by Paul Alessi
A mixed bag this month with one
weed, one bush tucker and one
timber species but relevant to this time of year in Windellama.
Sifton Bush (Cassinia arcuata)
Common in Windellama but rarely a problem weed in this part of the shire.
Sifton Bush is the only native plant listed on our council declared weeds
list, it is also known as Chinese Tea Shrub. I'm not sure if you can make
a cuppa out of it but the leaves have a very fragrant smell when crushed.
There are 3 or 4 species of Cassinia in Windellama and Cassinia arcuata
is not the only one that takes advantage of freshly cleared ground. It is a
woody plant and can be quite attractive in appearance with fine green leaves
on upward reaching stems that gracefully weep from the top when in flower
and seed which is February through to April. In flower the plant tops are pale green, then turn
golden brown as the seeds are set. The seeds are very light and blow
in the wind.
The fact that a native plant can
be declared a noxious weed in it's native
habitat is more than a little unusual, basically this means if the letter
of the law was followed by all landholders the species could be made extinct,
as unlikely though that would be it's always a good way to get a
conversation going with the weeds inspector.
In areas with balanced
ecosystems, Sifton Bush seems to be kept in check by
natural control mechanisms like kangaroos, wombats and insects, but in more
disturbed and open country it can dominate.
There are many pioneer species,
and anyone that has cleared some new ground in
Windellama will know that one plant species or another will usually take advantage
of the disturbance and rapidly reproduce.
Sifton bush is more likely to be
a problem after clearing ground with poor fertility.
Native Rasberry (Rubus parvifolius)
Very similar to and quite often mistaken for Blackberry, the native Rasberry is
great bush tucker, usually in fruit from February to April but unlike the Blackberry
the fruit is ripe and ready for eating when it is red and never turns black. Native Rasberry
can often be found growing alongside Blackberry, but is much more delicate
in all it's features, the spines and leaves are smaller and the plant on a whole
usually less vigorous but the fruit is great to eat, maybe a touch less sweet and more watery
than a Blackberry but still a good treat and not likely to take over your paddock.
It is quite often found scrambling over rocks or in areas of better moisture like creek banks.
Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon)
One of Australia's great furniture timbers and a member of the hickory Wattle family.
The feathery juvenile leaves are lost very early in life and it develops leaves called phyllodes
that resemble a Eucalypt's leaf shape. It is easy to identify when in seed which is usually in
February to April as the twisted bean like seed pods have small (around 2mm) hard black
seeds twice encircled by a bright red thread like structure called a funicle.
Crushing the leaves or seed pods
will give off a dust or vapour that can cause sneezing,
watering eyes and loss of breath and Blackwood is probably either similar to or one of the
species that Aborigines used to stun fish in waterholes by placing some of the prepared
plant material in the water, I'm not sure what the chemical process is to make this all happen
but maybe it is by depleting the oxygen available to the fish. On it's own in the
bush it is a totally harmless, attractive small tree and is a common understory species
of our better forests in NSW, Vic and Tasmania where it can grow to 30 metres high
and be a useful size as a saw log. Many Australian antique furniture pieces are
made of Blackwood and are of excellent quality.
The only places I have found
Blackwood growing in Windellama is along the Budjong and
Nerrimunga Creeks in small numbers and the odd roadside plant closer to Tarago but is
bound to occur elsewhere and could quite likely be a good farm forest tree for moister fertile soils.
Thank you for the positive
comments and feedback received so far, I can be contacted on
48445149 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright Paul Alessi 2005
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