Invasive orchids get the boot

Jan Juc Coast Action (JJCA) faced an unusual task during their last working bee for 2015 – finding and removing the tenacious South African orchid Disa bractreata.

The highly invasive orchid species first appeared in Victoria in the mid-1990s after being introduced in Western Australia in 1946. Read more

Teamwork trumps weeds

Lorne volunteer groups are combining to tackle invasive weeds as part of an annual effort to conserve local parklands, while encouraging others to take small, environmentally-aware actions every day.

Friends of Queens Park (FoQP) and LorneCare will conduct three intensive working bees between August and October, joining together to overcome weeds in popular local destination Queens Park.

FoQP Chairman John Wilson said that while weed removal was a priority and essential to protecting and enhancing biodiversity, the group was also focussing on educating others.

“Removal of garden escapees such as boneseed, cape broom and sweet pittosporum is an important part of creating a sustainable coastal environment, however weed removal is not the only focus for environmental volunteers.

John Wilson and sweet pittospurum
FoQP Chairman John Wilson explains the various weeds FoQP and LorneCare are targeting in the area to volunteers. He is pictured here with the environmental weed, Sweet Pittosporum. Photo: Ferne Millen

“FoQP is trying to let people know that conservation extends beyond weed control, and that the real meaning of conservation is about making environmentally conscious choices in our everyday living,” he said.

LorneCare Co-founder and Co-convener Alain Purnell said the personal satisfaction of being involved in local conservation is one of the most rewarding elements of volunteering.

“Working along the coast and in Queens Park, we continually see the progress our groups have made,” he said.

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Volunteers of all ages participate in the local working bees, helping locals raise environmental awareness in the community. Photo: Ferne Millen

While environmental volunteering often involves hands-on conservation, Mr Purnell said it was the social aspect and sense of satisfaction that motivated volunteers to continue their involvement.

“These types of groups are a great way to meet new people in the community, whether they are local residents or seasonal holidaymakers.

“Volunteering is a great excuse to catch up with friends and have a barbeque to celebrate our achievements for the day,” Mr Purnell said.

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Picturesque views along the coast provide a wonderful backdrop for volunteers and visitors. Photo: Ferne Millen

The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) works alongside and supports volunteers in their environmental efforts.

GORCC Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale praised the ongoing dedication of volunteer groups operating along the Great Ocean Road.

“Our local volunteers do a fantastic job along our coast and their ongoing support of our conservation efforts is unparalleled.

“It is everyone’s responsibility to help protect our precious coast.

Simple actions such as staying on designated walking tracks, removing environmental weeds from your garden and avoiding fenced off areas make a real difference in the preservation of fragile ecosystems,” she said.

Queens Park is a popular recreational destination consisting of over 40ha of parkland and is home to the recently rebuilt Teddy’s Lookout.

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Volunteers and the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee work hard to keep the environmental weeds out of areas like the iconic Teddy’s Lookout. Photo: Ferne Millen

FoQP and LorneCare’s next working bee will be held at Teddy’s Lookout at 10am Sunday 18th October and new volunteers are always welcome.  For more information about FoQP, LorneCare, or your local community group visit our website. 

Conservation is more than just weed eradication. Share what conservation means to you in the comments below.

Guest Post: Friends of Queens Park

GORCC works alongside and supports many volunteer groups who operate on coastal Crown land reserves from Torquay through to Lorne. These groups spend thousands of hours each year undertaking vital conservation work and raising awareness in the community. Friends of Queens Park Lorne are one volunteer group working towards creating an environmentally friendly future. 

This is an excerpt from the Friends of Queens Park Spring 2015 newsletter:

Sweet Pittosporum, bone seed and cape broom have all met their downfall over the past few months, thanks to the work of GORCC and the Green Army. Also there’s the social connectivity of the volunteer groups Friends of Queens Park and LorneCare working together in Queens Park with three working bees planned during the spring.

John Wilson with Pittosporum
Friends of Queens Park chairman John Wilson explains the damage Sweet Pittosporum has on native vegetation to Friends of Queens Park and LorneCare volunteers at their working bee. Photo: Ferne Millen

An example of this work can be seen on the fire track leading up to Teddy’s Lookout from the Queens Park caravan park. It’s a revealing dividing line showing good weed control management on the uphill side, neglect on the downside. Take a look on your next walk down this track.

We trace the growth cycle of Sweet Pittosporum. It begins with the sweet smelling flowers. The resulting seeds are spread by birds and emerge as small plants growing prolifically to form a dense canopy of foliage so dense that the sun can’t shine through. There’s semi darkness underneath an old stand, soil nutrients change, indigenous plants die and biodiversity is destroyed. It’s an invasive weed which can spread very rapidly.

To counteract this invasion is it essential to limit the spread by removing foliage and some entire plants.

Volunteers work tirelessly all year to remove environmental weeds from the coast to help preserve the natural environment. Photo: Ferne Millen
Volunteer groups work tirelessly all year to remove environmental weeds from coastal habitats to help preserve the natural environment and stunning views along the Great Ocean Road. Photo: Ferne Millen

Control of the Sweet Pittosporum requires drastic action. Whole plants often have to be removed by cutting the trunk at its base and the stumps painted with systemic herbicide immediately after cutting to ensure that the plant is killed.

After the Sweet Pittosporum has been cleared away the land is left bare for the regeneration of indigenous species.

Interested in getting involved in the outdoors? Check out our website to find out how!

Conservation plan released

GORCC’s 2015-2020 Native Vegetation and Weed Action Plan (NVWAP) has been released.

GORCC engaged locally based consultant Beacon Ecological to lead the revision of original 2009 NVWAP.  The updated 2015 NVWAP will guide GORCC’s on-ground conservation work over the next five years and aims to protect and enhance ecological values along the 37km of coast under GORCC’s care.

NVWAP

GORCC Environmental Projects Coordinator Alex MacDonald  said the updated plan sees a continued focus on the eradication of weeds which are identified as the key threat to coastal biodiversity.

“Weeds have been identified as the number one threat to GORCC coast management.

“It is a widespread issue which is difficult to combat without a sustained and coordinated effort,” she said.

GORCC Environmental Projects Coordinator Alex MacDonald with Beacon Ecological consultant Luke Hynes, who undertook the weed plan revision process.
GORCC Environmental Projects Coordinator Alex MacDonald with Beacon Ecological consultant Luke Hynes, who undertook the weed plan revision process.

The revision and development process included consultation with local environmental volunteer groups, land managers and other key stakeholders.

Ms. MacDonald said GORCC and environmental volunteers had made significant progress in combatting invasive weeds along the Surf Coast, but that weed eradication remained a big challenge.

“Invasive species can have devastating impacts on the biodiversity on GORCC managed land, which is why it is important to develop and implement an effective action plan for future management,” she said.

To view the plan, click here. Interested in learning more about environmental volunteering on the coast? Click here to find out how.

How do you plan to overcome the weeds in your backyard? Let us know in the comments below!

New online nature search launched

The Surf Coast Nature Search (SCNS), an interactive, online search tool for identifying weeds and indigenous plants in our region, has been launched.

The Surf Coast Nature Search homepage.
Surf Coast Nature Search homepage

The online resource, which has been developed by local volunteer group Jan Juc Coast Action (JJCA),   is a detailed database of hundreds of indigenous plants and environmental weeds on the coast between Point Impossible and Bells Beach.

Users are able to search based on a range of criteria including plant type, flower colour, size, leaf shape and more.

JJCA Chairperson Luke Hynes said the website is a great local asset for locals that will help support an increase in environmental awareness.

Jan Juc Coast Action Chairperson Luke Hynes uses the new database to search for the coastal shrub along the Surf Coast Walk.
Jan Juc Coast Action Chairperson Luke Hynes uses the new database to search for the coastal shrub along the Surf Coast Walk.

“The SCNS database has been a dream of the JJCA group for many years,” he said.

To date, JJCA volunteers have added 181 plant species to database, which is expected to grow as species are added and the tool extends to include fauna and cover more areas of the Surf Coast.

“It’s exciting to think that people with a limited understanding of botanical terms will now be able to identify local plants, pinpoint environmental weeds in their backyard and learn more about the environmental impacts and benefits of particular species,” said Mr. Hynes.

JJCA group volunteer Graeme Stockton said one of the aims of the database is to help coastal property owners create environmentally friendly gardens.

JJCA Chairperson Luke Hynes and GORCC Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale test out the database on their walk.
JJCA Chairperson Luke Hynes and GORCC Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale test out the database on their walk.

“The SCNS is a simple tool for identifying environmental weeds in your garden and selecting indigenous alternatives,” he said.

Weeds, which easily escape from local gardens, have been identified as the number one threat to the natural environment on the coast due to their ability to out compete indigenous species.

“Indigenous plants are vital, providing vital habitat for local birds and animals,” said Mr. Stockton.

Mr Hynes said the group had worked hard with locally based web design experts Boojum to ensure the platform was as interactive and easy to navigate as possible.

“Our biggest challenge was trying to incorporate complex plant characteristics in a searchable format that is flexible and user friendly,” he said.

Luke and Georgie using the database to identify the coastal shrub along the Jan Juc cliffs
Luke and Georgie using the database to identify the coastal shrub along the Jan Juc cliffs

The database can be accessed at www.scnaturesearch.com.au.

The project was supported by a $5000 State Governments CoastCare Grant, $2500 Great Ocean Road Coast Committee Coastal Grant and $1000 Surf Coast Shire Grant.

Check out the Surf Coast Nature Search today and see how many plants you can identify from your garden! Let us know how many indigenous plants you find in your backyard in the comments below. 

Winter weed blitz

Despite the cold weather, winter is the perfect time to combat the spread of environmental weeds and revegetate residential gardens with beautiful (native-animal-attracting) indigenous species.

Agapanthus – a very popular garden plant – are also a noxious weed that have a devastating impact on natural habitats.

Environmental weeds are plants that displace native vegetation which impacts the vitality of indigenous flora and fauna.  Surprisingly, many environmental weeds are popular garden plants that have grown to become major threats to the biodiversity in the natural environment.

Freesias look friendly, but they can spread quickly, out-competing precious indigenous species.

Common garden plants such as Agapanthus, Arum Lily, Gazania and Freesia are all environmental weeds that are detrimental to native flora and fauna.

Gazanias are sold at many nurseries – but don’t be fooled. These invasive weeds are having a huge impact on our coastal environment.

Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale, encourages locals to remove environmental weeds from their gardens this winter.

“If we remove environmental weeds and plant indigenous species in their place, we are able to provide a haven for our precious wildlife and protect coastal habitats.

“Revegetating gardens in winter provides plants with ideal soil conditions and the best chance of survival.

“Seeds from invasive species are easily spread by the wind and animals, which is why it is important to avoid planting environmental weeds in the garden,” she said.

The flowering Moonah tree is a native alternative for Surf Coast gardens.
The flowering Moonah tree is an indigenous alternative for Surf Coast gardens.

Surfers Appreciating the Natural Environment (SANE) Chair Graeme Stockton is urging locals to think of plants as more than an aesthetic addition to the garden.

“Plants provide vital habitats for local birds and animals, and the type of plant determines the fauna it attracts.

“As a community, we have a large impact on the environment and it is up to us to choose whether  we have a positive or negative impact.

“Removing environmental weeds from the garden and coastal habitats is a great start to environmental stewardship,” he said.

Flowering Samphires at Painkalac Creek, Aireys Inlet is a native plant.
Samphires (pictured here in flower at Painkalac Creek, Aireys Inlet)  are perfect for coastal environments.

Weed eradication programs are a vital component of GORCC’s extensive conservation effort to protect and enhance fragile habitats along the coast.

Local schools and environmental volunteer groups actively contribute to GORCC’s conservation effort and dedicate hundreds of hours each year to coastal protection works.

Coastal volunteers in action
Coastal volunteers in action along the Surf Coast

For more information on what plants are weeds (and what alternatives to plant in your garden), check out the  Weeds of the Surf Coast Shire booklet.

Want to do more?  Environmental volunteer groups operate right along our beautiful coast.  For more information,  click here.

Want to purchase some indigenous plants or get a helping hand?  Otways Indigenous Nursery in Aireys Inlet is a great place to start.

Have you identified any weeds in your garden?

Eco burn for Jan Juc cliffs

Jan Juc Coast Action (JJCA) has partnered with the local CFA to conduct an ecological burn as part of a trial to investigate how important grasslands respond to different treatments.

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Torquay CFA volunteers performing controlled ecological burns at Jan Juc

A five year ecological burn plan has been developed between JJCA group and Torquay CFA in an effort to optimise the flora vegetation at the Jan Juc cliffs.

The conservation plan is designed to increase overall biodiversity in the area by allowing plants time to set seed before the second fire.

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Local CFA volunteer monitors the planned burn to ensure the fire remains under control.

Australian flora needs fire for plants to seed and regenerate evolving from thousands of years of controlled burns by Indigenous Australians.

JJCA Chairperson – Luke Hynes is hopeful the ecological burns will improve the coastal vegetation along the cliffs and was grateful for the local CFA support.

“Our main challenge organising the ecological burns was finding a day to complete the burn when the weather is appropriate.

“We rely on fantastic local CFA volunteers to undertake the burns and really appreciate the time they put in,” he said.

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Six CFA volunteers helped clear the tussock grasses to create space for other native species.

The fire creates space between native grasses which allows smaller, indigenous herbs and plants room to grow.

Torquay CFA Captain, Phil Campbell was pleased at the outcome of the ecological burn, and said that the day was well organised and uncomplicated.

“We were very lucky with the wind and weather conditions. It was a coincidence that the weather on the day was perfect for burning, which made it a lot easier for us to control,” he said.

Mr Hynes is eager to see the results from the initial burn and hopes more native species will grow in the area.

“The Jan Juc cliffs were revegetated over 10 years ago with positive results, so hopefully we will be able to see a larger variety of herbs and grasses regrow along the cliffs,” he said.

The JJCA group is particularly interested in whether the fire will increase populations of the native rare orchid, Swamp Diuris, in the area.

Funds has been provided by the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne to collect and grow seeds of the rare orchid and the JJCA group hopes the ecological burn will improve the populace.

The JJCA group works to preserve and revegetate the Jan Juc coastline with Indigenous species and the removal of environmental weeds.

Ongoing environmental conservation works are being conducted in the are to help combat erosion, pest invasion and the provision of tracks and lookouts.

Check out the JJCA Facebook page to keep up to date with what’s happening along the cliffs.

Are you fire ready for this summer? Share your tips of how you keep your home safe in the comments below.