If the extent of your interest in gardening is the perfect lawn and an immaculately pruned hedge (probably Mock Orange), then this article is probably not for you. That said, I aim for inclusiveness in my approach so bear with me and we’ll see if we can’t find some common ground and if not then hopefully some light entertainment.Human beings are beings of nature, we enjoy interaction with the natural world. Although culturally some humans (unfortunately most) draw a line between humans and all the rest of life on earth, the fact remains that biologically and ecologically we are all part of life on earth. We’re inspired and in awe of areas of natural beauty, we enjoy watching other animals, we enjoy growing things, gardening & bushwalking. All these things make us happier, healthier and intrinsically content.
So, my thoughts naturally ramble in the direction of co-operation and sharing when it comes to the other life forms we are blessed to share this earth with. In our gardens, our green dominions, those areas that we can rule over with an iron fist (or at least an assorted blend of steel, alloy and plastic tools) and shape as is our whim into a series of monoculture, monotonous, monospecific, mediocre (and a legion of other words starting with m) manicured lawns and shrubs. These gardens, at best require constant intervention of labour, machine and chemical to maintain this level of morose mediocrity and at worst are functionally green deserts. We can do all this, or, we can get a little bit wild.
Getting a bit Wild in the garden, can take all sorts of forms, but the most crucial element is increasing the range of plants, in both species diversity and form. Ideally you would use as a great range of local native plants that reflect those that naturally occur in your area and provide food and resources for local wildlife. This unfortunately means sticking with local native plants of SE QLD and limits you to a mere 3500 native plant species…. although some could argue that’s a reasonable palette from which to select!
Other valuable elements to getting a little bit wild include: Mulch – use natural leaf litter, living mulches (groundcovers), rockpiles and logs; Question Your Chemical Use – insecticides & rodenticides may be useful short-term solutions to pest damage, but they are poisons that kill other wildlife and could end up in your food! Habitat – nest boxes, rocks, dead trees provide valuable homes.
The wilding of your garden is generous, creative and sharing. It reduces financial and physical inputs over time and the rewards, well they tweet for themselves!
It’s not been the biggest of stories in the media over the last year or so, what with Covid, Scandal and Celebrity, so although you may have missed it, this is a story that has quite significant implications for the Sunshine Coast hinterland. In a few media reports you may have seen or heard about a disease called Bunya dieback afflicting the Bunya trees at the Bunya Mountains National Park (200km west of here and south of Kingaroy). The story goes that over the last few years many ancient Bunya have died and research is being undertaken to confirm the cause and hopefully reduce its impact. You may think, that it’s a shame that Bunyas are dying out west, lucky it’s not happening here, well…
First up let’s get a bit of context. In writing from the
Blackall Range (Sunshine Coast Hinterland), I acknowledge the Bunya Country
traditional owners, the Jinibara people. The Bunya belongs to this place on a
scale of deep time that many of us may find hard to fathom. They have survived
on this country since before the age of dinosaurs and although once widespread
across Australia they are now found in one fragmented population between here
and the Bunya Mountains and an even smaller population at Mt Lewis in North
Queensland. Our human relationship with these trees extends back in time for
tens of thousands of years as they have been revered and provided sustenance to
the Jinibara peoples and their neighbours, especially during the abundance of
the Bunya Gatherings. The spiritual and cultural importance of the Bunya to
First Nations peoples was defended fiercely during the early days of the
British ‘settlement’, so much so that in 1842 the Bunya Proclamation was issued
by the Colony of New South Wales (Queensland was yet to be formed), preventing
felling and settlement by Europeans in Bunya country, one of the few instances
of such a proclamation by colonial authorities to recognise, if not the First
Nations peoples sovereignty on their own land, but recognise a forest on that
land. When Queensland was made a separate colony in 1859, the Bunya
Proclamation was rescinded and well, as they say, the rest is history… Only
fragments of this once great forest have survived clearing, by being tucked
away in inaccessible gullies and slopes. The Bunya then goes on to become an
icon for some European colonists and they have been replanted in paddocks,
gardens and more recently in revegetation, here and around Australia and the
world. Images of Bunya adorn corporate and community logos around the Blackall
Range (inclusive of the towns of Maleny, Montville and Mapleton) making them a
unique symbol for our area both ecologically and culturally. First nations
people have maintained cultural connectivity to the Bunya throughout this time
and shared this culture with the new Australians.
Getting back to where I started and the big story that we
should be interested in on the Blackall Range with regards our iconic Bunyas. The
research undertaken at the Bunya Mountains National Park into the cause of
Bunya dieback is that a type of Phytophthora, a water mould / oomycetes is
responsible. Phytophthora lives in and is transported in soil, and through its
life cycle damages the roots of trees, eventually preventing the tree from
getting any nutrients or water. The initial symptoms of infection are dieback
of the tree crown, followed by death of the whole tree over a few months. The
species of phytophthora thought to be responsible for the bunya dieback is Phytophthora
multivora, which has also caused dieback in the Wollemi pines in New South
Wales, and the ancient Kauri in New Zealand. It appears Bunya dieback was
introduced into the area by movement of soil, on shoes and or vehicles.
Bunya dieback appears to be compounded by a range factors,
including drought, temperature rises … climate change. Long wet seasons may
be ideal for the spread and infection of this disease and damage to occur and
if followed by periods of drought, trees that are damaged may then die.
There are an increasing number of records of Bunyas dying on
the Blackall Range over the last few years, so has Bunya dieback arrived here?
It does appear our Bunya are also under threat … are we too facing
Well without wanting to create a major panic (apart from the
invention of the word Bunyageddon!) how can we who are current stewards of this
country ensure that these magnificent trees whose origin goes 100’s of millions
of years survive into the future.
Here at Brush Turkey Enterprises and Forest Heart ecoNursery
we we’ve been proactive in contacting National Parks at the Bunya Mountains to
find out more about this disease and its implications both there and here and have
supplied Bunya seedlings to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for
their research into the cause of Bunya dieback … I hope they look after
So, what’s the first step in tackling this issue that might be facing us? Well to start off with, we want to raise awareness that Bunya dieback has potentially arrived on the Blackall Range and gather records of Bunya tree deaths, that we can use to help progress the research needed to confirm this. If you have a Bunya death on your property or know of one on public land please email details including your name, contact phone, address, photo and GPS location of tree if available, send emails to email@example.com
Through our production nursery we are also helping with preservation of the Bunya by growing 1000’s in tubestock and larger sized plants to help get more young Bunyas back onto this country. Together let us hope that we all as the current stewards of these amazing trees, can help them to last another 100 million years!
Before I start, I wish to acknowledge the
Traditional Owners of the Bunya Country on which we live, the Jinibarra and
Gubbi Gubbi / Kabi Kabi peoples. Bunya have been farmed and managed for
millennia, they were and still very much are an important and scared source of
food and culture. and we are lucky to have had this knowledge shared with us –
thank you. Eating Bunyas is best with family and friends, a communal activity
in which we can connect with and share the bounty of this land.
I personally rejoice when the Bunya cones
start to fall, I don’t rejoice so much that the nuts are falling, but more that
they are landing and available to harvest!
You certainly don’t want to be under them when they are falling or for
that matter waiting to catch them – as they can weigh up to 10kg!
The Bunya Tree (Araucaria bidwillii) is one of the truly ancient members of our
local forests. They hark back to the age of dinosaurs and were once widespread
across the Australian and are part of the Araucariaceae family, that still
survive across many of the southern land masses and include Hoop Pines, Norfolk
Pines and Monkey Puzzle Pine. These days Bunya Pine occurs naturally in one
tiny patch of north Queensland and more locally as scattered populations
between the Sunshine Coast and Kingaroy (Bunya Mountains). Not only are these
trees ancient, but quite exclusive about where they live – so we are lucky to
share their neighbourhood with them!
These delicious nuts are a great bonus to
our diet. The simplest way to cook Bunya Nuts is to boil for twenty minutes,
then let them cool down enough to handle. The husk on each individual nut is
quite tough and requires a sharp knife and an equally sharp operator. Once you
get the knack, you’ll get a taste for bunya that’s hard to keep up with your
cutting abilities (Instead of a knife we use a polypipe cutter which for a few
dollars is a great investment in saving your fingers).
Bunya Trees are relatively easy to grow.
The starchy Bunya nut sends a root deep into the ground where it forms a thick
tap root (like a radish) from which the tree shoots. They are a little bit slow
to start off with but once they get going can grow a metre or two per year and
can be fruiting at 12-15 years – just don’t plant them near your garage, shed,
water tank, house etc. for what I hope are obvious reasons… Plant Bunyas now
for future generations food and of course so that we will continue to be a home
for Bunya’s for millennia to come!
When it comes to their use in plantings and even in the
wider landscape Eucalypts cop a lot of bad press. As usual its often down to
poor decisions and management on our behalf. The litany of complaints against
the Eucalypt include: Those planted as a windbreak or privacy hedge along a small
acreage property boundary, they worked fantastically for the first 2-3 years
and then grew so tall and opened-up again underneath. The rain of branches is
dangerous for the residents and rough on the mower blades. To top it all off,
the quote that the arborist gave to remove these giants, that were only a
decade or two old, was enough to make the landholder fall to the ground
clasping their chest. Then there are the ex-pat Eucalypts planted internationally
in places such as Brazil, California & Spain for timber but can become
environmental weeds (can’t emphasises the word planted enough, why oh why do we
have to move trees around the planet for our own economic benefit and then get
annoyed with them when the naturalise, and discreetly forget that we are
responsible for their presence). Then there are the ones that are very much at
home where they evolved, on this land that we now call Australia. Although
crucial habitat to our beloved Koala, they are more frequently seen as a
dangerous, about to burst into flames, demon of a tree that that will burn out
the country and send us back to the sea from whence we came. Yet again, it
doesn’t have to be like this, First Nations Australians have lived with
Eucalypts for at least 60,000 years, by managing the land with fire and there
was no flaming apocalypse. As a maturing nation (I say this with hope) we must
recognise and appreciate the crucial importance of Indigenous fire management /
farming of the landscape, come to terms with our collective responsibility in
disrupting, destroying this management during the last few hundred years of
European colonisation and the importance
of reinstating indigenous fire management for our collective future both socially
Soap box oratory over, time to get back to the Rocket Tree
statement. Eucalypt species tend to grow very fast, very, very, very fast. Take
a local example we grow, Eucalyptus grandis Rose Gum / Flooded Gum. On
one particular site we’ve seen them grow 4 + metres in their first year, that’s
if the wallabies don’t nibble them or koalas climb them and start breaking
branches, which unfortunately happens on a tree that’s, that young. At least 2
metres a year should be a good conservative figure in coastal SE QLD. We also have
some trees getting close to 20 metres at just over 13 years in the ground.
Hence the Rocket Tree analogy and in a time when we need to be planting and
regenerating trees more than ever, how can we harness this rather impressive
growth rate, without ending up with some of the problems listed above.
First up, plant Eucalypts native to your area and/ /or appropriate
to the type of planting. There are over 700 Australian endemic Eucalypts. Potential
mature heights do vary amongst species, from the smallest Eucalyptus
vernicosa theVarnished-leaf Gum of Tasmania to the tallest
(historically the tallest trees in the world) Eucalyptus regnans the
Mountain Ash. In any given area you will have local native Eucalypt species
that should be the only ones going in revegetation projects and arguably
forestry plants, but if you do want smaller ones for your garden or landscaping
there are host of smaller local natives and cultivars.
Next up reinstate indigenous fire management in Eucalypt
based forest systems. This country we now call Australia has a long and proud
history (60,000 + years) of human land management. What many of us now think of
as wilderness, is a landscape in which human management is / was / needs to be
integral, to think otherwise perpetuates the myth of Terra nullius and damages
our forests. As many of us are new Australian’s (97%), we have very limited
understanding of indigenous fire management, but luckily for us all, First
Nations people are reclaiming their right to manage country and organisations
such as the Firesticks Alliance Indigenous Corporation and the ground breaking
book by Victor Steffensen “Fire Country – how Indigenous fire management could
help save Australia”, are again blazing a trail (pardon the pun) to reinstate
the land management that so much of this country needs.
Lastly and unfortunately, as so often is the case,
inspiration for the use and appreciation of yet another Australian native plant
has come from another country, Brazil. Ernst Gotsch has been incorporating Eucalyptus
grandis into his agroforestry systems for many decades. The system he has
developed is called Syntropic Farming and long story short, plants that grow
fast (regardless of whether they are exotic or native), are incorporated into a
agroforestry system that produces food and other resources and restores the
rainforest ecosystems, by the human management of successional processes of
forests. Fast growing trees like Eucalyptus are used to kick start the
successional process and be nurse trees for the next stage of development,
whether that be fruit trees such as bananas or restoring rainforest ecosystems
that have been cleared to grassland. The dominant paradigm with regards
planting of Eucalypts is that they are thieves of the soil stealing both
nutrients and moisture and likely to explode in a ball of flame if a source of
ignition is waived in their vicinity. But how can a tree that’s producing this
much biomass be a thief? Surely they are generators of life, harvesting the
suns energy at a very impressive rate and we like Ernst need to be making the
most of this. Management is the key, we can harvest these incredibly, quick and
potentially tall growing trees, by pruning. Ernst has developed as system that
allows trees such as our Eucalyptus grandis to grow like only they can, and
then prune back to a 6 metre pole each year and all the pruning’s fed back to
the soil, rapidly increasing soil carbon and soil development. When harvested
like this, these trees can be incorporated into rainforest revegetation or tree
crop development and reduce the need for external inputs such as mulch and
The First Nations people of Australia and so many other countries across the globe recognise and appreciate the Eucalypts, it’s about time so many of us new Australians recognised their intrinsic importance to our land and work with them to allow their full potential both ecologically and agriculturally to be realized.
world in which we are bombarded with images and stories of environmental
destruction, it’s all too easy to feel powerless and shut off from how we can
make the world a better place. We are however a fortunate generation, in that
we can make a real difference to the preservation of our local rainforests and
all of the animals that call them home. Best of all you can enjoy the benefits of
saving our local rainforests while reclining in the comfort of your favourite
chair on your back verandah with a cuppa and a good book!
backyard is the frontline when it comes to saving our local rainforests. Our
local rainforests are unique, but they are under threat due to the isolation caused
by the clearing for farmland in the past. Our rainforest remnants such as Mary
Cairncross Scenic Reserve are precious remnants of the great rainforests that
once covered large areas of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.
save you some time… while saving the rainforest. Too many backyards on the
hinterland have too much grass. All of that grass needs mowing, which takes
time, uses precious resources and of course contributes to the increase carbon
in the atmosphere. As a result of all this grass our local rainforests have
become fragmented islands, isolated by oceans of grassland. So here is a win-win situation for the
environment and you, the time poor landholder. By revegetating or landscaping
with local rainforest plants, we see an increase in the amount of habitat for
our local flora and fauna and you reduce the time you spend as a slave to your
boundaries are a good place to start planting, just make sure you don’t pick
anything too big or plant too close to the boundary. A Strangler Fig planted a
metre off the fence line and ripping up foundations and septic systems in the
years to come, may not be conducive to neighbourhood harmony!
local rainforests are also home to an awesome range of beautiful and
interesting plants that include groundcovers, vines, shrubs and small trees. There
are local natives, for all situations, all gardens, even small town blocks!
yourself and the environment a favour, ask yourself do we realy need all that
lawn (and if you decide no), then come and visit us at Forest Heart Local
Native Plants and hunt down some of our great local rainforest plants and an
amazing array of plants from a range of other ecosystems from the coast to
mountain tops and from across South East Queensland.
As the old saying goes “if a tree falls in the forest and no
one is there, does it still make a sound?” This often causes one to pause and
say either “of course it does” or the eyes of the listener to wander as this
existentialist conundrum confounds and questions the very nature of reality!
My new version of this saying – in an age when we need to be
planting trees in massive numbers, rather than waiting for them to fall (so as
to achieve enlightenment), is “If a tree
seedling is planted in the field, grows to be part of a forest, sequesters
carbon, becomes a source of life and biodiversity for the wider ecosystem,
improves water filtration and quality in the landscape, and even looks pretty, but then eventually dies and falls over, only
to again sequesters carbon, becomes a source of life and biodiversity for the
wider ecosystem, improve water filtration and quality in the landscape, does it
actually matter if it makes a sound when it falls over?” My thoughts are no,
not really… Planting, growing, making life is what really matters, that’s all
really (I’m sure that quite possibly that there is something deep and
meaningful in this, but I’m too much on the material plane to get that
So to focus on the practicalities of planting, let’s think of
some good reasons we all need to be investing and planting and restoring
vegetation. 1) As discussed last month you can plant your own fire wood (we are
currently harvesting some 15-20m high flooded gums that we only planted 12
years ago! 2) In these turbulent and uncertain times there’s never been a
better time to plant fruit trees to help grow your own food. 3) Although the
weather is cool now, summer will eventually return with a vengeance and the
more shade we can grow, will help ease the midsummer blues. 4) There’s also the
very good reason of planting habitat for our local wildlife as their beauty and
the ecological benefits they bring are considerable.
At Forest Heart we have the plants and knowledge to help
you. We have a great range of local natives (for revegetation, timber,
firewood, windbreaks), cultivar natives, fruit trees, mulches, fertilisers,
pots, books etc…
This August, Forest Heart our retail nursery celebrates its
5th birthday! We are part of Brush Turkey Enterprises a family
business operated by long term locals for 22 years and we’re as passionate as
ever about small enterprises role in preserving our unique biodiversity and
creating healthier lifestyles with great gardens, farms and natural areas.
Thankyou Maleny for you support and we look forward to continuing to work with
you all to help green your little bit of the world.