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  • 19 Mar 2019 9:54 PM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

    Bob Ross’ mention of the Flying Duck Orchid in the October 2018 issue of Native Plants for New South Wales reminded me of a piece I wrote some years ago for the Chefs Cap: newsletter of the Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Garden at Batemans Bay.  This is an edited version.

    There are many strange, interesting and beautiful ground orchids common on the NSW south coast, but none so delightful, appealing and downright cute as Caleana major, the Flying duck orchid.

    I know a lady from Dalmeny who is fascinated by Australian orchids.  She (and her husband and family) have spent many hours searching their local forests and grasslands for ground and epiphytic orchid species.  Her orchid specimens are a valuable part of the Wallace Herbarium (ERBG) collection.  The Bodalla Forest Park has been a favourite hunting ground for quite some time; in fact, she has written about her experiences there. 

    Early in October she phoned me with news of a colony of Flying duck orchids she and her husband had found just off the Princes Highway, opposite the entrance to Brou Tip (a bit north of Dalmeny).  Never having seen this orchid in the flesh, so to speak, at first opportunity I hastened down the Highway to try and locate it.  I had been given some pointers to follow, and in due course I found these.  But in spite of an hour’s searching, no Flying ducks.  Time had run out and I had to return home.

    A phone call, asking for more directions.  A few days later, I drove down to the tip area again.  I was told that the orchids are rather small and grow in very dry, gravelly places, and that the first one is very difficult to find, but once the sightlines are established, others appear as if by magic.  After another fruitless hour, I was thoroughly disgusted and on the point of going home, when I spied a single maroon orchid leaf in among fallen dry stringybark leaves.  Suddenly, near the gravelly base of the tree (that had been left like a little hillock around the tree trunk after gravel had been removed from the site) I could see a little dark red/brown stem about 8cm tall with an orchid flower on top.  Then there was another, and another, and another.  I had found the Flying duck orchids!!

    I was astonished at the delicate, intricate form of the flower; a form that is highly specialised to attract insects for pollination.  The lower part is somewhat cup shaped and contains nectar, while above this and connected by a flat tensioned straplike appendage, is the ‘duck’ head that contains the pollination mechanism.  When an insect lands on the cup – attracted by the nectar – the spring is activated and the ‘duck’ head snaps down, depositing pollen on the back of the insect.  After a little while, the spring releases and the insect is free to fly away to another flower, thus transferring the pollen.  The photograph, from Sydney Coast Walks, is a good illustration of the flower parts involved in this procedure. It is an amazing process, evolved over untold years, wonderfully simple, yet incredibly complicated.

    I could not keep this find to myself, so I rang an acquaintance in Canberra who is interested in orchids.  “I must see them”, she cried, and forthwith arranged to meet me at the spot the next weekend, postponing all her normal Saturday activities.  Photographs were taken, and suitable expressions of wonder uttered.  Others were shown the orchids, and these in turn showed their partners and friends.  

    All of these people shared my pleasure in these unusual and charming members of the fascinating world of plants. 

  • 3 Mar 2019 10:38 AM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

    The Australian Plants Society SA is hosting its next Expo and Plants Sale on 13 and 14 April at the Adelaide Showgrounds.

    
The theme is smaller plants and groundcovers with workshops on:

    • Propagation
    • Sustainable Gardening in the Australian garden with Sam Glazbrook
    • Gardening in a small Space - Local Natives for Courtyards, Patios and Hanging baskets with Brett Oakes
    • Native grasses (with emphasis on ornamental use) with Greg Kirby
    • Small Plants and Ground Covers with Ian Trigg

    In addition, there is likely to be a session on building a native bee hotel! Here is a flyer with further details of the event. 

    A list of the plants expected to be on sale and the finalised program will be posted to SA's website prior to the sale.

  • 21 Feb 2019 8:30 PM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

    This article was contributed by Andrew Pengelly of the Hunter Valley Group and appeared in their newsletter, Gumleaves. 

    As a way of escaping extreme December heat, as well as to participate in a plant collecting trip for the Hunter Region Botanic Gardens, we headed up to Barrington Tops National Park, observing the change in temp from 35C in the valley to 26C an hour later, at an elevation above 1400m. The plan was to camp the night at Polblue camping area, then meet our collecting colleagues there in the morning. 

    Along with the camping and picnic area, Polblue has a significant peat bog, surrounded by sub-alpine flora. This area is not only of great ecological significance, it also harbours a number of rare and threatened plants, including two species of mountain pepper, Tasmannia purpurescens and T. glaucifolia (fragrant pepperbush) - see above.   

    Around the campsite we found an abundance of flowering veined doubletail orchids (Diuris venosa), another threatened species. (see left) 

    There is a good walking track around the peat bog, however it is a surprise to find large piles of horse manure along the track. I took a short stroll into the peat bog and found plenty of large hoof prints deeply embedded in the soft ground. Our guide Bill Dowling indicated there are around 100 feral horses in the area, certainly one of the threats to this world heritage wilderness site. 

    As we progressed slowly along the track at botanist speed, another major threat is ever-present, the introduced Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius), a declared noxious weed. While it is a reasonably attractive plant with its’ buttercup yellow pea flowers and bright green pods, this species looms as the greatest threat to the stability of this fragile wilderness. 

    After a lunch break we drove a little way north to another section of Polblue creek, known habitat for the rare silver tea tree (Leptospermum argenteum) and two threatened species of plantain (Plantago spp.)

    We disturbed a wild pig, another environmental threat to the region, and we did find some silver tea tree on the creek bank although it was visibly in the process of being squeezed out by the broom. A few specimens of T. glaucifolia on the edge of the creek were also being overwhelmed by the broom. See image to right with T. glaucifolia is being overwhelmed by Scotch broom (see right). 

    The continuing spread of this invasive weed is a massive problem. At Polblue hundreds of seedlings can be seen emerging in places both inside and outside of the walking trail, making a mockery of attempts at controlling this species with herbicide. In fact, I learned that the spray program was put on hold after it was discovered that around 100 T. glaucifola specimens were accidentally poisoned. 

    I do have major concerns about the use of herbicide on such a large scale, as we know that much of the residue will end up in the waterways, and ultimately the Hunter River. Physical control by digging out the plants could work in theory, but the scale of the problem means hundreds of workers would be required for an extended period, an idea that is clearly impracticable. See image to left - Cytisus dead and alive

    Late in the day as we headed back down into the valley and the heat I had very mixed feelings. On the one hand, it is a beautiful area with so much more to explore and a selection of rare and interesting plant species. On the other hand I felt a sense of despair – it is hard to imagine that within the foreseeable future the peat bog won’t be overrun with Scotch broom, just as the nearby creeks and woodlands are already. 

  • 11 Feb 2019 11:39 AM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

    The APS NSW Annual General Meeting and Quarterly Gathering will be held on Saturday, 18 May 2019. Hosted by the Blue Mountains Group, it will be held at Blaxland Community Hall, 33 Hope St., Blaxland

    Featuring: Plants with a Bite

    Keen to find out about Australian carnivorous plants, what they are, what they eat, how they capture their prey and how to grow and maintain them in cultivation? So little is known about these plants, yet Australia has one of the world’s richest carnivorous plant floras. 

    Our guest speaker Greg Bourke, who has an unbridled passion for these highly unusual plants, will answer all your questions.

    Greg has been fascinated by carnivorous plants from an early age and has become an established expert in the industry, and is co-author of the authoritative book, Australian Carnivorous Plants. He is currently Curator-Manager, Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mt Tomah and is Vice President for Botanic Gardens Australia and New Zealand.

    Greg is a wonderful speaker who will enthral you with his extensive knowledge of, and passion for Australian carnivorous plants. This is an opportunity that should not be missed. 

    There will be a selection of plants, including carnivorous plants, for sale. 

    You can hear more about Greg’s passion for ‘plants with a bite’, by listening to Richard Glover’s recording with him on Self-improvement Wednesday, ABC 702, at www.abc.net.au/radio/sydney/programs/drive/siw-greg-bourke/10124412

    Program for the day

    10am: Glenbrook Native Plants Reserve and Nursery, 41 Great Western Highway, Glenbrook (Opposite Tourist Information Centre), for a guided walk around the reserve and an opportunity to buy plants.

    9.45am: Short walk Pippa’s Pass, led by Jim Ward. Meet at Blaxland Library car park, 33 Hope St., Blaxland at 9.45am for 10am start. The walk is a little rough at the start with a few uneven steps and may be slippery if wet but it then levels out and becomes easier.  We would expect to see some of the common Blue Mountains species.. Xanthosia pilosa and the Green Grevillea, Grevillea mucronulata, occur near the start of the walk

    12 - 12.30pm: Lunch - bring your own. Tea and coffee will be provided.

    12.30 - 1pm: AGM

    1 - 2pm: Greg Bourke, Plants with a bite. 

    2 - 2.30pm: Afternoon tea & plants sales

    2.30 - 3 pm: Greg Bourke, Growing and maintaining Australian carnivorous plants.


    Registration fee, to offset cost of the hall, speaker’s gift and afternoon tea.

    • Members $5
    • Non-members $10
  • 7 Feb 2019 4:41 PM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

    The next gathering is being hosted by North Shore at the beautiful Ku-ring-gai WIldflower Garden.

    Click here for information: March 2019 APS NSW Quarterly Gathering.pdf

    Featuring Greenwalls

    Our guest speaker is Mark Paul, Horticulturist and Founder of The Greenwall Company. Mark is a very experienced speaker who has spoken on greenwalls to many groups in Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and North and South America. During his talk, he will share his expertise with us on the design, construction and choice of plants suitable for greenwalls.

    Mark created what is believed to be the very first greenwall in Australia over 30 years ago. His company is involved in greenwall design and construction, in a wide range of residential, commercial and public works.

    In a recent media release, Mark stated “We have been working tirelessly on creating new forms of eco-friendly greenwalls for all types of spaces, including new designs for high-rise buildings. Not only do greenwalls look fantastic on the exteriors of the buildings, but they truly transform the aesthetics and atmosphere of the street, and surrounding areas, not to mention the health benefits.

    For further information about projects Mark’s company has created, visit his company’s website at https://greenwall.com.au

    Program for the day

    10.30 am Walks and talks: A choice of two guided walks around the gardens;

    • Walk 1 will visit the rare plants in the garden and the propagation area;
    • Walk 2 will look at the rainforest plants in the gardens.

    12 - 1pm Lunch. Bring your own lunch. Tea and coffee will be available. Plants will be on sale during lunch time.

    1-3pm:  Mark Paul’s presentation on Greenwalls, and afternoon tea.



    This image is from the WIldflower Garden one morning this week with the dew still on the frond. 

  • 31 Jan 2019 2:21 PM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

    This article by Dr Matt Pye* recently appeared in the Australian Flora Foundation's January 2019 Research Matters and is reproduced with permission. 

    Introduction

    Gardens are an important part of our existence in urban environments. They provide relief from the concrete and bricks that create the artificial environment that most Australians now inhabit – the urban landscape. Our gardens provide shelter and shade, a potential kaleidoscope of colour and, in many backyards, a small localised food source in the form of vegetable gardens. In cities, gardens and street trees also provide additional cooling mechanisms to the heat sinks of concrete structures.

    Despite their ubiquitous presence, Australian backyard gardens have evolved over time and are far from static entities. The traditional English Gardens that were first established, presumably to trigger memories of the Mother Country, have morphed into a hybrid design which often includes representatives from the Australian flora. More recently, there has been a sustained trend towards preferentially planting native Australian species, deemed to be a better or more ‘natural’ alternative to the exotic imported species of the past. Many of these garden plants have gone on to achieve fame as invasive weed species. However, does the mere incorporation of native plants into one’s garden warrant a horticultural ‘pat on the back’? Do native plants actually do anything other than make us feel some misguided source of ‘Aussie pride’? Can we actually increase the functionality of our backyards into something truly beneficial – for both our gardens and surrounding native ecosystems?

    The use of Australian native plants

    The dominance of native plants in many Australian horticultural contexts suggests that the practice of including indigenous flora in our backyard plant assemblages has long been established. However, it was only through the periodical 'Growing Native Plants' published by the Canberra Botanic Gardens (now known as the Australian National Botanic Gardens) in the 1970s and early 1980s that any information was available on the topic of how to grow native plants. These booklets were published once a year for 14 years. The publication of ‘Australian Native Plants’ by John Wrigley and Murray Fagg in 1979 and the ‘Encyclopaedia of Australian Plants’ by Rodger Elliot and David Jones in the 1980s resulted in less demand for the booklets and the series was discontinued.

    Nevertheless, the (native) seed had been planted. Australian native plants are now part of the Australian horticulture consciousness. Today, seeds and seedlings of many native species, along with established shrubs and trees, can be readily purchased from commercial suppliers (e.g. a well-known hardware chain lists the availability of 114 native species for sale as of September 2018).

    There is also a substantial presence of Australian natives in the cut flower industry with many florists choosing to utilise the dramatic foliage and long-lived nature of many Australian species (e.g. flowers from Banskia spp., foliage from Eucalyptus spp.).

    Growing natives is now a serious scientific, evidence-based business. For example, research on germination strategies of many members of the Australian flora has led to the inclusion of ‘smoke water’ when buying native seeds. Evolving in concert with fire, much of the Australian flora have developed a dependency on smoke, or rather the chemicals found in the smoke from bushfires. In an evolutionary sense this strategy assures the best prospects for germination and establishment in natural settings.

    A preference for Australian native plants

    This may explain how Australian native plants became available but how and why did they initially become the preferred selection for the informed gardener? Why does the use of native plants persist despite the reputation of being “scraggly”, “untidy” and “difficult to grow” in an urban garden context? The answer possibly lies in a similar domain to Dick Smith and Aussie Mite – stay with me here.

    Above: Flowers from native plant species sit alongside their gaudy exotic counterparts, albeit with a higher price tag. Photographs courtesy of M Pye and T Bell.

    In 1986, 3 years after Australia raised its profile on the international stage beginning with the America Cup win, and just after the first publications about Australian plants became available, the Australian Made logo was launched – an initiative to support locally-grown produce and locally-made products. Launched by Prime Minister Bob Hawke, this campaign strengthened Australian nationalism and pride for our Country was at an all-time high. Consumers are likely to have been making conscious choices about supporting Australian products, including the selection of plants for their backyards. The link to the backyard garden and the plants surrounding the ubiquitous Hills Hoist may well have been established right then and there in the suburban consciousness. The choice to incorporate more “Aussieness” in backyards and other local spaces would have been simple. Native plants offered a bold statement, given their differing and distinctive morphology and colour palette compared to more traditionally preferred species.

    So, at this point in time, we began to incorporate native flora into everyday Australian life. A research study conducted in 2010 in the Melbourne metropolitan area, showed that 60% of gardens contained a mix of native and non-native species but only 10% of gardens contained mostly Australian native plants. Evidence can also be seen in street plantings which are generally species that local councils deem to be “non-offensive” in terms of fruit production and branch drop. An inquiry to local Sydney City Council governance was illumining in this respect. The selection of dry-fruited species is always promoted over any fleshy-fruited species due to trip hazards, “mess” and other undesirable features. Plants in the genera Melaleuca and Waterhousea seem to be favourites in the Sydney landscape. Do we therefore have an assemblage bias in urban landscapes by promoting one species over another in our streets?


    Above left: Syzygium sp. planted as a street tree in Sydney; right: fallen fruits from this species ‘litter’ the footpath and road. Photographs courtesy of M Pye.

    The potential horticultural bias can be further explored using the Gondwanan family, Myrtaceae. This family contains a fleshy-fruited group and a dry-fruited group, historically described as the subfamilies Myrtoideae and Leptospermoideae (Note: current molecular studies do not support this taxonomy, with fleshy-fruits appearing to evolve independently at least twice in the family, rendering Myrtoideae polyphyletic). In theory, that would mean we should only see approximately half of the diversity of this iconic Australian plant family in our urban landscapes. This means we would see more species in the genera Eucalyptus, Corymbia and Angophora than we would of Syzygium. However, the ‘widow maker’ status (i.e. tendency to drop large branches) of the Eucalyptus/Corymbia/Angophora group adds complexity and has probably resulted in fewer street plantings that we would otherwise see, except in some rare exceptions. Public safety is paramount and trumps any effort to restore our urban environments to their former plant community structure.


    Above: The iconic avenue of Lemon-scented Gums (Corymbia citriodora) lining the Avenue of Honour, May Drive, Kings Park and Botanic Garden, WA. These trees were planted in 1938, despite their tendency to drop branches, to replace the original avenue of Red-flowering Gums (Corymbia ficifolia), many of which succumbed to canker. Photograph courtesy of T Bell. 

    The role of native plants in urban environments

    An example I can draw from personal connection is the Bunya Pine, Araucaria bidwillii – a majestic Australian conifer which is almost demonised when planted in urban areas. I spent a good few years thinking about little else while studying this species for my PhD. This magnificent tree, one deeply embedded within Indigenous knowledge along the eastern seaboard of Australia, has long suffered the reputation of being the bad guy. “Attack of the Killer cones” is a frequently encountered headline for this species due to the production of female cones which can weigh up to 20 kg each. Some basic physics calculations shows that they have the potential to kill or at least do some serious damage to a person. Most commonly they damage property such as parked cars, so they generally are roped off and given a wide berth during their coning period, as if they were some infectious entity worth avoiding at all costs. In reality, they mostly drop their cones at night, thereby avoiding the humans who are seen as the target of their reproductive strategies.


    Above left: The stately silhouette of the Bunya Pine (Araucaria bidwillii); right: a warning to the unwary. Photographs courtesy of M Pye.

    What benefit other than an aesthetic one could Bunya Pines possibly provide? Urban specimens in Brisbane are at least 100 km from their nearest population in the Bunya Mountains and nearby Noosa Hinterland, and 1000 km away from their northern population counterparts at Cannabullen Falls and Mount Lewis in Far North Queensland. I suggest that these urban plantings offer little to biodiversity as they are too far away to reproduce with their naturally-occurring conspecifics. If, however, they were planted closer to their forebears the potential benefits to the genetic diversity of the species, and biodiversity itself, could be massive and ongoing.

    The question here is what function do we want our gardens and urban landscapes to serve? Do we merely want an aesthetic reprieve from the concrete and bricks (similar to the initial colonised gardening practices of re-creating the English garden), or is there a deeper function that we could tap into whilst also retaining their visual benefit?

    The deeper function that I am referring to here is the maintenance of gene flow within the Australian landscape – between our urban landscapes and the natural vegetation that these islands of concrete are situated within. Gene flow refers to the movement of genetic material (e.g. seeds, pollen) from one population to another. When gene flow rates are high, two geographically distinct populations may be considered to be one as they share a significant proportion of genetic diversity. Low gene flow can lead to speciation events (i.e. the creation of distinct species) as random mutations and/or selection for certain traits driven by environmental and/or other factors create two distinct genetic populations. Eventually these distinct populations may become different enough that the two populations can no longer interbreed – leading to the creation of two new species.

    I believe that our goal, as an environmentally-conscious society, should be to decrease the manipulation of our natural environments as much as possible, and, ideally, to minimise our genetic impact on these environments. The question for our society is, do we want isolated urban vegetation pockets containing a mishmash of aesthetic, non-messy plant species (native or otherwise) or do we have an ethical responsibility to reconnect these urban landscapes to the vegetation and surrounding habitats that they have replaced?

    Climate change, and all of the environmental uncertainties that it brings, adds more support to the planting of locally-occurring species – plants of local provenance. On one hand we have the question of the capability of garden species to withstand local environmental conditions and fluctuations, and on the other we have the water demands of those species alongside any need for fertilisers and other inputs. If plant species are sourced from the native vegetation that surrounds our urban fragments, then they are more likely to be locally adapted, in an evolutionary sense, to available nutrient and water regimes. This is a win/win situation in terms of reducing added nutrient loads to soil and any runoff that may occur, while also minimising the use of additional water to keep gardens alive. Such a garden would have zero net needs – the perfect environmental model for a climatically uncertain world.

    We need only look to the history of the colonisation of Australia for a chilling lesson – one which we are yet to fully adopt and one which I echo in the sentiments of this article. Upon arriving in Sydney, the First Fleet established a food garden at Farm Cove where the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney is now situated. A lack of understanding of the differences in soil types, climatic regimes and local pest species proved to be a significant barrier to the establishment of core crops:

     “Very little of the English wheat had vegetated and a very considerable quantity of the barley and many seeds had rotten in the ground ... all the barley and wheat likewise destroyed by the weevil”. 

    28 September 1788, Governor Phillip reporting to Lord Sydney.

    It was the use of Warrigal Greens (Tetragonia tetragonioides) that saved the first settlers and helped them avoid scurvy, a common condition resulting from diets low in Vitamin C. It would appear that over 200 years later we have learned little of the importance of planting local species that are adapted to local conditions.

    Australian plants for nationalist pride? We can do better than that

    While the presence of Kangaroo Paws (Anizoganthos spp.) in Sydney may make us well up with nationalistic pride and perhaps fond memories of the incredibly diverse flora of Western Australia, they do little to contribute to gene flow along the eastern seaboard. Their contribution is quite definitely confined to the aesthetic.


    Above left: Kangaroo Paws (Anigozanthos sp.) planted adjacent to an artwork at the University of Sydney, NSW; right: Kangaroos Paws in a mass planting in Kings Park and Botanic Garden, WA, a location closer to their area of origin. Photographs courtesy of M Pye.

    I am not arguing against the use of native flora in our gardens and streets. I am, however, ardently pointing out that we could do better with what we have – plant what is adapted to local environments and, where possible, use local council nurseries to source plants and/or seeds of local provenance. We can still plant native plants, with all of their “scraggly” beauty, while also doing our bit for remediation of habitats. Such plants will attract pollinators (another win for the zoologically-inclined) that then pollinate neighbouring plants within the surrounding vegetation. Gene flow in action. Our backyards will be connected to the bush and each planting will increase exponentially in its utility – albeit on a timescale that may not be evident in a human lifespan. Rest assured, your contribution to biodiversity will be imprinted in the genetic makeup of these populations for years to come.


    *About the author

    Dr Matt Pye is an Academic Fellow in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, at the University of  Sydney.  He has an interest in plant systematics and investigates the impacts of historical fragmentation on genetic diversity within and among plant populations.

  • 29 Jan 2019 9:30 AM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

    MEDAL (OAM) OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA IN THE GENERAL DIVISION Miss Merle Kay THOMPSON, South Bowenfels NSW 2790 

    For service to the community through a range of organisations. 

    Australian Federation of Graduate Women 

    • National Delegate, Educational Conferences in Istanbul, Fiji and Cape Town
    • Served as Honorary Treasurer, Honorary Business Manager, Honorary Registrar
    • Past Committee Member, Blue Mountains Branch.
    New South Wales Branch 
    • Past Honorary Registrar
    • Past Honorary Newsletter Editor
    • Member, since the 1960s. 
    Polio NSW
    • Member, Joint Steering Committee, current (NSW Health and Polio NSW) 
    • Member, Management Committee, since approximately 1995
    • Secretary, 2012
    • Vice President, 1997-2011
    • Member, since approximately 1995
    • Life Member, 2009
    Australian Plants Society NSW (APS NSW)
    • Board Member, current
    • Membership Officer, since 2009
    • Treasurer, 2007-2009
    • Co-editor, 'Australian Plants Journal', since 2008
    • Delegate to the Federal Council, for many years
    • Secretary, 1993-1995
    • Life Member, 2011
    • Member, since the 1970s.
    Central West Group
    • Delegate to the State Council, since 2009. 

    Blue Mountains 

    • Newsletter Editor, since 2002
    • Delegate to the State Council, 1987-2008
    • President, 1997-1999
    • Secretary, 1986-1996
    Congratulations, Merle!


  • 25 Jan 2019 8:33 PM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

    In November last year, the Southern Highlands APS group enjoyed an informative and passionately delivered presentation by John Creighton, AKA Wombat Man, who talked to them about the important work carried out by volunteer carers at Wombat Care Bundanoon. 

    Wombat Care Bundanoon is an independent, self-funded volunteer group of dedicated carers focused on wildlife in general and wombats in particular. They are licensed to treat mange, which is the cause of the protracted and extremely painful deaths of many wombats, and work with the Wombat Protection Society Australia to deliver best practice care for the wombats living in our local area. 

    They are also active in area schools, mainly Bundanoon Primary School, in providing education and awareness about wombats and local wildlife issues. 

    The wombats in the local area are from the family Vombatus ursinus, from the latin “ursus”, meaning “bear”. They are known as the Common Wombat or Bare-nosed Wombat. The Southern Hairy-nosed and the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombats are from a different family, Lasiorhinus latifrons, and are not found in our area. 

    Unfortunately habitat loss, competition for food from livestock and feral animals, shooting, poisoning, bull-dozing of burrows, road deaths and mange present huge challenges for the Common Wombat. The two most pressing and obvious concerns are roadkill and mange. 

    We have all seen on the side of the road wombats who are injured or killed by cars. Often these animals have a viable “pinki” or a joey in the pouch. Volunteers from Wombat Care rescue these babies and raise them where possible, preparing them for a soft, supported release back into the area from whence they came. The body of the parent wombat is tagged with paint to alert other rescuers that the pouch has been checked and the baby removed if applicable. 

    The raising and rehabilitation of wombats in captivity must be respectful of the need to produce resilient animals which are able to survive in the wild. Keeping them inside and feeding them on human food beyond the 5kg mark is setting them up for failure. 

    The raising and rehabilitation of wombats in captivity must be respectful of the need to produce resilient animals which are able to survive in the wild. Keeping them inside and feeding them on human food beyond the 5kg mark is setting them up for failure. 

    It generally takes about two years from pouch to release pen. During this time the wombats are affectionate towards their own humans, are gentle and connect with each other and are sometimes buddied up BUT they have special needs and truly do not make good pets! When they are ready to go they become more aggressive as if asking for release. In our area it is becoming harder to find places where they can be released safely away from people and cars. 

    Mange is a form of animal scabies caused by mite infestation. Introduced by Europeans and carried to the wombats by foxes, it is a major threat to wombat health. It causes incessant and injurious scratching by the animal creating painful lesions which become infected and eventually prove fatal. The infected animal displays “accordion fur”, crusty ears and scabs in the eyes. 

    There is, however, a cure which works without the need to capture the wombat. The idea is to break the life cycle of the mite. A flap is made using the lid of an ice cream container which is hung with string over the entrance of the burrow. The medicinal dose is in a can attached to the flap and as the wombat leaves the burrow the treatment dose upends onto the wombat’s back. Ingenious! Treatment lasts 15-20 days. Every 5 days the medicine needs to be replaced. Mange treatment kits are available, among other things, on the Rocklily Wombats website www.rocklilywombats.com and there is a new single dose available or close. 

    Now for some interesting facts. Did you know that wombats:

    • have poor vision and hearing 
    • have an incredible sense of smell ...a hundred times better than a beagle. They smell their way around 
    • do around 100 rectangular poos a day......marking tracks

    • have a backward-facing pouch with two teats *usually have only one young at a time 
    • are the original “earth-movers”, rotating as they dig to produce a beautiful, round tunnel 
    • have a tiny tail hidden by fur 
    • have a universal port called a “cloaca”, as do all marsupials 
    • eat mainly native grasses, sedges, matt rushes, and tree and shrub roots 
    • can short-sprint at up to 40 k.p.h. if required 
    • maintain stable populations by emigration of immature animals or regulation to transient status pending the death of adults 
    • will fight, sometimes to the death, over territory 
    • are the koala’s closest relative 
    • ARE EXTREMELY INTELLIGENT? 

    "Wombats are essentially, but not exclusively, solitary animals. Their simple grazing way of life might suggest that they do not require a particularly high intelligence. It is therefore of interest that the cerebral hemispheres of the Common Wombat are proportionately larger than any other marsupial and that those of his relative, the koala, are so poorly developed that they do not meet in the mid- line.” ** 

    Not so common, really, eh? 

    ...

    This article first appeared in the Southern Highlands Group Newsletter January 2019

    ...

    References:

    Rocklily Wombats Calendars 2018 and 2019 

    Notes from John Creighton’s presentation 

    **Australian Museum Complete Book of Mammals, edited by Ronald Strahan, Angus and Robertson 

    For additional information: John Creighton at Wombat Care Bundanoon 0490 659 245 

    Dianna and Warwick at www.rocklilywombats.com 


    Follow up to John’s talk: Response from attendees was very supportive, and a motion from the floor to provide a donation for the work that John and Wombat Care Bundanoon do was heartily endorsed. A cheque from APS Southern Highlands was presented to him at the Xmas lunch.

  • 4 Jan 2019 8:47 PM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

    We were asked by a reader about pruning eremophilas. 

    Question: I have an Eremophila glabra (Murchison Magic) that flowers all year round.  I've never pruned this plant therefore it's getting out of control and quite leggie.  Could you please let me know when is the best time to prune this Eremophila of mine? 

    Answer from Ben and Ros Walcott: Most eremophilas do well with a good prune to keep them dense. The best time is when the flowering has slowed down but often that isn’t possible so just do it when you can. In Canberra we tend not to prune in the late autumn because the new growth gets hit by the frosts but otherwise, anytime seems OK. How hard to prune depends on the plant and the effect you are after. We know someone who cuts some to the ground but for us that is too radical. Pruning by up to ½ is not too radical. 

    Thanks to our readers and Ben and Ros Walcott for their answer. 

    Here is an Eremophila nivea 'Beryls Blue' growing in the Hunter Valley. More information on eremophilas can be found in our plant database - Plant database Shrubs



  • 21 Dec 2018 8:33 PM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

    An Invitation…


    You are cordially invited to the 2019 APS NSW Get-Together.  This not to be missed event is being held at a varied range of locations in the Newcastle area.  

    There are a range of different native vegetation communities available to explore. Your visit will take you to some of the gems of the area and you will be able to see the spectacular coastal flora at its peak.  

    Highlights will include a visit to the Hunter Wetlands Centre where you will be welcomed to the Newcastle Groups home base, this will also include the opportunity to purchase from the wide range of native plants produced by the “Thursday Mob”. https://wetlands.org.au

    A visit to the award-winning Hunter Region Botanic Gardens and herbarium is also on the agenda.   https://www.huntergardens.org.au

    There will be some gentle bushwalks included, these will feature some of the special places that can be found in the Newcastle area.

    There will also be an evening dinner to look forward to on the Saturday night.

    More details including registration forms and prices will be covered in the next issue of Native Plants.

    So, please save the date – 17-18thAugust 2019

P.O. Box 263
Cremorne  Junction NSW 2090

Contact us here: office@austplants.com.au
Membership: merleaps@bigpond.com

Membership: merleaps@bigpond.

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