Saturday, November 23, 2013

Working Towards A Healthy Habitat ... Chapter 4 ... The On-Going Project.

Well it's been a while since I updated this series of posts.  Of course, working towards turning our property into a healthier habitat, free of pest plants and noxious weeds, was never going to be a quick overnight project. It's a long-term, on-going venture that will take a few years.  So, the updates are going to be rather infrequent, and will only happen when I have something significant to report.

My last update was about five months ago, written in the middle of the dry season, after the extensive Chinee Apple and Lantana poisoning regime.  So let's see what's been going on since then.

First of all, we have worked at permanently removing pest plants from the garden areas around our house.  We chemically treated the massive Spathodea campanulata that had been planted beside the car shed area by a previous owner, and dealt with all the little ones that had popped up in recent years in various corners of other garden beds.

We also worked at removing many of the Bauhinia saplings that had been maturing all over the property,

and other tree saplings that had sprung up in the wrong places.

We have also been working at killing off the huge patch of Rat's Tail Grass that had taken over the area between the car shed and the house.  We followed the recommendations provided in our Land Management Plan, and made judicious, careful use of chemicals in an effort to wipe out this species of grass in this entrance area.

It seemed to work, and there has been no sight of any Rat's Tail grass blade.

So, we've completely transformed this area and my darling other half built a new garden bed wall for me to fill in and plant up.  It's still a work in progress, but it already looks far better than it did previously.  We've also covered the area between the car shed and the new garden bed with lovely new soil and sown some grass seed.

As well as all that,  the poisoning that I detailed in my last post seems to have done the job of killing off the majority of the Chinee Apple trees, as well as the massive clumps of Lantana that were choking the bush paddock.  During the long dry season that rolled on after the poisoning events, there was an extensive die-back of both these invasive pest plants,

and the view showed huge areas dominated by dead sticks,

 where once massive clumps of Lantana,

and many, many, many Chinee Apple trees flourished.

Now, the well-worn paths of generations of Agile Wallabies are more evident, 

and the features of the steep rocky landscape are more apparent.

Previously, the Chinee Apple and Lantana covered the majority of the bush paddock, and now with the dying back of these two, the entire area has opened up.  It's been amazing seeing this significant change, and we need to ensure it remains this way, so that more of the native species can get a foothold once more.

In the last two weeks, the wet season seems to have arrived a little earlier than it has in the past few years.  We generally don't see heavy rain until late December, and I think the last time we had really decent rain in November was about three years ago, back in 2010.  With the arrival of the rain, we had to check and see whether there has been any new re-growth of our two primary pest plants.

So, last weekend we headed out into the bush paddock to see if there was any sign of Chinee Apple or Lantana re-growth, or indeed new baby plants popping up, after the arrival of rain.  We hadn't actually been down there for many months, so we were keen to find out what was going on.

One of the worst spots of Lantana growth had been in one of the bottom corners of the bush paddock.  This was where the Lantana covered an area of around five or six square metres, and was around a metre and half in height.

Well, thankfully, it seems to have been conquered.  We didn't find any evidence of new growth, and that's been a massive relief.  It took many, many painstaking and painful hours of work to get in there in order to dish out some nasty chemical treatment.

We found other areas where the massive Lantana clumps were obviously dead and disintegrating slowly,

and in amongst some of these clumps there was evidence of one particular native re-establishing itself.  We found the native Jasmine, Jasminum didymum, thriving in between the dead sticks of what once was a huge, healthy forest of Lantana.

We noticed clumps of the native Jasmine had sprung up all over the place.

We've found evidence of other new natives flourishing, natives we've never noticed before.  If you look closely at the leafless slender grey tree trunk in the middle of the above photo, you will see ....

... the fruit of our native Kapok, Cochlospermum gillivraei.  Here's hoping we see more of this fabulous native popping up in the paddock.

We also found this fabulous looking thing blooming away in another corner of the bush paddock, close to the creek bed.   Thanks to an I.D. provided by a fellow gardener on Facebook, I found out it's our native Turraea pubescens, more commonly known as native Witch Hazel.

It's thriving in amongst a massive clump of Lantana that we hadn't managed to poison, as it was very difficult to access because of an enormous patch of Chinee Apple Trees that was in the way.  Now that the Chinee Apples have been dealt with, we will definitely get in and deal out some deadly treatment to the patch of Lantana that surrounds this native beauty.

We saw quite a few clumps of grass visible in the more open landscape,

and loads of our native fern, Cheilanthes sieberi,  popping up in rock crevices everywhere.

It's a beautiful little thing and we'd love to see this spread all over the bush paddock. 

All in all, as we headed back up to the our house, we were very, very pleased with our efforts so far. 


  1. Impressive report considering the demise of many invasive plants and the quick return of the natives. The task you set out for yourselves seemed quite daunting at first so it's good to see you have so much progress at what is still an early point in the process.

    1. The first real test will occur after this coming wet season, Shirley. We'll be holding our breath till then, around about April next year. We're hoping we will see a real result then with the demise of our two biggest invaders.

  2. Wow Bernie. You guys have done so much work. It's incredible. It will be interesting to see what species establish over the wet season. Are you going to plant any indigenous plants or just let nature do it for you?

    1. Yes Missy, you're completely right. The coming wet season will be the first real test of the work we've done so far. We're looking forward to seeing what happens, with bated breath!!! I will be planting some natives before the really heavy rains arrive, but only a few. We're hoping that Mother Nature will step up and provide more natives for us.

  3. You are doing a great job and I am so happy for you.
    The sacrifice you have made so far to revamp your property into a healthy habitat is paying off....maybe slowly.....but remember slow and steady wins the race.
    Keep up the good can already see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    1. Thanks Virginia. There are great rewards in this work, and we are pleased with the progress so far. It will be a project that will last for a few years though, so we're not expecting overnight success. We'll be happy with small steps.

  4. that is all rather wonderful and magical, to make a space and find that the seeds are there and the plants return!

    1. Yes that's exactly what we think too, Diana. We know the progress will probably happen in fits and starts, but at least there's progress. We can't wait to see the natives return in full force.

  5. well done Bernie. You and your other half have done a power of work. It is so gratifying to see the Land Management Report being used by landholders. Thank you :)

  6. There is so much excitement when we see our natives return....what great progress you have made. It does take years to get rid of the noxious plants.

  7. Thanks for the update, Bernie. I've been really interested in your progress and everything is looking good. I love the natives returning. It must feel so good to see them on your own land. That little fern is a treasure. We have a similar species here in rocky parts of Texas. I also LOVE that native witch hazel. I'm no expert on the subject, but I think you will be THRILLED at what you'll find during this next rainy season. There are thousands of dormant native seeds waiting to sprout....I'm guessing you will see a savanna of beautiful native grasses since they are the first to recolonize. The few remaining invasives will struggle to compete (the shoe is now on the other foot!) and will be choked out by lush natives. By year two you will see new native tree seedlings starting to shade out the remaining invasives along with your current trees. Be sure and tag the 'one of a kind' and rarer native trees and shrubs with a bright orange ribbon so that nobody accidentally steps on them (if you have visitors). That would be tragic! Ugh! Update us in a month or two...okay? David/:0)


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