Welcome to the News section of the iNSiGHT Ornithology website (
www.simoncherriman.com). This blog contains updates about various things I've been up to, interesting environmental issues and observations I make regularly while going about my day. It is designed to be fun AND educational, and inspire you about our wonderful natural world. Happy reading!

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Wattle We Do? Pull it out - NOW!


WEEDS POSE A FIRE RISK! Especially below power lines.

But isn't this just a beautiful wildflower? NO! Flinders Range Wattle (Acacia iteaphylla) has become one of the most common and rapidly spreading weeds in the Perth Hills. In the last 10 - 15 years I have watched it take over natural bushland throughout the Mundaring Shire and choke out native plants. Why is this a problem? It not only disrupts local biodiversity, replacing the normally diverse Jarrah forest understorey with one exotic species (a 'monoculture'), but it increases the bushfire risk enormously. The seemingly lush foliage, which is currently adorned with pale yellow flowers, vividly lining most roads in the Parkerville-Stoneville-Mt Helena-Sawyers Valley area (and beyond), is in fact highly flammable. Try putting a green branch on your next backyard bomb-fire and watch it ignite like petrol. And it's even worse when the plants are dead.

Flinders Range Wattle has distinctive pale yellow flowers which are currently visible all over the Perth Hills.

Our 'bush' is often blamed for posing a fire threat to human lives and property, but much of the native Perth Hills vegetation is low and practically incombustible compared to the 5m or so that Flinders Range Wattles grow to. Intense summer bushfires (like the 2014 Parkerville - Stoneville - Mt Helena fire) only become so severe when high fuel loads take the flames from the forest floor roaring into the canopy. There is more to the term 'fuel load' than backyard leaf litter and fallen branches, which is what most people imagine when they hear this phrase. Understory plants (especially weeds) are equally as responsible for allowing fire to reach the canopy, and there are few native understory plants that are as flammable as Flinders Range Wattle (Kerosene Bush, Hakea trifurcata, is perhaps an exception but this is nowhere near as abundant). It is particularly concerning when you see hedges of this plant below power lines, as in the photo above, and this one (click to enlarge):


Currently Flinders Range Wattle is in full flower and is easy to spot - you literally can't drive around the Mundaring Shire without noticing it. This makes now a perfect time to identify it and implement control measures. Many people may delight at the sight of a pretty 'native' wildflower, but for me, the bright yellow displays remind us of this invasive plant's ability to set large quantities of seed that can remain viable in the soil for many years. I also think of how native Bronzewing Pigeons (Phaps chalcoptera), which are a granivorous bird that love to forage on Acacia seeds, can readily be observed beneath this weed, filling their bellies and unknowingly spreading it further. And pigeons aren't the only local to exacerbate the problem. This weed is sold as a 'screening plant' by local nurseries, meaning people are actually directly responsible for selling and spreading a noxious weed that sickens our environment and increases the fire threat to our community!

I have seen few attempts made by local authorities or private landowners to control this weed. In early 2014, however, I was encouraged to find Lake Leschenaultia managers had removed several plants around the perimeter of the lake, a place where it has not yet taken hold. This removal of individual plants is a start, but to actually make any impact, a landscape-scale removal program is urgently required. What's more, there are numerous other fire-prone weed species colonising local bushland, which increase every year (Blackberry, Watsonia and other exotic wattle species are some examples), and these species also require urgent attention. Sadly, weed control is currently underfunded and its importance (to both nature and people) is overlooked. Football and city-centre redevelopments are apparently more urgently required.

Human health is intricately linked to environmental health and killing weeds to restore biodiversity does actually benefit us too, not just our wildlife. If we as a community are serious about reducing the risk of bushfires to our lives and homes, then the control of Flinders Range Wattle should be made a top priority. We need to consider the whole picture, not just bits and pieces.

Do you have Flinders Range Wattle on your property? Or on a street near you? If so, then now is the time to take action and get rid of it. Working together as a community with cooperation and vigilance is the only way we will be able to efficiently control and eliminate this exotic plant. You can read about the best control methods on the Mundaring Shire's website, which includes a fantastic replacement initiative.

You can also read more about how the impact of weeds on a local patch of bush has been addressed by students from Mundaring Primary School at the Mardo Reserve website here.

Remember, Planet Earth is a spaceship on which we are all crew.

11 comments:

  1. Hi Simon, Great article, however I'd like to point out a few things that the Mundaring Shire has done in the past and present to look at Flinders Range Wattle in our Shire. We had a Flinders Range Replacement Program - take out a flinders and we will give you a local native replacement plant. If the public want this again we can look at re-introducing this innovation.

    Our Landcare Team continues to take out Flinders and a plethora of other weeds around the shire. Infact they are the ones assisting Andrew the Manager at the Lake to remove as many flinders as they can.

    I have personally put articles in the local newspapers in the past - Flinders Range - Friend or Foe?? An article exactly the same as what you have written so I love your style!!

    Recently we have introduced an Environmental Assets Inspection process. For $100 you can have a shire enviro officer visit your property, talk about local natural area and we educate on weeds etc. This is in conjunction with a planning application, however we have been conducting Private Land Conservation site visits in partnership with the EMRC's Natural Resource management officers for a long time where a ratepayer in the Shire can ring up and get a free - yep free - site visit to talk environment on their property. this has become even more important as I note with regret the demise of the fabulous Land for Wildlife Program with DPaW.

    We have printed and re-printed our Plants out of Place booklet (weeds id and control booklet). Has flinders in it and is widely distributed at every opportunity.

    Please consider the generic statement that you have not seen any attempts by Local Govts or private landholders to control this weed because we believe we are facing a huge battle of all weeds, but think we are doing some great things out there :)

    Its a great time of year to get rid of your flinders. You can identify it easily AND it hasn't set seed yet. So I fully endorse your article and am blessed to have environmental professionals like yourself in the shire spreading these very important messages.

    Thanks Simon,
    Toni Burbidge
    Co-ordinator Environment and Sustainability
    Shire of Mundaring.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awesome Toni! Thanks so much for taking the time to write this detailed answer. This is just the sort of response I hoped for - to generate some discussion and learn about a few more things that have been/are being done. My article comes from desperation that this weed is spreading so fast and so quickly, and efforts to control it do not seem to be winning, because it is more and more visible each year. The community response to the 2014 fire has had quite some impact on native bushland and I feel it is my responsibility as a local environmental educator to ensure people understand the whole picture. When I see native bush being cleared, but more flammable weeds proliferating, AND being sold by local nurseries at the same time, I feel it important to point out the inconsistency! I wasn't aware of actions like the replacement program, so it's great to find out about these. Do you mind if I edit this article and put links to where people can find info about these?

      I'm not meaning to be critical of any one authority - my comments aim to make the general point that weed control everywhere is not given the priority it should, and in these current times with low funding, and money needing to be spread across so many areas, people can only do what they can with the resources provided. I totally respect that. I know that positive things are definitely happening - they just need to step up a bit! My point is that it needs a whole community approach to actually win against something like this. Governments can only do so much but community members need to take action too. And that's what I'm trying to say, to encourage everyone to become aware about this issue. If more people learn from this that Flinders Range Wattle is a weed and needs controlling, then I have achieved my aim.

      Delete
  2. Hey Simon, yes I'm totally fine with any links to the Shire's information on our website. You are so correct. It is about community education and unfortunately the lack of resources for local governments to manage their weeds as well. We have the wonderful friends group volunteers who help the shire achieve so much. Would love to hear any other discussions on this and since you have prompted us, we have written another media release to see if the papers pick up on it being the flinders time of year. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Flinders Range Wattle - the bane of many country areas. We're in the SW and as you've found they seed prolifically and are highly flammable. Even at this time of the year on a mild day they can be cut and put straight onto a small fire and will flare up and burn almost immediately.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very much Peta - this species is highly flammable, unbeknownst to most people who think plants need to be dead to burn! I've been pulling out a few every day to try and make some impact. Keep up the great work.

      Delete
    2. Nice to know that there is a few of us who recognise the problems of plants both from the weed and bushfire perspective. The larger tree wattles such as the Blackwood Wattle and the Cedar Wattle are not only weed and bushfire problems, they are quite brittle in stormy conditions when branches are shed or the whole tree falls over. Not at all desirable near properties nor in adjacent bushland.

      Delete
    3. Totally agree Peta - all the more reason to pull them out!!

      Delete
  4. Can you put up a picture of Golden Wattle vs Flinders wattle, they look similar and I don't want to be pulling out the wrong plant. I'm in Roleystone and we have LOTS of golden wattle, I think.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi and thanks for your comment! Golden Wattle (Acacian pycnantha) is also a weed in the Perth Hills so pulling out both this and Flinders Range Wattle will help the environment! The local native wattle which could be confused with Golden Wattle is Acacia saligna (sometimes called Golden WREATH Wattle or Orange Wattle. Flinders Range Wattle has much greyer foliage and thinner leaves. Refer to the images at this link to assist with identification:
      https://florabase.dpaw.wa.gov.au/search/advanced?genus=acacia

      Delete
  5. Perhaps someone ought to let Bunnings know as they are selling it now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the tip! I will be sure to write to Bunnings and let them know!

      Delete