A small crew turn out for yesterdays working bee with the aim being to continue work on tutsan at a site in the Tarra Valley that had been sprayed by contractors in March. Having been several months since we had viewed the site we ventured in with nervous anticipation. The possible scenario being anything from complete success with the spray having knocking each tutsan plant stone dead or the other alternative where the spraying was ineffective and the tutsan was thicker than ever.
After the climb up to the site the initial news was good with the remains of dark brown and dead tutsan clearly visible. We set to work in a methodical fashion and soon found plenty of living plants to deal with, mostly on the outer edges of the infestation, some that had been sprayed and not completely killed and others that had been missed. We found few (if any) newly germinated plants from seed, but there is bound to be a massive seed bank present which you can guarantee will get sprouting at some stage.
As we walked further into the site, cutting and pasting living tutsan as we went, we found further evidence that tutsan that had been growing out in the open was completely dead and areas that had been thick with tutsan had now opened up. Pioneer species such as white elderberry (Sambucus gaudichaudiana) were popping up in the bare ground now exposed. The plants that were not out in the open are harder and intermingled with native species are harder to deal with and a number of large unsprayed patches further up the slope were discovered. They were too big for our small crew to tackle in one session and where mapped for us to tackle another day. One open slope area that had been sprayed had a fair proportion of plants still alive and reshooting, so a far bit of time was required to retreat them with poison. Although it was easy to lose count we treated at least 300 living tutsan plants in around 3 hours. We also worked on the odd bit of blackberry as well as approximately 20 sycamore maple which was the original weed we targeted on this site, we were originally pulling out maple seedlings by the hundreds. Overall the spraying made possible by a Communities For Nature Grant has been very successful but as anticipated we will need to do follow up work at this site over a number of years to promote the regeneration of native species and prevent the Tutsan coming back.
White elderberry (Sambucus gaudichaudiana) colonising bare ground once covered in tutsan.
Our first group activity for the year will be held at a site in the park along Tarra Valley Rd that we have been working on for nearly a decade now. Initially we started tackling a serious infestation of Sycamore Maple, which is a tree that can be very invasive, it has light papery seeds that disperse in the wind, it can grow in shade and then potentially become a large tree. Over the years we have pulled out hundreds of new seedlings that have spread into the park and cut out and killed many larger saplings.
We have now been successful at getting the Maple fairly well controlled and we have now also started on another weed (Tutsan) that is established at the site. Tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum) is a perennial shrub that grows to about 1.5m tall, it is related to St John’s Wort and is noted as being a serious threat to damp and wet schlerophyll forests. We have received a Communities for Nature grant to assist our efforts that will be used to fund contractors to spray the larger infestations as well as to purchase some hand tools and chemical to support our efforts.
We will be holding a working bee at the site on Saturday March the 21st. The meeting point will be at the Tarra Valley Car Park at 9.30am. Like many of our working bees’ the terrain will be steep and lots of scrambling through undergrowth will be required. Tools will be available but if you have your own favourite gloves or loppers please bring them along. Following the work we will have a free BBQ lunch provided down at the Fernholme Caravan Park (at around 1pm). If you are able to come along please call or email David Akers (0488 035 314) or firstname.lastname@example.org preferably by March the 18th so we know how much food to buy.
Seems like not only plants and animals can be invasive. Yesterday, while walking along Forest Track, I spotted an unusual Fungi fruiting on a fallen log. It was a vivid orange colour and seemed to have an unusual pore arrangement on the underside. After snapping a few photos, I headed home to consult the field guides. Seeing nothing really to match, I uploaded the photo to http://www.Bowerbird.org.au where a subscriber there quickly identified it as an exotic species, Favolaschia calocera otherwise known as Orange Pore Fungi.
This Fungi apparently is a recent arrival to Australia the first record of it is from 2005. It was first observed in Madagascar and has recently spread to a number of countries across the globe. According to Wikipedia it colonises ruderal sites (Wastelands/Roadsides) where it can become the dominate species. Fingers crossed it does not become a dominate feature of our not so ruderal forests. Not sure how you can weed out or control a pest fungi.
Interesting mass germination of Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata) recently. The ground in some parts is covered in a carpet with literally thousands of them.
Before they can sprout Wattles usually need a fire to melt their waxy seed coat. No recent fires on these sites though so my theory is Cockatoos and Rosellas are doing the seed treatment by dropping partially chewed seeds from the trees while feeding. (I am open to other suggestions)
Lyrebirds are pretty active at the site and no doubt will scratch the vast majority of the new seedlings out of existence.
Took the trek in to check on the progress of this site recently. Part of our strategy against Wallaby predation, as well as using big guards, had been to plant Mountain Ash among some of the large dead Sycamore Maple that had been fallen at the site. Initially it had seemed that this plan had worked a treat, but we had underestimated the Wallabies and last time I visited the site (6 months ago) the pesky Macropods had pretty much munched all of the carefully placed plants; all but confirming that our conventional method of using big wire mesh tree guards is the only way to beat these beasts.
Even species that were meant to be Wallabies least preferred food such as Olearia lirata (Snowy Daisy-bush) were being heavily chewed.
On this visit things were actually looking a little better and it seemed that there had been some recovery of planted tubestock; although the ones not properly guarded were not much bigger than when they were planted over 18 months ago.
The Sycamore Maple which had once completely covered the 2ha site is also not giving up without a fight. A clamber around the site revealed many seedlings emerging and we as a group will focus on removing them before they become large feral trees. On the plus side there is mass natural regeneration of native understorey occurring with an impressive diversity of species, including plenty of Wattles; that have germinated without the aid of fire. The Maple logs that we left in-situ have been a massive bonus because the micro-climate they created has been perfect for fern regeneration, which is happening all over the site. The logs are breaking down quickly now with a variety of Fungi helping the process. We will have another planting day later in the year on this site (using the big Wallaby guards) so keep a look out for it if you are keen to lend a hand.
Overall view of site, showing the mass regeneration of shrubby understorey.
Hiding among the undergrowth a planted Mountain Asf
Snowy Daisy-bush showing the impact of Wallaby grazing.
New Sycamore Maple Seedling emerging.
Rainbow Fungus – Trametes versicolor aiding the decay of the Maple logs.
Logs left on the site aiding fern regeneration
Another log microhabitat providing a great site for fern regeneration.
Prickly Coprosma full of red berries
Lots of Kangaroo Apple with ripe fruit at the site.
Naturally Regenerated Tree Lomatia
Pine Tree that should have been dead by now.
No shortage of Sycamore Maple on site to be found and exterminated.
Yesterday we had our biannual photo-monitoring session, so this one is very up to date. We got on to this site a bit late (over a year after the fire) but we were intrigued with the mass regeneration of Eucalyptus seedlings (probably Mountain Ash) on the site and figured it would be good to record what happens to them over time. You can see in the early photos the shape of the slope, the dead trees and the mass of green that is the newly germinated plants. Now the shrubs in the foreground have grown and blocked our view, which seems to be a common issue with photo-monitoring but we will still keep tabs on the site and its future development.