A Bit Wild

A Bit Wild

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!

Are We Facing Bunyageddon!

Are We Facing Bunyageddon!

by Spencer Shaw

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 Bunyageddon.

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 them…

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 spencer.shaw@bruhsturkey.com.au  

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!

Are You Nuts!

Are You Nuts!

Are You Nuts, A story about Bunya’s

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! 

Eucalyptus – the Rocket Tree!

Eucalyptus – the Rocket Tree!

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 and ecologically.

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 fertilisers.

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.

Further Reading:

https://www.firesticks.org.au

www.agendagotsch.com/en/

How to Save the Rainforest and While Enjoying a Cuppa!

How to Save the Rainforest and While Enjoying a Cuppa!

by Spencer Shaw

In a 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!

Your 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.  

Now to 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 mower.

Property 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!

Our 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!

So do 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.

Forest Heart Turns 5!

Forest Heart Turns 5!

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 perhaps…)

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.