From the Office
We have received a much desired photo-copier from Kiersten Boyd in Western Australia. Kiersten is the daughter of one of our long standing and hard working volunteers, Anne Rickwood. Kiersten bought the copier on e-bay and had it delivered to our office in Katoomba. Thank you to the very enterprising and generous Kiersten.
There is a group in Illawarra wanting to set up a wildplant rescue service. Tanya and I visited them a short time ago talking about the nuts and bolts of establishing an organisation as well as maintaining the diversity of the plants from this part of the coast and inland. They are very enthusiastic about saving what is left of the flora endemic to their area. We are having on-going discussions with them to help them set up. This will be the third Wildplant rescue in N.S.W. The Central Coast Wildplant Rescue Service is now operating as its own entity.
The Springwood Garden Club invited BMWRS and Blue Mountains City Council to address their monthly meeting in August this year. Chris Dewhurst, Bush Care Officer with BMCC, spoke about the role bushcare volunteers play in restoration work. I spoke about BMWRS and its work. We both answered many questions directed to us from this enthusiastic group of gardeners. We were still talking in the car park well after the close of the meeting. Thank you Springwood gardeners for inviting us and for the generous donation to BMWRS. We are always happy to talk to gardening clubs in the Blue Mountains so if any of our readership are members of a club please contact the office if a speaker is required.
Some of our members will now be aware that we have a membership officer, Olga Rumble. She will maintain our members register and collect memberships.
Thank you, Olga for taking on this role.
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Nursery Coordinators Report
It has been a busy few months at the nursery. Tree Day went quite successfully with some groups getting quite a few extra plants. Council has published a ‘Tree Planting Guide’ which we helped produce. There are a few copies here if anyone is interested in seeing it. It’s a good looking brochure and helpful.
In the past few weeks we have given talks to two gardening clubs. Judy describes her experience at Springwood. Veronica, Stephen and I gave a talk to the Leura Garden Club on the 17th of August. Veronica gave the background of the organisation and a bit about what we do and Stephen talked about rescues and being a rescue volunteer. Then we all did question and answer time. The talk went well I think and hopefully we may have forged some links with this organisation.
It has been a bit of a month for publicity because Anne and I did a radio interview on 2BLU FM on Tuesday 4th of September with Sarah between 2 and 3 pm. I can’t believe that we managed to talk for almost an hour, time just slipped away! With a bit of luck we will get a copy of the interview and hopefully some one out there listened to it.
This winter saw some very heavy and many frosts. This was not very good for us as we lost a lot of plants, not just lower mountains plants but also mid and upper. All our poor babies! Consequently we will now be a bit low on stock.
The foundations for our shade house, which we were able to buy with the funds received from Australia Post and Landcare, are coming along very nicely thanks to Green Corp and Fred a new volunteer. We had to purchase the fill from Council. Cheap but still a hefty outlay and now we are need some weed matting and pebbles to finish off the foundations. So progress is a bit slow as we wait for money to build up to buy those items or for someone to donate them?
We have attempted a second go at applying for the Community Water Grants to get two water tanks. We were unsuccessful the first time round though this is a bit annoying since lots of other organisation and schools in the Blue Mountains received funding (mainly for tanks and irrigation and recycling) and we are the ones who grow the plants in the first place! On a brighter note from the web site it looks like we were finally successful in getting a ‘Small Business Grant’ from the federal government for a trolley! (Also our second attempt).
NB we are a bit low on fresh seed so any seed collecting would be appreciated!
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Rescue Coordinator's Report
Help! We need more rescuers! Too many of our volunteers keep getting jobs! Of course we still have our very committed core group of rescuers but it is always nice and encouraging to get new rescuers. So if you are interested don’t hesitate to ring us.
We have a lot of lovely rescues for sale now and they are looking good with their spring finery on. In fact the nursery is positively overflowing with rescues which will become available over the next few weeks depending on warm weather of course. Of particular interest are lots of Stylidium (Trigger Plants), Orchids, Boronias, Lomandra glauca, Banksias and some lovely peas!
We had a lot of rescues over the winter months and I want to thank all our intrepid rescuers for battling through the snow, rain, hail and sleet. We were lucky enough to have a rescue in Hazelbrook which gave us a bit of respite from the cold weather up here.
Rescue opportunities keep presenting themselves and our only drawback is the likelihood of torrential downpours, which are common at the moment.
The Chelsea Physic Garden
By Judy McLean
It is well known the connection Sir Joseph Banks had with Australia and its flora, but perhaps not so well known is the direct link between Banks, Australia, Kew Gardens and The Chelsea Physic Garden. The Garden sits on a 4 acre site on the bank of the River Thames in London,
The Society of Apothecaries of London founded The Garden in 1673 for the purpose of growing medicinal plants and studying their effectiveness in treating illnesses. Sir Hans Sloane took over the freehold of the garden in 1712 and charged a 5 pound annual rent in perpetuity on condition ‘that it be for ever kept up and maintained as a Physic Garden’. His estate is still paid 5 pounds per year rental.
I visited The Garden in late July this year and had the good fortune to meet a retired ‘Gardener’ who very kindly took me on a thorough tour, meeting many other Gardeners. Diane, my initial contact, sharing a park bench for a cigarette, described herself as a gardener, retired. My assumption was that she lived close by and had retired from a hobby of active gardening in her own garden. The term, however, was originally and still is used to describe the curators who work at The Garden. I felt somewhat abashed at my assumption, particularly as the Gardeners I met were very learned about The Garden its plants and history. Like us there are many volunteer workers, maintaining The Gardens.
I was most impressed with the number of plants from the Sydney Basin, among them Dianella caerula, Kennedia rubicunda, Solanum aviculara, Eucalyptus gummifera, Banksia ericafolia, Hardenbergia violacea, Pittospermun revolutum, to name a few. If the Australian and UK authorities allow the sending of seeds, an ongoing relationship with The Gardens would be beneficial both to them and us. We could help in maintaining their seed bank whilst they could assist in propagating some of the very difficult to germinate seeds such as Persoonia species, as the Gardeners are very tenacious in their drive to propagate from seed as evidenced by a beautiful grapefruit tree planted by seed some 21 years ago and now in heavy fruit. This is unusual for a member of the citrus group. Citrus trees are generally propagated by grafting as they tend to revert to the original citrus when propagated by seed. The only sign of being from seed were rather large and vicious looking thorns, but the fruit were perfect.
For anyone visiting London, a visit to the Chelsea Physic Gardens is a must, far more rewarding for Australian plant people than a visit to Kew Gardens. Kew has a very prominently displayed Wollemi Pine, caged, but not very many Australian plants, in particular, none from the Blue Mountains or even the Sydney Basin.
A Trip Into The Unknown
By Stephen Brady
A call from Tanya McLean to come to Mt Victoria to assist in a Wildplant rescue set the scene for a very interesting and rewarding day. Whilst I had never participated in a rescue, I had much gardening experience and worked as a landscapers’ labourer and in a nursery, so I felt that, coupled with my steel caps, I might be useful!!!
We arrived there, and the first thing that struck me was the flies! Also, just how dry the earth was. I did think it would be a job and a half getting these plants out of the ground without mutilating them! We surveyed the block and marked good specimens for transplanting, with me over enthusing and wanting to dig out everything. It did surprise me just how many species were on a standard sized Mountains building black; Banksias, Lilies, some grasses and a host of things I have no hope of remembering the name of, common or otherwise.
That done, it was into the digging and my suspicions re the ground and how hard and dry it was, were confirmed right there and then. I was very glad I was wearing my work boots! I was made aware, in the doing of this task, that what was happening here was so very important. There are places in the mountains, small spaces, where some of these species are confined and others where we may not get the opportunity to rescue them before the ‘dozers’ are in leveling the blocks for building. I must admit to feeling very good with myself about taking a small role in this preservation.
Once the flies had decided we were too heavy to actually cart off, we also had finished digging out some great examples of upper Blue Mountains flora, and watered same, placed them in the truck and cleaned up. Weeks later, I believe these plants are doing well and will soon be available to either the block owner or the general public.
So, what now? Well I have registered as a member and am available whenever I am not working to help in any small way I can. December and January I seemed to spend a lot of time watering as the drought tightened its grip. This is a peaceful endeavour and one that I enjoyed more than I thought I would. I’m sure with time I will gain more varied skills and be able to contribute more fully.
It was an absolute pleasure to learn from a true professional in Tanya, and to be involved in something worthwhile and a fantastic way to learn more about our unique natural landscape. I encourage everyone to either, volunteer at the nursery, assist with the rescues and/or especially purchase the gorgeous plants available. Now, with that under my belt, I await my next call out eagerly and with far less virginal trepidation. Also learning more about the process may give me the opportunity to do this without too much supervision, freeing up the professionals for more specialised tasks.
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Following is the second instalment of the article about plants and nutrients
An overview of the specialized mechanisms used by Australian plants for nutrient uptake
Root Adaptations to Low Nutrient Soils
General Root Physiology
The root systems of plants have many functions (water absorption, anchorage, storage), however, one of the most important functions is nutrient uptake. Effective nutrient acquisition by roots depends on root size and morphology, physiology and biochemistry. A strategy utilised by plants to maximize nutrient uptake is increasing the absorptive surface area of the root system. This includes root length and radius, fine roots and root hairs.
Nutrients are not evenly distributed within the rhizosphere (area of soil profile where roots can actively grow). Often in areas of greater nutrient concentration, in the rhizosphere, root growth and branching will be more vigorous. This property is also of consequence, as nutrient availability and content in soils may be dependent on seasonal variations in soil temperature and water.
Plant roots can actively alter the chemical environment within the soil profile in order to enhance nutrient uptake. By excreting hydrogen ions and other exudates roots can change the pH of the soil and consequently mobilize chemically bound nutrients such as phosphorus, zinc and iron.
Proteoid, or cluster, roots are characteristic of plant species growing in soils with extremely low fertility, particularly low phosphate concentrations. They are clusters of rootlets radiating from the main root and often form dense mats at the soil surface. The increased surface area aids in nutrients uptake. Generally proteoid root growth is greatest during the wet season when nutrients become more available to the plant.
Proteoid roots are short lived as they are a response to seasonal and occasional spatial increases in nutrient availability. The name proteoid derives from the Proteaceae most of which possess proteoid roots at least at some stage of development – though interestingly Persoonia do not have them. They are also found in other families such as the Casuarinaceae, Fabaceae and Mimosaceae and similar structures are to be found in the Cyperaceae and Restionaceae.
Generally proteoid root formation is initiated when phosphorus levels are low, however, in plants that form symbiotic relationships with microorganisms high levels of phosphorus are needed. So, even in soils with high phosphorus levels the Casuarinaceae and the Wattles form proteoid roots to provide the high levels needed to power nitrogen fixation. Interestingly Casuarina glauca only produce proteoid roots in alkaline soils and not in acid soils.