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.
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.
Sound like you've taken on a big, but very worthwhile job.ReplyDelete
Missy, it's definitely going to be a big job but knowing that we're making a change for the better will keep us going.Delete
Wow, what a tour you have given us. This was a fascinating post. And the google aerial shots are wonderful for orienting and getting an idea of your place. I wish you success in this project --- it is so important and it certainly seems daunting. Gardening is one thing, but land management is an entirely different discipline --- good luck!!ReplyDelete
Laurrie, it's going to be a huge endeavour and I think we'll need all the encouragement we can get!!! Still, we're hoping at the end of it all we will have do our bit to really improve the habitat on our property.Delete
Dear Bernie ~ What a neat experience you took us on, and what a job it is going to be for you and your husband to work on. I look forward to reading all about the adventures with this project.ReplyDelete
Hugs ~ FlowerLady
Flowerlady, I will be documenting it all here on my blog, and hopefully in a year or so we'll all see improvements. Here's hoping!Delete
What an absolutely fascinating, and informative, post.ReplyDelete
Whilst I applaud what you intend doing I really don't envy you. I certainly look forward to future posts about this, and seeing how you're progressing. Take care, Flighty xx
Thanks Flighty. I'm glad you enjoyed the read. We are both approaching this endeavour with trepidation and anticipation. It will be hard work but we're looking forward to the difference we will see in the bush paddock.Delete
This is a very lovely post Bernie. You have a very wide property, and it's really good that someone and the government is helping you on this. If only our country has projects like that, i will be doing something like what you are doing. But if I am in your case, i will be converting that area to mostly fruit trees or with mangoes and coconuts. I am so sad with the fate of your Lantana and Stachytarpheta, because they are both loved by butterflies. It is invasive too here, but they are not as scary as the Mimosa which is more difficult to eradicate.ReplyDelete
Andrea it is an excellent idea in helping landowners improve the habitat on their property. I know without the prompting and assistance from the Healthy Habitat Program, we would not have done much. As for Mimosa, it's a huge problem here in the tropical north too, but thankfully none of it was found on our property.Delete
You have set a big task for yourselves and I look forward to following your progress. The maps and photos help so much to see just how important your work is to helping restore natural balance.ReplyDelete
Shirley, there will be small steps! We won't be able to rush head first in and get this done in super quick time. We're simply not up to that level of commitment, but with little steps I think we'll get there.Delete
want to whish you a lot of encouragement and good luck with this job !!!ReplyDelete
You're very kind, thanks Gwennie. We're going to need it.Delete
What a fantastic initiative and what a huge task ahead of you. I really enjoyed the aerial views and look forward to the updates.ReplyDelete
Yes Garden Girl, you're spot on there! It will be a huge task. We'll see how we go, and hopefully the updates will show some worthwhile changes.Delete
Our little patch of bushland which surrounds the estate is slowly being devoured by exotic plants non native plants and Lantana is a real weed it just spreads and takes over although people do like to grow it in their gardens for it's pretty flowers. We have a volunteer group that cleans up the area and replaces native plants but sometimes people go down there and steal the new plantings which is dispicable.ReplyDelete
Karen, how wonderful that there's a volunteer group that helps clean up the patch of bushland. I would imagine that really makes a difference, although I can imagine how discouraged they might get if others come in and steal the new plantings. That's just a disgrace.Delete
We need more people like you, Bernie! Best of wishes as your project grows. Though my 'land' is small, I have the same challenges in mind all the time.ReplyDelete
Thanks for your well wishes, David.Delete
Wow Bernie, I admire you for taking on this daunting task! I wish you the best with it and look forward to following your progress.ReplyDelete
Thanking you for your words of encouragement, Jayne.Delete
Sounds like you have a wonderful goal for your property, Bernie. We have the same dirty dozen list here in Texas, but it's a different set of plants. I hate to admit this, but the Lantana is from Texas and a native here. I'm sure they'll tell you what to do about it, but to me, the first step would be to trim all the berries off and put them in a bag. Birds LOVE the berries and that's how they spread here in Texas. Not sure about Australia, but it makes sense.ReplyDelete
You are a brave soul to take on trees with thorns! Maybe you could rent a flame thrower! (Just joking...you don't want the whole place to go up in flames)
Our worst culprit is the Tallow Tree from Shanghai, China. None of our native insects will bother to eat it due to the waxy coating on the leaves and the toxins inside. Our own hero of early America, Benjamin Franklin, introduced it to our country in 1772. But there the story gets muddy. It seems that the invasive type of Tallow we have here in Texas is a different type and nobody knows where it came from!
Keep us posted on your adventures with invasives! And keep safe near those steep areas!
David, at the moment we're keen as mustard to get started, but I know it's going to be a long journey. It's just unfortunate how the introduced species are thriving and displacing the lovely natives.Delete
As for removing the berries of the Lantana, the thickets are just too enormous and it would take a long, long time to do that. It's funny you should have mentioned flame throwers because, while we won't be using those, we will be burning off. So there will be flames!!! It will be the first stage of the project.
Will you clear the weeds with sweat equity? Or must you use herbicide for the real nasties? It sounds a wonderfully ambitious and intensely satisfying project!ReplyDelete
Diana, while there will be a heap of sweat equity, we will be using some herbicide. It's regrettable but unfortunately so necessary. It is actually a recommendation of the Healthy Habitat people. There will of course be some studied and deep thought about just how much will be needed and when to use it.Delete
We battle your Port Jackson wattle. Working for Water cut down the trees then paint the stumps blue with herbicide, to prevent coppicing.Delete
We'll be doing something similar with both the Lantana and the Chinee Apple. This job has to be started very soon, well before our wet season arrives. We'll see how far we get.Delete
Oh my goodness me you have some very hard work ahead of you. I think the Healthy Habitat program is an absolutely brilliant idea. I am looking forward to reading about your progress. You were very brave to tackle the bush paddock I can imagine what beasties live out there!ReplyDelete
Sueb, just call me Super Bush Bernie. We're not daunted by the task ... as yet!!! We are though fully aware that it's going to be a lot of hard work. Yes there are some beasties our there. Thank goodness we didn't come across any on the day we tramped from one side to the other!!Delete
Thanks so much for stopping to visit me. I very much enjoyed reading about your area and your new project. It will be quite an endeavor, but well worth it in the end. You have some beautiful natural plantings.
Thanks for visiting Donna. Yes it's going to be a mammoth task, but as you so rightly said, well worth it in the end.Delete
Bernie - I'm with Andrea. It's a shame you have to eradicate the lantana as its a food plant for the butterflies and may even be a host plant. Andrea's fruit tree plan sounds terrific. Did you encounter any snakes as your toured the bush?ReplyDelete
Southernruralroute, the Lantana just isn't suited to our corner of the globe as it's such a horrible thug. There are other lovely plants that the butterflies can enjoy though. Part of the plan is to plant a lot more of the natives that will attract even more butterflies, insects and birds.Delete
No thank goodness we didn't encounter any snakes on the day we toured the bush. It was surprisingly quiet out there that day.
Wow Bernie, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post...very informative and interesting.ReplyDelete
Remember that Rome was not built in a day, so bite off only what you can chew, and work on small areas at a time. After a while you will realise that the job is done, and it did not feel so tedious.
I'm wishing you the best of luck in this project...we are all rooting for your success.
Virginia, thanks for your well wishes. We'll be toiling at this project for quite some time to come, but we're hoping that we will start to see some good results by this time next year. Fingers crossed and toes to the grindstone!Delete
A great post Bernie! What a fabulous program, and wonderful resources, to have available locally. On our own we've been striving to eliminate invasive weeds from the property, but the first hurdle was learning to recognize them, and then figuring out just how much of a problem they were. I wish we'd had such a resource available here. It's an ongoing process, as I know it will be for you. Just as you think you pulled that last of one nasty plant, the birds, and mammals, succeed in bringing in a few extra rogue seeds to sprout again. The next time they show up though, you're ready for them!ReplyDelete
Curbstone, your posts were part of the inspiration to finally get started on this project. I know what an immense amount of effort you've put into clearing your property with fabulous results. I do know that it will be an on-going thing, because of the tenacity of the particular noxious pest plants that are growing out there, but hopefully we will put a bit of a halt to their flourishing state very soon.Delete
Bernie you and hubby are to be congratulated to take on the task you have . A very educational tour and I wish you both the best of luck with that huge projectReplyDelete
Thanks Pitta. Hopefully we'll start to see some more of the lovely natives by the end of next year. We're also planning on planting more of them in our own yard as well. That's down the track a little though.Delete
what a terrific program Bernie. It's a big challenge but it will be wonderful to have the support of the organization and Jaymie. You will learn a lot and we also learn stuff through your posts. I look forward to future posts seeing how this project evolves.ReplyDelete
Catmint, you're so right. It's going to be a big learning experience for us both, but I am really looking forward to it. I've already learned a lot just from the initial visit!Delete
What an interesting post. So interesting to see your property's relationship to the surrounding terrain. You are to be commended on your endeavor in trying to eradicate the non-native pest plants. That is quite some undertaking on a property as large as yours looks to be. Too bad the lantana is such a thug. I get it as an annual that can be overwintered in the garage. Elsewhere, like Los Angeles, I have seen them get to be huge shrubs. Here, some of our biggies are Japanese knotweed Polygonum cuspidatum), PUrple loosestrife (LYthrum salicaria) and tansy regwort (senacio jacobaea). Which are either mandatory kills or highly recommended, since they become so invasive. The much loved butterfly bush (budlija davdii) can no longer be sold, although I have seen sterile ones for sale. Then there are my personal thugs, that are the bane of my existence in the garden, I certainly applaud your commitment to getting rid of the thugs. Keep us posted on your progress.
Yael from Home Garden Diggers
Yael, it took our interest in joining the Healthy Habitat program before I really looked at our little spot in the environment here. Taking a closer look really opened my eyes. Even our little effort will help improve things in the environment here because our property includes an important little creek.Delete
I've heard of the Purple Loosestrife and the Japanese Knotweed, but I had no idea that the Buddlija was becoming such a problem as well. I've got personal thugs here too. I've been battling with the Periwinkle, Catharanthus roseus, ever since we moved in here. They're a mighty foe!!!
Fascinating post! I enjoyed seeing your property from the aerial perspective. I will be interested to see how you mange the invasive weeds! Our property is much smaller than yours, but it seems an impossible task to rid it of invasive English ivy, kudzu, and bamboo. I can't just spray everything with agent orange. Kudos to you for joining the Healthy habitat program and good luck!
Debsgarden, I'll be documenting the stages along the way. Agent orange might be something that will cross our minds after we've done battle in the coming months, and there's no real progress. It's going to be an on-going project for many years to come, but this first year will hopefully be the hardest part of it all.Delete
What a great service. When I walk through our property, I don't always know what is an invasive and what is native. I need to find someone to help me with that. Thanks for the tour of your property. Enjoy this new gardening adventure.ReplyDelete