Had a wander through part of the Traralgon Sth Flora and Fauna Reserve recently and there is a lot to see and enjoy. With spring flowers blooming especially the Eucalypts there is an abundance of food for Birds and Insects to enjoy.
In earlier posts we showed the massive impact that Fireblight Beetles have on the regrowth of some Wattle species following the 2009 fires. This included a massive dieback of Wattles which was most visible in spring followed by a recovery in Summer when the Beetles stopped being active. Well the cycle of dieback has started again and currently the Beetle Larvae are actively chomping away on the new Wattle growth. See this video below for vision of the Larvae in action and let this site know if you can find any activity in a forest near you. This video was taken in the Won Wron State Forest.
Ferns are a vital component of a number of the vegetation communities (EVC’s) that exist in our district e.g. Wet and Damp Forests. However when an area is being replanted ferns are often left out of the mix, mainly because they are tricky and more expensive to propagate and may also struggle with being transplanted. The upside is that given the right conditions ferns can easily come back eventually by themselves over time.
A fantastic example of ferns ability to spread can be found in my own garden. I live on a property which is next to farmland and a dry schlerophyll forest, the rainfall average is about 700mm a year and the nearest fern gully would be around 6km away as the crow flies. Over the last year or so I have been amazed at the ferns that have been popping up in my , garden. The first one I noticed was growing in a protected spot next to some tea tree, initially I had assumed it was just a bracken fern (pterdium esculentum) which is common here (like everywhere else). I was in the process of learning to identify my ferns better and one day while walking past this fern I realised it was in fact a different species, which turned out to be pteris tremula (Tender Brake).
My next and biggest discovery came when I noticed to my surprise some ferns coming up in a corner of my vegetable patch where I have a row of citrus trees planted in large pots. I have now had at least 4 different species of fern appear, all of which you would not expect to find anywhere near where I live. In this area as well as Tender Brake, I have found Histiopteris incisa – Bats Wing-fern, Hypolepis rugulosa – Ruddy Ground-fern and what I am fairly sure at this stage of growth are 3 separate Dicksonia antarctica (Soft-tree ferns). With close inspection I can still see some young sporophytes (baby ferns) that are too small to identify the species. I also discovered another spot in the garden where a Pteris tremula has popped up next to a raised garden bed.
The key thing about all the sites where ferns popped up was that they were shaded and sheltered and they had good moisture, in this case as a result of both artificial watering, but also probably because of the milder and wetter summers we had had over a couple of years. Having bare soil would have also been a factor, prior to finding that the ferns were growing I was periodically spraying the area where they were with Glyphosate (Roundup) to keep the grass at bay. A key way to promote the regeneration of ferns on your site may be to provide some sheltered micro-climates where ferns can develop. Logs and rocks not only provide potential habitat for animals to shelter they can also provided a moist shaded environment suitable for ferns to recolonise your site.
The spores responsible for the appearance of these ferns were either possibly brought in to my place via me (off my shoe or clothing) but also possibly by the wind as they are so light that they are thought to be able to carry many kilometres.
In the Spring time last year this site posted an article on the damage to Wattles that Fireblight Beetle can cause, where thick regrowth of Black Wattle had been completely defoliated by these beetles and their larvae.
Over Summer the Fireblight Beetles have gone to ground and the Wattles have staged a dramatic comeback, with virtually all the wattles that looked dead and gone re-sprouting with fresh new growth along with new seeds germinating. Surely there will be another dramatic change later in the year in the cooler months when the Beetles become active and the Black Wattles will cop another attack. The whole process of the Wattles losing their foliage in spring would benefit other native plants that are fighting for space and light.
Tarra Bulga site with some information on how to identify the two common types of local Tree Fern.
There are four main species of tree ferns found in Tarra Bulga National Park, (along with many other fern species) The two most common you will see are Cyathea australis (Rough tree-fern) and Dicksonia antarctica (Soft tree-fern). The Soft Tree-fern is more common in the moister areas including the rainforest gullies while the Rough tree-fern is more dominant on the slopes. Once you get you eye in it is fairly simple to tell the difference between these two, the most obvious being by comparing the trunks. The Rough tree-fern has much of its trunk covered by the remains of broken off stems (Stipes) Which are rough to the touch, while the Smooth tree-fern is soft to the touch and is covered by masses of soft hairs which are actually roots. On this soft trunk other species of plants will often grow including tree and shrub seedlings, epiphytes and other ferns.
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Senecio’s are a group of plants that belong to the Daisy (Asteraceae) family. Locally one member of the family Senecio Jacobaea (Ragwort) is well known as a serious pest to landholders and its impact was one of the contributing reasons that many farms in the Strzelecki Ranges were abandoned. There are however a good number of Senecio’s that are native plants and are an important part of the local environment, particularly as colonisers of disturbed sites, and thus providing ground cover to reduce erosion and keep out introduced weeds.
Three of the local species Fireweed Groundsel (Senecio linearfolius), Variable Groundsel (Senecio pinnatifolius) and Shrubby Fireweed (Senecio minimus) are most common in the wet and damp forest vegetation classes. There are four other species described below, these species are more likely to be encountered at sites that have less rainfall, such as the lowland forest vegetation in Traralgon South Flora and Fauna Reserve.
Rough Fireweed (Senecio hispidulus) grows up to 1 metre tall and has green shiny leaves that have toothed lobes. They are covered in tiny hairs that make them feel a bit like sandpaper to touch. At the base of the leaves where they attach to the stem there are a pair of lobes with teeth (auricles). The underside of the leaves are covered in longer white hairs. Like all of the four species described in this post the flower heads are surrounded by green bracts, without any of the yellow ray florets that look like petals.
Annual Fireweed (Senecio glomeratus) Annual Fireweed has some features in common with Rough Fireweed, it also has toothed lobes at the base of the leaves and the flowerbuds look similar. It is without the roughly textured leaves, it is usually covered in soft cobwebby type hairs.
Slender Fireweed (Senecio tenuiflorus) as its common name suggests, Slender Fireweed is a more delicate looking plant. Its lower leaves are crowded with toothed margins, while the leaves further up the plant become narrower and more slender. The upper-side of the leaves are slightly cobwebby, while the back of the leaves are quite hairy, at the base of the plant they are usually purple.
Cotton Fireweed (Senecio quadridentatus) – Cotton Fireweed often grows in the same locations as Slender Fireweed and is also quite slender. It is a widespread species and will come up in disturbed areas where little other native vegetation exists, it can withstand dry conditions. It is covered with dense cottony hairs, which can help with its identification, they give the plant its somewhat grey appearance.