Mt Rogers November 2007 observations

Suggestions from several regular walkers prompted a working-bee, on Sunday 11th November, to pull out Paterson’s Curse plants before the seeds have matured to the dispersable stage. Ten workers responded to the call and at least 10 others sent or have subsequently given apologies.


Five wool-bags were filled to lifting-capacity and two trailers were promised to take the sacks to Canberra Sand & Gravel’s green waste site at Parkwood. There, along with other plant material such as prunings, shrubs, trees and less notorious weeds, the PC will be mulched. Over many months the material is re-mulched, composted, heated by decomposition and turned into useful material for gardens. Any seeds are killed by the high temperatures during the composting process.

            Our efforts would have been impossible without the useful rainfall November has brought to most of the ACT. Most of the plants pulled out fairly easily. We’re trying for another working –bee on Sunday 25th November from 6am if you have time to help! If anyone wishes to help by pulling out isolated PC plants seen around the hill please be wary of moving into long grass…snakes are around…and wear sturdy gloves.

            The rain has ‘saved’ some of the shriveled Cape-weed plants. Hopefully the current return to summer will again kill off these pale yellow ‘daisies’ before their seeds have a chance to ripen.

Cape-weed and PC are not the only invasive species that, no doubt, have a huge seed-store in the soil.


            The rain’s timing seems to have triggered the flowering of another lemon-yellow plant, Velleia paradoxa. This little native, about ankle height, is a grassland plant and a remnant of the time when Mt Rogers was a woody grassland before the sheep-grazing decades. It also responded some years ago as a swathe of plants after a small burn. Chrysocephalum apiculatum is more often called Yellow Buttons and has clustered-heads of tiny daisy-flowers on silvery-green or green foliage. They can grow up to 60 cm tall and make excellent, long-flowering ground-covers.

            The ACT’s floral emblem is the Royal Bluebell but it’s found at higher altitudes. Here we’re enjoying the sheer tenacity of Common bluebells Wahlenbergia communis and W. stricta. They seem to thrive in the harshest of dry places and cheer us up on many nature strips around Canberra. On Mt Rogers they were one of the first species to grow back after the burn in January this year and seeds also seem to germinate quickly after a fire-event. One ants nest had a blue ring of these plants round it a few years ago suggesting that ants eat at least part of the seeds or take them towards their nests.

            With better spring rain the grasses have grown taller than last year. There are one or two native grasses flowering now amongst many introduced species. Perhaps the most feathery is a Spear grass, an Austrostipa species. Are they called spear grasses because the long awns help the seeds “wriggle” their way into socks, fur or laces?

            Whilst weeding we saw a 20 cm Skink but too fleetingly to see which species it might have been. It disappeared into the remains of an old stump, illustrating the value of having old timber in the bush as habitat and shelter for a wide range of native species. A Dragon lizard was on the path yesterday. It was brownish but Ros Bennett suggests these animals can vary their colour according to their “emotional state” as well as the temperature! You’ve probably seen them warming up on rocks and stumps but they also choose roads for this sun-baking. They feed on moths, grasshoppers, beetles, other invertebrates, fruits, berries and plant material. Apparently the spines around their necks are quite prickly but they’re unrelated to the Frilled-necked Lizards of Northern Australia.

            If the skink was a reward for our labours another was seeing a pair of Superb Parrots fly quickly through the area. There have been reports of them around Mt Rogers and elsewhere in the northern ACT but only time will tell if there’s enough food for the later arrivals to spend time with us in any numbers this summer. They used to be called Green leeks, perhaps because of their colour but it’s the males’ yellow ‘faces’ that are noticeable, especially in sunlight.


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