We recently registered for the N.Q. Dry Tropics Healthy Habitat program. N.Q. Dry Tropics is a local, not-for-profit organisation, that receives federal government funding for their Healthy Habitat program. It's designed to help landowners in the outer semi-rural suburbs of our city improve habitat on their property. Essentially the program is all about restoring and protecting natural habitat, and helping to protect the bushland, creeks and rivers in the area.
Here's the 'bigger picture' view of where we live. The map above shows our city and
suburban areas on the coast, the large dam, the ranges that ring the city and the
mountain that is situated about 30 kms south of the city. Virtually the
whole of the mountain is a National Park. We live in amongst the foothills close to the northern side of the mountain.
It's a designated wetland
management area, where there is a network of little streams and big creeks that feed into the nearby sea. The area is also a
significant wildlife corridor. When looking at the 'bigger picture', I start to realise just how important our little corner is to the entire surrounding environment.
You can see from this old Google map that our place sits on a ridge top, on one of the foothills. The block slopes down to a creek, which is a seasonal 2nd order stream that feeds into a much larger local creek. There is good existing native vegetation in the whole area, but there is also a heavy weed load from invasive pest plants.
Our property consists of three sections really, and you can see them quite distinctly on the map above. The white line is our property line.
The northern third is marked by the large patch of dark green remnant vegetation that sits on part of the hillside opposite our house. You can't miss that rather large corner of native vegetation in the upper right section of the property.
The southern third contains the house and yard area, including our long, long driveway.
Then there's the relatively untouched section of bushland that sits in the middle of the property. We call this part 'the bush paddock'. It slopes down from the yard fence line to the seasonal creek at the bottom of the hillside on which our house sits. Parts of it slope gently, while other parts slope quite steeply and sharply.
Whilst our patch of bushland certainly has a large number of native species growing
on it, unfortunately it is also covered in invasive species such as
Lantana camara, Ziziphus mauritiana or Chinee Apple or Chonky
Apple, and Cryptostegia grandiflora or Rubber Vine.
We moved in here around eleven years ago and after a settling-in period of about five years, marked at the end by the final departure of both our boys for the start of their adult lives away from home, my darling hubby starting working at reducing the clumps of Lantana and stands of Chinee Apple in a section of the bush paddock close to our yard fence line. It took two years of hard intermittent weekend work to get that section clear. We didn't worry about the rest because we simply didn't ever enter that part of the property, so it didn't seem like a priority.
Well, things change. Early last year Cyclone Yasi whipped through here and in the intervening year, the weed load in the bush paddock section of our property exploded exponentially. Not only did the Lantana and Chinee Apple problem return with a vengeance, there were weeds popping up that we had never seen before. We decided to finally take the bit between our teeth and embark on a land management plan with the help of the Healthy Habitat Program.
The process began with a visit by a Field Officer who came to inspect the property a little over three weeks ago.
Lovely Jaymie arrived on a beautiful winter's morning armed with a resource kit specifically tailored for our area.
It contained a weed identification booklet, a little book showing the
native woodland birds, and another little book all about bush friendly
native plants suited to our area.
The folder was filled with information about the regional ecosystem and contained maps that showed areas of remnant vegetation all around us, as well as those areas that had been cleared when this rural suburb had been developed way back in the early 1980's.
There was also a huge section about the declared pest plants and invasive weeds common to the area.
Jaymie and I sat down and had a conversation about just what the goals for the property were, taking into consideration that both hubby and I are getting on in years now, and we would be doing most of the work ourselves. We're also constrained by available funds. The Healthy Habitat project can provide up to $2000 for a small project, but we have to match the contribution made by N.Q. Dry Tropics.
It was then time to walk the property. Now I have to admit in all the years I've lived here I've never gotten very far into the bush paddock section of our place. Occasionally I've wandered along the fire break section close to our fence line, but that's about it. Well ... it took us almost two hours to traverse the bush paddock, tramping from one side to the other and criss-crossing from the top to the bottom of the slope. Boy there are some very steep sections down there ... and some horrid pest plants.
As soon as we opened the fence and walked out into the bush paddock, we were
greeted by a large section covered by Stachytarpheta jamaicensis,
commonly known as Snakeweed here, and Porter Weed in other parts of the world.
It's an invasive plant and classed as an environmental weed in this area. It has to go.
In amongst the Snakeweed, there were quite a few clumps of Centratherum punctatum subsp punctatum, commonly known as Brazilian Button Flower. Whilst this is not a declared pest plant, it is invasive.
The other pest that's very close to our year fence line is Crotalaria zanzibarica or Rattlepod. At the moment there are huge sways of it and it's very noticeable at this time of year when it's dying down and the stalks are turning brown.
This plant is not a declared pest, but it's certainly a problem in our bush paddock. While it does has a lovely flower when it's blooming, it is very invasive and has already taken over large areas all along our yard fence line.
As we wandered further into the bushland we quickly discovered some of the declared pest plants.
As hubby and I suspected there are many, many huge thickets of Lantana camara. If you look at the photo above, and look past the huge sways of dying Rattlepod, you will see a massive thicket of Lantana. That particular thicket is around two-and-a-half metres to three metres in height, and stretches over ten metres on the ground. It was only one of dozens like it.
Yes Lantana camara has lovely flowers. The thickets have both the pretty pink flowers, and the lovely orange ones as well. But this is a Class 3 declared pest plant ... a weed of national significance ... and we are required to remove it. Not as easy as it sounds, I can tell you. This is one tough mama!!!
Another tough mama that was everywhere out there is Ziziphus mauritiana
or Chinee Apple Tree. Boy, I can not tell you how many times I was
impaled by the thorny branches of this Class 2 declared pest plant
whilst walking the bush paddock. It's a nasty piece of work.
This tree is deciduous during our dry season, and most stands were bare sticks and sometimes hard to spot ... hence the number of times I walked past not realising exactly what it was!!! I did manage to find this particular Chinee Apple Tree, shown in the above photos, which hadn't lost its leaves just yet ... and you can see the horrid nasty thorns all along its branches.
Well the trek through the bush paddock was exhausting and painful, and yet I actually quite enjoyed the venture. I certainly learned a
hell of a lot about the plants and the terrain. Jaymie was a fountain
of knowledge and absolutely fearless when it came to getting into the
wild and woolly parts of the bushland. Thank goodness we attempted it
mid-'dry' season. There were parts that were almost impenetrable. It would have been absolutely impossible to walk the whole paddock after a 'wet' season.
At the end of the property visit and inspection, Field Officer Jaymie left with a lot of notes and heaps of photos that she had taken to help identify invasive plants and declared pests. She informed me that she would be returning to her office and compiling a Land Management Plan which would be sent out about two weeks after the visit. I'll leave that for Chapter Two! The pest and weed control plan that we will be coming up with in the near future will be a work-in-progress for well over a year. I will be documenting this adventure with blog posts along the way.
For now though, I'll end off by adding some photos taken from various spots out in the bushland.
Going down the slope looking back to the house ...
Still going down. We're about halfway down the bush paddock now, looking back to our house. The hillside slopes quite steeply in this particular spot.
Now the view off to the right. Yes we trekked through all that for quite some way. Can you tell friend from foe in these shots? Well I'm slowly learning.