Pretty But Noxious

When cyclists from the Great Victorian Bike Ride “ascend” on Tarra Bulga next week they will notice along with the many native plants in flower some attractive looking flowering plants that are in fact not so desirable. One of the most obvious they will see is Creeping Buttercup – (Ranunculus repens). Although there are native Buttercup species this one comes from the Northern hemisphere. As can be seen by the sea of yellow along the roadsides at this time of the year, it has been well established for a long time and has also penetrate to some moist areas deeper in the park resulting in the displacement of native species.

Ranunculus repens - Creeping Buttercup
Ranunculus repens – Creeping Buttercup – In flower now common along the edge of roadsides.
Ranunculus repens - Creeping Buttercup
Ranunculus repens – Creeping Buttercup – close up of its leaves

Another weed that is threatening to take over and become more of a pest is Myosotis sylvatica or  Wood forget-me-not. There are also native relatives of this plant in existence, but this species is native to Europe and has been introduced to Tarra Bulga from garden escapes. It is popping up all over the roadsides and is threatening to penetrate deeper into the park. Park staff and volunteers are vigilant in trying to remove seedlings whenever they are encountered but the task seems to be getting more difficult.

Myosotis sylvatica - Wood-forget-me-not
Myosotis sylvatica – Wood-forget-me-not – pretty flowers but a threat to the park.

Olearias

Tarra Bulga National Park has three different species of Olearia which are members of the daisy family. Two of them can be a little tricky to tell apart, however one is clearly different to the others. From casual observation all of them have similar looking flowers and the best way to tell them apart is by examining the leaves.

Olearia lirata – (Snowy daisy-bush) is a very common species in the park, although it is not usually present in the rainforest gullies; it is a dominant shrub in the wet sclerophyll forest areas (which is the most common vegetation type in the park). It is a small to medium sized shrub and its medium sized leaves are lance shaped and usually green and shiny above and grey and hairy underneath.

Olearia phlogopappa – (Dusty daisy-bush) is less common in the park than Olearia lirata and is  and mostly found in the more disturbed areas; it is also a small to medium sized shrub. It has narrower leaves, that are more greyish and not shiny (hence dusty) with tiny hairs on the underside. The leaves also usually have blunt teeth along their margins.

Olearia argophylla – (Musk daisy-bush)is the third species. It is a large shrub almost to the size of a small tree. Its leaves are much broader and larger than the other two species, they are green on the top and whitish or silvery underneath. It can occur in all forest types within Tarra Bulga, including the rainforest gullies.

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Local Cassinias

This is the time of year when most of the daisy species in Tarra Bulga are in flower. A number of species look quite similar and a bit of knowledge is often needed to tell one from another.They are all medium shrubs with narrow linear leaves and similar looking cauliflower like flower-heads.

One group are the Cassinias’ there are three separate species and all of them occur in the more open and exposed sections of the park rather in the shaded and protected gullies

Cassinia aculeata – (Common Cassina or Dogwood) has the the shortest and narrowest leaves of the three. If you look underneath the leaves you can see that they are curled over at the edges. Another distinguishing feature is that the new flowers are sometimes pink rather that white.

Cassinia longifolia – (Shiny Cassinia) has broader and longer leaves and the new leaves are noticeably shiny and sticky to touch. The underside of the leaves are covered in short dense hairs and the vein down the middle is very prominent.

Cassinia trinerva – (Three-veined Cassinia)Has leaves that are also broader and longer than Common Cassina, they are quite soft and not shiny or sticky. They have a big vein running down the middle of the leaf and two smaller veins that run a millimetre or two inside the leaf margins.

Ozothamnus ferrugineus (Tree Everlasting) is a fourth species that can be confused with the Cassinia’s as it is a similar size and has similar leaves. It’s leaves are around the same size as Cassinia longifolia (Shiny Cassinia) but its leaf margins are usually a little wavy. With close examination the flowers are clearly different to Cassinias, they have little bracts around the individual florets.

Clematis Season

There are two species of Clematis that occur in Tarra Bulga National Park and surrounding forest areas, Forest Clematis (Clematis glycinoides) and Mountain Clematis (Clematis aristata) and it can be very difficult to tell the difference between them. They are climbing plants that can climb high into trees and produce a mass of attractive white flowers in Spring. Both of them have leaves in groups of three of a similar size, Clematis aristata commonly has teeth or serrations on the leaf margins but both species show variation.

Clematis leaf comparison

There are two main ways to tell the difference between the two out in the field. The first is flowering time. Clematis glycinoides tends to flower in early spring, with most of its flowering finished by mid-October, then Clematis aristata seems to take over to be the dominant flowering species for a month or so, although locally it is less common. The other way is a key but subtle difference in the flowers. If you look carefully at a flower the tips of the anthers have little appendages, In Clematis glycinoides they are very short <1mm or even absent. In Clematis aristata they are clearly longer usually around 2 or 3mm long.

Clematis Flowers
Clematis glycinoides (Forest Clematis) and Clematis aristata (Mountain Clematis) flowers compared.

Sycamore Maple Revegetation Site

Made the trek out to the re-vegetation site for the first time since the planting was done which was a bit over two months ago.

Fresh New Growth on Mountain Ash Seedling
Fresh New Growth on Mountain Ash Seedling

From looking around the site there was both good and bad news. First the good, there was virtually no sign of any Wallabies managing to get to chew any of the new seedlings, despite the fact I heard one hopping away when I reached the site. There was good fresh new growth on all the seedlings that I found, hopefully when they become more conspicuous as they get taller the wallabies will still find them too difficult to reach. The bad news is that after seeing very, few new seedlings of Sycamore Maple 

Dicksonia antarctica Soft tree-fern

Tree Ferns at Tarra Bulga

There are four main species of tree ferns found in Tarra Bulga National Park, (along with many other fern species) The two most common you will see are Cyathea australis (Rough tree-fern) and Dicksonia antarctica (Soft tree-fern). The Soft Tree-fern is more common in the moister areas including the rainforest gullies while the Rough tree-fern is more dominant on the slopes. Once you get you eye in it is fairly simple to tell the difference between these two, the most obvious being by comparing the trunks. The Rough tree-fern has much of its trunk covered by the remains of broken off stems (Stipes) Which are rough to the touch, while the Smooth tree-fern is soft to the touch and is covered by masses of soft hairs which are actually roots.  On this soft trunk other species of plants will often grow including tree and shrub seedlings, epiphytes and other ferns.

Cyathea australis - Rough tree-fern
Cyathea australis – Rough tree-fern, the broken of scaly frond bases (Stipes) on the upper part of the trunk of these ferns are a quick aid to their identification.

Awesome Effort at Planting Day

The Friends of Tarra Bulga  planting day last Saturday was a great event, which will hopefully result in the return of some towering wet forest in years to come. It will also greatly assist efforts to prevent the re-infestation of Sycamore Maple trees into this area of the National Park.

Getting Ready to Plant
Getting Ready to Plant – The first of the volunteers arrive at the site and prepare to get down to business.

Volunteers managed to plant 600 Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) species across the site, which was no mean feat given that each plant needed to be carefully placed in a position where they will be guarded from browsing by hungry Swamp Wallabies. This involved scrambling over steep areas thick with fallen branches, while trying to avoid human hazards such as stinging nettles and leeches. While this may sound arduous there were no complaints from the willing and enthusiastic volunteers happy to be out making a difference to the park and enjoying the scenic (but muddy in spots) walk into this secluded planting site.

Richard in Action
Friends Group member Richard, putting in a big effort.
One of the 600 plants
One of the 600 Mountain Ash Seedlings that were planted on the day.

The group will now carefully monitor this site over the coming years to check that the newly planted trees are growing successfully and retreat any Sycamore Maple regrowth that sprouts from the treated stumps and pull out any new seedlings that pop up. Funding for this project has been supplied by the Victorian Government’s “Communities for Nature” Program.

Mother Maple
Friends Group President Peter Bryant, Standing next to the largest stump left behind from the forest of Sycamore Maples that had taken over the area.
A Job Well Done
Some of the Volunteers posing with their Hamilton Tree Planters after a great days effort to enhance Tarra Bulga.

 

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