Things we don’t need [1]

FOBIF has written to Bush Heritage Australia questioning advice it offers in its leaflet, ‘Beautiful grasses for every garden’.

This leaflet promotes the planting of Swamp Foxtail grass [Pennisetum alopecuroides] across Australia.

There’s a problem here.

According to Agriculture Victoria, Swamp Foxtail is an invasive species in this state. It ‘Invades lowland grassland, grassy woodland, dry sclerophyll forest and woodland (Carr et al. 1992) – biomass significantly decreased.’ ‘“Plants form impenetrable dense stands” (PFAF 2009). Also competes with more edible species (Burbidge 1966) – habitat changed dramatically, leading to the possible extinction of non-threatened fauna.’ More details can be found on the Ag Vic website

We believe it’s a pity an organisation with serious environmental credibility should be so apparently careless. We have enough weeds already. We don’t need any more.

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Things we don’t need [2]

We’ve had the following response from Bush Heritage on the above problem:

‘We understand your concern and appreciate you highlighting that the Swamp Foxtail is classified as an invasive species by Agricultural Victoria. The purpose of the leaflet was to promote native grasses in small backyards in hope that it would inspire our supporters to look at different ways to foster biodiversity in their own gardens. We recognise that while it can be an ideal warm-season grass for many gardens, some Pennisetum varieties run the risk of self-seeding which can pose challenges in a number of settings and it certainly was not our intention to promote it for agricultural purposes or for use outside of the garden. We apologise if it has come across that way.

‘I’m sure you will understand that it can be difficult to highlight the many nuances of different species across multiple landscapes – especially with a plant that is often ambiguously interpreted; being both an invasive species in some areas and an endangered Australian ecosystem in others.’

Readers can judge this response for themselves. It is true that the case of this particular species is quite complex and fascinating. Swamp Foxtail [aka Cenchrus purpurascens] is an attractive plant, like many weeds which owe their spread to widespread use in gardens. Genetic analysis has shown that it has been in Australia for thousands of years, in restricted locations.

You can find more about its intriguing history here 

‘The species is simultaneously an exotic weed from Asia, the dominant grass in an endangered Australian ecosystem and a rare native species in isolated desert springs.’

How can that be? To find out, you’ll have to read the article in the link above.

The moral of the story is that it’s tremendously important to pay attention to detail in promoting plants. The brute fact is that in Victoria, it’s a weed.

And, depressingly, this grass is widely available in nurseries and online: more evidence that half the population is planting stuff for others to pull up.

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A little fungi meditation . . .

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Big turnout despite wintery weather

About thirty FOBIF members and supporters came to the end of the year FOBIF breakup in Walmer last Monday. With thunderstorms and even hail predicted we gathered under cover instead of in the bush and even had the fire going. Surprisingly it turned out to be a beautiful evening if somewhat cold.  The event was a relaxed and enjoyable end of the year celebration.

The FOBIF committee wishes all friends of our forests a happy Christmas and a great new year. Our 2021 walks program will soon be available in January 2021. We’ll see you in the bush in the new year!

FOBIF members and supporters and the 2020 breakup.

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FOBIF break up news

The weather forecast doesn’t look promising for the FOBIF BBQ in Walmer on Monday (December 6). Thunderstorms and hail in the late afternoon and evening are predicted.

We will however still go ahead with the breakup. If necessary we can gather inside and under the verandah.

Address: 1036 Muckleford-Walmer Road at 6pm. Enquires: Bronwyn 044875111.

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Reminder: FOBIF 2020 breakup

The FOBIF breakup BBQ will take place in Walmer on December 7 from 6pm. Details can be found here. All members and supporters are welcome. Ring Bronwyn 044875 if you have any queries. 

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NEW: Series 3 FOBIF greeting cards

We have just released  FOBIF greeting cards, Series 3, with 8 terrific photos by local photographers. Each card has details of the photo on the back.  They are available for sale as a set of 8 with envelopes. Cost for the 8 cards including postage is $20. Series 2 of the cards are still available. Online purchase details for both series can be found here.

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The Seldom Seen Slender Mint-bush

Article by Frances Cincotta

I’ve led a monthly bushwalk for 20 years exploring all the local tracks so it is not often I come across a plant I haven’t seen before. On 18th November 2020 I found a population of 30+ individuals of Prostanthera saxicola var. bracteolata (Slender Mint-bush) which is rare in Victoria. The plants are a range of heights from 30cm to 1m tall and were in full flower (lilac) when I walked by, otherwise they would not have stood out and grabbed my attention.

The location is 4km SE of Maldon township, not far south of the Maldon-Castlemaine tourist railway line, in Maldon Historic Reserve. I don’t have a GPS but it is easy to find, as it grows on a named track, Spur Track, approx 300m SE of the intersection of Spur Track and Gower Track (sometimes spelled Gowar). I found only one plant on the north side of Spur Track, all the rest being on the south side of the track and they are all on a little rise in the landscape.

I took photos and sent these images to Neville Walsh at the Herbarium in Melbourne and he concurs with my identification. Checking the Castlemaine Plant List compiled by Ern Perkins from 30 years of field naturalist records in this district, I see that it was noted as occurring in the Smiths Reef area and in Sth Mandurang.

Two days later Bronwyn Silver and I went for a walk in the southern end of Castlemaine Diggings Heritage National Park and who should we see? Two more slender Mintbush plants! Both are on same (south) side of Wewak Track, not right on the edge but about 5 m into the bushland. It is in Glenlyon district, in Shire of Hepburn. If you start at the west end of Wewak Tk, where it comes off Porcupine Ridge Rd and go 800m along Wewak Tk traveling SE and crossing Sebastopol Creek, the first specimen is on the right, and the second is 100m further along, and then it is 100m further to the intersection with Loop Track. So both specimens in the 1km stretch of Wewak Track that is between Porcupine Ridge Rd and Loop Track, south of Sebastopol Creek. 

As there are now 2 locations to find this plant in our district I think it is worth an entry on the Castlemaine Flora website I wonder how such small, isolated populations survive? They are about 25km apart as the raven flies.

This post is updated from the original. FOBIF mistakenly included a photo of a non local Westringia fruticosa in the photo sequence above. The correct photo has now been inserted. Apologies to Frances.

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FOBIF 2020 breakup

On Monday 7 December Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests is having a BBQ at Bronwyn Silver’s place in Walmer.

It starts at 6 pm and the address is 1036 Muckleford-Walmer Road, Walmer.

*  food to share, including something for the BBQ if you like
*  plates, glasses, cutlery
*  drinks
*  a chair

All FOBIF members and supporters are welcome. Enquires Bronwyn: 0448751111.

December 2019 FOBIF breakup, Walmer

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That was the year…

FOBIF had a successful AGM last Monday night. The text below is the President’s report, given by Marie Jones. Below it is the new committee elected on the night:


The effects of COVID-19 had an impact on what FOBIF did in 2020 as they did on everyone’s way of life – but we are a resilient lot – hopefully in the way we’d like to see our natural environment being resilient in coping with the future.

Thanks to the expertise of Lynette we were able to continue with zoom committee meetings though unfortunately not all members could attend.  Nev managed to keep us all in line and I think we were getting quite used to meeting this way.  And thank heavens we did keep going as the issues that appeared each month needed to be dealt with at that time including the ever-present planning proposals.

This changed time also showed the value and importance of social media and our website in communicating and keeping the focus of important issues in the eye of our members, the various communities and agencies.  We’ve consistently supported indigenous co management in our region, both through our website and through attendance at local briefing meetings to do with the Balak kalik manya [walking together] project for Kalimna Park. We have high hopes that this project will prove a model for land management in the region.

Through the year we have made several detailed submissions to government on environmental and planning issues impacting our region responding to local and broader concerns when they arose. 

This picture illustrates the highs and lows of the bush experience: the beauty of the Columbine Creek catchment disfigured by, er, cultural heritage (?). The couch was observed by our July walkers…

Bronwyn’s management skills, well supported by Jeremy and the team leaders, were also needed with the walks program especially when the limits to the numbers of people in a group had to be considered so that the walks could continue.

Pandemic restrictions forced us to make adjustments to our walks program this year. Some walks were cancelled, others reorganised to allow for smaller groups. Walks were led by Mike Reeves, Karen Baker and Antoinette Birkenbeil, Christine Henderson, Jeremy Holland and Bernard Slattery. Thanks to all these people for leading the walks and doing all the prior planning: and to Clive Willman, Barb Guerin, Lionel Jenkins and Geoff Nevill, who put in the planning work, but whose planned walks had to be cancelled because of the COVID restrictions.

The walks ranged across the Chewton Bushlands to the remote corners of the Columbine Creek catchment in the Fryers Forest. Once again they were a wonderful way for people to see different areas of our bushlands and learn about local plants with the help of our many flora experts.

We are far advanced into production of two new guides: The first, A guide to the native peas of the Mount Alexander Region, has been produced by Bernard Slattery and Bronwyn Silver, with the help of numerous local experts: Frances Cincotta, Richard Piesse, Ian Higgins, Bonnie Humphries, and many others. Attendees at this meeting will have a sample page from the book.

The second, 20 Walks in the Mount Alexander Region, has been compiled from the walks we’ve conducted over the last 20 years. It’s supported by excellent maps by Jase Haysom. The walk descriptions and maps have been finished, and are currently being tested ‘on the ground’ by Jeremy Holland. The walk notes are backed by flora and fauna information.

Both books will be launched in the new year—when we hope to be able to have a proper gathering.  There have been steady sales for our moss, eucalypt and wattle books this year requiring extra printings of the three books. New greeting cards featuring photos of local fauna and flora by local photographers have also been popular.

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