Wednesday Bushcare


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.

Wednesday Bushcare was in Zone 14 today.This area was replanted with native grasses, Acacias and Tallowwoods planted in October 2009.

The growth has been amazing! This Tallowwood planted less than eighteen months ago is now towering Lu, a Griffith University Environment student who helps with Wednesday Bushcare.

We can all be proud of this fantastic result, particularly considering the hot dry conditions at the time of the planting. The planting was done with water crystals, the Tallowwoods sprayed with Yates DroughtShield, protected with shade cloth and the area heavily mulched to reduce heat damage to roots and retain moisture.

The hot dry conditions can be seen in photo below taken when planting was almost complete. Because we could not get tank water to this part of our Bushcare site, the BCC Habitat Brisbane team organised a water tanker to visit the following week.

Read about the event: Fox Gully Restoration Update – Oct09

Weather conditions have been very different since then so our work today was weed control and putting mulch filters in place to control silt runoff from the maintenance track.

Considering the size of the area restored weed control onsite is a  relatively small job because the native grasses are now doing an excellent job of suppressing weed growth. At the same time we are starting to see natural regeneration with Scambling Lily Geitonoplesium cymosum, Poison Peach  Trema tomentosa (food plant for Speckled Link-blue butterfly) and Gotu Cola Centella asiatica (bushtucker: leaves eaten as vegetable. Aborigines soaked the flowers to make a syrup to drink for sore throats and colds.) all starting to return to the site.

Therefore, Steve and Lu were able to work on installation of mulch filters. The filters work by slowing the water flowing off the track allowing time for the silt to settle out before the water passes through and down into the gully. The extraordinary January rains did no damage to our restored sites which are layered with logs retrained from the clean-up, then covered with mulch to retain moisture and reduce erosion. However, the maintenance track did suffer significant erosion which showed as muddy water in the gully.

The first filters are proving effective with in controlling silt so we are expanding the area protected. We are also hopeful that these filters will also reduce the spread of weed seeds, particularly the highly invasive Giant Parramatta Grass which has recently appeared along the track.

It’s week four of the semester, you have

Mai & Jian with their weapons

handed in your first assignment, now you are studying for the mid-semester test and you are starting to wonder if you really want to be at university. Is there a life beyond text books?

If you love the Australian bush and need some fresh air and excerise to help you study, join us for Wednesday Bushcare in Fox Gully. Just two stops from Nathan Campus by Route 120 bus. Take Route 120 bus to Graden City and get off at the Hibscus Sports Complex on Klumpp Road: 15 to 20 minutes from Nathan to Fox Gully Bushcare site. Email or call to check on weekly meeting point.

“You are doing a fantastic job! I would like to bring other bushcare groups here to see this site. It is a great case study in bushcare best practice and natural regeneration.” Last Thursday was our annual site inspection and Kate our local BCC Habitat Brisbane bushcare officer was very impressed with the progress with restoration.

Mai clearing Fishbone Fern

We are lucky at this site to have surrounding bush to provide seed for natural regeneration. However, I believe the main reason for our success, is our almost zero use of herbicides in clearing weeds.

In planning restoration of Zone 13, I did a systematic search of the area and found a six different native fern species, Basket Fern, Rough Maindenhair Fern, Rasp Fern, Gristle Fern Mountain Bracken and Elkhorn Fern, still surviving amongst the invasive Fishbone Fern. Poisoning was therefore not an option: herbicides kill all plants not just the weeds.

Hand removal of weeds seems  slow initially however it reduces long term workload as the native grasses significantly reduce weed regrowth, saving time with follow-up weed removal and reducing the need for re-planting.

Time for a break

Restoration of heavily infected areas needs to be done in stages working from the edges to maximise natural regeneration and minimise weed re-infection. Systematic removal of the Fishbone Fern starts with clearing the bulk of ferns and immediatly bagging to minimise disturbance and spreading of spores from fertile fronds. The next stage is careful removal of fibrous roots and numerous hairy brown or white nodules underground. Fishbone is so successful reinfection can be caused by spread of spores or regrowth from roots and nodules. Therefore, the easiest most successful restoration is based on good work practices: less effort better results.

Of course good work practice includes a making time for a break, a cup of tea and a chat. Our bushcare workforce are all volunteers so ensuring they relax and enjoy the time is an important part of building motivation to return.

September 2010 the FWR Group joined our Wednesday Bushcare and started on the daunting task of clearing the huge area of Fishbone Fern Nephrolepis cordifolia, from the gully. See  my post: Business Goes Bush in Mt Gravatt

Wednesday Bushcare this week will return to that site to remove any regrowth of Fishbone. When I inspected the site to assess the work required, I was so blown away by the extraordinary natural regeneration occurring, I had to do a quick review.

Cindy, Tessa, Virginia, Luke and Mike

Removing Fishbone fern can be a fiddly frustating job: digging out every nodule then carrying the loaded tubs to the top of the slope. Every part of the fern has to be removed from site to reduce risk of re-infection.

In this situation it is great to have a group who can share some fun. “What are these strange nodules we keep digging up?” Cindy is from Busan, South Korea. Tessa,Virginia, Luke and Mike are part of the FWR team.

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The team also removed Easter Cassia, Chinese Elm and Ochna.

Virgina proved quite adept with the new Treepopper provided by our sponsor BCC Habitat Brisbane.

Seeing results is a key factor in motivation for a volunteer bushcare workforce. The Treepopper delived results on the day, making easy work of these, normally hard to remove, woody weeds.

Nine is the biggest team we have had for Wednesday Bushcare and at the end of the afternoon the results showed. The thick green border of Fishbone shows how much has been removed to create this clear ground.

That same area is now covered

Ottochloa gracillima Graceful Grass

in a thick growth of Ottochloa gracillima Graceful Grass which is supressing weed growth as well as providing caterpillar food for Brown and Orange-streaked Ringlet butterflies.

Hybanthus stellarioides Spade Flower

There has been some regrowth of Fishbone fern and some infection with other weeds however the most striking change is the extraordinary natural regeneration of the native grasses, herbs and ferns. Herbs like the unusual Spade Flower Hybanthus stellarioides are now appearing in this area where they were not found before.

Drynaria rigidula Basket Fern

The Basket Fern has also benefited from the weed removal with fresh new growth appearing and outgrowing the invasive Fishbone.

Visiting this part of the site and seeing the native plants restoring the habitat is a real boost.

So I hope you can join us this week for Wednesday Bushcare in Fox Gully.

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.