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Menai Wildflower Group


  • 17 Mar 2022 3:33 PM | SIMON BASTIN (Administrator)

    A successful day all round with a good roll-up of regulars and new faces as well. 

    The plant sales tables, full at the start of the day, were left a lot lighter by the end. 

    The weather held up for us enabling visitors to wander the Mounds section (of the Groups activities) and the outer gardens of the Illawong Fire Station all of which were planted out and maintained by MWG.

    At the appointed time a goodly group followed Pam Forbes and Greg Jackson, our resident historians/ archaeologists, down to the Georges River and DeLardes Park for a tour and fascinating talk about this part of the Shire. You can read all about the area in Greg’s report of a previous tour of this area in this website.

    Be fascinated when you read about Castles, escaped crims, the road to The South, the punts that used to ply these waters and pleasure grounds on the river and the ferries from Como train station that took folks up the river.

    APS President Heather Miles then welcomed Chris Gambian, CEO of the National Conservation Council, who provided us with some interesting facts regarding the destruction of our native plants in Australia. He cited Queensland’s record of destroying one football field’s area every 17 seconds – not something we should be proud of. Chris raised these issues to encourage us all to become more active in this process and suggested that 10 phone calls from interested parties was a more influential way of getting politicians interest that 10,000 signatures on a Petition.

    Afternoon tea was followed by MWGs Vice President and Nursery Manager Lloyd Hedges explaining the work he and his band of merry men and women who have assisted in the Big Island of the 5 Islands off Port Kembla clearing and replanting native species and the immense task of providing some 15,000 seedlings of species Eucalyptus racemosa, Leptospemum polygalifolium and L. junerperinum, Allocasuarina littoralis, Hakea dactyloides and H. sericea for the “Glossies in the Mist” project. Reports on the enormous effort of both these projects and MWG involvement can also be found on this website.

    As is often the case, one of the most important parts of days like this is the interaction of members and interested members of the communities to come together and discuss and encourage the love of our wonderful native plants. It is an ongoing process to bring more people into this environment but the rewards for the individuals and communities is immense.

    These were the overwhelming messages from Heather Miles and John Aitken who thanked members of the MWG as they closed.

    Graeme Davies

  • 2 Feb 2022 7:19 PM | SIMON BASTIN (Administrator)

    In Our Garden No.1

    I decided a little while ago that I would start a series of articles for people who would like to have a native garden but are a little sceptical/scared because of stories they have heard over the years. You know what I mean – oh they don’t grow here, I bought some but as soon as I put them in they died…etc.

    Well my intention was to start with some garden plants that grow just about anywhere and when in flower are simply quite stunning – like grevilleas, hakeas, prostantheras etc.

    As soon as I put pen to paper though, and as I was wandering through my shade-house, I decided I should write the first article on native orchids – and here again I’m talking about ones that are easy to grow and maintain.

    The reason for this change of heart is because over the past month or so I have so many out in flower. The flowering season is usually late Winter/early Spring but every grower I speak to has had flowers out right through Summer. Even growers of exotic orchids are reporting the same. Very odd.

    But who cares, it’s great to see not only strong new growth, which is normal at this time of the year, but some lovely flowers.

    This being the case I think it’s appropriate to show you what I mean rather than me waffle on.

    So here’s a handful of orchids in flower right now –

    As it’s possible your knowledge of native orchids is somewhat limited I don’t think naming them here will help. So I’ve refrained from doing that – just look at the colours and the number of blooms and the way they just invite you in – not just to look at but to look into them.

    So there you have it. Now you know what a small group of native orchids look like we can start progressing into what they are and how you grow them without breaking either your bank balance or your back.

    But you’ll have to wait a while before we get to that because now I would like to start you thinking about garden plants that are magnificent, flower year round and are easy to maintain.


    Graeme D    


  • 4 Aug 2021 11:08 AM | GRAEME DAVIES

    MWG via Lloyd Hedges has been asked could we provide more seedlings for this project. How many more? 15000 more! That's right - fifteen thousand. 

    The first 5000 are nearly ready and will be available for planting this coming Spring. The second 5000 will be ready for next Autumn and the final 5000 ready for Spring 2012.

    Well done Lloyd and your merry group of helpers. 

  • 8 May 2021 9:32 AM | GRAEME DAVIES

    Illawong – Delardes Reserve

    Greg Jackson

    The MWG was invited to meet a group of Shire Bushcare volunteers who were to be given a tour of and presentation on the history of Delardes Reserve.

    Our member Greg Jackson conducted the tour. The following is taken from Greg’s written history of this area.

    The Albert Delardes Reserve is a small reserve fronting the Georges River in Griffin Parade, Illawong. Without monuments or obvious ruins it never the less contains some of the oldest European history in the Sutherland Shire.

    History records cattle being driven across this narrowest crossing of the Georges River south to the Illawarra2. West of the reserve is the landing for the Lugarno ferry that operated at this site from 1887 till 1974.

    What is not so well known is that there was an older ferry crossing and its scant remains can be found both on the northern side of the river and in Delardes Reserve along with part of the last convict built road in NSW. The hand operated ferry ran from 1843 till 1860 and it ran from the western side of Edith Bay across the river and its master was Charles Roman.

    Around that time Thomas Mitchell proposed a bridge across the Georges River at Lugarno. The proposed bridge, while being across one of the rivers narrowest points, would have involved considerable rock work. For Mitchell this site had the virtue of landing, on the southern side of the river, on one of his many land grants5. Today this would be called a ‘conflict of interest’.

    Today all traces of the convict road leading north and the original ferry master’s house above the ferry landing have been destroyed by road works to upgrade Forest Road.

    There are clear markers on the southern side, including an old survey mark and the remains of the main road to Wollongong. This road was built in haste by a gang of only 10 convicts and has not been used since 1860.

    This ferry service failed due to poor patronage (1 passenger a day) and wheeled vehicles could not descend into Wollongong anyway as a road had not been constructed at that time. Still there was a small settlement at Bottle Forest Heathcote that depended on the ferry.

    Interestingly a road was finally built and in 1871 the first wheeled vehicles were able to travel between Sydney and Wollongong via Bottle Forest.

    Delardes Reserve (then known as Lugarno Park) then became a pleasure park with large tourist boats that arrived from Como Railway Station.

    Some other interesting facts about DeLardes Reserve:

    On the point is the site of a large indigenous midden that was robbed by lime burners, probably in the 1840's

    It was the proposed site for a large coal fired power station which was overturned in late 1950


    the infamous criminal Darcy Dugan was captured there while on the run also in the 1950s 

    (We are indebted to Greg Jackson and Pam Forbes for this fascinating historical review)

  • 27 Jul 2020 2:30 PM | GRAEME DAVIES

    The Glossy Black Cockatoo is now considered vulnerable in NSW due to fragmentation of its range as corridors between Morton NP and the Blue Mountains are being broken up by clearing.

    National Park's Technical Officer Pat Hall wondered if a Sheoak corridor could be created to allow Glossies to travel between the mountains and the coast as they used to.

    This idea was picked up and enthusiastically supported by Lauren Hook, the National Park Coordinator.

    The most encouraging aspect of this project is that it is largely being carried out on private land by local land holders who are the essential link. Their support has made this project a real success with a promising future.

    Menai Wildflower Group and Glossies in the Mist

    MWG has for many years used a site on the Suez Resource Recovery Park at Lucas Heights to grow native plant tube stock to revegetate the Recovery Park site.The requirement for this work had slowed and the MWG led by Lloyd Hedges were looking for alternative work.

    One such project was for the Royal National Park where we provided plants for their very popular coastal walk.

    As this work proceeded our name was passed on to Rowena Morris, the Ranger in charge of the Dharawahl NP and the 5 Islands NP off Port Kembla. This project was being led by ornithologist Chris Lloyd.

    The MWG involvement in the Glossies in the Mist came about when Rowena Morris passed Lloyd Hedges name on to Pat Hall.

    As a result, MWG has to date provided some 7000 tube stock Sheoak plants to help with the re-establishment of the corridor for the Glossies to move between the coast and mountains. Many more plants are required and MWG is actively re-stocking to add to the already significant Sheoak corridor.

    Thus began the Menai Wildflower Group involvement with the Big Island regeneration project in another article on this website. 

    Because of our involvement the Australian Plant Society was considered a co-sponsor of the Glossy project.

    Australian Geographic magazine joined in and raised funds to support all those involved.

    As a consequence MWG received a grant to mitigate our costs.

  • 27 Jul 2017 4:51 PM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

    You would think that for such an iconic plant as the Gymea Lily there would be plenty of information about it.   But you would be wrong.  The ecology of the Gymea Lily was first studied in 1928 but until recently little research has been done.  In 2012 Sharon Bowen from the Dept. of the Environment & Heritage gave us a talk about her Masters thesis on the Gymea Lily and was able to share her knowledge with us.
    The Gymea Lily is part of the Doryanthaecae family which is closely related to plants of the Agave family.  Its botanical name is Doryanthes excelsa which is derived from ‘doratos’ which means a spear, and excelsa which means high or far seen – this refers to the tall flower spike.

    The Gymea Lily has a strange distribution.   It naturally grows along the coast of NSW from Corindi in the north to Wollongong in the south, however it is not common to all areas between these 2 places.  Also there is a gap of 2 degrees latitude where no plants grow naturally (including between Port Jackson and Port Hacking).  

    This unusual distribution led Sharon Bowen to study the niche ecology of the Gymea Lily. She found that D. excelsa has specific habitat requirements relating to substrate, topography and climate.  Fire frequency and intensity are also important.

    Sharon observed that Gymea Lilies need moderately deep sandy, earthy soils, south to south-east facing slopes along creeks, gullies or sheltered plateau and ridges and grow in open dry sclerophyll forests which also support Angophora costataEucalyptus piperitaE. gummifera,  E. sieberi or E. punctata.  They also grow where Xanthorrhoea or Telopea are present and where there are moisture-loving groundcover species. Gymea Lilies are pollinated by honey-eating birds and bees and in order to attract these pollinators they have brightly coloured pinky-red flowers on tall flower stems.  

    To carry out her research Sharon chose two separate populations: She sampled those in the Dharug National Park (60km north of Sydney) and compared to samples in the Royal National Park (36km south of Sydney).   She made comparisons between the 2 areas in terms of 1.vegetation community structure and floristry 2. physical and chemical characteristics of the soil 3. seed germinability and early seedling growth rate, and 4. morphogenetic measurements – number of leaves, leaf dimensions, plant dimensions etc.  She considered that there may be a genetic difference between these two populations.

    Sharon found that Gymea Lilies have a transient seed bank (ie once released the seeds are short-lived), but the seeds are viable and easily germinate. However, the seedlings are slow to grow, as is the adult plant.

    The Gymea Lily also requires low nutrient soil with a low pH of 4.1.  In her research, Sharon found that growth rate of seedlings was retarded at higher levels of NPK.

    Sharon found that in response to fire the Gymea Lily is able to re-sprout if the top is damaged.  However, due to its slow growth and production of flowers, if fires are too frequent it is unable to reproduce as often and this would reduce the genetic diversity of the population.

    Sharon concluded that the environmental niche of the Gymea lily is defined by a narrow range of environmental parameters; it persists in the environment by the longevity of individuals; it is a ancient and relict species from a wetter climate but has evolved to cope with drought rather than frequent fire and so the populations are confined to the areas of less fire.  Sharon found no differences in the phenotype (observable hereditary characteristics arising from the interaction with their environment) between the 2 populations.  Since her research the genetic material from Gymea Lilies in both areas has been tested by another researcher who confirmed that the 2 populations have the same DNA and so are the same species.

    Sharon gave a very informative talk which gave us better understanding of the Gymea Lily and why it is important to preserve this spectacular plant from threats such as urbanisation, frequent fire regimes, illegal harvesting of blooms for the floristry trade, and reduction in its genetic diversity.

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