Category Archives: Natives

Colonising Plant Species

Article by James Bevan

The Concept

Plant species which establish after environmental disturbances events are known as “colonisers” or colonising plant species. Following 2019-20 summer bushfires and floods, colonising plants are germinating from seed into the ground layer vegetation stratum. These autotrophic organisms (which produce their own energy as carbon from photosynthesis) are currently superabundant, capturing carbon for ecological communities across the Blue Mountains. This process is known as secondary ecological succession.

The below photo shows a local example of secondary ecological succession dominated by ground layer species Sigesbeckia orientalis and Australian Basket Grass (Oplismenus aemulus).

Colonising plants initiating secondary succession at Carlons Creek, Blue Mountains NP. Photo: James Bevan

Interestingly, many colonising plant species are related members of certain plant families, such as the Grasses (Poaceae), Daisies (Asteraceae), Nightshades (Solanaceae), Peas (Fabaceae), and Mints (Lamiaceae). Some of the colonising species which are currently abundant post-fire and rain are listed in the Table below (Table 1).

Table 1: Examples of Colonising Plant Species

FamilyColonising Plants
Poaceae (Grasses)Right Angle Grass, Wiry Panic (Entolasia marginata)
Poaceae (Grasses)Weeping Grass (Microlaena stipoides)
Poaceae (Grasses)Australian Basket Grass (Oplismenus aemulus)
Poaceae (Grasses)*Panic Veldtgrass (Ehrharta erecta)
Asteraceae (Daisies)Sigesbeckia orientalis
Asteraceae (Daisies)*Fleabane (Conyza spp.)
Solanaceae (Nightshades)Kangaroo Apple (Solanum aviculare)
Solanaceae (Nightshades)*Blackberry Nightshade (Solanum nigrum)
Fabaceae (Peas)Hickory Wattle (Acacia falcata)
Fabaceae (Peas)Dusky Coral Pea (Kennedia rubicunda)
Fabaceae (Peas)*Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius)
Lamiaceae (Mints)Cockspur Flower (Plectranthus parviflorus)
NB. * indicates introduced species

Practical Application – Revegetation

Planted colonising species often have high survivorship rates on revegetation sites. Succession planting describes using colonising plant species during the first stage of revegetation, similar to the process of ecological succession. As our climate continues to change, plantings can expect to be exposed to extreme heat, longer summers and long periods between rain events. Planting colonising plant species with a high survivorship and fecundity may improve the efficiency of long-term ecological restoration.

For example, widely distributed native colonising species that may be suitable for revegetation include Right Angle Grass (Entolasia spp.), Weeping Grass (Microlaena stipoides), Australian Basket Grass (Oplismenus aemulus), Sigesbeckia orientalis, Kangaroo Apple (Solanum aviculare), Hickory Wattle (Acacia falcata), Dusky Coral Pea (Kennedia rubicunda) and Cockspur Flower (Plectranthus parviflorus). The ecological communities found on your local Bushcare site will support locally adapted colonising plant species. Your local Bushcare Officer may be a good source of further advice on this topic.

Chiloglottis – Wasp Orchid

Article by Karen Hising, Jan Allen and Keith Brister

Jan Allen, a very observant Bushcare volunteer from the Upper Mountains, found this beautiful Orchid.  From research, we were not sure of the full identification, but we have been advised that it may be Chiloglottis seminuda – other experts may offer an opinion. 

Chiloglottis species – front view Photo credit: K Brister

The genera Chiloglottis is also known as Wasp Orchid.  The common name comes from the “callus” – the glands on the labellum, which resemble the body of a female wasp.  Instead of being attracted by the general offer of nectar or pollen, many Orchid species, such as the native Chiloglottis genera, use sexual deception to attract male wasp pollinators.  These Orchids emit an odorous pheromone very similar to the sexual pheromone produced by females of the pollinator species, thereby luring the male to the flower with the false offer of sex. 

Chiloglottis species – rear view. Photo credit: K Brister

Pollination occurs when the male wasps attempt to copulate with structures on the Orchid labellum that mimic the wingless, ant-like female.  The high degree of specificity between sexually-deceptive Orchids and their pollinators indicates that there must be subtle, but important, differences in the pheromones produced among even closely related Orchids.

References:

Uncovering The Sexual Tricks Of Orchid Flowers (Abstract) – Julianne D Livingston http://press-files.anu.edu.au/downloads/press/n1676/pdf/ch04.pdf

Memoirs Of The Museum Of Victoria 56(2):461-466 (1997) Hidden Biodiversity:  Detection Of Cryptic Thynnine Wasp Species Using Sexually-Deceptive, Female-Mimicking Orchids (Abstract) – Colin C. Bower and Graham R. Brown https://museumsvictoria.com.au/media/4804/jmmv19975639.pdf

http://peonyden.blogspot.com/2011/01/wasp-orchid-chiloglottis-reflexa-comes.html

CLICK below to read the book review – Orchids of the Blue Mountains by Sabine Hanisch and Ben Jasiak; how their daughter discovered a long lost orchid and also about the multi-billion dollar Bush Blitz project – a project finding thousands of new species.

Week 3: Native Birds of the Blue Mountains Crossword Puzzle

Exciting news…the continuation of the Blue Mountains crosswords series is here featuring Native Birds found around our Bushcare sites. All answers can be found in Birds Of The Blue Mountains by Margaret Baker and Robin Corringham.

And remember, for all you fledging crossword creators send your ideas to Karen Hising on khising@bmcc.nsw.gov.au 

Instructions

CLICK on the link below and follow the instructions to either fill in online or print a hard copy.

Week 3: Native Birds of the Blue Mountains Crossword Puzzle

To FILL IN ONLINE

  1. CLICK on the clue listed under Across or Down – and this will highlight the corresponding boxes (purple) to fill in on the crossword.
  2. To TYPE in the answer CLICK on the purple highlighted box in the crossword and start typing your answer (a correct answer turns the boxes green). If your answer was incorrect then use the backspace to delete then try again for this answer only!!
  3. To RESET ANSWERS (all answers) scroll down the screen‚  below the crossword and CLICK Reset Answer (red button)

To PRINT a Hardcopy scroll down the screen below the crossword and CLICK Print My Puzzle (purple button)

Answers are below: Week 2 Native Plants of the Blue Mountains Crossword Puzzle

Across 1. Gleichenia 2. Bottlebrush 6. Shrub 8. Boronia 9. Lambertia 11. Actinotis 12. Mistletoe 14. Sword 15. Climber 16. Cassytha 18. Lomandra 19. Hopbush 20. Leptomeria 22. Goodenia 23. Deanei 26. Acmena 27. Sundew 29. Pittosporum 30. Wombat 31. Kangaroo 34. Prostanthera 35. Doryphora 36. Grevillea 37. AngophoraDown 1. Geebung 3. Tasmannia 4. Spinulosa 5. Melaleuca 7. Hardenbergia 10. Blechnum 13. Ceratopetalum 17.Telopea 21. Oreades 24. Isopogon 25. Turpentine 28. Wombat 32. Acacia 33. Doodia  

Birds in Backyards – Autumn Survey

Greetings Backyard Birders, While spending most of our time at home can be frustrating, it also gives us a great opportunity to be #BirdingAtHome. As we head into the long weekend we wanted to let you all know of a couple of opportunities we have for you to do just that!

Autumn Surveys

We have just a few short weeks left for our Birds in Backyards Autumn Surveys. A huge thank you to those of you who have done your 20 min count already. With the recent fires AND the normal migration of many birds at this time of the year, there is likely to be some unusual visitors showing up in your space! If you do see something out of the ordinary, please flag it with us. There is a note section for each bird you record, so let us know there.

Want to participate in this Autumn Survey then you can read the instructions or watch the video here.

http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/content/article/Autumn-Birds-Backyards-Survey

Also check out What’s New on Birdlife Australia

It’s time to have a #CuppawiththeBirds Submitted by Holly on 09 Apr 2020.

While spending most of our time at home can be frustrating, it also gives us a great opportunity to be #BirdingAtHome. Over the next few weeks, we invite you to take just 10 mins for yourself whenever you can. Get away from the TV and the news, make a cuppa and do a 10 min bird count at home. Share your list of birds using the tag #CuppawiththeBirds.Read more

Keep your kids chirpy at home with these activities! submitted by Holly on 26 Mar 2020.

Hello parents, carers and kids! Are you looking for at-home activities to keep everyone chirpy? Here at BirdLife we have lots of resources that are fun AND you can learn about amazing birds and places Read more

Photos – Backyard Fungi Foray

Our Bushcare Team members are already taking photos around their homes and we came across these small bright red fungi showing Cruentamycena viscidocruenta (left and centre photos) growing on the wood pile and this strange red tentacle fungi – Aseroe rubra (right photo).

These fungi have important roles in the landscape including erosion prevention, forming mycorrhizal relationships with plants, food for animals and invertebrates, and the breakdown and recycling of nutrients from wood and other dead plant material.

What do you need? Armed with just a camera / mobile phone with the flashlight and a keen eye – these small, yet inconspicuous fungi can show a veritable range of brilliant colours and shapes.

So how can we identify these fungi? Our Bushcare volunteer ‘fungi expert’ Liz Kabanoff says by using inaturalist you can upload your own photo and it will try and work out what it is. If the picture is good, it works very well. Also take note of the substrate the mushroom is growing on (soil, woodchip, rotting wood,  living wood, moss, insect etc) which will help rule things out. Other people may comment on your specimen and offer an ID.

Check Liz’s inaturalist project – Fungi in the Blue Mountains to see the incredible range of fungi that you may find. CLICK the link below.

https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/fungi-in-the-blue-mountains-nsw-australia?tab=observations

Why not try this yourself to see what fungi lives around your home?

Remember to send in your photos .

Crosswords and Puzzles…

Hello Crossword Fans, and we know you’re out there!!  Our ‘wordsmith’ Bushcare Officer, Karen Hising, has produced some great crosswords featuring the Blue Mountains weeds, native plants, animals and birds (for a start) to entice the interest of both the young and young-at-heart. 

Besides the known benefits of solving crossword puzzles such as being good for mental health by keeping the mind active, building social bonds, helping fight disease, strengthening the mind and improving vocabulary…we get to learn more about the Blue Mountains natural (and weedy) environment around our Bushcare sites.

Our aim is to post a new crossword each week on the Bushcare Website with answers listed the following week on www.bushcarebluemountains.org.au.

If you have some great ideas for our themed crosswords…or wanting to test your own crossword (and possibly cryptic) skills then contact Karen Hising on khising@bmcc.nsw.gov.au 

New weekly crossword puzzles highlighting Blue Mountains weeds, native plants, native animals and native birds

Instructions

CLICK on the link below and follow the instructions to either fill in online or print a hard copy.

WEEK 1 – Weeds of the Blue Mountains Crossword Puzzle

You’ll find most answers in the new version of the Weeds Of Blue Mountains Bushland – A Guide To Identification and the Control booklet https://www.bmcc.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/docs/Weeds_Booklet_2020.pdf  or the Blue Mountains Weeds Website – https://weedsbluemountains.org.au/

To FILL IN ONLINE

  1. CLICK on the clue listed under Across or Down – and this will highlight the corresponding boxes (purple) to fill in on the crossword.
  2. To TYPE in the answer CLICK on the purple highlighted box in the crossword and start typing your answer (a correct answer turns the boxes green). If your answer was incorrect then use the backspace to delete then try again for this answer only!!
  3. To RESET ANSWERS (all answers) scroll down the screen  below the crossword and CLICK Reset Answer (red button)

To PRINT a Hardcopy scroll down the screen below the crossword and CLICK Print My Puzzle (purple button)

Videos – coming soon

Want an alternative to the ‘other’ live streaming viewing currently on offer.

We aim to provide a platform on the Bushcare Website showing previous videos featuring bushcare sites, volunteers, Bioblitz, community days, fauna and much more.

However, the exciting news is the Bushcare Team (and others in Council’s environmental team) are also preparing to front the camera themselves to produce a host of videos highlighting a range of ‘interesting’ and ‘how to’ segments – such as showing different weeding techniques, treating a variety of common or tricky weeds and a range of videos showcasing flora, fauna, bees, seed collection, biofilters, composting, biosecurity, bush backyards and so much more.

These will be placed on the Bushcare Website when final cuts are ready (www.bushcarebluemountains.org.au).

Watch Now….

Find out all about the recent launch of “Turtle Island” in early March – a floating eco habitat designed to provide a safe nesting place for turtles, from leading turtle expert Dr Ricky Spencer (Western Sydney University).

https://www.facebook.com/bluemountainscitycouncil/videos/2734772646614369/?v=2734772646614369

Recovering Our Backyard: Mini-Expo February 29

An event organised by Blue Mountains Recovery Wellbeing Committee, Blue ARC, and Resilience & Preparedness Group.

Many residents of the Blue Mountains region are concerned about the impacts of the bushfires on our natural environment and National Park and people need to feel that they can be involved in recovery efforts in a meaningful way.

On Saturday 29 February, Blackheath – a mini-expo is being run in the afternoon to help guide residents on how they can assist the regeneration of our natural environment.

The afternoon will include talks from wildlife experts and a Council representative, there will be tables set up with representatives from local groups and organisations providing information, and opportunities to volunteer.

Date and Time: Saturday, February 29, 2020, 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM

Location: Phillips Hall, Blackheath Community Centre – Gardiner Crescent, Blackheath, NSW

To register click on this link below

https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/recovering-our-backyard-tickets-94508644901?utm-medium=discovery&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&aff=esfb&utm-source=fb&utm-term=listing&fbclid=IwAR035-kBGPiWw2BNtWXjJOSEP3XuO34GbMOA96yYraI2pDeMaaGunY3buU8

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

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