Autumn 2008


From the Office

Apologies for the lack of a newsletter for the Summer 2007/8 edition. We were down two of our main volunteers and Tanya also was on holidays.
We applied for an Envirofund grant from the Australian Government but were found to be ineligible as our proposed project was considered research and to be subsidised for non-commercial activities that will compete with commercial operations, (ineligible activities 19 and 27). We wanted to investigate riparian plants to establish which were indigenous and easily propagated for landcare and bushcare projects within the Blue Mountains.
We did, however, receive a community water grant (2nd application) to install suitable water tanks and attendant plumbing to water the nursery plants. This will be underway when the funding is made available. We also received a small equipment grant for the purchase of a nursery trolley (flat bottomed) in order to move tubestock and especially ‘rescued’ pots from growing on area to the sale area. It will be a boon to sore backs among the workers here.
We had two young women wanting to gather work experience as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Award Program. This was for us successful as I’m sure it was for the participants. We will explore the possibility of continuing this opportunity this year.
As most of you will be aware, we are very pressed for space in the office and are looking for ways to minimize storage of documents etc. so the office can also become a nursery work space during inclement weather, i.e. the never ending rain! We would like to donate appropriate historical matter to the State Library, however, we need an archivist to sort out the material into a workable reference file. The concept and establishment of Blue Mountains Wildplant Rescue Service is unique and is therefore of historical interest. It would be a pity to lose this information by incorrect storage of written and photographic material. If you or someone you know has archival skills and would like to put together a workable reference file to be stored and made accessible through The State Library, please contact me. The Central Coast and the Illawarra Wildplant Rescue Services have been established along the same lines as Blue Mountains and are now functioning successfully and could also be included as a reference in the Blue Mountains documentation. It is a wonderful history and should be made available to a broader audience.
As part of the need to create a better working space in the office, we are also looking for two four drawer filing cabinets and wooden shelving or bookshelves to house our reference library, stationery etc.
The refrigerator we were given for the seed bank storage has broken down beyond repair (except for a ransom) so we are looking for another one as a gift. A large household refrigerator would hold our seed bank and would be greatly appreciated. The dryness and coldness arrests the seed development until there is room in the glasshouse and we are ready to sow them. The refrigerator will become more important if and when the summer months arrive.
Dominoes Katoomba (Pizza Restaurant) will declare Monday 14th April 2008 Blue Mountains Wildplant Rescue Day and will donate $1.00 per pizza sold on this day to our Trust Fund. We would encourage all our members on this day to buy a pizza to help swell our meager coffers. Thank you, Dominoes Katoomba for their community mindedness.
AGM: The election of officers and management committee for 2008 are: Alison Hadfield-Chair, Anne Rickwood-Vice-Chair, Veronica Paul-Secretary, Judy McLean-Treasurer. Committee: Christine Belshaw, John Adey, Irene Domes, Jenny Caseldine.
Judy McLean
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Nursery Coordinators Report

Last year saw the installation of our new shade house purchased with a grant from Australia Post and Landcare. Thanks to Green Corp and Fred Klerk (volunteer) for all the work putting it up and to Drago Heler for putting on the door!
November obviously saw the break of the drought up here. (I was away at the time and couldn’t believe the difference when I got back!). Naturally everything grows incredibly well (except for some poor dryer liking plants) including the weeds, algae and moss making it difficult to keep on top of the tidying of the nursery.
Consequently, and it being autumn, we have lots of lovely plants ready for sale. I might take this opportunity to say that members receive 10% discount on purchases. We will be issuing membership cards with the next lot of membership renewals due on the first of July. Also remember if you have any of our tubes or racks at your place or you know of any one that does we would love to get them back as they do cost a bit and any savings that can be made we like!
Seeds from Lower Mountains are always welcome! We really only have one person who looks out regularly for seed (thank you Christine!) and the more the merrier. Basically from about Lapstone to Faulconbridge is the range I am thinking of.
Tanya McLean
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Rescue Coordinator's Report

Though this rain has been good for the environment and the nursery in terms of not needing to water, some of the rescues are getting somewhat waterlogged! Those species used to swampy environments are having a pretty good time though! And, thanks to all the good rescues we had last year we have some pretty desirable species available now at the nursery. Who can resist Caustis flexuosa and Gleichenia!!
It was a fabulous year for rescues at the nursery. Particularly thanks to Sydney Water who are doing infrastructure works from Mount Victoria through to Katoomba. We were lucky enough to go back regularly to many sites within that area. We also had a lot of good rescues from private land covering quite a lot of the mountains. Most of the private blocks were word of mouth which is indicative of our high profile!
We managed to get rescues happening as far down as Faulconbridge but unfortunately no lower than this.
I want to thank Green Corp for helping us do a rescue at Linden on a particularly hot day and, because of the continued dry weather (what’s that??) the ground was very, very hard making it most difficult to dig.
Tanya McLean
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Autumn Features

Following is the Third instalment of the article about plants and nutrients

An overview of the specialized mechanisms used by Australian plants for nutrient uptake

Symbiotic Adaptations to Low Nutrients

Root Nodules

Many plant taxa bear structures on their roots called root nodules. These are most characteristic of the legumes (Mimosaceae and Fabaceae). They are also present in the Casuarinaceae and Zamiaceae. These nodules are formed in association with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. The bacteria fix atmospheric nitrogen (N2) and reduce it to a form that the plant can utilise in return for photosynthetic products (carbohydrates, etc.). Soils with low K, Zn, Ca and pH can reduce bacterial activity.
The bacterial taxa involved differ between families and the extent of association differs within families. In Legumes the bacterial symbiont is almost always Rhizobium species (Eubacteria). The roots of some Macrozamia (Zamiaceae) have been found to be infected by the bacteria Nostoc (Cyanobacteria). The roots of some Casuarinaceae species are found to be infected by the soil bacteria Frankia (Eubacteria).
In the Zamiaceae, filamentous bacteria may penetrate the aerial roots of Macrozamia spp. Although nodule formation in other hosts usually occurs in the surface layer of soils Cycad nodules can be formed below 80 cm in sand. Bacterial associations are more common in species of Casuarina than Allocasuarina. This may be because many species of Allocasuarina readily form mycorrhizal (fungal) associations whereas Casuarina species do not and therefore may form association with Frankia instead (as well as being more inclined to produce cluster/proteoid roots).
Nodule formation is dependent on the supply of nutrients (other than Nitrogen) which are essential for the biochemical process of N-fixation (for the bacteria) particularly P, Mo, Ni and Fe. It is probable that nodule forming bacteria are attracted to exudates of host roots where they form small colonies on the surface of the root and excrete enzymes that dissolve the walls of adjacent cells in the root hairs. The bacteria then penetrate the root and invade the cortical tissue where they continue growth. The plant responds to the infection by accelerated cell division in the infected region, producing the characteristic root nodule. Nitrogen fixation occurs only after nodulation of the plants has taken place and a symbiosis has been established.
Ca, Zn and Cu are also required for formation of the infection thread through the root hair. The pink colour of the root nodule is caused by the presence of haemoglobin and neither the plant nor the bacteria can synthesise haemoglobin in isolation.

Mycorrhizal Associations

Another mechanism utilised by plants to maximize surface area for nutrient uptake is to form associations with a fungus. These associations are known as mycorrhiza and most plant species in Australia (and indeed the world) form these associations. There are two basic forms of mycorrhizal association, vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhiza (VAM) and ectomycorrhiza (ECM). VAM is by far the most common. Infection of young roots by the fungal hyphae within and between the cells of the cortex is followed by extensive branching (arbuscules). The arbuscules greatly increase the surface area for nutrient transfer. Eventually they are dissolved enzymatically by the plant providing it with nutrients, mainly phosphate. In older roots hyphae develop terminal vesicles, which store lipids (fat).
Ectomycorrhiza (ECM), or ‘sheathing’ fungi, form a dense hyphal network enclosing the young root and are usually only in the epidermis (outer cell layer of the root). These send out hyphae into the soil replacing the function of the missing root hairs.
Mycorrhizal associations can allow plants to survive in dry, cold, hot and nutrient deficient soils. Mycorrhizal hyphae penetrate areas of the rhizosphere where roots may not normally go and may receive phosphorus at five times the rate of non-mycorrhizal roots. The hyphae of mycorrhiza can enhance the absorption of other macro and micronutrients as well. It is interesting to note that some orchids lack roots altogether leaving the fungal symbiont as the sole means by which the plant can absorb nutrients.
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Remember we are on the lookout for
  • A REFRIGERATOR (domestic)
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