Another wonderful remote bushcare day in the lower mountains. Work in Sassafras Gully has been ongoing for several years in a relationship between Blue Mountains City Council and National Parks and Wildlife Services carried out on the border of Council and Parks land near where Wiggins Track meets Victory Track at Sassafras Creek.
A cool temperate rainforest in a gully bounded by drier woodland uphill, the area has Ginger Lily, Small and Large leaf Privet as well as large and mature Japanese Honeysuckle that have climbed up into the canopy. Invading from properties uphill and coming down the creek they threaten the understorey diversity of the mature Sassafras and Coachwood forest. Some of the honeysuckle were so tall they were only identifiable by their distinctive peeling bark and mottled skin because the leaves were too high in the canopy.
On the morning of 25 May three volunteers – Ian, John and Roland and myself braved fine weather (and traffic delaying truck accidents) to tool up and walk the 45 minutes into the work area. On remote days we carry a lot more gear in the form of emergency management communications gear, all the tools we will need, a larger than normal first aid kit, plenty of water, food for the day, warm clothing and, of course, morning tea in a protective container because, let’s face it, no one wants squashed cake.
Once at the work site we dropped our heavy packs, put on our tool belts then had a look around to determine who was going to work where to get maximum effect from our small team. Despite many years of high quality work, there are still patches of Ginger Lily, canopy height Privet and Japanese Honeysuckle as well lots of Privet seedlings that the team decided to focus on.
The larger Ginger Lilies were poisoned and the smaller seedlings removed to be composted while the honeysuckles and privets were also treated with herbicide. Over the course of the day we worked on an area approximately 500m2.
On the walk out we noticed several interesting things. A local spring outlet known as the leaf spring, where a groove had been carved underneath a spring seep point to allow a leaf to be placed into it so a water bottle could be filled.
The remote area bushcare days are fantastic events where we get to enjoy undertaking bushcare activities much deeper in the bush. Future events will be held in Popes Glen and Katoomba Creek in spring.
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 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
Long angle Gully Catchment Care Day 2015 volunteers
Despite a drizzly start to the morning, the Bushcare groups of the Fitzgeralds Creek Catchment gathered at Rickard Road Warrimoo for a stunning drive via 4WD convoy along Long Angle Creek to spend a fabulous day weeding Crofton Weed, Mistflower and Wild Tobacco. Cross St and Deanei Bushcare Groups and Long Angle Creek Landcare Group were all represented at this second “Catchment Care” day. The first was held last year when the groups worked on a more urban location near Hawkesbury Rd and focussed on Privet.
We were all delighted with the distance we covered along the creek, following up the primary work done since the 2013 bushfire burnt the area. It was a joy to work in the very special Melalueca Swamp, surrounded by Blue Gum River Flat Forest (one of the 5 Endangered Ecological Communities found in the Fitzgeralds Creek Catchment).
By getting together like this, groups reinforce each other’s work and energy is stimulated. It’s always a delight to share your site with new people and to connect with the other people working towards the same aim. Knowledge of the local ecology, particular plants (both weeds and natives), problems and solutions is shared in a convivial atmosphere while doing some constructive work and usually a scrumptious morning tea and lunch.
It seemed everbody came away with a better understanding of the issues in the catchment and the work being done by various means, including the grant funded bush regeneration work that was facilitated by the formation of the Fitzgeralds Creek Catchment Group.
At the end of the day I asked what the highlights were. Responses included:
The waratahs (an incredible display of 100+ multi-stemmed plants in full bloom)
Steve’s Melting Moments (Steve Barratt’s home baking is always a treat but these “took the cake”!)