Mt Rogers Meanders - May 2005

            Most of the native trees & shrubs in the Mt Rogers area were planted around the oldest Eucalypts in the early seventies after the infrastructure for the suburbs was established. Stakes from these plantings can still be seen, some surviving without their proteges! Students from Fraser Primary School also planted not far from the carpark but very little planting has happened in the last 15 years.

            Amongst the species planted in the 1970's was Cootamundra Wattle Acacia baileyana. Rare around Cootamundra,  it was extensively used in landscaping and revegetation. Since then it's gained a  reputation for  weediness because its seedlings grow rapidly after a fire or when the parent tree dies.  At all stages of its life, however, it's a wonderful tree for small bird habitat, providing insectivorous food and shelter from predators in its dead years.

            When sheep grazed here “pasture improvement” would have included sowing Phalaris and oats which now constitute summer fire hazards when they grow tall and die-off. Native grasses tend to green-up and mature later in summer when there is less heat. Kangaroo grass is the most recognisable of these original grasses.

            Weed species provide food for birds and other animals such as ants. This means their long-lived seeds can be spread around Mt Rogers and into gardens. In Autumn problem berries are easily recognised. They're here, in adjacent gardens and deeper in the suburbs. Pink dye shows where contractors have recently sprayed woody-weeds such as Privet and Cotoneaster for Canberra Urban Parks & Places, CUPPS. Serrated Tussock grass grows in some areas and is sprayed in the winter months. There's a spreading invasion of African Lovegrass in the Wickens Place carpark which is scheduled for spraying. These two highly invasive grasses threaten most Nature Reserves in our area. Mowing helps to spread weeds but is a vital part of management.

            Most of us have healthy woody-weeds in our neighbourhoods. A pamphlet Are your Garden Plants Going Bush illustrates them and other environmental weeds common in this region.

Weeds deprive more useful plants of space, water and nourishment and in the Nature Reserve situation cost a fortune in the eradication-hours worked by staff and volunteers. We're planting trees that naturally occur nearby plus a few Acacias that produce pods and seeds to sustain the Superb Parrot. It's vital to also plant understorey species (shrubs, grasses and forbs) so that biodiversity can be improved and animals' inter-relationships re-established.

            Our planting effort is worth doing because there are many areas where the original native vegetation has survived against the odds. The seasons reveal special plants and Spring brings the return of migrant bird species Flycatchers, Kingfishers, Mistletoe birds, Honeyeaters and Noisy Friar birds. Are Mynas and Starlings  avian 'weeds'? We keep an eye on them, particularly the Mynas as they bully native birds out of scarce tree-hollows. A tree's several hundred years old before it has hollows useful for Possums, Kookaburras,  Owls, Cockatoos, Rosellas, Galahs and Superb Parrots.

            On one of their April visits 25 Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoos were having a great time stripping bark off a fallen Eucalypt branch as they searched for insects and their grubs. Fallen timber may look untidy but that is the nature of 'the bush'. As it decays the fallen timber is habitat for myriads of invertebrates which, in turn feed birds, mammals and reptiles.

            Has anyone seen an Echidna recently? They sometimes venture into nearby gardens but  naturally spend their largely solitary lives digging or foraging for insect larvae

Mt Rogers feels like a Nature Reserve and shares many attributes with Canberra Nature Park reserves. As part of Urban Open Space it does not have even that amount of protection. Through our caring, landcaring and observations we offer the best form of protection from mis-use, vandalism and exploitation. Useful phone numbers include Environment ACT, 6207 9777, and Canberra Urban Parks & Places, 6207 2500.



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