Category Archives: Flora

WE’RE CELEBRATING 10 YEARS OF BLUE MOUNTAINS SWAMPCARE!

North Hazelbrook Swamp July 2009 photo Lyndal Sullivan

Swampcare is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year!  From the first on ground workday at Kittyhawke Swamp in North Wentworth Falls in March 2007 Swampcare has grown into an annual program of events in the Blue Mountains run by Council’s Bushcare. Swampcare provides opportunities for volunteers to learn about swamps and the special requirements of undertaking bush regeneration in these sensitive places as well as making hands on contributions to protecting them.

Many workshops have been held over the years to add to the knowledge of volunteers covering swamp ecology, vegetation, threatened species and  techniques to rehydrate swamps. A Swamp Symposium will be held on Wednesday 21st June  to celebrate and continue developing community knowledge, thanks to people such as Dr  Ian Baird, who has very generously given his time and shared his knowledge by regularly presenting workshops.

Over the 10 years more than 2000 volunteer hours have been contributed in on site works.  Many thanks must also go to Hominy Bakery in Katoomba who have been donating delicious lunches and morning teas for volunteers at every event since 2007. A much appreciated incentive to keep coming back!

March 2007 Kittyhawke volunteers at the first Swampcare event learning the ropes. Photo by Michael Hensen

Sites currently worked by volunteers in the Swampcare events program are:

  • Rocklea St Swamp, North Hazelbrook;
  • West Kitty Hawke Swamp, Wentworth Falls;
  • Clydebank Swamp North Leura;
  • Valley View Swamp, Blackheath.

In addition to the Swampcare events program, there are 15 other Bushcare or Landcare groups which also work in swamps and/or their buffers at some stage during each year.

There are 2253 hectares of swamp mapped in the Blue Mountains with 929 of those outside the National Park.  Swamps within the urban area are recognised as being the most vulnerable to degradation,  a concern which is being addressed by this program.

According to recent recorded history, scientific and management interest began in swamps in 1974 with the PhD by WN Holland entitled ‘Origin and Development of Hanging Valleys in the Blue Mountains, NSW’; which showed the significance of the geomorphology on formation and maintenance of hanging swamps.

In 1988, ecologists DA Keith & D H Benson described and mapped ‘Blue Mountains Sedge Swamps’ and other upland swamps, as part of a larger study. In 1991 the Blue Mountains City Council recognised swamps as an ‘environmentally sensitive vegetation community’ in  Local Environment Plan 1991 (LEP 91).

After witnessing a number of destructive developments occurring within and around swamps, in 1999 community members, under the banner of the Blue Mountains Conservation Society, began working to gain legal protection for swamps.

In September 2007, after 8 years of hard work, Blue Mountains Swamps were listed as a Vulnerable Ecological Community under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act (TSC Act). In order to achieve this, 3 other significant achievements were made:

  • The listing of Temperate Highland Peat Swamps on Sandstone as an Endangered Ecological Community under the Commonwealth EPBC Act in 2005 (which included Blue Mountains Swamps), and
  • An amendment to the NSW TSC Act to make provision for Vulnerable Ecological Communities (2002),
  • An increase in community awareness and support for swamps.

For a more detailed history and swamp images see http://bluemountains.org.au/swamps.shtml

Since the listing in 2005, Blue Mountains City Council has obtained over a million dollars in grants from state and federal agencies to protect the swamps. BMCC’s ongoing Save our Swamps program is currently partnered with Central Tablelands Local Land Services to deliver a 10 year $750,000 “Swamped by Threats” grant. This aims to continue protecting the swamps of the Blue Mountains and Newnes Plateau with a focus on swamps that are known habitat for the endangered Blue Mountains Water Skink and the Giant Dragonfly.

Swampcare is a vital component of the concerted effort by BMCC and the Blue Mountains community to protect its valuable swamp systems. Our swamps continue to need all this community support  – hands on swamp restoration work, watching  and reporting illegal activity, writing submissions on potentially damaging developments, and campaigning to strengthen legal protections and ‘buy back’ swamps.

New members are always welcome to join the Swampcare program, just contact the Bushcare office on 4780 5623!

April 2007: Hard at it in Kittyhawke Swamp, Wentworth Falls. Photo by Michael Hensen

SWAMPCARE FIELD DAY

Swamp School photo by Paul Vale

A Blue Mountains Swamp near the airfield at Medlow Bath — in its flowering glory — attracted an  enthusiastic group of Swampcare volunteers to a field day in January 2017. The field day was part of a 10 year project to protect swamps, called “Swamped By Threats” whose partners include Central West Local Land Services, Blue Mountains City Council and National Parks and Wildlife Service.

The volunteers enjoyed a morning packed with information and good food topped off by a sighting of Blue Mountains Water Skinks – a well deserved reward for all their work during 2016! Unfortunately, the hoped for Giant Dragonfly did not make an appearance … this was not a good year for their emergence.

Two eminent swamp experts were on hand to generously share  their knowledge deepen our understanding of swamp plants and animals and their dependence on groundwater. Doug Benson is a highly respected plant ecologist and Honorary Research Associate with the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney. He has studied swamps of the Blue Mountains and Newnes Plateau for more than 40 years, satisfying his curiosity about how and when they developed. Ian Baird drew on more than 13 years of research on the threatened Giant Dragonfly and swamps generally, to share his extensive knowledge of the fauna that dwell in them.

Our current swamps formed up to 15,000 years ago as the land warmed up and became wetter after the last Ice Age.   How the unique swamp plants formed and where they were during these cold and dry periods are particular questions of interest.

Flowering shrubs such as the rare Acacia ptychoclada and Grevillea acanthifolia were admired along with sedges such as Empodisma minus and Xyris ustulata. Two of the shrubs present in swamps, Banksia ericifolia and Hakea teretifolia, are killed by fire because they do not resprout from a lignotuber and do not store seed in the soil. Individual plants can take up to 8-10 years to flower and fruit and even more years are needed between fires to establish a seed bank to ensure the continuation of viable populations of this species in this location.

Plants adapted to sandstone areas only drop seeds close to the parent plant, which is in contrast with northern hemisphere plants where seed moves much greater distances due to reliance on wind dispersal. The presence of Mallee eucalypts in swamps may be understood in terms of opportunities to thrive without the competition of larger trees. Adapted to wetter conditions and fire, some of these Mallees have lignotubers at least 50-100 years old.

Using a 1.8m steel soil probe, Ian demonstrated the significant differences in the depth of soft peaty soil over the swamp and the patches of drier sandy loam. These soil differences are reflected in the plants, and determine where Giant Dragonflies can reproduce.

Ian identified patches suitable as breeding habitat and those which were not, and discussed the importance of damp or saturated peaty soil with a high water table for egg-laying and larval establishment.  It is believed that they then spend at least 6 years in their larval burrow. The deepest larval burrow Ian has found, also the deepest recorded, was 75cm.

A very young Blue Mountains Water Skink, plus two adults were sighted. One adult water skink sat still on top of the grass watching the group for some time. Genetic studies indicate that this species has been in swamps in the Blue Mountains for at least 2 million years, but where were they during the ice ages which have occurred over that time? They are currently solely dependant on peat swamps in the mid-to upper Blue Mountains for their survival.

Blue Mountains Water Skink

Ian gave some insights into the range of less appreciated fauna found in swamps which also need groundwater for survival, from the small invertebrates and skinks which may survive fire under patches of wet litter, to the Common Eastern Froglets, burrowing crayfish and swamp rats. Blue Mountains Water Skinks can sometimes use these burrows, and those of Giant Dragonflies, for protection from fire and predators. Crayfish burrows are found in areas with groundwater seepage or a high water table which they can access in their burrows. Swamp rat tunnels may also be abundant; one of which was inspected (these are more horizontal).

Both Doug and Ian explained how Blue Mountains Swamps are important for holding and filtering water. The conservation of swamps is a key concern of those present and an interesting debate on fire, sedimentation and climate change followed. The predicted hotter, drier conditions and more frequent fires will threaten the swamps’ survival.

This event was organised by Blue Mountains City Council Bushcare and assisted by the New South Wales Government Environmental Trust Fund, NSW Local Land Services and NPWS

Swampcare in Wentworth Falls

Kittyhawke Swamp

Kittyhawke Swamp, North Wentworth Falls. Photo by Peter Ardill

Wednesday  29th March  9am – 3pm     Join the long term efforts of volunteers to free this large swamp system of a huge variety of weeds and restore the habitat of the Giant Dragon Fly and the Blue Mountains Water Skink.  A joint NPWS/ BMCC activity.  Lunch and morning tea donated by the Hominy Bakery. Book with Lyndal on (02) 4780 5623 or lsullivan@bmcc.nsw.gov.au by Tuesday 21st March.

  

Cumberland Plain Landcare Support kicks off!

The Cumberland Plain Landcare (and Bushcare) Support Program is kicking off early this year with monthly events designed to bring in volunteers, informal training and a small amount of emergency funding to help western Sydney Landcare and Bushcare groups in need.

The Program is kicking off on the Cumberland Land Conservancy’s “Wallaroo”, on Saturday Feb 11th in Mulgoa. Volunteers will be camping out on this beautiful property with dinner, bush poetry and star gazing. An informal talk about the fauna of western Sydney is also planned for the Wallaroo event.

Other events across western Sydney will be equally entertaining and at unique Cumberland Plain Woodland sites, or other threatened Ecological Communities, including rivers, wetlands and rainforests.
All events will have informal talks about aspects of western Sydney’s bushland and will be catered for.

Volunteers from outside of western Sydney are encouraged to come along and help out. Bush regeneration experience would be great, but not essential as training will be provided. More info? Contact…

Xuela Sledge, Local Landcare Coordinator, Greater Sydney Landcare Network
E: xuela.sledge@greatersydneylandcare.org
Ph: 4724 2146

 

Bushcare Boosters Training for Bushcare & Landcare volunteers

Geoff presents the birds and the bees

This year BMCC sponsored 2 one-day workshops for Bushcare. Bushcare Boosters is a three-part course which was designed by the Sydney Metro CMA, Volunteers Co-ordinators Network in conjunction with the Australian Association of Bush Regenerators and several local councils.

We’re aiming to ensure that our community conservation program volunteers are up to date with the current best practices in Bushcare and the opportunity to develop the highest standards possible—the ones we are used to!

To that end, we decided to hire an expert trainer, Geoff Bakewell, who is very experienced in Bushcare and is certified to teach the Bushcare Boosters program, a combination of classroom and field based learning. Geoff has worked as a Bushcare Officer and has delivered Bushcare Boosters to Bushcare volunteers for both local and state government.

So far, we have covered two of the three modules. Module 1, “Bushcare and the Big Picture” looked at the history of Bushcare, the values, problems, plants and animals present on Bushcare sites and the development of site strategies. It was held at South Lawson Park, a good example of a site with many values and complex issues to keep its Bushcare volunteers busy.

Module 2, “The Birds and the Bees of Bushcare” was at another long-term Bushcare site: Jackson Park, Faulconbridge. We spent half a day discussing habitat— how to assess it, find evidence of fauna occupying it, how to look after it.

The third module will cover weed control technique and safe work practices. It is yet to be scheduled, but we will run it as soon as we can—so stay tuned for more information or contact Monica at the Bushcare Office on 4780 5528 or mnugent@bmcc.nsw.gov.au

Bushcare Boosters in Jackson Park

Bringing Back the Birds in Blackheath

A misty and cold Saturday morning was brightened and warmed by local families at Popes Glen in Blackheath recently. It was an informal idea amongst friends about getting together to spend some time, while getting their kids together and giving them something great to do. Then everyone has a nice bit of morning tea and a chat while the kids run off some more of that energy!

Little people making a Big difference!

Little people making a Big difference!

And what better thing to do in the outdoors than pop down and meet a local Bushcare group?

Well, that is just what a group of friends in Blackheath did. A wonderful little army of youngsters and their equally wonderful families came down to help the Popes Glen volunteers plant out their third Small Bird Habitats.

These habitats are small, strategically placed areas which are then densely re-vegetated with a mixture of native shrubs and ground cover plants. As they grow and develop these plants will form very dense thickets, perfect for providing shelter, protection and food for many species of small native birds which are known to live in Popes Glen.

Surveys have shown us that these small birds are using several large piles of timber debris left on the site after the treatment and felling of several large Willow trees. This fantastic fact demonstrates the ability of a recovering Bushcare site to provide new habitat and resources for native creatures, where in the past those creatures have only seen their habitat diminish.

With the news that the small birds are moving in to Popes Glen for the new habitat came a potential problem. While these debris piles provide the perfect opportunity for small birds to move in, they are not going to last forever. The wood is steadily breaking down into humus. Not so good for birds, but perfect for plants.

And there was the answer to the problem. The Popes Glen volunteers decided to take advantage of the rich soil by planting shrubs which will grow to replace the structure of the piles as they break down. Then the birds which are depending on their pile of logs for their home can watch their new home grow around them, before their old houses fall down!

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What a nice way to spend a misty Spring morning!

By morning tea time, Popes Glen had one hundred and forty new plants. They were all guarded, watered and ready to grow into a palace for small birds! There was a wonderful atmosphere of smiling and fun. Everybody had a contribution no matter how big or small! What a wonderful day at Bushcare!

Where would we be without BUBBLES!

Where would we be without BUBBLES!

 

Decades of Healing e-version now available!

Popes Glen Bushcare

Alan Lane explains the native regeneration at Popes Glen to BMCC Councillors

Alan Lane of Popes Glen Bushcare is pleased to tell you that the report on the long-term wetlands remediation project at Popes Glen, Blackheath is now available on the Popes Glen Bushcare Group’s web site.

Look for the Book Funnel link on http://popesglen.bushcarebluemountains.org.au/publications

It is also available direct from Book Funnel:  http://dl.bookfunnel.com/i3nt7ey9v9

You’ll see that you have three options depending on how you want to read the book: mobi for your Kindle, epub for your i-pad, smart phone, etc., or pdf if you prefer to read it on your computer.

Alan would love to have your feedback – on the content, writing, structure or ways we might make it more useful when we revise it at the end of the grant.

Bushcare Boosters Training

The first of the three Bushcare Boosters training sessions was at South Lawson Bushcare Site.  Twelve people attended and it was a mix of presentation inside and a site visit.

The idea of these workshops is to give a big picture of planning and assessing your sites. The next workshop will be held at on Sunday the 5th of June and we will be looking at Fauna considerations on your site. Stay tuned to the events page to find out more.

The key take home from this session is;

  •  Everyone who is at Bushcare every month has something to contribute to the planning sessions and work plans for your Bushcare Group.  Every group has a work plan ask your Bushcare Officer to talk you through yours.
  • Information from out of area on weeds is vital as it can indicate how much attention we should be paying to emerging weeds. This site was Turkey Rhubarb http://weedsbluemountains.org.au/weeds/turkey-rhubarb and Arum Lily http://weedsbluemountains.org.au/weeds/arum-lily-2/
  • having a look around to see issues past the boundaries of your site is vital when planning for your work plan.
  •  The South Lawson Bushcare group has done some tremendous work to safeguarding the swamp and bushland areas.
On site with Geoff and some of the group looking at some fauna evidence at South Lawson Bushcare site

On site with Geoff and some of the group looking at some fauna evidence at South Lawson Bushcare site

Native Hydrangea (Abrophyllum ornans):  Mistaken for a Weed?

by Ian Baird Friends of Katoomba Falls Creek Valley Bushcare Group & Remote Bushcare

Over a number of years, I have walked the Victory Track along Saffasfras Creek from Faulconbridge to Springwood, exploring various tributaries and their associated gallery rainforests. On one occasion I was surprised to find, growing next to the track in the rainforest, a sparsely branched, medium-sized shrub with very large leaves, and observed that it looked a bit like a hydrangea. However, I had a feeling it was the native hydrangea and that I had seen a photo of it in Fairley and Moore (2000). I looked it up later, and confirmed that it was the native hydrangea, Abrophyllum ornans, a member of the Roussaceae family (F.Muell.) Hook.f. ex Benth. More recently, on two occasions, I have found individual plants near the track in the rainforest in different locations.

Native Hydrangea cf Lyndal Sullivan

Native Hydrangea photo courtesy of Lyndal Sullivan

The most recent sighting was of a plant (photographed) regrowing from the base after having been sawn off near ground level by someone. It occurred to me that this may have been a case of a well-intentioned, but misguided attempt at weed control by a bush regenerator or bushcarer, as the plant does stand out as something unusual. This is thus a salutary warning that the native flora contains many plants that do not necessarily fit the mould, in terms of many people’s perceptions of what ‘typical’ native plants look like, and the need for bushcarers to exercise caution. If in doubt, when deciding whether a plant is a weed. It is best to ask someone with appropriate ID skills before taking action.

The native hydrangea is the only species in the genus (monotypic). The species has previously been included within the Saxifragaceae, and more recently, the Escalloniaceae (with possumwood, Quintinia sieberi). Shrubs or small trees to 8 m high. Flowering October–December. Its habitat is warm-temperate and subtropical rainforest, especially along smaller watercourses or in gullies on poorer soils. The natural range of distribution is from the Illawarra of NSW (north of the Shoalhaven River) to the McIlwraith Range in far north eastern Australia. NSW subdivisions: NC, CC, SC.  For the plant description see Plantnet:  http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Abrophyllum~ornans

There are a small number of records for the lower-to mid-Blue Mountains, including one previous record from Sassafras Creek, Springwood by L.A.S. Johnstone in 1977. For Australian Virtual Herbarium map of records, where individual records can be examined, see: http://avh.ala.org.au/occurrences/search?taxa=Abrophyllum+ornans#tab_mapView

Weeds Blitzed at Kingsford Smith Park

Gang Gang St before

Gang Gang St before

On Saturday 27 February members of bushcare groups in the Leura Falls Creek Catchment and the Leura Falls Creek Catchment Working Group, came together for a weeding morning at Kingsford Smith Park. Since 2007 the group’s yearly get-together has taken place at the iconic Leura Cascades. This year, in order to tackle the source weeds in the upper part of the catchment, the groups decided to focus on Kingsford Smith Park.

The park has both historical and horticultural values and is significant to the Leura Falls Creek Catchment. It contains many noxious and environmental weeds. They are a problem not just as a source of propagating material – water, wind and bird borne  – but also because weeds are a major component of the vegetation that block views into the Park. A number of formed drains enter into the Park and ground water seeps in. The groundwater has a high impact on the creek and catchment because it picks up water from the Great Western Highway, the rail corridor and Katoomba township. A creekline forms within the park, and drains through private property before entering the Vale Street wetlands and joining Leura Creek. Leura Creek flows through Leura Park and into the Leura Cascades and the National Park. There is a significant stand of Mountain Ash – Eucalyptus oreades – within the park. This stand occurs in the triangle of land between William, Gang Gang and Lovell Streets.

The work on the day focused on removing the privet hedge along Gang Gang St, weeding in the ‘oreades  patch’, removing ivy from Tree Ferns, removing trad and spot weeding for noxious and environmental weeds. Team privet could probably get a Guinness Book of Records achievement for their work along Gang Gang St– the most privet removed in the shortest period of time!!

The get-together also provided an opportunity for a strong working relationship between Blue Mountains City Council’s Urban Weeds, Bushcare and Parks teams and the community bushcare groups. For all your work in the Park, many thanks go to David Whiteman and team, David Pinchers and Mark Vickers and team. To Karen Hising, Tracey Williams and Erin Hall, many thanks for the organisation of and support on the day and many thanks to the 17 bushcare volunteers for your amazing weed blitzing work. We all agreed that it was inspiring to start making a difference in this part of our precious catchment.

If you would like to find out more about Leura Falls Creek Catchment and the work that we are doing please contact Jenny Hill at jhill9228@gmail.com

"Team Privet" after a job well done

“Team Privet” after a job well done