Author Archives: Bushcare Office

Else-Mitchell Park tree planting morning

Article by Karen Hising

More than a year ago, a friendly neighbour to the Else-Mitchell Park Bushcare site kindly offered the Bushcare Group some Eucayptus deanei seedlings to raise and plant into the Reserve.  The seedlings had appeared in a large pot from a very large and beautiful Eucalyptus deanei tree in the neighbour’s front garden – a remnant tree from the original forest of the area.  Mike Purtell, co-ordinator and founding member of the Else-Mitchell Park Bushcare Group, agreed to raise the seedlings to a larger size for future planting. 

Meeting the neighbour some time later, I suggested he join us in planting the juvenile trees back into the Reserve, which he thought was a great idea!  But then I thought, having a number of plants available, why not invite all the surrounding neighbours. 

So, the Bushcare Group and six neighbouring families had a very enjoyable morning planting trees in various parts of the site – each family planting a tree each.  We then had a special morning tea and chat. 

So the Reserve now has more trees and the local neighbours and the Bushcare Group members had a chance to catch up!  With another neighbour, Mike is now trying to organise an interview with the neighbour who provided the seedlings to record the memories of living in the local area for historic reference, with particular regard to ongoing changes at Else-Mitchell Park.

Else-Mitchell Park tree planting morning Photo credit: John Papanidis

Atlas of Living Australia & iNaturalist Australia – are now live and linked.

Common Sea Dragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus). Image by johnturnbull uploaded to iNaturalist Australia’s Australiasian Fishes project (CC-BY-NC-SA)

Dear Atlas of Living Australia community. iNaturalist Australia is now live as of October 2019. The collaboration with iNaturalist is a good fit for the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) ensuring significant improvements to data quality and user experience.  iNaturalist Australia, the Australian node of iNaturalist, is the world’s leading global social biodiversity network.

Collaborating with iNaturalist is a wonderful opportunity for us and our users. It provides an easy-to-use desktop and mobile platform, support for species identification, and tools for assessing data quality. All iNaturalist Australia data is regularly fed into the ALA and you can link your ALA and iNaturalist accounts to see all your records in one place.

Human observation data is a valuable part of the ALA. It helps to create a more detailed picture of our national biodiversity, and assists scientists and decision makers to deliver better outcomes for the environment and our species. iNaturalist Australia’s species identification features and data quality measures will ensure your plant, animal or fungi sightings are more valuable than ever.

We now encourage you to use iNaturalist Australia to record your individual plant, animal and fungi sightings. You can still upload sightings using our Record a Sighting function, but we will be phasing it out. Read more…..

Council Officer wins NSW Environmental Educator of the Year awards

A Blue Mountains City Council officer has won both the NSW Environmental Educator of the Year award, as well as the AAEE (NSW) Government Education Award for outstanding contribution to Environmental Education in NSW.

Jenny Hill, one of Council’s Environmental Education & Engagement Officers, was recognised by the peak professional body for environmental educators – the NSW Australian Association for Environmental Education (AAEE) – at an awards ceremony on 4 October.

Photo: Jenny Hill, pictured with Sue Martin, Chair of the Australian Association for Environmental Education (NSW), and Patron of AAEE (NSW) Costa Georgiadis.

Ms. Hill is a member of Council’s Healthy Waterways team who run Connecting with Nature; a hands-on environmental learning program, developed by Council and run in partnership with local schools and Early Years Learning Centres. She was nominated by fellow team members Emma Kennedy and Alice Blackwood.

Ms. Hill said the win was a great surprise, having only discovered she had been nominated two days prior to winning the award. In her acceptance speech she acknowledged that this work was only made possible through fantastic team work. She thanked, ” _ _ the strong connections we have made and continue to grow within our Connect with Nature team, across Council, with community and of course our schools, pre-schools, teachers, parents and most importantly the children and young people who teach us just as much, or even more, than we teach them.” 

Connecting with Nature offers young people the opportunity to explore their local water catchment, learn why it’s special and take action to protect it through the Connecting Kids, Creeks and Catchments program.

In the last five years, Connect with Nature educators have worked with Council teams, the Stronger Families Alliance, the Blue Mountains Youth Council, community groups, over 25 schools, more than 3,500 students and an increasing number of pre-schools across the mountains connecting children, young people and adults to Place.

Connect with Nature is popular with both teachers and students. One teacher noted: “The Connecting Kids to Creeks program was absolute gold for me as a teacher, as well as my class and the whole school.” A student who attended a session with Ms. Hill said, “The only thing I wanted to make it a better day was more time. More time walking, more time in the cave, more time looking at the water, more time with bugs…. …. Could we camp there?”

Feedback from parents and carers has been similarly glowing, with one sharing, “My son is going to take us on a walk down the Charles Darwin Walk. I can’t believe that we have not done it yet as a family. We have lived here for years! He won’t stop talking about how wonderful it is. And now he wants to work for the Council doing walks and talks about water creatures and weeds!”

Mayor Cr Mark Greenhill said: “On behalf of all Councillors I congratulate Jenny on her awards and her commitment to excellence in environmental education. I thank all the Healthy Waterways Team for an exceptional program that provides children with meaningful engagement with our unique waterways. Connecting with Nature fosters a love of the Blue Mountains environment within its future custodians, and that helps secure its future.”

AAEE aims to achieve a more sustainable future and positive environmental outcomes through education, engagement and capacity building. AAEE rewards its members for their significant efforts in the areas of environmental education and education for sustainability through their national environmental awards, including the annual Recognition Award for Outstanding Contribution to Environmental Education in NSW (the overall state Environmental Educator of the Year award). Ms. Hill will now go on to be nominated for the national AAEE Australian Awards.

Another achievement for Jenny Hill – one of our previous Bushcare Legends. Good luck for the national AAEE Australian Awards!!

Council endorses Water and Weed Strategic plans.

Great news!!!! At the 24 September meeting, Council adopted the Water Sensitive Blue Mountains Strategic Plan and the Weed Management Strategic Plan 2019.

The Water Sensitive Blue Mountains Strategic Plan was drafted in collaboration with WaterNSW and the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities, and updated in response to community feedback. It sets out the best-practice approaches and design principles Council will follow to manage our city’s waterways and water resources, focusing on water efficiency, water harvesting and reuse, stormwater management and community education.

The Weed Management Strategic Plan 2019 replaces our 2010 plan, taking into account policy and legislative changes in relation to weed control including changes to the role of councils and landowners under the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015

For more information, download the Water Sensitive Blue Mountains Strategic Plan and Weed Management Strategic Plan.

Native truffles in the Mountains

Underground Fungi….A terrific find! By Liz Kabanoff

Blue Mountain Bushcare volunteer and fungi expert, Liz Kabanoff, uncovered a Podohydnangium, a genus Liz had never heard of and if Liz has never heard of it, it is a find!

Liz contacted her ‘truffle expert’ colleague in the USA and with their help was able to identify this fungi. There was only one record of this fungi in NSW on the Atlas of Living Australia, the other listed recordings were in Victoria and Tasmania.

Podohydnangium australe, still attached to a plant root

Fungi come in an amazing variety of forms and the ones we often don’t come across are underground species, variously known as sequestrate, hypogeous, or false truffles (not to be confused with edible truffles that grow in Europe in the genus Tuber.)

A volunteer with the Else Mitchell Park Bushcare Group, Springwood, was clearing a swathe of Tradescantia (Trad) away and Liz looked at the ground and noticed a number of small pink blobs. On closer examination she realise they were a type of underground fungus.

Liz couldn’t resist and went back the next day for a closer look, and discovered many more sitting just at ground level under the carpet of Trad. She found a second species which was white with a brown interior. The pale pink fungi are in the genera Hydnangium and Podohydnangium, and are related to a common emergent fungus, Laccaria, which was also found growing nearby.

Podohydnangium australe cut open to reveal fertile tissue. These are not edible!

Around 300 species of underground fungi in 80 genera have been discovered in Australia, but it is estimated that many hundreds more are yet to be unearthed. These fungi are mycorrhizal, forming associations with the roots of plants, typically trees such as Eucalyptus, Melaleuca and Casuarina.

Laccaria sp Pink fungi found under Trad at Else Mitchell Park. All photos: Liz Kabanoff

They tend to have a strong odour, which can be detected by native animals such as bandicoots, potoroos and bettongs which dig them up for food. These types of fungi sit below soil level, or sometimes at soil level buried under leaf litter. They don’t have a cap that opens up to release spores, but instead, the spores are formed inside the body of the fungus. They rely on birds and animals to eat them, the spores passing through the animal’s digestive tract and deposited in their scats. They have been found to make up 30 to 40% of the diet of some of our native animals, and are therefore an important source of food for animals in our bushcare sites.

If you find any of these native truffles please let your Bushcare Officer know or email bushcare@bmcc.nsw.

Vale Street Biofilter Planting

Planting around the Vale Street Biofilters Article by Amy StLawrence, Jenny Hill and Karen Hising

In late May, we had another successful planting morning event around the biofilters (otherwise known as “raingardens”) at Vale Street, South Katoomba – our second event in two years. We planted between 850 – 900 plants in three hours, with 17 volunteers, two contractors and two Council staff – a fantastic effort!

Our planting work around the biofilters will reduce ongoing need for brushcutting/mowing, reduce weed infestation, increase habitat for local wildlife, prevent soil erosion on sloping ground into the biofilters and improve the local aesthetics.

Planting on the slope to prevent soil erosion. All Photo Credits – Blue Mountains City Council

The Vale Street biofilters were built within the footprint of the old constructed wetlands at the site to improve the pollutant removal capacity of the system. These works were completed as part of the Leura Falls Creek Catchment Improvement Project, a joint Council, Water NSW and community initiative that built seven stormwater treatment systems throughout the catchment area, as well as rehabilitating eroded creek lines.

Planting shrubs into the bank of the Vale Street Biofilter.

The Vale Street system includes a gross pollutant trap to remove rubbish, coarse sediment and organic matter and three biofilters to remove dissolved pollutants, such as nutrients and pathogens. The biofilters consist of layers of gravel and sand, planted with native sedges and shrubs. Water quality monitoring has shown them to be very good at improving the quality of stormwater before it flows into Leura Falls Creek, with significant reductions in nitrogen, phosphorus, suspended solids, faecal coliforms and rubbish. The design of the system and creekline restoration works have also greatly reduced downstream flooding and created pools and ponds for local wildlife.

Planting sedges into the wet area.

The water in the Leura Falls Creek Catchment travels through industrial, residential and natural areas to Leura Cascades and eventually arrives in the Sydney basin to be stored for drinking water.

There has been a significant amount of work undertaken in this catchment, including weed control, planting, monitoring, local community environmental education and information. The Leura Falls and Gordon Creek Catchment Group (a group of volunteers from Bushcare Groups and local residents in the catchment working together with Council) has been very active in much of the overall improvement works.

We will be conducting another planting morning at Vale Street in mid – 2020, including some easy and challenging options in continuing to plant around the biofilters, as well as along the creekbanks and up through an unformed road reserve, which adjoins the Vale Street Bushcare site.

We can all do our bit to improve water quality for our local waterways by preventing/collecting rubbish in the streets, vegetating bare soil areas, picking up dog faeces whilst walking, washing cars on lawn areas and covering stockpiles of soil/mulch. We can also capture stormwater run-off by installing water tanks on our properties for toilet flushing, laundry and garden use or allowing it to soak into the ground gradually with vegetated areas and raingardens, rather than large areas of hard surfaces, such as concrete.

Grant News

5 years funding for weed control Article by Linda Thomas

Bushcare volunteers, form an important component of Council’s overall weed management strategy. However, there are many other interesting conservation projects that you may hear about or encounter in your local area.

Two new grants

Council has received new grants from Greater Sydney Local Land Services and the NSW Environmental Trust which will help expand our capacity to deliver target weed control, bush regeneration and stormwater control outcomes over the next five years.

Each year Council’s Environment team applies for grants where grant program targets align with Council’s core program outcomes. In this way Council is able to extend its delivery of environmental programs within the Blue Mountains and increase the value of return for a rate collected dollar. As these funding sources are dependent on broader political climates, they cannot be relied upon to deliver core Council functions, but are an effective means of building capacity when an opportunity presents itself.

Most grants have a 12-18 month time frame, so these five year grants allow for the consolidation and extension of a range of programs to help target cross tenure issues across public reserves and private lands.

Himalayan Honeysuckle and Holly in Moist Basalt Cap Forest Mt Wilson Photo credit: Linda Thomas

Council will use these grants to:

  • Target Cats Claw Creeper in Springwood, Blaxland and Lapstone. This is a new priority weed which has limited distribution in the lower mountains. The aim over five years is to substantially control and eradicate all known populations of Cats Claw Creeper in our Local Government Area.
  • Extend ongoing programs to control Pussy Willow, Boneseed and African Olive in the mid to lower mountains.
  • Target bird spread weeds such as Himalayan Honeysuckle and English Holly on private properties in Mt Wilson, to protect Moist Basalt Cap Forest.
  • Extend bush regeneration programs in Blue Mountains Shale Cap Forest and Sun Valley Cabbage Gum Forest across Council reserves and adjoining private lands.
  • Monitor and trial controls for Bell Miner populations, which are linked to tree dieback in several lower mountains reserves.
  • Install stormwater control structures and extend weed control programs in several swamp systems in the upper mountains.
  • Support the Katoomba / Govetts Creek, Gordon Creek / Leura Falls Creek, and Jamison Creek catchment groups by undertaking extended weed control and rehabilitation projects on sites these groups have nominated as outstanding problems in their catchments.

Is this a weed?….

Is this a Weed – Elderberry Panax (Polyscias sambucifolia)? By Karen Hising

One of the most common questions I am asked as a Bushcare Officer: “Is this a weed?” And quite often the person asking the question is referring to the native Elderberry Panax (Polyscias sambucifolia).

Polyscias sambucifolia is a variable small to large shrub or sometimes even a compact tree. The leaves are compound, with clusters of succulent bluish-grey fruit in Summer.

An important colonising species in regenerating areas, it can appear as a single plant or in small dense forests before other species have the opportunity to regenerate. At Blackheath Centenary Reserve, where all large shrubs and trees have been removed for powerline safety, swathes of Polyscias have appeared over time and have shaded out groundlayer and grassy weeds. Fortunately, it has not grown too tall to warrant removal under the powerlines – yet!

Polyscias sambucifolia covered in swathes of webbing Photo credit: Mariko Ward

This plant also provides feeding opportunities for local wildlife. Birds enjoy feasting on the fruit, which is how it is widely propagated. The Elderberry Panax Leaf Roller (Cryptoptila australiana) can infest the whole plant in swathes of webbing. The larvae live in a communal shelter made of leaves joined with silk and feed on the foliage. They are dark-brownish green, with orange spots and white hairs. Pupation occurs within the larval shelter. The plant can look quite bedraggled from the impacts of these insects, but they generally bounce back once the caterpillars finalise their lifecycle to moths and move on. Birds may also enjoy feeding on these larvae.

Whilst it may not be considered a particularly attractive plant (particularly when covered in webbing), it can be an important part of some ecosystems.

Polyscias – from the Greek word, poly, meaning many, and skias, meaning shade, possibly referring to the shade from many leaves; and sambucifolia – referring to leaves which resemble Sambucus, the Elderberry.

There is some debate pronouncing the genus name – poly-sy-as or pol-is-kias

Creek Restoration

Creek Restoration the natural way, with a little help from Bushcare By South Lawson Park Bushcare Group and Lawson StreamWatch

In 2010 Lawson Creek was overwhelmed by massive amounts of silt that had been transported by heavy rains from a collapsed track and building site along the Great Western Highway. A 200 metre section of healthy bushland creek was reduced to a shallow trickle of water (Image 1) and these conditions made it impossible for water insects (bugs), crayfish and tadpoles to exist.

Bushcare members alerted Council and sediment controls across sections of the creek, to try and disperse the sand were installed. Fortunately, lots of professional bush regeneration and volunteer bushcare work had been done in the area, and the surrounding natural bushland was very healthy, with a good mix of trees, shrubs and groundcovers.

This bushland served as an important restoration function. Natural debris from the trees and shrubs, such as large branches, bark, sticks and leaf litter, was constantly being deposited in the creek. It further dispersed the sand and created riffles and pools, steadily replacing the aquatic fauna habitat that had been smothered in the sand.

Amy St Lawrence, Council’s Aquatic Systems Officer, explained: “Bug recolonisation relies on having intact bug populations/communities nearby…different types of water-bugs will recolonise in different ways, providing their water quality and habitat requirements recover.”

In 2015 the StreamWatch Group recommenced water quality testing on the site, with good results. But one question remained – would the bugs come back?

Over the years more of the deposited sand was transported downstream, and by 2018 the creek was starting to resemble its former healthy condition, displaying a few deep pools, some good natural habitat of logs and other fallen timber, and a layer of decayed leaf litter along the banks and channel (Image 2).

In May, 2019, the StreamWatch volunteers tested for bug life in the water. And we got them! Mayfly nymphs, which are very sensitive to pollution, so that was pleasing, and also damselfly nymphs, dragonfly nymphs, boatmen and water treaders, and crayfish and tadpoles.

Amy explained the re-colonisation process: “Insects probably hatched at the site from eggs laid by adults that decided your pools were suitable; adults that possibly came from further downstream on Lawson Creek. Your large crayfish may have been there all along despite the sedimentation, or may have moved overland from a pool downstream or a nearby creek.”

What if there had been a wall of weeds, such as privet or blackberry, and not natural bushland, along the creek? It is quite likely that the damage may not even have been noticed, and that the weeds would have colonised most or even all of the silted creek. Bushcare makes a difference, in lots of different ways.

Further information and illustrations: