Wednesday, 22 August 2007

An isolated treasure

The owners are very proud of their one-hectare property not very far from Ocean Grove on the Bellarine Peninsula. Their road is quiet and tree-lined, and their home is new. They have planted mostly Australian plants on what was formerly a farm paddock, and most are growing well in spite of the drought. Lots of birds are visiting and we were shown quite a few nests tucked away in the foliage of shrubs and creepers. While we were having a cuppa a pair of Maned Goose landed in the swimming pool - a curious choice because there was a dam only 50 metres away.

Land for Wildlife sign

Alison and I were visiting the property as volunteer assessors for the Land for Wildlife (LfW) scheme run by the Government. The scheme encourages landholders to create or protect habitats for wildlife on their property and if they 'pass' the assessment they get a large metal sign to put on their front gate and regular newsletters.

We didn't give these owners a sign though. Why not? Because they had no understanding of the concept of planting local plant species to protect local wildlife, because they didn't know the names of any of the birds that visited the property while we were there, because they were planting species that have the potential to become weeds in the area, because they had an endangered species of tree on their property and didn't realise it. Our task with owners like this is to put them on the mailing list for LfW newsletters, provide them with advice, addresses of indigenous nurseries, pamphlets.

Eucalyptus leucoxylon subsp. bellarinensis

The endangered tree on the property is Eucalyptus leucoxylon subsp. bellarinensis, a local form of the Yellow Gum. It was first described in 1998 and the type specimen grows in the grounds of the Anglican Church, Ocean Grove. It appears to be confined to the Bellarine Peninsula but there aren't very many in the highly modified environment. It is listed as endangered in Victoria because the population is so low you can actually count each individual tree. A few isolated trees are on private property and roadsides, a few in reserves. They aren't regenerating very well naturally, so seed is collected and propagated in community and indigenous nurseries - the local Landcare group is doing a wonderful job persuading people to plant them. The tree on this property looks quite old but is still healthy. Alison and I were able to tell the owners that they were the protectors of something special.

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