Volunteers and the Work they do
Without the contribution of volunteers, Wildplant Rescue Service could not function or even exist. Volunteers are the backbone of the organisation, proving that people who care can make a difference.
In a time when it is easy to despair at the amount of work that needs to be done to repair and safeguard our earth's ecosystems, volunteers bring great hope.
Who are volunteers?
Volunteers for Wildplant Rescue can be drawn from a broad cross section of the local community.
They are usually people with some availability during the day and a determination to do something positive to preserve their local biodiversity.
Volunteers bring a variety of knowledge, skills, energy levels and attitudes.
There is a place for anyone who is willing to contribute, regardless of age, intelligence, fitness level, ethnicity and health.
Volunteers collecting seeds
What do volunteers do?
Volunteers' work will depend largely on their interests, skills and availability. Some will prefer specific tasks while others will be willing to do whatever is required on the day.There are five main areas of work available:
- Rescues - site assessors and coordinators, instructing/educating workers about the site, digging and potting rescued plants, collecting mulch, brushmatting and other rescue material.
- Seed collection - a certain level of knowledge and skill are required to ensure that the seeds are collected at the appropriate time and handled correctly.
- Nursery - seed cleaning, sowing, potting-up, watering, weeding, pot cleaning, labelling stock and restocking sales outlets.
- Office -Administrative tasks including updating the database, word processing, bookkeeping, membership and volunteer record keeping, filing and photocopying.
- Fundraising and promotion -Preparing funding submissions, organising and manning street stalls, media liaison and releases, merchandising and community education.
Working in the Nursery
Throughout spring and summer, the nursery is usually a hive of activity including planting seed, pricking out into tubes, and planting-up.
Meeting demand for sought-after species of plants and developing a genetically diverse, locally provenanced seed bank requires planning and coordination that can span many years.
Cuttings can be collected year round and are especially useful for wildplants that cannot easily be propagated from seed.
Due to the time demands and sensitivity of these wildplants, many nurseries do not attempt their propagation.
Winter is the best time to conduct cleaning and housekeeping functions, as well as planning for the busy activity of spring, including preparation of pots and plant labels.
It is also a good time to catch up on the record keeping and documentation procedures that may have been a much lower priority in spring and summer.
Monitoring signs of seasonal change such as the appearance of budding on wildplants will give an early indication that it will soon be warm enough to commence propagation of seed.
Potting & seed raising mixes
The success or failure of propagating wildplants will depend to a large degree on the quality and suitability of the seed raising and potting mix.
One good mix for each function is preferable to varying the mix from species to species because it is easier to store one mix only and purchasing in bulk will help reduce costs.
Growing from seed
Records of all successes and failures are kept to improve the success rate of any future propagation of a particular species.
Good housekeeping in the nursery is essential to reduce the chance of disease transmission amongst wildplants, which can result in extensive loss. All recycled seed trays, tubes and pots must be cleaned with disinfectant, as well as any utensils used for pricking out and re-potting.
Seed raising or potting mixes are not used more than once without sterilisation. If Wildplant Rescue Service does not have access to sterilisation facilities, it is cheaper and less risky to simply discard the used mixes. A mix is never re-used if plants have shown signs of disease.
Seed cleaning, storage and propagation
Before either storage or sowing, seeds need to be cleaned and prepared. The treatment of seed will depend on the species.
Seeds contained within fleshy fruits are dried and the outer covering removed. A fine sieve is used to remove the covering from most dried seed whereas Banksia seeds are placed in a warm oven or fireto open the capsules.
Volunteers help ensure that seeds remain moist once sown. When seeds germinate, they are 'pricked out' into tubes when the second sets of true leaves form.
To transplant, use a pointed stick, knife or equivalent to make a deep hole in the new container and carefully allow the roots to fall. Back fill, ensuring the roots remain in a downward position and soil level remains the same.
Helping with Rescues
A large number of factors determine the suitability of a block for rescue. Not all blocks are bush blocks. Many are subdivided from established exotic gardens or cleared land.
Others have been used for grazing horses or cattle and will have no wildplants. Some blocks are too steep or rocky to be suitable for a rescue.
A block may be so thick with large, native shrubs that it is unsuitable for rescue of whole wildplants but is suitable for the collection of seeds, cuttings or brushmatting material.
Characteristics of a good rescue site are:
Blocks that have been previously slashed, cleared or burnt are often the best as they produce an abundance of young, small, easily rescued wildplants and, a variety of interesting, saleable wildplants.
- Flat or gently sloping block;
- Absence of weeds or low level infestation;
- Damp, sandy soil;
- Absence of rocks;
- Presence of understorey species, especially those up to 50cm;
Rescues will only be carried out on the areas affected by the building construction.This includes driveways and access routes, unless otherwise agreed to by the owner and a WRS coordinator.
Wildplant Rescue Service will only carry out a rescue on a block of land when the following criteria have been met:
Once a plant has been tagged or identified for rescue, it can be removed and placed into the pots provided.
- A Building Application for the site has been lodged with the local council;
- The permission of the landowner has been obtained;
- A site inspection carried out on the block by the rescue coordinator has assessed the site as being suitable for rescue.
- Mulch is collected from as near to the original plant site as possible and placed in the base of the pot to assist with drainage.
- The plant is carefully lifted out of the ground using a round trenching shovel.
- Gently the plant is placed straight into a pot filling in around the side with more soil if necessary.
- A thick layer of mulch is placed around the potted plant which will prevent it from drying out during storage, as well as providing nutrients for the soil.
- The pots are placed in a central, shaded spot and watered immediately.
- At this point the plants are labeled with the name, date and location of the rescue.
Plant, seed or cutting?
As a general rule, small, herbaceous, low-growing wildplants have the highest survival or success rate when transplanted into pots.
There is little point in digging up wildplants that produce copious amounts of easily collected seeds and/or are readily propagated from seed, such as Eucalyptus, Acacia, Leptospermum and Allocasuarina species.
Wildplant Rescue concentrates on rescuing groundcovers and low-growing wildplants that are unlikely to be propagated from seed, either because of low seed numbers, difficulty in finding seed or a low strike rate with germination.
Small, compact wildplants look better in a pot and are more likely to survive than straggly, woody plants. Understorey species are often not sold by commercial nurseries and therefore are only available from rescued sources.
Cuttings are obtained at most times of the year, but are generally only used for plants difficult to propagate from seed.
Cuttings are also preferably used to propagate those plants, which tend to hybridize e.g. Persoonia and Grevillea species.
Why not become a member of BMWRS as a friend or as a volunteer to help us at the nursery or with rescues?
© BMWRS 2012