC or more; it is a total fire ban day; there is lightning; or there is heavy rain.
Scriveners Hut, Sunday 11 February, Jamie.email@example.com
Stirling Park, Sunday 25 February, Jamie.firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of FOG’s activities since October
Annual wildflower walk, 12 November
Not many people nor many wild flowers for the traditional Wildflower Walk in Stirling Park. It was still an interesting afternoon observing which plants had best survived the long dry, and inspecting the impact of the limited fuel reduction burn last autumn. Photo & text: Janet & Peter McGhie.
‘Scottsdale’ annual monitoring for ALG
This year we had 7 keen volunteers to help Matt Appleby (checked shirt in photo) perform the annual FOG monitoring for African Lovegrass on the Bush Heritage property ‘Scottsdale’ on 16 November. Matt is the Bush Heritage ecologist for parts of the SE corner of Australia (including Tasmania). In consultation with our local specialist, Sarah Sharp, Matt decided that we had enough information from our previous monitoring sites along the hill on the east border of Scottsdale, and he had marked out a number of new, shorter sites in the SE corner of the property.
Some of these sites had been recently sprayed with a low concentration of flupropanate via helicopter, and Matt wants to keep an eye on this area to see exactly the effect of the spraying. Sites that were too close to trees or electricity wires for safe access by the helicopter are now control sites.
The monitoring was finished relatively quickly, partly because the sites are shorter and well marked, and also because we could walk between the sites. So, after lunch provided by Bush Heritage, the group visited the Rutidosis site on the rail-line verge, where the Rutidosis was looking lovely. And then we inspected the two restoration sites, where many plants were beginning to emerge after the late spring rains.
The rain held off, and much botanical information was shared between us all. Many thanks to Margaret Ning, Geoff Robertson, John Fitz Gerald, Elena Guarracino, Margaret Strong and Sarah Bates for their valuable assistance.
A busy team at Hall Cemetery woodland on Saturday 11 November, cleared and poisoned weeds and mowed the Paspalum. At Yarramundi Grassland on Sunday 26 November, 7 people sprayed or cleared weeds (photo p. 1) and admired the hairy weed-clearers (photo p. 13). Stirling Park on Saturday 9 December rewarded workers with beautiful flowers (photos p. 13). A dedicated group monitored and mapped Monaro Golden Daisy at Cooma grassland sites on 25 November, finishing before the rain came!
Naarilla Hirsch & Sarah Sharp
In commenting on the EPBC referral concerning the Molonglo 3 water supply pipeline, FOG was aware that there has been extensive and detailed consultation with ACT Government and with Friends of The Pinnacle. We were concerned that such an action is being undertaken within the Reserve system but understand that impact will be minimised. FOG endorsed the proposals for replanting with native species indigenous to the site and the opportunity for improving native habitat.
November & December
1. Two EPBC referrals, concerning a development proposal for the Canberra brickworks in Yarralumla and access to it, were released for public comment, unfortunately a week apart so it was not possible to consider both together, although they affected the same Golden Sun Moth (GSM) population.
FOG’s concern about the first (the proposed development around the brickworks itself) related to the destruction of an existing GSM population, as well as increasing fragmentation of the species in the wider area near the Brickworks. FOG considered that in this case, the ‘avoid’ principle of the approach – to avoid first, mitigate if possible, with offsets as a last resort, when development proposals impact has not been applied – was opposed to the development in its current form. Given the time this development proposal has been in the pipeline, FOG was staggered that there was no offset proposal provided with this referral. FOG opposed this development proposal. It has been released for comment in an incomplete state, with no offset options provided, and in isolation from another related referral dealing with the future of the threatened species and ecological community north of Dudley St.
The second referral related to a proposed upgrade to Dudley Street for access to the proposed development. This road upgrade will impact on the Dudley Street Grassland (reducing its area by 17%) as well as the GSM population in the area. FOG reiterated its concerns about the piecemeal nature of the referrals, and expressed concern about a number of other issues, including the cumulative impact of these proposals and their impact on the long-term viability of the grassland and GSM population, and the potential for more weed invasion. The referral included an offset of improving the North Mitchell Grasslands, but FOG found the offset proposal to be vague, lacking in any detail and un-costed. While agreeing that the North Mitchell grassland might be a suitable offset for this proposal, it wasn’t clear to FOG why protection of the remaining GSM habitat and NTG in the Dudley Street site has not been proposed as the offset.
2. On 8 December Sarah and Naarilla attended the launch, by Minister Gentleman, of the ACT Native Grassland Conservation Strategy. We intend to send a short article with photos for the next newsletter. Meanwhile, the document is available at https://www.environment.act.gov.au/cpr/conservation_and_ecological_communities/grasslands/grassland_conservation_strategy.
The full text of FOG submissions appears on the FOG website
The committee meeting on 28 November reviewed FOG’s recent activities (see reports in this newsletter) and discussed some challenges that are yet to be resolved (p. 1).
Particularly pleasing was FOG’s Celebrating Monaro Golden Daisy Day (23 November) for which we had excellent partner support and good attendance (see report on p. 6) as well as brilliantly flowering daisies. A big ‘thank you’ to our partners and to all participants.
The committee congratulated the organisers and participants at FOG’s working bees at Stirling Park woodland, Yarramundi Grassland and Hall Cemetery woodland. The new monitoring program set up at ‘Scottsdale’ provided a great learning and pleasurable experience (see p. 3).
Some time was spent at the committee meeting discussing our advocacy endeavours. As usual there have been many issues that FOG has been addressing. These are often complex and challenging as FOG needs to be well informed before entering the fray. Apart from trying to protect ACT grasslands and woodlands from further encroachment (brickworks, Red Hill Golf Course and York Park), there have been interesting developments on grasslands across the border.
FOG, K2C and Grass Roots Environmental (Lori Gould) organised a grassland investment workshop at Jerrabomberra Wetlands (24 October) to include a statement on Setting Grassland Priorities in ACT NRM Investment Plan. Lori and I later drafted the statement which I circulated for comment (24 November) to those who participated in workshop. The next step is to come up with some EOIs as part of the planning process.
The 2018 membership subs are due. If your membership dues are owing, you will be notified. If you have paid in advance, please let us know if your details have changed. To do that, and for queries, please email Sarah at email@example.com or phone 0402 576 412.
Your donations to FOG are very welcome. Donations over $2 are tax deductible and FOG will send you a receipt. During 2017 FOG has provided $4800 to support five projects that will advance knowledge about grasslands.
St Mark’s Grassland Biodiversity monitoring morning, 1 December
Kym Witney-Soanes (CSU Green Office)
Charles Sturt University (CSU) in partnership with the Friends of Grasslands hosted a biodiversity monitoring walk and talk session in the St Mark’s remnant grassland on Friday 1 December.
The aim of the event was to increase awareness regarding the significance of this iconic remnant as well as to build capacity in grassland biodiversity monitoring.
This was a lovely opportunity to draw together like-minded stakeholders to share knowledge and to understand more about the best practice management of the grassland ecosystem.
Participants included the local staff at the CSU Canberra at St Mark’s Theology School and the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture (ACC&C), and members of Friends of Grasslands. Individuals included a Ngambri elder, a former CSIRO ecologist, botanists, students, ANU Green, Green Options and Mark Evans, CSU’s Facilities Manager (many are in the photo, top right). We used the iNaturalist app to register the forbs we found in the grassland so that we can geo-locate the incredible diversity of plants.
CSU is extremely appreciative of the willingness of Sarah Sharp (of FOG) to share her 25 years of monitoring experience and knowledge of this site. Sarah said, “The St Mark’s Grassland is extremely significant because it contains a wide diversity of plant species. This site (photo at right) has retained sensitive species much better than many other grassland sites across the ACT. During spring we see species growing up through the Kangaroo Grass, such as orchids, at least two or three species of lilies and Yam Daisies.
“I was delighted when Kym approached me and Geoff Robertson a few months ago to discuss how FOG could be involved in helping to conserve St Mark’s Grassland. It has always been my favourite site, and in my old job in ACT Government I had a lot of contact with the site managers. This year I established a Vegwatch monitoring site in the grassland, to add to other monitoring that has occurred in the past, and will continue to monitor this site, while management becomes more proactive and focused on conservation values. FOG will be working with Kym and the management team, and I have no doubt that the grassland will emerge into something even more special, that reflects its values for conservation, education and a place of peace and reconciliation.”
CSU demonstrates a commitment to biodiversity by exceeding their target in 2015, to manage 20% of the university’s land for conservation. In March 2017, CSU officially ratified the 254 hectares of biodiversity zones across their seven campuses at Canberra, Albury-Wodonga, Wagga Wagga, Dubbo, Orange, Bathurst and Port Macquarie.
The CSU staff look forward to working in partnership with the Friends of Grasslands and other key stakeholders to manage and monitor this significant grassland site at St Mark’s to maximise its biodiversity values and provide teaching, learning and research opportunities to increase awareness locally.
The next important event on the site will be a cultural mosaic burn in autumn 2018.
For further information about the management of the St Mark’s Grassland, please contact Mark Evans at CSU, firstname.lastname@example.org or Kym Witney-Soanes at CSU, Green email@example.com, or visit https://www.csu.edu.au/csugreen/life-framework/facilities-and-operations/biodiversity-what-you-can-do
Monaro Golden Daisy Day, 23 November
The Monaro Golden Daisy, as its name suggests, is golden in both colour and value. Each year in late November it flowers for about two weeks on Old Cooma Common, also known as Radio Hill, at Cooma NSW.
On 23 November, Friends of Grasslands Inc. (FOG) celebrated its many years of partnership with Snowy Monaro Regional Council at the Common by holding a ‘Showcasing the Daisy’ day, leading a visit to the daisy in the morning and holding a workshop on the daisy’s future after lunch, at Council’s chambers. Thirty-five people made it to the top of Radio Hill for the morning visit, and 19 people attended the workshop. Visitors to the hilltop included members of South East Local Land Services (SELLS) Board, staff from various local and state government agencies, FOG members, a local school teacher, local landowners and Cooma residents.
In the morning, people gathered at the Old Cooma Common car park where they had a stunning view of the common’s Natural Temperate Grassland and the surrounding landscape. We explained the plant diversity of the grassland and the work done over the years on the common. These themes are also excellently portrayed in signage at the hilltop carpark. The group then walked 300 m along the track, observing the many spring flowers, until they came to an amazing patch of the daisy.
People asked many questions about the daisy and why it persists in areas such as the common. The experts on hand mentioned that the daisy is still found in a number of the region’s remnant areas of Natural Temperate Grassland. The grassland at Old Cooma Common, with its tremendous diversity of grasses and wildflowers and open structure, is conducive to the daisy’s survival.
Speakers at the afternoon workshop elaborated on the themes spoken about in the morning. David Eddy described how FOG became involved with Council on the common and showed photos of the common before and after the removal of hawthorns and briars in 2000. David, newly appointed as Senior Vegetation Officer on grasslands with SELLS, talked about his involvement in past grassland education and research, and the challenges in his new appointment.
Geoff Robertson outlined FOG’s involvement at the common and FOG’s current Monaro Golden Daisy project which is funded by a SELLS grant. The current project focuses on controlling St John’s Wort and African Lovegrass at two Cooma sites, through work by professional spray contractors. Sarah Sharp described how FOG volunteers are professionally monitoring the impacts of spraying on the survival of the Monaro Golden Daisy and other native vegetation.
Brett Jones, Noxious Weeds Officer with the Snowy Monaro Regional Council, talked about recent changes in legislation, and how these changes place more onus on councils to monitor weeds, and their impact on threatened plant species. He outlined Council’s evolving strategy, and said FOG’s knowledge and experience had assisted with this. Rob Armstrong, Senior Project Officer with the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage, outlined what is known about the current populations of Monaro Golden Daisy in Cooma, across the Monaro and Snowy Mountains, and issues with their conservation and management.
Leon Miners, Adviser on Natural Resources, outlined SELLS’ work to discover the population size and distribution of the Grassland Earless Dragon in the region.
Summing up the presentations, Tony Robinson, of Kosciuszko to Coast, said that there was a wealth of information presented at the workshop, and strong support for the conservation and recovery of Natural Temperate Grassland and some of their iconic species such as the Monaro Golden Daisy and Grassland Earless Dragon. He posed the question: How do we get greater public involvement in biodiversity? One suggestion was that Cooma might adopt the Daisy and the Grassland Earless Dragon as local icons in its publicity.
This article was first published in the Monaro Post, on 29 November 2017.
Close-up: Diminutive Daisy Duo
John Fitz Gerald
We all know summer is a time of abundant of flowering daisies so I thought I’d look there in this issue’s Close-up. Many readers will immediately have mental images of large and colourful flowers from genuses such as Leucochrysum, Rhodanthe or Xerochrysum as natives, or maybe even introduced examples from family Asteraceae such as Chrysanthemum, Gazania, Gerbera; maybe even Arctotheca or Hypochaeris.
Sorry to disappoint but I have chosen two small native daisies that are very easy to pass unnoticed.
First, Euchiton japonicus, Creeping Cudweed (photo top left), which is basically drab green to dull white all over, tiny flowers included. This perennial species flowered prolifically along an open vehicle track in the Hall Cemetery block this summer, with plants only up to 10 cm tall. Each cluster of flowers is about 1 cm across and becomes very fluffy (visible in photo) once the many seeds of each floret mature and are released.
For Asteraceae, the reproductive unit is technically a fruit, called an achene, and usually topped by a pappus. The fluff is actually a loose tangle of pappus bristles which, in this Euchiton, have mostly detached from the small achene. The image (at left) shows one achene with its white pappus bristles still attached. Ten tiny detached achenes are shown in the next image (3rd from top left): note the tiny spikes spread across each of them. (White scale bars represent 0.5 mm in both images.)
My second daisy has also flowered well in the mixed spring weather. Triptilodiscus pygmaeus, Common Sunray, is a low (below 5 cm tall) and somewhat spreading plant with yellow flower clusters just 5 mm across (photo at bottom left). This daisy is an annual species.
Two released achenes are shown (photo bottom right; scale bar represents 0.5 mm). For this daisy the pappus remains attached and the lower achene still retains its flower parts.
As a point of interest, web resources such as Plantnet (plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/floraonline.htm) note that both of these species are normally in woodland or scrub, yet I have noticed them this year mostly in open sunny places. The Sunray has featured in inter-tussock openings of several local grasslands. Did these grasslands once have more tree cover? No doubt. But neither small plant would tolerate much competition.
The microscope-magnified images were recorded at the National Seed Bank, Australian National Botanic Gardens. They can be used if attributed and linked to the Creative Commons licence CC BY. (http://creativecommons.org.au/learn/licences/)
‘Northern cemeteries’ trip through the NSW south-western slopes, 21–23 October
Helen Macartney & Rainer Rehwinkel
Some highlights by Helen
We met up at first on Saturday 21 October at the Bowning Cemetery: it was early and so the day was quite crisp still. What a beautiful and spacious place, and I thought what a lovely environment to be finally resting in – with many wildflowers, especially golden everlasting daisies, which was also the case at the next stop, Bookham cemetery.
That night we stayed at the Apex Riverside Tourist Park straddling a shady bend of the Lachlan River at Forbes. This is a fabulous place for birds and we watched a Sacred Kingfisher flitting high in the River Red Gum canopies. Rainer also heard Little Friarbird, Grey Shrike-thrush, and many other birdcalls there.
Dinner that evening was – like all the shared meals – really good fun. It was so interesting talking about the shared adventures and discoveries of the day and getting to know each other a little more (right: Helen, Margaret Ning and Andy Russell; photo by RR).
On the Sunday we saw gorgeous pink Ptilotus plants on the floodplain, and the amazing Gum Swamp just outside Forbes. For our shared lunchtime we sat on the ground, swatting flies and hearing of exciting discoveries as well as the geological and social history of the area and its endangered Travelling Stock Routes (TSRs).
Clover Leigh Golf Club at Crowther (top photo, by SK), our accommodation on Sunday night, was incredibly beautiful. Our digs were very comfortable and our group dinner was outside overlooking the long view to the east. Pardalotes in the trees accompanied us at breakfast the next morning.
The visit to Dananbilla on the Monday was fantastic. What a place! A landscape of eucalypts, Cypress Pine and Kurrajong trees, photogenic rocks and pretty creek valleys (e.g. photo below right, by RR).
Lunch at Booroowa with diminishing numbers felt a bit like a last day of term(!) and only half a dozen of us went to Tarengo TSR where we found lots of Blue Devils yet to come into flower.
Dananbilla Nature Reserve by Rainer*
Our third stop on Day 3 was the rocky gorge in the Windermere section of Dananbilla Nature Reserve. This is my favourite section of the reserve. While the original reserve consisted mostly of steep rocky hills covered with Dry Forest dominated by Mugga Ironbark and Cypress Pine, the Windermere addition (formerly private property) is mostly rolling country, with large areas containing endangered Box–Gum Woodland.
The rocky gorge that the FOG group visited is a quite extra-ordinary magical place, characterised by huge Kurrajongs (Brachychiton populneus). With their dense crowns and glossy leaves, these trees give the place the feel of a dry rainforest, and it was probably not that many millennia prior that the gorge was indeed occupied by a true rainforest. Even now, various ferns shelter in the rock-crevices.
Sticky Hopbushes (Dodonaea viscosa; photo at right, by RR) abound here; these were covered with shiny maroon- or straw-coloured hops. I’ve recently read that this species is very widespread, even beyond our own continent. It occurs from India, through the Pacific islands to as far east as Hawaii, and south to New Zealand. It too is from a relict rainforest group, growing here in the dry hills of the NSW South-Western Slopes.
Contrasting with the relict rainforest plants was a small population of the regionally very uncommon Indigofera adesmiifolia, the Tick Indigo. Tick Indigo is usually found in the driest, rockiest sites. It’s probably now confined to rocky sites, because, like the Anchor-plant (Discaria pubescens) of the creekside (photo right), it is undoubtedly highly desirable to grazing animals, and finds refuge in areas where stock cannot easily reach it. At this rocky creek bank, Sun Orchids (below and next page) proliferated among the outcrops.
The itinerary for the three days
To give you an overview, the trip went in this order: Bowning, Bookham and Wallendbeen cemeteries; Jindalee National Park; Ingalba Nature Reserve. Overnight at Forbes. Gum Swamp; three TSRs along the Newell Highway; Monteagle Cemetery. Overnight at Crowther. Dananbilla NR (Windermere section); Tarengo TSR.
We had quite a long stay at Jindalee NP (photo above, by SK) adjacent to Burley Griffin Way, on day 1. It was looking very dry, which was a complete contrast to Wallendbeen Cemetery which we had just visited, and Monteagle Cemetery which we saw the next day. Both are relatively near Jindalee. The park area has been grazed in the past when it was State Forest, and has now had some replanting done, with plenty of bipinnate wattles which are known to help keep Noisy Miner populations low.
Monteagle Cemetery (photo above, by RR). This is an iconic Box–Gum Woodland site, one of the key sites of the Grassy Box Woodland Conservation Management Network, and one of several that have a Conservation Agreement placed on them. This instrument offers permanent protection and careful management planning.
On the way to the third stop for the third morning, we crested a ridge. To the right is the main Dananbilla Range, which forms the core of the nature reserve and its Protected Area Network, and on which all the other reserve additions, new reserves gazettals, conservation agreements and connectivity plantings have built over the last 20 years.
*Rainer’s photos & text, including the text in the photo captions, were initially published on Facebook.
For a species list, or for more information about this trip, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s going on in the ACT weeds world
Sarah Sharp & Geoff Butler
This article is the first of what the authors hope will be a ‘regularly irregular’ feature in the Friends of Grasslands and Australian Native Plant Society (ANPS) Newsletters. Over time, the authors (with lots of help from various ‘weedy’ friends) will attempt to provide information on actions that are occurring, as well as issues or links to information.
Why? Despite the volumes of information now available through various Internet sources on weeds, including pages directly relevant to the ACT, our key reason for doing this is to ensure that the ACT community continues to work in cooperation with Government to manage weeds in our landscape.
We acknowledge the assistance of others in preparation of these articles; however, they are the responsibility of the authors alone. We encourage you to copy and distribute the articles through your networks.
The Weeds Advisory Group (WAG)
WAG met on Monday 4 December 2017. Here are several items from that day’s agenda to give a taste of what the group addresses
1. Progress on high risk weeds alerts to, and passive surveillance reporting from, key stakeholders including community groups. The Biosecurity Alert about Coolatai Grass (Hyparrhenia hirta; photos at right; summary on p. 16) uses the agreed process for reporting sightings. This species has recently invaded the Southern Tablelands, in locations very close to the ACT. Canberra Nature Map (CNM) has an automatic alert placed on this species, as well as some other species of concern, so that a reporting placed on CNM goes automatically through to the newly established High Risk Invasive Plants Team who can then respond to that report immediately (see below). There have been a number of recent new incursions and high risk occurrence sightings lodged on CNM that have been attended to very rapidly by this Invasive Plants Team.
2. Steve Taylor gave a report on weed control and management undertaken in the past three months by Government and contractors, including budget expenditure and reports on Chilean Needlegrass control monitoring and mapping. Annual weed plans, progress on their implementation, reviews and information on particular weeds are available at http://www.environment.act.gov.au/parks-conservation/plants-and-animals/Biosecurity/invasive-plants.
3. WAG discussed community education and involvement, in the context that several programs run over many years have come to an end (e.g. Bush Friendly Garden at Floriade and (potentially) Weed Swap). WAG identified the need to develop and implement a program that best utilises current resources, particularly the effective use of electronic reporting and mapping by staff, consultants, contractors and community. More on this at a later date.
4. WAG discussed the illegal online sales of invasive plants through Facebook, eBay, Gumtree and similar sites. This is a matter affecting every country in the world, with many species advertised for sale in overseas countries, as published in several papers presented to the WAG. The ACT Government is working closely with other states to determine how best to deal with this. Several heavy fines have been applied interstate to online traders who had received previous warnings about sales of legislated pest plants, but even so, had continued to advertise these plants for sale. Our attention was drawn to a sale item currently on eBay for the highly invasive Mexican Feather Grass.
5. A review of achievements against the priorities of the ACT Weeds Strategy 2009–2019 was discussed. Some examples include completion of a review of the urban tree (and shrub and groundflora) planting guidelines, with which developers are required to comply. This is an action that has been sorely needed for many years. This review, with significant input by the WAG, has just been completed and will be released very shortly. This list has removed many invasive species, and restrictions have been placed on where some species may be planted, such as not allowing them to be planted adjacent to or near reserves. Another priority item identified in the Strategy was to hold a Weeds Forum every three years, to facilitate information and knowledge exchange. Two have been held to date, and a third is to be held in 2018 or 2019.
The High Risk Invasive Plants Team
Steve Taylor, Senior Invasive Plants Officer, PCS
The ACT Weeds Advisory Group recently decided there was a need for a rapid response team to deal with the increasing reports of high risk new and emerging invasive plants. It was decided to create a multi-agency team of technical experts to prioritise and implement responses – called the High Risk Invasive Plants Team.
Members of the team include: Dr Michael Mulvaney, the Senior Environmental Planner with Environment Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD); Jenny Conolly, the Invasive Species Officer with Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS); myself, the Senior Invasive Plants Officer with ACT Parks and Conservation Service (PCS); and Mal Copelin, a pests and weeds expert with TCCS.
Two recent examples below show how the team responds to a report.
Turkey Rhubarb report at Mt Majura
Waltraud from Friends of Mount Majura discovered a suspicious vine on Mt Majura. She posted it on Canberra Nature Map http://canberra.naturemapr.org/. It was identified as the invasive vine Acetosa sagittata (Turkey Rhubarb or Rambling Dock; photo left), native to South Africa. An auto-alert email from Canberra Nature Map was sent to the High Risk Invasive Plants Team. The location was mapped on the Collector app ‘Weeds-not-treated map’. As this was a new incursion in the ACT, a specimen was taken to the National Herbarium the next day, for confirmation and their collection. A wider search for more plants was also undertaken and other plants were located and treated. Control commenced a day later and the area was mapped on Collector app ‘Treated weeds’.
Spanish Heath report at Mt Taylor
Kathy Eyles from Friends of Mt Taylor reported an infestation of a suspicious plant at Mt Taylor to Canberra Nature Map. It was identified as Erica lusitanica (Spanish Heath; photo right). An auto-alert email was sent from Canberra Nature Map to the High Risk Invasive Plants Team. The infestation was mapped on the Collector app ‘Weeds-not-treated-map’. The job was too big for the team, so Ranger Ellyse Sheridan and a specialist weeds contractor undertook the control work, and it was then mapped on Collector app ‘Treated weeds’.
Well done to all involved – these examples show the value of Citizen Science!
About the Weeds Advisory Group (WAG)
The Weeds Advisory Group operates as a non-statutory advisory group and was identified in the ACT Weeds Strategy 2009–2019 (ACT 2009). WAG’s role is to provide expert advice to the ACT Government to enhance management of weeds across tenures (conservation, rural and urban) and jurisdictions to improve investment outcomes. Members of the WAG include plant scientists, ecologists, ACT Government managers and technical staff, including Steve Taylor and Jenny Conolly who are Invasive Plants Officers with PCS and TCCS respectively. The WAG is supported by a secretariat, Dr Alison McInnes (Senior Policy Officer, Biosecurity and Rural Services, ACT Parks and Conservation Service). WAG meets approximately twice annually, and goes through a pretty broad agenda each time. Five meetings as well as several out of session meetings have now been held since early 2015. More information can be found about the Strategy and WAG at http://www.environment.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/575071/ACT-Weeds-Strategy-2009-2019.pdf.
In addition to the WAG, ACT Government staff also are part of an ACT Biosecurity Coordination Committee, which links Commonwealth and NSW land managers across the region.
About the authors, Sarah Sharp & Geoff Butler
The authors are external members on the ACT Weeds Advisory Group (WAG), appointed for their expertise in weeds. Sarah’s work in natural grasslands and grassy woodlands in ACT has had a great deal (unfortunately) to do with weeds, given they comprise the greatest threat (alongside development) to these ecosystems. In her role as a scientist in ACT Government for some 17 years she was also on the Weeds Working Group and has retained a strong interest and concern with weedy matters since leaving the public service and working with FOG, Conservation Council and Molonglo Catchment Group.
Geoff, who is a founding member of the Australian Network for Plant Conservation and a member of ANPS, Conservation Council and FOG, has been for many years an active advocate for effective weed management, and the weeds officer for the Conservation Council.
Both authors are committed to ensuring the community is well-informed and actively supporting weed management in ACT, whether it be for biodiversity, economic or amenity reasons (yes, including our own gardens!).
- Article in The Conversation about thunderstorm asthma: ‘... the biggest risk factor for thunderstorm asthma has been termed the “ryegrass pollen trifecta”...’. See https://theconversation.com/thunderstorm-asthma-whos-at-risk-and-how-to-manage-it-86397
- In The Land Online, the article ‘Effectively grazing the Monaro’ describes FOG member Charles Massy’s holistic grazing approach and its beneficial impacts on the native grassland of his property. See http://www.theland.com.au/story/5088681/effectively-grazing-the-monaro/
- FOG member David Johnson’s (et al.) paper, ‘Seed addition and biomass removal key to restoring native forbs in degraded temperate grassland’, has been accepted for publication in Applied Vegetation Science, available at doi 10.1111/avsc.12352
- The new digital platform Flora of Australia was launched on 27 November. It is a synthesis of present taxonomic knowledge of the country’s flora. See https://profiles.ala.org.au/opus/foa
Going back to basics. Well done NCA!
FOG enjoys working with the National Capital Authority at Yarramundi Grassland, but was cautious when the NCA recently decided to trial some weed control here using goats.
The goats have come (from Bega) and gone – and, in hindsight, it seems that the NCA has scored a real win with this initiative and that FOG’s caution was unwarranted.
General details were published in a Canberra Times article last month by Kimberley Le Lievre: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/national-capital-authority-employs-goats-to-rid-shores-of-lake-burleygriffin-of-noxious-weeds-20171101-gzd5ml.html
The NCA needs access to the water’s edge at Yarramundi to control aquatic Alligator Weed which has National Signifiicance status due to its high potential for invasion. However, a thick wall of old Blackberry stood in the way. The goats, in 3 short weeks, chewed that back to ground level (photo). It was eye-opening to watch the animals at work in the Blackberry tangles. These large Boer goats were micro-controlled by a double envelope of temporary electric fences and their grazing area was changed every few days to progress them through the weedy strip. The herd was kept for the minimum time in each site, so while a few leaves were trimmed from native trees no bark was removed. One big positive from this herd was the calm and quiet way they went about their task – none of the bleating and chaos that would have come from goats mustered from the wild. Of course the Blackberry roots remain and will need to be poisoned but that will come after the primary target of Alligator Weed is tackled.
If any FOG reader is interested to know more, please contact me and I can pass on details of the estate manager at NCA and of the goat herder who is keen to hire to new clients.
John Fitz Gerald
Hunting Golden Sun Moths on 13 December
The small block of York Park (in Barton ACT, corner of Sydney Ave & National Circuit) does have some threatened Golden Sun Moths in this reserved patch of GSM habitat. In ideal sunny lunchtime conditions (about 30oC), Kim Pullen led a small group looking for adult moths (photo p. 1). We found a few, mostly spotted by Kat Ng. Then we visited Dudley St, Yarralumla (photo p. 4). Here, in an area of mainly Chilean Needle Grass, numerous male moths were flying, settling and flying again. What joy!
Helen Macartney, Michael Bedingfield, Ann Milligan
On Tuesday 14 November in the late afternoon, about 10 of us met with Michael Bedingfield at what was originally known as Conder 9, to see what was in flower and hunt for the elusive pink Diuris dendrobioides (Wedge Diuris). We had a dry winter and early spring, but there had been over 40 mm of rain a fortnight before the date, so we were hopeful of a reasonable display of flowers. In fact, there were some areas of scattered flowering forbs, especially the tougher variety such as everlasting daisies, and several small shrubs flowering, as well as flamboyantly lemon-blossomed Black Wattles, Acacia mearnsii. A semi-permanent spring gave us more insight as to what might be on show in a better season, and there were some Billy Buttons Craspedia variabilis, and Golden Weather-grass Hypoxis hygrometrica there.
It was a lovely place to walk with FOG and made us aware of how suburbia sat so close to this bushland – not that unusual in Canberra, but here it really is the start of the countryside. And there are fantastic views to the mountains in the west.
This hillside woodland site is now part of Tuggeranong Hill Nature Reserve, which was saved from residential development just after the turn of the century by Michael’s and FOG’s lobbying, and set aside in response to Action Plan 10 on the Yellow Box–Red Gum Grassy Woodlands. The visit this November was FOG’s first official one to the site, believe it or not, despite its plentiful native flora and grasses (of which Michael has listed 170 species). We found a good proportion of these.
It was almost dark when the last six of the group left the site to go home, and by then we were clearly disturbing the numerous resident kangaroos ranging from quite young to middle aged. That we stayed for over 3 hours shows how interesting a visit this was.
By the way, the hunt was a success – against the odds in a dry season, we were able to find one flowering orchid (photo immediately below), close to a bush (photo below left)!
Spotted Grass Frog Limnodynastes tasmaniensis – have you spotted one?
The Spotted Grass Frog is hard to find because it hides out during the daylight hours. However it does have a distinctive voice so you can detect it when calling which is usually at night. It takes refuge under any natural object or debris such as tussocks, logs or rocks as well as man-made objects. Its nocturnal song is a rapid machine-gun-like ‘kuk uk uk uk’ which is repeated regularly by the males. During wet weather you can hear large choruses of them as they are common in our region. There is a race of this species with a different call to the locals which occurs in Victoria and Tasmania. It makes a sharp ‘click’ or ‘plonk’ like the noise made by knocking two stones together. You can listen to these sounds at the Frogs of Australia website (see references).
As a typical frog it is amphibious, and locally can breed at any time of year except the winter provided that conditions are suitable. In a typical frog lifecycle, after mating the female lays her eggs in still water. When they hatch the young are small tadpoles that have a roughly globular body, a long tail but no legs. They breathe with gills and spend all their time in water. As the tadpoles grow they undergo metamorphosis and gradually develop legs and lungs and the tails shrink. When the young frog is mature enough it is able to leave the water and live on land. Frogs breathe not only through their lungs but also through their skin. They also absorb water through their skin. They need to keep moist to survive so while they are able to travel through the landscape they need to return to a place near water.
The Spotted Grass Frog is also known as the Spotted Marsh Frog, with scientific name Limnodynastes tasmaniensis. It occurs throughout the plains of the ACT, as well as on the hills and lower mountain valleys, but not in the sub-alpine regions. It is terrestrial and likes grasslands and pastures where there is some still water close by. It will live happily where there are farm dams, ditches and roadside drains, flooded paddocks, streamside ponds and intermittent creeks. In town it can be found in or near silt traps and ornamental ponds. In dry times it will hide in sheltered cracks in the ground. It occurs throughout eastern Australia from Queensland to Tasmania and also eastern South Australia, and has been introduced to Western Australia.
The females of this species grow to about 45 mm in body length, with the males being slightly smaller on average. The colour varies from light to dark green or fawn with blotches that are a darker green or brown. Many specimens have a thin line of pale yellow or pale pink down the middle of the back from the nose to the rear vent. They all have a white narrow ridge along both sides of the face under the eye.
Frogs and other amphibians have been declining in numbers generally and it is a worldwide phenomenon. The reasons for this are various and there is a lot of information about it on the Internet. There are a number of possible causes – the widespread use of pesticides and herbicides, global warming, increased ultraviolet radiation, diseases, pollution, habitat loss, droughts, acid rain and the introduction of exotic animals, such as the Mosquito Fish, Gambusia holbrooki, which is a major pest in Australia.
The skin of frogs is comparatively thin and permeable, which makes them very sensitive to changes in the environment. So they are affected by many things which other animals can tolerate without harm. For example, since frogs absorb chemicals through their skin they are particularly vulnerable to pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. These poisons are inevitably washed by rain into our waterways, ponds, pools and dams. When sprayed, the fine droplets can also be carried on the wind and settle on distant vegetation. The sensitive frogs can’t avoid absorbing these substances, especially when in water, but also when they travel through affected vegetation. The toxins may cause illness, deformity or death. Some chemicals also interfere with the animals’ sexual hormones, reducing reproductive success and in some cases even altering the animals’ gender. Quite minute amounts of these chemicals, or the substances they degrade into over time, which may be relatively harmless to other creatures, can be a serious problem for frogs.
After reading about the challenges facing the existence of our frogs, it is a relief to know that the Spotted Grass Frog is a species that is not declining. It is one of the most common frogs throughout its natural range. Perhaps you will spot one soon!
Reptiles & Frogs of the Australian Capital Territory, Ross Bennett, National Parks Association of the ACT Inc., 2011.
https://frogs.org.au/frogs/species/Limnodynastes/tasmaniensis/ (Frogs of Australia)
ALERT! Coolatai Grass
Coolatai Grass is a highly invasive weed, tolerant to drought, fire and herbicide. It can invade undisturbed natural ecosystems. Coolatai Grass has not been detected in the ACT but infestations are present to the north and south in NSW. If you detect or suspect an incursion of Coolatai Grass in the ACT, please report it on Canberra Nature Map with a close-up photo. An alert will then go automatically to the High Risk Invasive Plants Team. See article, pp. 11–12.
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