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NEWS

Spring 2006

Contents



From the Office

We have a desperate need for more volunteers both in the nursery and as part of the rescue team. The nursery is once again open on Saturday mornings from 10am to 1pm. If any of our members would like to spend a pleasant Saturday morning in the nursery on a roster system, please contact me. There are many opportunities for us to participate in various ‘weekend events’ such as fairs, market days, festivals etc., however, we have to draw on the same members repeatedly to staff these stalls. More help in this area would also be greatly appreciated. Please contact me if you would be able to participate in such events. These occur in nearly all townships throughout the mountains so you would not have to travel far if you choose to do only those events in your township. The next major event is the Rhododendron Festival in Blackheath on Saturday 4th of November. As well as staffing the stall throughout the day, we will need help in transporting our stall and plants to the site and then returning them to the nursery. Calling all Blackheathens!
Our application to be listed on the Registry of Environmental Organisation has been sent off to Canberra together with nominations of seven (suitably responsible) people for the board of the fund. The name of the fund is Blue Mountains Wildplant Rescue Fund. I will keep our readership informed when the bureaucratic process has been completed and the board can begin functioning.
We have applied for a NSW Environmental Trust grant designed to assist with administrative costs over a period of three years. As we are barely financially self sufficient, such a grant would be a tremendous boost for the organisation as we never have sufficient finances to fulfill our community education objectives, particularly in schools, or to disseminate more information to the community and indeed maintain all our environmental objectives.
The annual General meeting of BMWRS Inc will be held on Saturday 18th November at 12 noon. It is planned to have an ‘open day’ at the nursery on this day. The intent community of this is to attract those members of the who are interested in the process of propagation of Australian plants of the Blue Mountains Region and would also be interested in working as a volunteer either in the nursery or as a ‘rescuer’. We will also carry out a ‘rescue’ and a ‘how to’ of seed and cutting collection on the Clairvaux site. We will advertise this in the Gazette and let the membership know of the AGM and open day within the appropriate time.
Judy McLean
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Nursery/Rescue Coordinators Report

I have taken over as Rescue Coordinator temporarily whilst Lynn is taking some leave.
We have started sowing lots of seed and the glass house is pretty full. Very soon we will be incredibly busy pricking out and some help on this front would not go astray! Orders are coming in thick and fast and it is good to see that people are starting to realise that September is generally not a very wet month and leaving planting to a bit later on in spring is a good idea. This also gives us a bit more time to get seedlings ready for sale as not much growth happens over the winter months up here.
We have had a bit of a dearth of volunteers over the past few weeks and as such there are plenty of general chores to fulfill. We have had a bit of a volunteer drive of late and this should bare some fruit soon. However, training new volunteers takes a lot of time away from my other usual duties not to mention the time of the other more experienced regular volunteers. So the next few months as usual will be very busy for all the regulars. There dedication is very much appreciated.
On the rescue front: We have been very lucky in being approached by Sydney Catchment Authority to ‘rescue’ a small patch of hanging swamp which as slumped over some infrastructure at Greaves Creek. This is most exciting as we don’t often get to rescue from hanging swamps. This will supply us with a number of wetland plants for the upper mountains. Wetland plants (such as Gleichenia and sedges and rushes) are in much demand not only because of their beauty but also for creek bank restoration. This rescue will go on for some weeks as only a small number of people can be there at any one time (as the area is quite small and restricted). However, it looks like we may be getting quite a few more rescue sites in the next few weeks so we would be grateful if some the more able members could dedicate even just a little time for this activity. It looks like there may be some lower mountains rescues coming up (fingers crossed). If this happens I will be in touch with Steve and it will be a good opportunity for the lower mountains, members/volunteers. We will also probably be getting a rescue in the very upper mountains, so this should give us a good spread of plants from different areas.
Christine, Anne and I recently attended a workshop about mosses and liverworts and lichens and the role they play in soil ecology. This is particularly important in the dryer regions, in that these cryptogams help to form a ‘skin’ over the delicate and vulnerable soils and thereby act to stabilise them. Interestingly many of these plants exclude other plants from within their growing sphere by requiring less water. However, they generally form ever so slight mounds and as they require less water than falls annually they drain water down to the other plants growing around them that require more water than falls annually. By forming a ‘skin’ over the soil these plants also stop moisture from draining straight down into the soil and help facilitate the movement of water across the soil to other parts of the landscape creating soak areas where a more developed vegetation can thrive.
Tanya McLean
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Spring Features

Book Review

By Anne Rickwood
Napoleon, The Empress and The Artist.
Jill, Duchesse of Hamilton, 1999, Kangaroo Press Did you know that Napoleon was very keen on science and mathematics? Did you know that Josephine, his wife, was an avid gardener, and a botanist? Did you know that she had the finest and most extensive collection of Australian plants in Europe growing at their home of Malmaison? She also had two emus, five black swans and three kangaroos in the garden. Pierre Joseph Redoute was employed as her artist and completed over 100 of the most beautiful and accurate paintings of Australian plants ever.
This book shows the part France played in the discovery and identification of Australian plants. This is reflected in well known names of places and plants, e.g. Perouse, Baudin, D’Entrecasteaux and La Ballerdiere. Their work and that of Josephine was exquisitely recorded by Redoute.
This book is a treasure, it is very well put together, extensively researched and filled with many well reproduced pictures of people, places and plants. Jill, Duchesse of Hamilton writes an interesting historical account which includes insight into the lives and loves of Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte set against the unrest in France and Europe at the time. It shows the enormous influence that Napoleon had on the Arts and Sciences during the turn of the eighteenth century and the devotion of Josephine to both her husband and her plants.
I found this book hard to put down and I highly recommend it.
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Butterfly Habitat for a Blue Mountains Garden

By Liz Riley Spring is in the air and our thoughts turn to butterflies and how we might encourage these creatures in our gardens in the days ahead. Adult butterflies need nectar for food and will gather this from any abundant source, native or exotic. The eggs are laid on native plants specific to each butterfly species and so for breeding, exotics will not do. An exotic plant that is often recommended as a butterfly attractant is the Butterfly bush, Buddhleia davidii. This plant is considered a weed in Blue Mountains bushland and both Blue Mountains City Council and NPWS recommend it be removed from gardens. It is spread by seed and cuttings. Buddhleia inhabits damp areas shading out all the local species and destroying habitat. The booklet “Weeds of Blue Mountains Bushland” is available free from Council and lists some alternatives to Buddhleia. The two local recommendations are Purple Mint Bush (Prostanthera ovalifolia) and Native Indigo (Indigofera Australis) for their similar colouration. Callistomens and Acacias have species of a similar size to Buddhleias and are also covered in butterfly attracting blooms. The Australian Association of Bush Regenerators (AABR) website has a good list of Butterfly attracting native plants for the Sydney region, www.aabr.org.au . Host plants for the eggs and larvae are often native sedges, rushes and grasses. Gahnia sieberiana is the larva food plant for the Sword-grass Brown Butterfly. This local butterfly is considered to be under threat. There are 120 species of Butterfly recorded in the Blue Mountains Heritage Area.
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Lake Mungo in October

By Liz Riley We pulled up in front of the saltbush at the Mungo information centre, excited to have reached our destination without mishap, no breakdowns and no closed roads. One of our rear tyres however, promptly went flat, our late arrival at the very busy main camp ground meant we camped in a patch of bindis and from that time forward our airbed resolved to lower us gently onto the ground each night. While I in no way felt like heading for home after these occurrences I did get the feeling that we needed to proceed steadily and with care in this windswept and precious environment. The main camp is on the western side of the lakebed and is on red soil, with red vegetated dunes edging the lakebed.
The camp site was on the edge of belah (Casuarina cristata) woodland, this is the major habitat for the Western grey kangaroo and as we rested in the shade through the middle of the day we could see kangaroos doing the same a few trees away from ours. The Discovery rangers warned us not to actually sit in the hollows made by the roos because they are infested with fleas.
As well as the Belah woodland there are five more habitats around Lake Mungo. These are the Cypress Pine Woodland, Grassland, Mallee, Mixed Shrubland and Bluebush/Saltbush Shrubland. There is mixed shrubland on the western bank of the Lake. The Discovery Rangers take a foreshore walk through this area. They showed us two types of Cypress, the White Cypress and the Mallee Cypress. The Aboriginal people of the region differentiate the two by their cones; Callitris Columellaris are smooth while Callitris preissii has bumps. Also in this particular habitat were Butterbush, Rosewoods, the mallee Eucalypt didgeridoos are made from, blue bush and pale bluebush, ruby saltbush with fruit ready to eat and numerous daisies. The rangers also showed us the bush tucker vine called bush banana (Leichhardtia australis), with a fruit. The track was graded red sand and as our walk was in the morning the record of the previous nights animal activities could be seen. The path was embroidered with the trails of little lizards, snakes, and marsupials, early morning bird tracks, and the flurrys of scorpions at the mouth of their burrows.
The bluebush/ saltbush community stretches across the floor of the Lake, and holds the surface together. Emus wander here and we saw a parent bird with nine well grown chicks. The Mallee community can be seen stretching into the distance from the top of the dunes on the eastern side of the Lake. We drove 11kms across the Lake Bed to this eastern bank for a tour of the Walls of China with the Discovery rangers. The wind was blowing when we were there and is uncovering more and more bones ever day. We saw the bones of a little marsupial, the ear bones of perch, a tooth, and lots of larger bones possibly bettong or hairy nosed wombat. Fireplaces, an emu egg feast site, blades and cutters were all evidence of Aboriginal presence when the Lake was full, maybe 26,000 years ago. We also saw uncovered the calcified roots of the mallee trees that used to bind the soil on the edge of the once full lake.
There is a 70km self guided tour that passes through the mallee on the east of the lunette. The nature walk in this mallee showed a very diverse community. The three mallees labelled were Eucalyptus socialis, Eucalyptus oleosa and Eucalyptus dumosa. There are six species of Eucalyptus in all in the mallee community. An obvious component of the understorey at this time was the lime green gall weed (Zygophyllum apiculatum) also rosy saltbush with rose coloured fruiting bodies, ruby salt bush with red and orange fruit, porcupine grass (Triodia irritans) with waving seed heads, one fringe-lily (probably Thysanotus baueri) and one showy fox tail (Ptilotus exaltus). These last two I think were the remains of the burst of flowering that must have followed the good rain that fell three weeks before our visit. The only other grass I noticed besides the porcupine grass was an Austrostipa, a corkscrew grass the Discovery rangers considered a pest.
Also on this tour we visited Vigar Wells and the moving dunes. These wells still have water in them, down a few metres. It was here on the edge of the moving dunes that I found a downy leafed plant straggling through the seed heads of the introduced wild turnip. It had beautiful racemes of purple flowers but on returning home and looking through Plants of Western NSW I can’t really identify it. Maybe it was a species of Swainsona, the Darling Pea
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