Bushcare Best Practice


Fishbone mat being pushed back

Our Tuesday afternoon bushcare group, Mt Gravatt Bush Blokes, are really making their mark with a large section of Fox Gully now clear of Fishbone Fern Nephrolepis cordifolia.

Fishbone Fern commonly spreads into our bushland through garden waste dumping. Simply dumping garden prunings is not “mulching” as a contractor recently tried to tell me. Garden green waste dumping is one of the three key threats to Mt Gravatt Reserve. The other two threats are downhill mountain biking/unofficial tracks and feral animals/uncontrolled domestic pets.

Michael with Catch of The Day

Fishbone is a good case study of how of garden waste dumping threatens our precious remaining parcels of suburban bushland. Like most ferns, Fishbone can spread by wind-blown spores, however each plant appears to produce only a few fertile fronds. Therefore, the main way this invasive weed is spreading at our site is via runners or stolon, similar to the runners on strawberry plants.  The word “stolon” comes from the Latin word “stolō” meaning a shoot, branch, or twig springing from the root.

Most of the site is thickly coated in Fishbone which is removed easily but cannot be composted on-site. The stolons and hairy tubers do not decompose easily and will simply re-shoot: approximately one hundred and fifty garbage bags of Fishbone removed to-date.

Forest Pittosporum

At the edges of the infected area the fern stolons are spreading among the native grasses. It is common to pull out a metre long runners with new tubers attached. Left in-place these runners develop in a mat of weed smothering all other plants. It is slow work then you find positive signs of natural regeneration like this flowering Forest Pittosporum Pittosporum revolutum.

My current observations suggest that once we have cleared the Fishbone re-infection by spore transmission is unlikely. Ongoing education is dramatically reducing green waste dumping so with the Fishbone removed natural regeneration with indigenous ferns and grasses will reduce edge-effect and provide long-term consolidation of this unique habitat.


Ian with Michael and Paul in background

Ian Walker, LNP candidate for Mansfield, joined the team for Tuesday Bushcare today: removing Fishbone Fern in Zone 13.

I showed Ian the power of natural regeneration and explained the concept of Green Mulching: controlling weeds, erosion and water loss with native grasses.

(l-r) Marshal Paul Michael

Ian was particularly interested in the use of native grasses for bushfire control. Introduced weeds like Guinea Grass Panicum maximum are a major bushfire risk because of the volume of loose dead grass that accumulates. Native Graceful Grass Ottochloa gracillimawhich is regenerating and controlling weeds in the cleared area, is also ideal for bushfire control as it is low growing and does not build up large volumes of dead grass as it quickly recycled by Australian insects adapted to the local grasses.

Time for a cuppa and jam donuts. Eleven garbage bags of Fishbone removed today!

Now it is time for nature to take over restoring native grasses, Basket Fern Drynaria rigidula, Rasp Fern Doodia media, Scrambling Lilly Geitonoplesium cymosum  and Soapy or Red Ash Alphitonia excelsa which is a food tree for caterpillars of Small Green-banded Blue butterflies.

One of the powerful things I have learned about bushcare is that if we put in 10% clearing the weeds nature then contributes 90%, working 24/7 doing natural regeneration with local plants and weed control with Green Mulching.

Fox Gully Wednesday Bushcare in Zone 13 will be a little easier this week with new steps providing safer and faster access.

With university exams over I was able to tempt Jian out into the bush for some physical rather than mental exercise. When he left home in Shanghai, Jian was not expecting to find himself swinging a sledge hammer in the bush. He did a pretty good job for a first time, hit the stake every time and didn’t hit his foot at all.

Good progress. By the time we finished today the steps reached about two thirds of the way to our restoration site. The steps will make a big difference for both safety and productivity as we carry tubs of weeds up out of the gully to the fire trail for disposal off-site.

The major weed in Zone 13 is Fishbone Fern Nephrolepis cordifolia, a fast spreading with shallow fibrous roots and numerous hairy brown or white nodules underground. Unlike most weed species in the Fox Gully site Fishbone Fern cannot be composted on-site because of the combination of fine spores establishing new plants and the long term viability of the underground nodules. Therefore productivity is critically related to the ease and speed of moving large quantaties of weed up the steep slope – work process design.

Another reason for building these steps is to allow access for our Envirionmental Workshop on Sunday August 7th. Botanist Ann Moran, Jager-Moran Environmental will be leading a walk through the Fox Gully site, sharing her amazing knowledge of our native plants, the wildlife that depends on them and the bush tucker value. Information and registration details for the workshop will be available soon: email megoutlook@gmail.com if you would like information sent out.

Natural regeneration is becoming an increasingly important part of our buchcare activities: Nature works 24/7 to build on our work, so the more we learn to work with nature the higher our productivity. Zone 13 is becoming an excellent case study of the power of natural regeneration, therefore we are improving access to allow active site inspection and discussion.

On Sunday I had the honour of presenting again at the annual BCC Habitat Brisbane Induction Day for new bushcare volunteers at Downfall Creek Bushland Centre.

My presentation was focused on maintaining the energy and motivation of bushcare volunteers.

Employee/volunteer productivity is based on:

• Individual motivation
• Individual fitness, skill and experience
• Work unit organisational structure

Plus when we are doing bush restoration work:

  How well we engage nature.

  Nature works 24/7 to build on our work.

It was only when I was preparing my presentation that I realised the full significance of natural regeneration and partnering with nature. As I explained on Sunday a group may only be able to meet once a month however nature was building on their work 24 hours a day 7 days a week for the next month. So a few hours work once a month becomes something much greater with the help of nature.

View my presentation BCC Induction – Group Motivation

Best Practice Sheet for 2 Prong Hoe – Best Practice Sheet – Removing Asparagus Fern – 2 Prong Hoe

I photographed this Netted Mock-olive Notelaea ovata today in Zone 10. Small cream/yellow flowers are followed by small black olive like fruit.

This is special because I have had been watching this small shrub for a couple of years waiting for it to flower for an identification. With its addition to Flora & Fauna of Mt Gravatt Reserve we now have 76% of the plant species in the Reserve photographed.

BCC Habitat Brisbane have been helping wage war on the invasive Chinese Elm Celtis sinensis by removing the large trees. We have been removing up to twenty small Chinese Elms each week in our Bushcare sites.

Most Elms we find are very small and can simply be pulled up. I used the TreePopper to up-root this larger tree in Zone 10.

The TreePopper is one of the most useful bushcare tools provided by our Brisbane City Council sponsors.

Pulling woody weeds like Elms and Ochna up by the roots is definitely best practice.  I still had to cut and poison one larger Elm but up-rooting three out of four is a good start.

Jian: proud of his planting

The Lomandra hystrix Creek Mat-rush Jian planted last week are doing well after the storm last night.

The planting is at the bottom of Zone 15 where we are clearing Brazilian Pepper Trees and Singapore Daisy to restore the original water flow of the ephemeral creek. The Lomadra hystrix are ideal for this area reducing erosion, creating frog habitat and attracting Brown Ochre and Splendid Ochre butterflies.

Splendid Ochre - Trapezites symmomus

We are also planting the cleared areas with native grasses Ottochloa gracillima and Oplismenus aemulus.

These grasses grow fast forming a thick cover that dramatically reduces weed infestation, doing our bushcare work for us, and allowing natural regeneration.

Magpie Moth - Nyctemera secundiana

I also got an excellent photo of a Magpie Moth to add to our research document: Flora & Fauna of Mt Gravatt Reserve. Click on the photo to get a good look at this extraordinary animal.

Helen Schwencke of Earthing Enterprises was particularly facinated by the very un-mothlike behaviour: sitting with wings up more in the manner of a butterfly.

What do animal or plant would you like to photograph for our Flora & Fauna?

All photographs used in Flora & Fauna of Mt Gravatt Reserve are taken on the Mountain.

Our regular Wednesday afternoon bushcare is really starting to make an impact in both Zone 15 behind 36 to 40 O’Grady Street and Zone 17 at the top of Azania Street.

Stephanie and I worked on Zone 17 last week removing and composting Singapore Daisy as well as clearing the first of a number of piles of garden waste dumped in the bush over the years.

We did get a bit of a shock to disturb two Golden Crowned Snakes among the branches we were clearing. At the time we didn’t knowing what type of snakes we had disturbed so we decided to move onto another area and clear more Sing Daisy.

I was able to identify these beautiful snakes Golden Crowned Snakes – Cacophis squamulosus, which are classified as not dangerous.

Crowned snakes rear their heads, flick their tongues and attempt to look dangerous. Have weak venom, tiny mouths, short fangs and a general reluctance to bite. Queensland Museum Fact Sheet – Crowned Snakes.

These snakes are a real find because Golden Crowned Snakes are currently not on the EPA’s species list for the mountain. I will be working with Sue Jones to provide regular updates for the EPA to ensure our governement policy makers have the best data when they make decisions about our mountain.

As well as removing the garden waste we also have to change the habit of dumping in the bush. So we have roped off the area with one of Ian Darby’s excellent bright orange REVEGETATION ZONE signs.

Mike