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

Wednesday 28 November 2018

Be Weed Wise - Montbretia

Montbretia (Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora)

Montbretia is a vigorously growing, long lived bulbous plant which dies back annually. It is grass-like in appearance and often mistaken for Watsonia. It has strap-like leaves around 30 – 80 cm long and 1 - 2 cm wide. It was a popular garden plant due to its bright orange trumpet-shaped flowers, which form in two rows along each stem.  The aboveground foliage is short-lived, and grows back each year from underground 'bulbs' (i.e. corms) and creeping stems (i.e. rhizomes).

Montbretia grows in dense clumps and is capable of adapting to a variety of conditions. It out-competes native plants, particularly in native bushland and riparian areas. Montbretia can sometimes still be found for sale at local fetes, nurseries and markets, despite the ban on sale in NSW.

Dispersal: Montbretia mostly spreads from underground runners and bulbs. Each plant can produce up to 14 new bulbs annually. These bulbs break off from the parent plant and begin to produce their own root network. This increases the size and density of an infestation. Bulbs can be transported to new locations by dumped garden waste, water and movement of contaminated soil. New plants also develop from the tips of the creeping underground stems (i.e. rhizomes)

Removal: To save you time and energy, the most effective removal of Montbretia is just before full flowering occurs around Spring and Summer and digging out bulbs when the soil is wet. Hand removal is only practical for small clumps of the weed. Use a garden fork to dig all corms and underground stems to ensure complete removal. Cut stems first if the plant is in seed. Spraying with herbicide or using a weed wand is another option.

Grow Me Instead

Leek lily (Bulbine bulbosa)
An Australian native plant, leek lily is an attractive species with fragrant yellow flowers. It is especially suited to rockeries and cottage gardens and is also excellent as a container plant.

Blue flax lily (Dianella spp.)
Flax lily is native to Australia and many of the garden cultivars stem from four of the native strains. The richly-hued blue flowers with delicate yellow anthers perch like chandeliers on the end of wiry stems and contrast well with the long linear form of the leathery leaves.

Kangaroo paws (Anigozanthus species and varieties.) Kangaroo paws originate in Western Australia. They have clumps of strappy leaves. The different varieties vary in colour, height and hardiness in our area.

Friday 2 November 2018

Be Weed Wise - Small Leaf Privet

Small leaf privet (Ligustrum sinense)

Small leaf privet is native to Asia. This plant was commonly used as a hedge plant in the past but causes allergies in humans, and has become invasive in native bushland, and neglected gardens and wastelands. Small leaf privet is considered to be serious environmental weed throughout Australia. Infestations threaten biodiversity, including endangered plant and animal species and ecological communities. Dense stands of privet prevent other vegetation surviving or establishing.

Small leaf privet is a shrub or small tree that has green leaves up to 7cm long, usually with wavy margins. Privet flowers in spring. Its flowers are small, white and strongly scented in large sprays on the ends of, or along, the branches. Flowers are followed by blue/black berries which are attractive to birds.

Dispersal: This species reproduces by seed and root suckers, and it also re-sprouts after its stems are deliberately cut or otherwise damaged. Its seeds are readily dispersed by fruit-eating birds and other animals. They may also be spread by water or in dumped garden waste.

Privet is unlikely to be sold in nurseries but may be available at fetes or markets. Do not plant it, and if it is already present in your garden please remove it so it doesn’t get a chance to spread further. You may find privet seedlings coming up regularly in your garden under any trees.

Removal: Remove young plants by hand. This is best done when the soil is moist to ensure you do not break off or leave any of the root system in the ground. For plants that cannot be pulled out, carefully dig out the plant, removing as much of the root system as possible. Large plants may need chemical treatment.

Grow Me Instead

Grevillea biternata – A grevillea from WA with a massed display of creamy white flowers.

    Leptospermum ‘Cardwell’ - Gracefully weeping aromatic evergreen foliage, covered in white  
    flowers late winter to spring.

Sunday 21 October 2018

Be Weed Wise - Cocos palm & Canary Island date palm

Cocos palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana) and Canary Island date palm (Phoenix canariensis)

Cocos palm

Cocos palm is native to South America. It is invasive in Queensland and NSW, as well as places like Florida and Honduras. This palm is single-stemmed palm that grows to an average height of 12m. Tall fronds up to 5m long bear leaves with a green upper surface and greyish undersides. The Cocos palm is known for its bunches of orange yellow fruits (each fruit 2.5cm in diameter), and often has an untidy appearance due to hanging dead fronds and fermenting dropped fruits.

Canary Island Date Palms
Canary Island date palm growing at Proud Park, Helensburgh

Canary Island date palm is naturally found in the Canary Islands. It has also naturalised in many countries and is regarded as a weed in Australia and California. This palm has a strong trunk that is scarred with old leaf bases and long gracefully arching fronds. The lower leaflets on each frond are reduced to stiff sharp spines. Large golden-stemmed panicles of small, 3-petalled, often yellow flowers are followed by soft, single-seeded, orange to near-black fruits.

Young Canary Island date palm growing in bushland near Proud Park, Helensburgh

Dispersal: These palms reproduce entirely by seed. These seeds are spread by bats and other animals that eat the fruit. The seeds are also dispersed by water and in dumped garden waste.

Removal: Small palms can be dug out, larger ones will require specialised equipment, e.g. a registered tree removalist. If you wish to keep your palm, please remove inflorescences before fruit appears. Both these palms are on the Exempt Tree list for Wollongong City Council. This means that once the palm is positively identified, you can remove it without having to apply to Council for permission.

Grow Me Instead

Bangalow palm Archontophoenix cunninghamiana
This palm has a solitary stem and reaches a height of up to 30m and a diameter of up to 30cm. It has a prominent crownshaft and arching fronds up to 4.5m long with many leaflets, giving it an attractive feathery appearance.

Cabbage tree palm Livistona australis
This local native palm has fan- shaped leaves and generally a smooth trunk, although old leaf bases are retained on young plants. Remnant trees, sometimes as much as 30 metres high, can often be seen in gullies in cleared paddocks on the coast.

Dwarf date palm Phoenix roebelenii

A neat dwarf palm, which is slow growing and cold hardy. It will thrive in heavy shade and gives a tropical feel to almost any garden space.

Thursday 23 August 2018

Be Weed Wise - Ochna

Ochna, Mickey Mouse plant (Ochna serrulata)

Ochna is another example of an ornamental species escaping into bushland. A native of Africa, it has been widely planted in Australian gardens for its strikingly attractive flowers. It is a significant environmental weed in south-east QLD, eastern areas of NSW and Lord Howe Island.

Ochna grows as a shrub that is erect and woody up to about 1.5 m high. Leaves are up to 5 cm long, narrow and glossy with serrated margins. New growth usually has a bronze tinge. Flowers are bright yellow.

The petals fall off, leaving the sepals which turn scarlet red when the fruits appear. Fruits are initially green, turning glossy black in summer. Root is an angled tap root that is easily broken when hand pulled, hence Ochna easily reshoots.

Ochna serrulata has invaded roadsides, disturbed sites, waste areas, rainforests, forest margins, riparian areas and dry sclerophyll forests. Seed is spread by water, animals (foxes and rabbits), birds and humans, in contaminated soil (earthmoving equipment, car tyres, etc.) and by dumping garden waste into bushland. Locally, Ochna is easily dispersed to new areas when birds eat the fruits and spread the seeds. It forms dense thickets that are hard to remove, and it competes with native plants.

For young seedlings hand pulling from down where the seedlings come out of the ground is generally the most successful method of control. Take care not to break the tap root. Larger individuals may need to be grubbed out with a mattock. 

Glyphosate can be used to remove Ochna using the Scrape and Paint method. Scrape all the stems at the base with a sharp knife and apply undiluted Glyphosate. Wait for the plant to defoliate and remove above ground parts.

Grow Me Instead

Native Fuschia (Correa species and cultivars)
There are many attractive species and cultivars of
the native Correa. Most tolerate drought and poor soils, although some of the larger species such as Correa lawrenceana typically grow in moist situations. All have bell-shaped flowers which attract honeyeaters.

Guinea flower (Hibbertia species)
With masses of bright yellow flowers, and easy to grow, several species of Hibbertia, e.g. Hibbertia empetrifolia, are commonly available from nurseries. Like most Australian native plants, they require good drainage.

Wednesday 8 August 2018

Be Weed Wise - Cape ivy

Cape ivy (Delairea odorata)

Cape ivy, a native of southern Africa, was once widely grown as a garden ornamental. However, it is now recognised as an environmental weed, especially along the east coast of Australia. It is also a problem in NZ, Hawaii and the USA.

Cape ivy is a climbing vine or creeping groundcover with slightly fleshy stems and leaves. The leaves are bright green, somewhat fleshy, and lobed so that they resemble ivy leaves. The stems are often purplish when young, and rather weak, eventually become woody when mature. The small yellow flower-heads are borne in dense clusters in the leaf forks or at the tips of the branches. Flowering occurs mainly during winter and spring.

Cape ivy can be highly invasive and suppresses native vegetation by carpeting the ground and climbing into the canopy. It prevents the growth and regeneration of native species

Cape ivy is spread by seed and vegetatively. Seed is dispersed by wind and water, and the stems can root at the nodes when in contact with soil creating another plant. Also, Cape ivy is often spread by the dumping of garden waste on bush land edges.

Hand weeding is the preferred method of removing Cape ivy. As it roots at the nodes, all material should be placed in your red bin, or green bin if you have FOGO (food organics green organics). Control should be undertaken before seeds have matured. Vines in trees can be cut and left to die and disintegrate.

Grow Me Instead

Snake vine, Hibbertia scandens
This local vine has bright green leaves with large yellow flowers. This is a vigorous climber or scrambler which grows to 2 to 5m wide or high

Wonga wonga vine, Pandorea pandorana
This is a vigorous Australian native twining plant. A number of selected colour forms of this species have been brought into cultivation, the most common is 'Snowbells' with pure white flowers and 'Golden Showers' with yellow-bronze flowers.

Banksia rose Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’
This climbing rose produces long slender twining canes with masses of tiny, double, yellow flowers in spring.