Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A “Friends” group

for the Charles and Motee Rogers Bushland Reserve?
This little environmental reserve is situated in the heart of Highfields.
Would you be interested in joining an informal group which does a bit of this and that on its behalf?
As the idea stands at present, the group would be quite informal, and have no joining fee, no office bearers, no funds, and therefore no tedious meetings.
It might meet perhaps once a month (Weekday? Weekend?) at the reserve. Activities could include a brief working bee (pulling out weeds and picking up rubbish), a pleasant morning tea or afternoon tea meeting like-minded people, and advocating on behalf of the reserve. You might like to become a member, and join in just one, or all, of these activities - and perhaps others as well as the group decides.
The"Friends" would work in co-operation with TRC’s Parks Community and Volunteer Support Facilitator. Members would be listed as volunteers for TRC, and would be covered by TRC’s insurance for its activities.
If interested, you could talk to me or Judi Gray at the Clean Up Australia Day event at the reserve  this coming Sunday (2 March, 7.00-10.00am), or send either of us an email?

Ivorywood at Anduramba

Siphonodon australis
I saw this pretty tree on red soil at Anduramba a few weeks ago.

Having only ever seen the species growing in scrub, I was interested to see how it shaped up as a plant grown in the open, in a paddock which it shares with cattle.
It is certainly a pretty specimen, especially laden as it is with its aromatic fruit.

This plant is probably very old, despite its small size. The species is slow-growing at the best of times. It was probably not much smaller than this when the original scrub was cleared from around it, a century or more ago. Like so many dry rainforest trees, it would have the ability to survive happily, but make little growth in a rather harsh habitat like this.
Ivorywood is one of our disappearing trees, easily cleared, and taking several human lifetimes to replace.
We all love big trees, but should remember to value those which are not naturally very large. Action groups wanting to save “significant trees” are sometimes found fighting tooth and nail to save 30-year-old gumtrees, while letting ancient treasures like this disappear without a word of protest.

For more about this plant, see Dec 2009

Gumbi Gumbi Gardens

I do love a well-designed garden!

My idea of a really good garden is one which appeals not just to the physical senses, but to the mind and spirit as well.
The University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba already has one well-established great public garden of this kind, in its Japanese Garden. It has done it again, with this Aboriginal garden. It is beautifully designed and rich with uplifting meaning and symbolism.
Even for those who choose to ignore all that, it is simply a pleasant place to be, even though it is still so very new. It is a great place to go for a stroll, watch the birds, take a picnic, bring international visitors, or just to have a snooze in the shade on a sunny afternoon.

I was delighted when I was given the opportunity to be shown around a few weeks ago. The Toowoomba Field Naturalists were given the first official tour of the garden by two of the people who were driving forces in its creation, Donna Moody and Uncle Darby McCarthy. It was a pleasure and a privilege. If you get the chance to do the same, don’t miss it, as it's very rewarding to be able to have a deeper understanding of the ideas behind the design.
I had been told that the university was building a new “bush tucker garden”, so was very interested to discover that this was a rather inadequate description. Bush tucker is certainly one of the components, but only a small part of the whole.
The plantings are all of local native species, but older existing plants of many other kinds have also been retained. This is a garden that is very firmly grounded in its own place in the world.

The Gumbi Gumbi Gardens are in the University’s “front yard”, stretching from West Street up towards the administration buildings. Parking inside the University can be difficult (though possible) on a weekday, but easy on weekends.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Joseph’s Coat Moth

(Agarista agricola)

This insect created a bit of a flutter when she was found in the seed-raising igloo at the Crows Nest Community Nursery last Thursday.
“Oh no!” we thought. "Not a butterfly laying eggs on our precious seedlings!"
On examination she proved to be not a butterfly, but our largest and most glamorous local day-flying moth. With a wingspan of 7cms, she is as large as the more familiar blue triangle butterfly,  so it is not surprising that Joseph’s coat moths are often mistaken for butterflies.

This is a female. You can tell by the large white patches on her shoulders.  Her brilliantly striped caterpillars - black, white, and orange - grow to 7cms, so could have done a lot of damage to the right kind of seedlings.
However, the Joseph’s coat moth is only known to breed on plants in the grape family, and there are none of those in the igloo. The poor girl had blundered in there and was only trying to escape.
She was carefully captured, taken home and photographed. (This picture of her showy knickers was taken through a sheet of glass.)

Then she was released in my garden, where her most common local host plant, the slender water vine Cayratia clematidea, grows. Hopefully she has found a boyfriend by now, and may be out there laying eggs as I type.

See March 2011 for more on the slender water vine.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Clean-up Australia Day

at Charles and Motee Rogers Bushland Reserve
Catch up with the latest, and look at the state of the Reserve on Clean-up Australia Day.
Date: 2 March 2014
Time: 7.00am - 10.00am (Turn up when it suits you)
Address: Corner of O’Brien Road and Community Court, Highfields.
Registration: On the day, or on
If you register by the end of this week, you will be sent a Clean up Australia Day Kit.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

News on the Charles and Motee Rogers Reserve

News is hard to come by. There is no sign of the consultation with the local community, as recommended by Councillor Nancy Sommerfield.
There is, however, a new set of paint spots on the trees. They are bright fluoro pink, and mark the “compromise” path. This was apparently negotiated with the Toowoomba Regional Council’s (TRC's) conservation staff, who may feel that they have achieved the best that they realistically can, given the determination of other TRC forces to put a path through the reserve, right or wrong.
I believe that it is still not good enough.
Points that don't seem to have been properly considered are:
1. Whether any compromise that reduces the biodiversity value of an area donated and zoned as a conservation reserve is justified. There’s a perfectly good designated footpath precinct only a few metres away. The massive 3m concrete path and its associated "edge effect" * would damage the natural appeal and biodiversity value of the whole of the Reserve's frontage on Community court, to a considerable depth. The contrary argument seems to be that that building the 3m wide footpath on the footpath precinct would destroy 15 trees. Is a compromise that destroys a large slice of the reserve (except for its  big trees) any better than a compromise that would require the removal of some footpath trees? Would a compromise in the design of the footpath enable it to be built on the designated footpath precinct, damaging fewer than those 15 targeted trees?
2. It is being difficult to persuade TRC that conservation reserves are not just about saving trees. Despite having designated this reserve, on their own recent town planning scheme, as a “Conservation Area of Environmental Concern”, there seems to be little understanding by some councillors and TRC staff about their responsibilities with regard to that particular designation. By contrast, many local citizens are fully aware that conservation areas are intended to  conserve total environments - big "significant" trees, little trees, saplings, shrubs, understorey plants, grasses, sedges, herbs, mosses.... the lot! Conservation reserves are also expected to provide a complete, healthy habitat for the Reserve's full range of fauna, from mammals to insects.
3. How can citizens trust their local government, if it treats a bequest like this? This reserve was donated to the public by local citizens. They believed (as did all concerned) that the bequest would see the reserve preserved safely for future generations. How sad to see it being subjected to what Cr Bill Cahill so aptly describes as the “death of 1000 cuts”. How will this precedent be used in our other conservation reserves? Would you donate land to this council?
It should be remembered that this reserve is not owned by TRC. It is owned by the citizens of the Toowoomba Region. TRC is responsible for its appropriate management, on our behalf.

Examples of  insects appreciated by the community can be seen at
This monkey rope vine Parsonsia straminea is the host plant for the black crow butterfly shown on the above site. It is being eliminated from the Highfields area, as land is cleared for development, but it still grows in the Charles and Motee Rogers Bushland reserve. Butterflies born and bred there are frequent visitors to local gardens, where they appreciate the flowers.
See also previous article Friday, January 17, 2014

* Edge Effect
and the Charles and Motee Rogers Bushland Reserve
Those of my readers who have some knowledge of conservation issues will be aware of the “edge effect" problem.
Edge effect degrades the quality of conserved bushland.
  • Plants near edges may not thrive and may be unable to reproduce, because of exposure to sun, wind, weed invasion, and damage to roots.
  • Fauna near edges are subject to predation because of the reduced plant cover, and become unable to find suitable food and breeding sites because of the degradation of the flora.
  • The aesthetic value of the edges is subject to degradation because of littering and vandalism. 
Severe edge effect has knock-on consequences. As the edge becomes severely degraded, so the effect moves deeper into the bushland.
Appropriate management of edge effect can be done in several ways.
One technique is to establish infill planting around edges, increasing vegetation density in this vulnerable region. In the Charles and Motee Rogers Reserve, for instance, infill planting (done when the Reserve was managed by the Crows Nest Shire Council) can be discerned around the edges.  More such planting would be appropriate.
Where increasing suburban population threatens to further degrade edges, local councils often provide fencing, limiting public access. This reduces incidental wear and tear from use by people with no interest in the reserve's particular reason for being. A single open gate allows free access to those wanting to visit the Reserve for its own sake, but eliminates use of it as a shortcut. A local example is Toowoomba Bird Habitat, where fencing and the lake protect the plantings that are used by wildlife. Many other examples of this type of fencing can be seen in Brisbane and other local government areas. TRC could show it valued the Charles and Motee Rogers Bushland Reserve by providing such fencing.
All path-making risks increasing the edge effect. The existing gravel path in the Charles and Motee Rogers Bushland Reserve is a good example of a path built according to sound conservation principles, and designed to have minimum edge effect.
The proposed 3m concrete path seems to be designed in such a way as to have the maximum possible edge effect, on both sides. The remnant of bushland to be left between the path and the road would suffer severely from edge effect intruding from both sides. It is unlikely to retain any worthwhile ecological value at all, and should be counted as a lost part of the reserve, if this plan does indeed go ahead.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Bunya Cones to Give Away

A generous reader tells me she has “heaps of bunya nuts that need homes”
She is happy to give them away if they can be collected from her place, which is in the western suburbs of Toowoomba.
If you’d like some, give Una a ring, on 0408 BUNYA 344 536.
(Yes, obviously you should skip the letters when dialling. I have just put them in there in the hope that Una won’t get spam phone calls and texts as a side effect of letting me put her phone number on the internet).

I was given a new bunya nut recipe today.
Split the shells, by hitting them on the seam with a hammer, or by cutting them, then boil them (for 30 minutes) in water to which you have added 2 stock cubes, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.
I’m told the result is yummy!