Landcare is a non-governmental community movement dedicated to preventing land degradation and achieving sustainable land management. It consists of a network of local volunteer groups of which there are over 1700 in New South Wales alone. Each group works to find local solutions to local problems such as salinity, soil degradation, animal pests, weeds, vegetation loss, waterside erosion, poor water quality, coastal degradation and urban land degradation. If you appreciate how lucky we are in the Helensburgh district to enjoy a relatively unspoiled bush environment you should also be aware that it is under serious threat. read more

Monday, 16 April 2018

Be Weed Wise - Easter Cassia

Easter cassia (Senna pendula var. glabrata)

Easter cassia is native to tropical South America and was widely cultivated as a garden ornamental. Unfortunately, it has become invasive in eastern parts of Australia especially along the coast.  It is a weed of waterways, gardens, disturbed sites, waste areas, roadsides, closed forests, forest margins and urban bushland. It is a fast growing plant that can suppress the growth of native species and displace them. It produces large amounts of long-lived seeds.

Easter cassia is an upright, spreading or sprawling shrub usually growing 2-4 m tall, but occasionally reaching up to 5 m in height.  

The compound leaves are arranged alternately along the stem, each leaf is composed of three to six pairs of dark green leaflets with rounded tips. The flowers are bright yellow (about 30 mm across) with five large petals (20-25 mm long) which are clustered at the end of the stems. 

Flowering occurs throughout the year, but is most prevalent during autumn (i.e. at Easter time). Flowers are followed by cylindrical pods (10-20 cm long and 6-12 mm wide) that hang downwards, and contain the brown/black seeds. Pods turn from green to pale brown in colour as they mature.

 Dispersal: Easter cassia is spread by seed, in garden waste, and sometimes by suckers.

Removal: Hand-pull small individual plants, particularly in moist soil. Remove roots and consider applying mulch to discourage regrowth. Dig out larger plants with mattock or similar garden tool. Seeds and seed pods should be place in your red bin, other parts are safe to place in your green bin.

Grow Me Instead

Golden honey myrtle, Melaleuca bracteata  ‘Revolution Gold’  This beautiful golden foliaged Australian native plant to 3m brings colour all year round. Requires free draining soil and a sunny position but will accept light shaded areas.

Heath banksia, Banksia ericifolia  Large orange flower heads , needle-like foliage and a dense growth habit make this a very useful banksia for the garden. It is bird attracting and flowers in autumn/winter. 

Pincushion bush, Leucospermum species  Several species and hybrids of these dramatic shrubs from southern Africa are available. 

Friday, 30 March 2018

Be Weed Wise - Madeira Vine

Madeira vine (Anredera cordifolia)

Madeira vine (also called lamb’s tail) is an invasive vine from South America. Originally it was introduced to Australia as an ornamental plant in gardens. It is no longer planted but people in older gardens could still have it growing over sheds or along fence-lines. It has become an environmental weed, locally and Australia-wide, blanketing and smothering both shrubs and trees. Once it is in flower it is very obvious throughout Helensburgh and surrounding areas. It is listed as a Weed of National Significance.

Madeira vine is a twining vine with wide, fleshy, heart-shaped leaves that are 2 to 15 cm long, with fragrant, cream-coloured flower spikes up to 30 cm long in March/April. As stems mature they develop aerial tubers which can become very large.

Dispersal: Madeira vine spreads via the aerial tubers which drop to the ground and form new plants, and also by root tubers. These tubers can be washed down creeks and drainage lines during heavy rain. The tubers can be viable for many years. The vine may also be spread in Council green waste, or dumping of garden waste in bushland.

Removal: Large vines which are smothering trees may need herbicide treatment. Pulling at the vines means that the aerial tubers drop on the ground. Smaller plants can be hand removed. All tubers and tuberous roots need to be removed. All parts of Madeira vine should be put in your red bin. Alternatively, put it in a black plastic bag and leave in the sun for some months, depending on the season. For treatment with herbicide, the 'stem-scrape' method is best. This method is also called bark-stripping or stem-painting. Stem-scraping is used for plants and vines with aerial tubers, or where underground tubers and roots are in a difficult-to-get-to place. A sharp knife is used to scrape a very thin layer of bark from a 15–30 cm section of the stem. Herbicide is then immediately applied to the exposed area soft underlying green tissue. For hard-to-reach tubers and roots, some section of stem and leaves should be left so that stem-scraping can be used. In the case of Madeira vine, all tubers within reach should be collected, removed and composted or destroyed before starting the scraping. 

Line Drawings by Lyn Skillings.

For more information, Click here.

Pittwater Ecowarriors provides an excellent YouTube video on Madeira vine

Grow Me Instead

Wonga vine, Pandorea pandorana
This local native vine can easily cover a fence or trellis. It has cream flowers with brown or purple streaks, although yellow and white flowered cultivars are available.

Snake vine, Hibbertia scandens
This local vine has bright green leaves with large yellow flowers.

Chinese star jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides

This evergreen vine from China has dark, glossy foliage and small, starry, white, spicy, nutmeg-scented flowers in summer. It is slow growing initially but later becomes vigorous. Variegated leaf forms are also available.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Clean Up Australia Day - Sunday 4 March 2018

Australia has one of the best natural landscapes in the world.
From our pristine beaches, ancient forests and flourishing sealife, we have some of the most unique flora and fauna.
But the rubbish we create through mass consumption is choking our streets, beaches, parks, bushland and waterways.
And along the way it's killing one of our best assets: nature.
We are all part of the problem - but YOU can also be part of the solution.
Because when the rubbish is gone, nature can carry on ....

Helensburgh & District Landcare Group will once again be providing an opportunity for local residents to help Clean Up Australia. Come along to the Registration Point, The Old Mine Surgery, 78 Parkes Street, Helensburgh, between 10 am and 1 pm, on Sunday 4 March. Pick up a bag and then clean up an area of your own choice – maybe your local street or along the footpath where you regularly walk. Anywhere you have seen rubbish along the streets, footpaths, parks, bushland and creeks in our local area, this is your opportunity to do your bit for our local environment.

Please wear a hat and sturdy shoes, and bring gloves and water.

For more information email or ring 0414 819 742

You can also register on-line before the day at

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Grow Me Instead - Asparagus species

Grow Me Instead – Helensburgh & district

Asparagus spp.
There are many Asparagus spp. that have become environmental weeds in Australia. Details of the two that are impacting on Helensburgh and surrounding areas are below.

Asparagus fern (Asparagus aethiopicus)
Bridal creeper (Asparagus asparagoides) (Weeds of National Significance*)
Origin: Africa.
How it spreads: Dumping of garden waste. Seeds are dispersed by birds and small animals. Asparagus species are highly invasive environmental weeds.

Effects on the Environment
The ability to abundantly produce seeds and flowers enables asparagus fern and bridal creeper to quickly invade and suppress other plants.

 Asparagus fern

Asparagus fern swiftly attacks any disturbed, cleared sites of vegetation. The plant has become a dominant ground cover, displacing native plants. With its mat of fibrous roots and tubers, the plant has the ability to take over the soil, trapping water and nutrients and so reducing their availability to native plants.

Bridal creeper

Bridal creeper forms large underground rhizomes. It twines up into surrounding vegetation, eventually covering the ground and any plants.

Asparagus fern is a multi-branched prostrate herb forming a dense mat of roots. The fern-like branches grow to 60cm with a covering of small sharp spines. The plant has small white-pink clusters of flowers in late summer which ripen to bright red berries. These 'ferns' will overtake natural species by developing dense thickets that deprive other plants of light and nutrient as well as destroying habitat.

Removal: The central rhizome must be removed. For small plants lever the plant up with a hand tool. For larger plants, cut off the stems, then clear around the rhizome cutting the roots and levering out the rhizome. Dispose of rhizome and any fruit in the red bin. Water tubers and roots can be left as they will not reproduce.

Bridal creeper stems are long and wind around
vegetation or scramble along the ground. They range
from 1-3 m in length and can be slightly woody at
the base. Leaves grow alternately along the stem, are bright green, thin and glossy, are 1-7 cm long and have around seven parallel veins. Flowers are white and bell-shaped and grow singularly or in pairs along the stem. Fruit is bright orange to red berries. Roots are dark, cylindrical branching rhizomes bearing pale, fleshy tubers which become entwined together forming a dense mass about 5-10 cm deep in the soil. The stems arise from the rhizomes.

Removal: Hand pull and dig out the rhizomes. All underground material should be removed and follow up will be required. Dispose of rhizomes and any fruit in the red bin.

Grow Me Instead
 Grevillea species
As groundcovers there are several prostrate or low mound-forming Grevilleas, some of which even have similar foliage to the asparagus ‘ferns’, though they will not tolerate such shady conditions Grevillea obtusifolia and Grevillea juniperina ‘Molonglo’ with yellow to apricot flowers are just two of many available.
Chinese star jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides
This evergreen vine from China has dark, glossy foliage and small, starry, white, spicy, nutmeg-scented flowers in summer. It is slow growing initially but later becomes vigorous. Variegated leaf forms are also available.
For shady areas: Prickly rasp fern, Doodia aspera. This is a pretty fern as its new growth is a bright pinky-orange. It makes a good groundcover for a shady site and is one of the most drought-tolerant local native ferns.

* Thirty two Weeds of National Significance (WoNS) have been agreed on by the Australian governments based on an assessment process that prioritised these weeds based on their invasiveness, potential for spread and environmental, social and economic impacts. Landowners and land managers at all levels are responsible for managing WoNS. State and territory governments are responsible for legislation, regulation and administration of weeds.