On Sunday July 10th we held our first Mid Winter Walk with the aim of learning more about some of the ferns, mosses, liverworts and lichens that are often overlooked features of the biodiversity in Tarra-Bulga National Park. If you want to see the full complement of photos from the day check out the Tarra-Bulga National Park project on iNaturalist. You may be even be able to help with identifying some. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?q=Mid%20Winter%20Walk%202022&search_on=tags Otherwise you can check out the photos here to get an idea of what we saw. Although we were not specifically looking at fungi we did also come across a lot of photogenic fungi so some photos of them have also been included.
Note that it can be difficult to identify Mosses and Liverworts (both different groups of plats) in the field, some species need microscopic examination to see their features. Ferns are a bit easier as they are larger and although they dominate the landscape there are only around 40 species in the park. Lichens are not actually plants but are are organisms composed of fungal and photosynthetic partners.
We have been showing off a some photos of the lovely vistas you may encounter while visiting Tarra-Bulga National Park on our Facebook and Twitter sites lately. Here are some of these photos for our website followers. We would hate you to feel like you were missing out! (Click on any image to start scrolling through the gallery)
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.
Filmy Ferns are a feature of the wet gullies and rainforests in Tarra Bulga, they are usually found as epiphytes growing on the trunks of trees and other ferns, especially Soft tree-fern (Dicksonia antarctica) as well as rocks and steep embankments . There are five different species known to occur in the park and although they are small and delicate, with a bit of practice it is easy enough to learn to tell the difference between each species. Four of them belong to the same genus (Hymenophyllum). Along with the Filmy ferns there are many species of Mosses and Liverworts that flourish in similar moist sheltered locations.
Click on the Galleries for Closer Views and Photo Descriptions
Austral Filmy-fernHymenophyllum australe
This fern is dark green and not particularly shiny. It is common and easy to identify by the wing which is several millimetres wide and extends all the way along the central wiry stem from the tip of the frond to the base (stipe) where it is attached. It has lots of spore producing sori at the tips of the fronds. The sori have 2 lips and they often present in pairs.
Colony on Tree Fern
Winged stipe where it attaches to the rhizome.
Close up of fertile frond with pairs of fertile sori.
Fertile frond with pairs of indusium covering sori.
Shiny Filmy-fern Hymenophyllum flabellatum
This is another very common fern found in the rainforest gullies. As indicated by its common name it is very shiny and it is a lighter green than the Austral Filmy-fern. The stem (stipe) does not have a wing and has a tuft of hairs at the base. The pinnae (ends of the fronds) often form a fan shape. The sori (spore producing bits) at the tips of the frond segments are wider than the rest of the leaf.
Frond – Not the hairy base of the stem.
Shiny Frond with indusium at tip of segments.
Fan shaped frond segments
The stems (rachis) are not winged along the whole length.
Common Filmy-fern – Hymenophyllum cupressiforme
Common Filmy-fern is easily found and identified by serrated margins of its outer fronds. It has large spore producing sori which are located close to the main stem (rachis) of the frond. Alpine Filmy-fern (Hymenophyllum pelatum) also has serrated margins of it frond segments (pinnae) but it has never been found in the Tarra Bulga.
Frond, note the serrated margins.
Indusium, close to rachis.
Large black sori located close to the central stem.
Narrow Filmy-fern – Hymenophyllum rarum
As its Latin name suggests this fern is the hardest to find of all the local species. It will often grow among Common – Filmy fern (e.g. Along the East-West track in the Tarra Valley picnic area) and superficially looks similar. As its common name suggests it is narrow, It has a narrow wing along its main stem which may cause confusion with Austral Filmy-fern, but a clear distinguishing feature is the the V shape made by the veins at the base of the indusium (tissue protecting the spores) at the tips of fertile frond segments. Click on the Gallery below for a better view.
Close up (magnified) of tips of fertile fronds. Note V shaped veins.
Fronds segments divide on one half only.
With V shaped veins at the tip (below the indusium)
Where stipe attaches to the rhizome.
With V shaped veins at the tip (below the indusium)
Frond has a narrow wing.
Veined Bristle-fern – Polyphlebium venosum
Is the only species of the 5 ferns not in the genus Hymenophyllum. It is very common in the same habitats as the other occur. It is distinguished by its very delicate pale green shiny fronds (only one cell thick). Tiny branched veins are clearly visible on the narrow fronds. The fertile fronds have a trumpet shaped spore cover (indusium).
With colony of delicate fronds.
Network of veins are easily visible.
Fertile fronds with trumpet shaped indusium protecting the sori.
One of the trickiest groups of Ferns to identify locally are a group of Ground ferns in the Genus Hypolepis. There are three different species recorded in the park but I have only ever found two of them which are Hypolepis glandulifera (Downy Ground-fern) and Hypolepis rugulosa (Ruddy Ground-fern). Without looking carefully these ferns can be mistaken for Bracken because they have a similar growth habit with fronds popping up from a spreading underground rhizome.
Hypolepis rugulosa (Ruddy Ground-fern) seems to be more common locally at higher altitudes in the Park (e.g. Wet Forest areas around Balook). It seems to like disturbed areas at the sides of roads and tracks. Its main feature for identification in the field is the reddy-brown colour of the frond stems (Stipes).
Red-brown frond stem (Rachis)
Frond showing red-brown coloured stem (Rachis)
New frond (crozier) not stickly like Downy – Ground-fern.
Hypolepis rugulosa – Ruddy Ground Fern
Close up of underside of pinnule. Showing little flap with a few hairs next to the sori.
Underside of fertile fronds showing arrangement of sori.
Hypolepis rugulosa – Ruddy Ground Fern
Base of frond (stipe) where it comes out of the ground, Chestnut brown with hairs.
Topside of pinnae which are slightly harsh.
Ready brown frond stem (stipe) with small hairs.
Hypolepis glandulifera (Downy Ground-fern) I have found mostly at lower altitudes, especially along waterways (e.g. Tarra River and Macks Creek). Its frond stems (Stipes) are usually a pale green colour. It usually has lots of fine hairs along the stems and the new fronds are often sticky to the touch as a result of the small glands on the tips of many of the hairs. If you have a hand lens or use a digital camera with a macro setting you can see that there is a little triangular tooth close to the sori on the underside of fertile fronds. This fern was formerly known as Hypolepis punctata.
Underside of a fertile frond, packed with sori.
Pinnules usually have rounded tips.
Showing the base of the fronds. Mostly a light green colour.
New frond, which is sticky to the touch because of the soft glandular hairs.
Close up of frond stem (stipe) with soft hairs, some of them with glandular tips.
Sori have a small tooth shaped flap protecting them. (note this photo is magnified)
Hypolepis muelleri (Harsh Ground-fern)is also listed in Park’s flora records for the but I have yet to find any. It can be identified by the presence of tiny hairs growing in the Sori on the underside of the fertile fronds.
With names like Lance, Strap and Ray this lot of Water-ferns sound like rather a threatening bunch, but in reality they are probably not so tough. All preferring to grow locally in the moist shade found in Cool Temperate Rainforest. All of these species can be found fairly easily in both the Bulga Park and Tarra Valley rainforest walks. Overall seven species of Blechnum grow in Tarra Bulga National Park.
Lance Water-fern (Blechnum chambersii) like all the local water ferns (Blechnum species) apart from one have two distinctly different frond types. The ones that carry the reproductive spores on their undersides have very narrow and droopy pinnae (leaves). The regular fronds are dark green and the leaflets (pinnae) are curved and broad at the base where they are attached to the stem.
Underside of the fertile fronds showing the arrangement of the sori.
Curved pinnae with the wide bases.
Fertile frond, narrower than than the regular fronds.
Close up of the pinnae.
Ray Water-fern (Blechnum fluviatile) The regular fronds have small green oblong to oval shaped pinnae (leaflets) with rounded tips. The stems of the fronds (Rachis) are covered in scales as well as small hairs.
Regular fronds with small rounded pinnae.
Stem (Rachis) note the scales and the fine hairs.
Fertile fronds packed with spore producing sori.
Long narrow regular fronds.
Regular (green) and fertile (brown) fronds.
Strap Water-fern (Blechnum patersonii) Has regular fronds that are either one long strap or may have a few pairs of divided pinnae which can give them a similar look to Microsorum pustulatum (Kangaroo Fern). The edges of the fronds are usually wavy (undulating). The regular fronds are also broader closer to the tip (and skinnier at the base), they are quite tough and leathery and are a very dark green colour. The spore carrying fertile fronds are much narrower and can also be a single strap or have a few narrow sub-divisions.
In this case the frond is divided and looks a bit like Kangaroo Fern.
A fertile frond covered with spore producing sori.
Recently trekked in to monitor progress I had been putting it off until the heat wave had passed. It was four and half months since I had last seen the site so I was anxious to see how things were progressing. First impressions where that there has been a lot of regrowth of under-storey the Snowy daisy-bush (Olearia lirata) had really taken off, and it was even harder to move around the site and to spot the Mountain Ash we had planted. With careful searching the good news was that the planted trees were still there and looking healthy and mostly untouched by Wallabies although I was expecting a bit more growth over summer.
The other concern I had was how much regeneration there had been of the Sycamore Maple trees that had dominated this site until they were cut down cleared several years ago. When I had visited in October there were hundreds of new seedlings that had popped up since our planting day in August. I was happy to see that in the more open areas there were few if any Maples (I think the hot summer may have killed them off) it was noticeable however that some of the large stumps had varying amounts of re-shooting from the base that needs to be dealt with.