The botanical life of a plant punk, and the story of a seaweed

The guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Castlemaine Field Naturalists will be Professor Tim Entwisle.

Professor Entwisle is an author, botanist and former director of botanic gardens in Melbourne, Sydney and London. He also lived for a few years at Yapeen and completed his final years of secondary school at Castlemaine High School. His 2022 memoir “Evergreen: the Botanical Life of a Plant Punk” will be the subject of his talk this coming Friday. He will explain why he became a botanist (and phycologist) and some of the highlights of his three decades working in, and visiting, botanic gardens around the world.

Tim will also share with us the story of a seaweed (an alga) called Entwisleia bella, and how this came to be named after him. (He’ll bring some books for sale and signing).

It’s on  this Friday 12th April, 7.30pm, Uniting Church Fellowship Room, Lyttleton St. Castlemaine

All are welcome.

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FOBIF walk, 21 April 2024

Loddon River, Baringhup: walk along stories

Walking along the Loddon River for 8 km, we go north from Baringhup. It is on public and private land with a mix of natural, cultural and historical layers. Traversing farmland and the edge of the Moorlort Plains, it is flat and gently undulating, there will be a few fences to climb and some unformed tracks. 

Meet at 9.30 am outside 30 Templeton Street, Castlemaine (Castlemaine Community House)  or 9.45 am at O’Sullivan-Tilley Memorial Park Baringhup Sturdy shoes, long pants and gaiters if possible, as it will be grassy and uneven with a few fences to climb.

Bring lunch and morning tea.

This is a one-way walk, and we have the Community Bus to shuttle people back to their cars.

For more info call Gen Blades 0431 371 065 or Lisa Hall 0488 102 191.

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One for the Ages

A strong group took on FOBIF’s first walk for the year yesterday, to the Rock of Ages in the Nuggety Ranges. The recent dry weather has given the hills a real feel of late summer dustiness, but in this context the seven species of wattle observed stood out for greenery. The group also noted three species of mistletoe on a single tree. The views from Mount Moorul/The Rock of Ages are as always, spectacular. There’s something very special about this spot, enhanced by the presence of many bushes of the very rare Flat-leaf Bush-pea Pultenaea platyphylla. There are many reasons to return to this spot, one of them to see this species in flower (see first photo below).

Photos by Barb Guerin, Bernard Slattery and Bronwyn Silver.

Frances Cincotta sent us the following report:

“The walk was mostly under Long-leaved Box trees with some Grey Box, Yellow Box and Red Box. Walkers were challenged to count up how many Wattles we saw along the walk and we agreed at the end there had been 8 species,with Hedge Wattle being the most numerous, then some Gold-dust, Varnish, Lightwood, Spreading, Golden and  Black Wattles, and the introduced Cootamundra Wattle.

We were interested to see on one old Black Wattle tree three different species of mistletoe – Drooping, Grey and Harlequin. Mistletoes are very important local species from an ecological point of view as they are host plants for butterfly larvae, provide food for nectar feeders when they are in flower, and later berries for birds such as the Mistletoebird. Mistletoes are parasitic in that they tap into the vascular system of host trees, robbing them of water and nutrients, but usually they do not kill their host. Mistletoes are often called “hemi-parasites” as they do have chlorophyll in their leaves and make some of their own food.

There wasn’t much in flower on the walk – some of the Long-leaf Box trees bore cream flowers, and a few Magenta Stork’s bill added a splash of hot pink to the understorey, and amongst the granite boulders at the Rock of Ages were some Rock Isotomes still in flower (though they are at their peak in October). We expected the Rock Correas to be in flower but they all looked rather stressed and were not flowering yet. We were pleased to see the Flat-leaf Bush-pea plants doing well there – a threatened species.”

Our thanks to Bronwyn Silver for guiding us up the hill—and down again. And to Frances Cincotta for her entertaining pauses for plant identification.

Next month’s walk is to the Loddon River at Baringhup. Check the program for details.

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’40 degrees and 40 illegal fires on Victoria’s long weekend’!

Here’s a press release from the Conservation Regulator this week:

‘Conservation Regulator and Forest Fire Management Victoria Authorised Officers patrolled campsites statewide and detected more than 40 campfires still alight during a Total Fire Ban, a number that could have been much higher had officers not intervened to prevent several people from also lighting fires.’

The authorities are ‘deeply disappointed’ by this dereliction. Chris Hardman, Chief Fire Officer of Forest Fire Management, offers this advice: ‘Even if it’s not a declared Total Fire Ban day, campers must reassess their need for a fire in warm, dry and windy conditions.’

OK, good kindly advice–but maybe it’s time for regulators to enter the twentyfirst century, and face the fact that no one has a need for an outdoor fire in our summer. Fires should be banned in the fire season.

Here’s another kindly reflection, from Parks Victoria:

‘Sitting around a glowing campfire is one of the joys of camping, but with ten per cent of bushfires caused by unsafe campfires, it’s essential to follow the rules and do the right thing.’

The ‘right thing’ is to acknowledge that in cool summer conditions you can put on a jumper, and you probably won’t get hypothermia.

And Parks Victoria might want to give away the romantic maunderings about glowing campfires, and focus on telling people how to survive the summer without setting fire to the bush.

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Moron of the century–new nomination in!

Readers will remember FOBIF’s occasional tilt at one of Australia’s weirdest windmills: the car commercial. We doubt whether the advertising industry will ever invent a more cretinous TV ad than AAMI’s attempt to persuade us that children should prefer to be driven to school rather than scoot along under their own power. Even so, we thought we’d offer Toyota Hilux as a genuine contender for the crown of worst commercial ever. You can find it here. It’s getting a good run in sports TV programs currently.

If you can struggle past the twee and rather queasy joke about the car being a beloved child, you’ll notice the usual images—the car being driven recklessly at the sea’s edge, for example:

Dumb and dumber: the current Hilux ad.

Many people will see this and think…Hang on: isn’t sea water pretty corrosive? Yes, it is. In fact, there’s a line in fine print below the image: ‘Pre-production model shown. Wash with fresh water immediately after salt water exposure.’ In other words: ‘Charge along the beach—then, rush home and spend a happy time washing the salt off your car!’

Such ads are completely at odds with the supposed advertising standards, but the Code of Practice and the Ad Standards Bureau are useless in controlling  them.Our reader Greg Jacobs, responding to this issue in 2019, summed it up pretty well:

‘The car ads are stupid in many ways -smashing thru the areas you have supposedly come to explore –you don’t camp on riverbanks re flood, mosquitoes, cold off the water. You don’t smash your way up a mountainside -proper 4 wheel drive clubs hate these types (RACV doesn’t answer to rolled vehicles on hillsides). You don’t drive to or park on the edges of cliffs–something to do with health and safety? You don’t drive beyond your capability nor your car’s capability –some vehicles promoted are heavy ,oversized tubs. You don’t speed thru forests on dirt roads– other suckers may be coming the other way and you may hit a tree or two when you hit the gravel.’

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Moron of the century 2: here’s a job for the Conservation Regulator!

You may be wondering, who or what is the ‘conservation regulator’ mentioned in our above post? We confess we didn’t know either. To find out, check the relevant website here. The interesting part is under the heading ‘Regulatory priorities’. The Regulator’s priorities for 2023–24 are:

  • illegal campfires
  • illegal take of firewood
  • cruelty to wildlife
  • protection of threatened species
  • illegal commercial timber harvesting
  • illegal vehicle use.’

Under ‘illegal vehicle use’ we find:

‘Victoria has a well-established network of formed roads and tracks available for public use in state forests, parks and reserves.

‘Despite this infrastructure, the Conservation Regulator continues to detect increasing illegal vehicle use across natural terrain, walking trails, cycling trails, closed roads, restricted access areas, in streams and on informal single tracks.’ [FOBIF emphasis]

The Regulator claims to ‘conduct frequent patrols and use surveillance technology to identify illegal off-road vehicle use.’ We haven’t seen any of these patrols, but anyway, we have a suggestion: if you want to detect illegal vehicle use in streams, just turn on the TV! Before long you’ll almost certainly see something like this:

Current Toyota TV ad: could this be called, ‘incitement to break the road laws’?

That’s right–it’s our current nominee for Moron of the century: the Hilux ad. We wouldn’t like to single out Toyota, though. The company is not alone in its moronic promotion of bad driving habits. Maybe the regulator should compile a collection of car commercials and take them to the Ad Standards Bureau?

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World Heritage: what should it mean?

The Victorian Goldfields World Heritage bid team regularly updates details of the bid and its international contacts, and invites local responses to the idea of World Heritage for the goldfields. FOBIF has responded with a request to meet with the team, with the letter below:

Thank you for the opportunity to engage with you on the subject of World Heritage. We are not opposed to this project, but do have serious concerns about what it might mean.

We would appreciate the chance to discuss with you the issues outlined below, to do with the reality of the gold rushes, and the manner in which they are presented today:

Brown’s Gully: a world heritage destroyed waterway?

Three major transformations happened with the discovery of gold in Central Victoria. They’re interlinked, and can’t be separated:

  1. Massive immigration largely caused by the gold rush created a completely new society, with all its virtues and defects.
  2. The natural environment was almost completely trashed, with every waterway degraded, and natural vegetation stripped from the landscape.
  3. The destruction of indigenous culture and society was dramatically advanced: already weakened by disease and violent dispossession, Aborigines now saw their country almost eradicated.

Any serious effort to appreciate what happened in the 19th century should deal honestly with all these questions. Unfortunately, discussion of ‘heritage’ is usually anchored in this Macquarie definition of the word: ‘the culture, traditions and natural assets preserved from one generation to the other.’ In other words, it’s stuff we want to remember, not the stuff we’d rather not take responsibility for.

So the ‘heritage’ we have in the goldfields is often seen as…gold, the people who worked for it and the nice buildings it created. It seems that mainstream Australian society has difficulty accepting that the wreckage of our environment and that of Indigenous culture are part of that heritage. So in heritage discussions these two indisputable realities of our history are usually treated as sideshows to the main event.

Pennyweight Flat childrens cemetery: goldfields landscapes are paradoxical: celebrated for gold, haunted by a sense of loss.

This neglect can reach pretty crass levels. Consider the National Heritage declaration of the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park. As evidence of ‘outstanding heritage value to the nation because of the place’s importance in the course, or pattern, of Australia’s natural or cultural history’, we get this explanation:

‘The goldfield, which played a major role in drawing overseas immigrants to the colony, and in raising from the ground so much of the golden wealth which flowed into Australian and overseas markets, played a substantial part in all those changes which gold wrought on Victoria and Australia: increased population, increased wealth, the growth in manufacturing, the improvement in transport, the development of regional centres and townships, the further development of a middle class, democratization of political institutions, reform of land laws, the genesis of an Australian Chinese community, and so forth…’

The absence of reference to environmental damage, and the effect on Indigenous life is striking.

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There have been two Heritage Action plans produced for the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park: the first in 2002, and the second in 2017. This last has been inexplicably kept under wraps by Parks Victoria.

How do these documents deal with FACT 2 and FACT 3 above?

The 2002 Heritage Action Plan explicitly set questions to do with Aboriginal Heritage aside—not as a dismissal, but as a major separate project. The Plan did, however, draw attention to environmental damage, and made the point that the local bushland could be presented in a way that ‘highlights the transience of mining, demonstrates the severe environmental impact that can result from inadequate environmental constraint, and illustrates some of the resilience of Australia’s native vegetation.’ (page 29)

The above points, we hope, are not tangential to a World Heritage bid. After all, anyone who ventures into our Diggings Park—or even the environs of Hepburn Springs— will be instantly struck by the eroded gullies which scar our landscapes, remnants of ruined streams. These are ruined landscapes, and any World Heritage bid should present them as such—not as romantic signs of a golden age.

We would be happy to meet with you to discuss these matters at a mutually convenient time.

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Exempt Cairn Curran!

Following the state government’s recent decision to keep Victoria the only state in the country where recreational duck shooting is allowed, FOBIF has endorsed the letter below to the state premier. The letter, drafted by Regional Victorians Opposed to Duck Shooting,  was also endorsed by Castlemaine Field Naturalists and Castlemaine Birdlife.

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Dear Premier,

We write to request your urgent assistance in making Cairn Curran Reservoir and surrounding wetlands exempt from native bird hunting which is due to start April 10.

As you are aware, there is strong support for a ban on native bird hunting from the local community. The number of local groups including First Nation Clans who signed our joint letter is significant.

Further, our local petition in 2021 (which Maree Edwards MP has viewed) showed those in the area wanting bird shooting banned, was 23 times higher than those wanting it to stay. (Our petition, which was deliberately run quietly, obtained over 480 signatures, mostly local. A petition by shooters to keep bird hunting in the area obtained just 21 signatures, only 11 of them local.)

Cairn Curran: a recreation area for a small minority?

In general terms, a UComms Poll of over 1000 metro and regional Victorians in 2021, found while most Victorians supported a ban on duck shooting, the strongest support for a ban came from the regions. As you know, in your own electorate of East Bendigo, the majority supported a ban also. In terms of Cairn Curran and surrounds, reasons for constituents wanting the area exempt from native bird hunting include:

  • Safety concerns. We note that other wetlands, such as two in Mildura in 2019, were closed to shooting for public safety concerns– without 480 signatures.
  • Despite one in four Victorians now living in regional areas, there has never been any public consultation, nor risk assessment, nor even desk top studies to consider the impacts – physically or mentally, of shooting on residents and other recreational users. As you can see by the petition comments from community, impacts are real and ought be a significant concern to policy makers.

Continue reading

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New model rules for associations

Like many voluntary associations, FOBIF is bound by the Model rules of association, which define the governance of the group–access to membership, running of meetings, elections and so on.

The Victorian government has recently modified these model rules. The changes, as far as we are concerned, mainly relate to the influence of new techology on meeting attendance. You can see the new changes here.

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‘The turd-worst Clean Up Australia Day experienced at Expedition Pass’

Our readers will be wearily familiar with our complaints about rubbish dumping in the bush. This practice is one of the weirder signs of something wrong with our culture. We reckon the report below from Golden Point Landcare takes the discussion to another level, though…and it’s not a higher level:

The best part of Golden Point Landcare’s annual clean up at the Res was that there wasn’t as much of the usual human detritus to clean up – but it appears we have another problem!  Over the last twenty years working with Golden Point Landcare, Parks Victoria and locals, there have been trailer load after trailer load of bags full of all sorts of rubbish to be taken away. But, happily, not this year. 

Expedition Pass reservoir: an idyllic and much loved local resource: so what kind of person chucks a bag full of poo into the bush, or lets a dog poo into the water’s edge?

The biggest issue was dog droppings – droppings just plopped, and other droppings bagged but left. Really, really unpleasant calling cards left as reminders that the “No Dogs” signs are being ignored by a very selfish few.

As usual, this annual day is a great social catchup for locals, and as usual the volunteers did a casual review before heading off home to clean themselves up.

Comments ranged from the positives:

·       the res has become so popular that people regard it more highly and like to come back to a clean park,

·       judging by the type of rubbish found, it was more adult type things that could mean that current school anti-litter programs like “Take your rubbish with you” and “Don’t rubbish Australia” could be working,

·       the regular tidy up by Parks Victoria Rangers helps keep the park in attractive and healthy

·       despite the number of visitors, some wildlife was still active (including a brown snake on Res side of the bank!)

The discussion brought out some downsides too:

·       the incredible number of dog droppings around the water’s edge (carefully collected by a volunteer using gloves and placed in a separate bag for disposal)

·       and even more incredible were the number of bagged dog droppings along the side of the road opposite the carpark

·       bottles and cans (mostly tucked in the bushes) that are worth 10c each if recycled,

·       the perennial take away food and drink containers thrown from car windows

Local Parks Victoria Ranger Susan worked with us and then disposed of the ute load of collected rubbish, which made the session so much more enjoyable (if picking up other people’s rubbish can be called that!)

The biggest question that came out of the morning’s activity was about dogs being at the res in the first place – this despite the valid reasons for protecting the natural environment and the NO DOGS signs.  Dog poo finding its way into the Res eventually impacts the water quality affecting both humans and wildlife.  When left on the ground, waste eventually breaks down and washes into rivers, streams, creeks and other local waterways.

And the ‘doggie’ bags left lying around are another baffling issue. There were many of these “baffling issues” along the roadsides near the Res…

 

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