Monday, September 26, 2016

Volunteers Wanted, Thursday Mornings

Crows Nest Community Nursery
Depot Road, Crows Nest (35 minutes' drive from Toowoomba).

Crows nest Community Nursery is Toowoomba Regional Council's 
It specialises in growing the native plants of the Toowoomba Region. 
It opens from 9.00am to 1.00pm every Thursday.
Customers include those who buy in ones and twos for their gardens, and those who buy in thousands for large revegetation projects.
The plants include koala food plants, bird and butterfly-friendly plants, bush tucker, windbreak and honey tree species, and fire retardant plants for people who live in bush-fire-risk areas.

There are also plenty of our ornamental, but little-known, local native species, for the customers who just want something pretty.
 Velvet beauty berry, Callicarpa pedunculata
 Batwing Coral Tree, Erythrina numerosa
 Quinine bush, Petalostigma pachyphyllum

Staffing consists of one TRC-employed manager, and  a team of volunteers. 
There is no formal roster. Volunteers turn up as it suits them. The result is that there are usually between 6 and 10 volunteers on any given Thursday. 
Some are Crows Nest Residents, but most come out from Toowoomba, with some car-pooling to save petrol costs and to have company on the drive.
The nursery is becoming so popular that the volunteers have trouble keeping up with the work that could be done. So do consider joining the happy team!
Volunteers collect seed, store it in the seed bank, plant it, pot the seedlings on as they become ready, grow cuttings, tend the plants on the shelves, and generally do all the little tasks that keep the nursery running smoothly.

No experience needed. There are jobs for people with no prior knowledge of gardening and plants, and jobs for those with more expertise.
 All you need to do is to turn up at the nursery after 9.00am on a Thursday.
Alternatively, you could contact the manager, Lisa Churchward at TRC,
for more information. 
To find the Nursery:
Approaching Crows Nest from the south (i.e. from the Toowoomba direction), slow down at the 80 sign and take the first turn right into Industrial Avenue.
Follow the green street signs (which say NURSERY). 

Friday, September 9, 2016

King Orchids
Dendrobium speciosum var. hillii
(Thelychiton tarberi)

It’s king orchid time again, and these lovely plants are in flower in gardens, and in the wild.
Like all our native orchids, these are tough plants. You can see that this orchid is thriving in its very exposed situation, high on a tree in a degraded environment, where most of the original sheltering forest has disappeared.

It may have trouble making babies up there in its rather isolated site, though. First, it has to be found by pollinators, such as the stingless bee Tetragonula carbonaria. The chances are better when there are quite a lot of the orchids around top attract them, but it’s all a bit sad for the bees. Like most orchids, these lovely plants are “con artists”, attracting insects to do the hard work of transferring the pollen to other flowers, by promising nectar rewards with their shape, colour, and perfume – but not actually making the effort to produce any nectar. Working without pay is not fair in anyone’s book!
However, despite its fine show, this plant may be wasting its fragrance on the air. If no bee finds it, it will never produce seed, a continuing problem it shares with many of our native plants as our bushland is ever more segmented and it gets harder for the increasingly isolated plants to attract pollinators.

Unlike some of their closest relatives, king orchids are tree-dwelling plants. Their fine seeds are happy to germinate on the rough park of perfectly straight trees like the one below. All they need is for the right kind of fungus to be already there, to help the helpless little seeds to begin growing.

And orchid seeds are unusually helpless, which means they must become parasites from birth. Most parent plants provide their seeds with a little food package (endosperm) to feed the newly germinating baby plant. Orchids, in their enthusiasm for producing enormous numbers of their very tiny seeds, neglect this rather basic precaution. If none of their seeds can latch onto a suitable fungus nursemaid to provide them with the necessary nutrients, then the orchid’s efforts to create a new generation will fail.
Orchids are one of the most successful plant families in the world, proving that, all things being equal, it pays to be a user. All is not equal in our local environment, however, and our district’s once-rich orchid flora is dwindling away.
All praise to those who give it a chance to recover, by conserving and restoring patches of our local bushland.