VISIT to BONGALA GARDENS in KENTHURST - 27 March 2021
On a sunny afternoon in March, twelve members of ParraHills APS group visited Boongala Gardens. This is an amazing native garden created over many years by Mal and Jenny Johnston. The land was previously totally-cleared farming land, and the transformation required a huge amount of work.
A large variety of native plants are featured, growing on raised elongated mounds. Visitors meander along sinuous grass areas, each corner revealing a new combination of plants. Being autumn, most were not in flower, but there was some colour particularly from the multitude of grafted grevilleas, Banksia spinulosa and Hibiscus germanioides. Grevillea ‘Golden Lyre’ was in full bloom, and many others had some flowers. Interestingly this garden exhibits many of the older, no-longer-sold hybrids discussed by Peter Olde in the recent online talk. For example, Grevillea ‘Ivory Whip’ was flowering well. There is no need for masses of flowers to make a garden interesting, not if you have bottle trees, Eucalyptus ficifolia covered in large gumnuts, and specimens of Dorianthes excelsa with huge flower spikes.
Scattered around the garden are old farm implements, rusting sedately. Mal is very interested and knowledgeable about early Australian history. He has constructed a little slab hut displaying more historic wares, convict bricks, photos and so forth. He also has hives of native, stingless bees.
SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP between NATIVE WOODLANS PLANTS and NATIVE WOODLAND BIRDS - 27 Feb 2021
Australian King Parrot [male] at nest hole Woodford 22/07/2020
Most birds nest in trees where height above the ground gives increased protection from predators. Nesting materials include bark, moss, leaves and twigs, grass, roots, cobwebs, mud and feathers. Most birds chose a nest site very carefully. Many have nests which blend in with the surrounds, and often the colouring on the bird’s head and back is good camouflage making them harder to spot by predatory carnivorous birds, while they are sitting on their eggs. Some species nest on hollows on old growth trees. It can take 100 years for a tree to have hollows created when dead limbs fall. This is why retaining old-growth forest is so important for birds, and why replanting trees will not adequately replace old trees for a very long time. In most species the male finds a suitable nesting hollow and then will call and/or display to advertise it, trying to attract a female partner. Nest boxes are not adequate replacements for tree hollows, as they lack the insulation provided by a tree branch. Eggs and nestlings are very sensitive to changes in temperature and easily killed if the nest is not insulated adequately.
Wategora Reserve Duck River Walk - 22nd August 2020
Wategora Reserve Melaeuca woodland
Duck River is about 7 km long. It stretches from the catchment area of Regents Park in the south, flowing north to its mouth at the Parramatta River in Silverwater. In February 1788, Governor Phillip entered the mouth of the river while exploring the Parramatta River. Seeing a group of wild ducks taking flight from a reed bed, and thinking it might be a breeding ground for ducks, Governor Phillip named the waterway Duck River.
To-day the reserve is surrounded by suburban streets on one side and a golf course on the other. It is a relatively intact 11 hectare bushland reserve. Botanically it is the richest area in the eastern part of Sydney’s Cumberland Plain with some 264 species recorded. Cumberland Plain communities grew on the fertile soils cleared in the Sydney Basin for farming and later suburban developments. The NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service (2002) estimated that prior to European settlement the vegetation community covered an area of almost 130,000 ha. It now covers less than 9,000 ha which equates to a loss of 93% of the entire woodland community. For this reason it is known as an endangered community.
We were fortunate to have a list of the plants identified as occurring in reserve prepared by Tony Price, a retired school teacher and member of the Friends of Duck River. IN the 1970’s he spent three years surveying and collecting plants in the Auburn area particularly the remnant vegetation of Rookwood Cemetery and Duck River Reserve. He compiled an extensive list of the existing plant species, recorded ecological observations, and interpolated them into a picture of the landscape and vegetation of the district at the time of European settlement. At a time when field botany was inaccessible to many, and the focus of conservation was largely on the broader scale, Price’s local scale work at these sites was unusual and important. Though never formally published, Price’s 1979 account ‘The Vegetation of Duck River and Rookwood Cemetery, Auburn’ has been cited in all subsequent work of consequence for the area. Tony Price passed away in 2010.
As well as the Acacia pubescens plants we also identified the following plants:
My thanks to Tony Maxwell for sourcing the following article about Tony Price.
Alison Hewitt “Revisiting Tony Price’s (1979) account of the native vegetation of Duck River and Rookwood Cemetery, Western Sydney” in Cunninghamia 17/6/2013
Group Bushwalk on Saturday 25th July to Glenorie
Acacia gordonii in typical habitat
We were hoping that other species would be starting to flower this early in native plant spring. We were certainly not disappointed. The fire trail runs along a rocky and sandy sandstone ridge top. The sparse tree cover was mostly Corymbia eximia. Large areas of rock shelf, with cracks and cervices, spread out on both sides of the track. This is the usual habitat of Acacia gordonii, and there was lots of it in small patches, now very obvious amongst other heath species. Out of flower it is hard to pick because most of the local heath plants there have small, thin leaves. One difference is that, on feeling the leaves, A. gordonii has hairy, very soft foliage, especially when young.
Rocky sandstone ridge habitat with Corymbia eximia
At one point the track passed through a more heavily-wooded area, with Eucalyptus punctata and heamastoma, Angophera bakeri and even Syncarpia glomulifera. This is not Acacia gordonii habitat. Further on, the trees petered out to open onto a large area of low heath. Again the golden pompoms appeared, and these A. gordonii plants were especially healthy. It was good to see this species flourishing in a number of areas. One previous area, off the beginning of the track, had been burnt about 18 months ago, probably illegally. It had contained a large localised patch of A.gordonii in the past. Now there is just one surviving flowering plant and a few small seedlings. Hopefully more will germinate from old seed in the sand. The area had also previously contained a beautiful mauve form of Philotheca salsolifera. We found a plant of this further along the track.
In all this was a very enjoyable and informative activity. It is to be hoped that our little, endangered plant survives the climate and the activities of man. Our propagation group intends to grow some, if possible, to ensure it survives in captivity as well.
|Acacia gordonii||Epacria microphylla||Lasiopetalum ferrugineum|
|Acacia suaveolens||Epacris pulchella||Leucopogon microphylla|
|Acacia ulicifolia||Gompholobium minus||Leucopogon muticus|
|Banksia ericifolia||Grevillea buxifolia||Lissanthe stringosa|
|Banksia spinulosa||Grevillea mucronulata||Philotheca salsolifera|
|Boronia ledifolia||Grevillea speciosa||Pimelea linifolia|
|Boronia pinnata||Hakea sericea||Tetratheca glandulosa|
|Boossiaea scolopendria||Hovea linearis||Zieria laevigata|
|Calytrix tetragona||Kunzea capitata|
On 27th June we had our first group meeting via Zoom. Our guest speaker was Brian Roach, from Westleigh Native Plants. With decreasing size of house blocks and increasing numbers of people living in units and retirement villages, this topic is very relevant. It is also possible to grow some of the difficult-to-grow species in a pot because you can control the growing environment more easily than for plants in the ground. There is the chance to grow some of the desirable Western Australian species. Having plants in pots means that you can move them around, to take advantage of sun and light, or move them out of the strongest sun in summer. You can also move that beautiful plant in full flower to a spot where you can see it better and show it off to visitors. Maybe a difficult plant can be left where you can check on it easily and control the watering more closely. There are other containers you can use instead of pots, eg lengths of old clay piping left over from a plumbing job. These can be partly buried to stabilise them.
Brian had some practical advice about pots. He especially warned us to avoid the urn-shaped pots which curve in at the top. The curve makes it almost impossible to tip the plant out in order to repot it when it outgrows its pot. He advocated purchasing a native pot mix then adding perlite and cocopeat. Some plants have larger root systems and eventually outgrow any pot. They need to be pensioned off or planted in the garden if appropriate. In general the smaller growing plants are the most suitable.
During the talk Brian showed great photos of the plants he has grown in pots. These included Pimelea linifolia, both Crowea exalata and saligna, some boronias and Lechanaultia biloba with its brilliant blue flowers. The latter demonstrates that pot culture can be successful for this prized Western Australian plant, which regularly dies in the ground in Sydney. Other species he featured were Darwinia taxifolia ssp macrolaena, the native Rhododendron viriosum (formally R. lochiae), Billardia leumanniana and Conostylis aurea. The last two species are also examples of floriferous Western Australian plants. Brian has registered some new names with the Australian Cultivar Authority for different and desirable variants of some species. One example is Homoranthus prolixus ‘Golditops’ which has masses of brilliant gold flowers. This form was found in northern NSW. More recently he has named a natural hybrid between Grevillea fililoba and hirtella found by Peter Olde in Western Australia. He called this small plant Grevillea ‘Butterfly Beauty” because the flowers look like crimson butterflies in the bush.
As usual Brian was an interesting and very knowledgeable speaker, much appreciated by those who logged in via Zoom.