Wategora Reserve Duck River Walk - 22nd August 2020
Wategora Reserve Melaeuca woodland
Duck River is about 7 km long. It stretches from the catchment area of Regents Park in the south, flowing north to its mouth at the Parramatta River in Silverwater. In February 1788, Governor Phillip entered the mouth of the river while exploring the Parramatta River. Seeing a group of wild ducks taking flight from a reed bed, and thinking it might be a breeding ground for ducks, Governor Phillip named the waterway Duck River.
To-day the reserve is surrounded by suburban streets on one side and a golf course on the other. It is a relatively intact 11 hectare bushland reserve. Botanically it is the richest area in the eastern part of Sydney’s Cumberland Plain with some 264 species recorded. Cumberland Plain communities grew on the fertile soils cleared in the Sydney Basin for farming and later suburban developments. The NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service (2002) estimated that prior to European settlement the vegetation community covered an area of almost 130,000 ha. It now covers less than 9,000 ha which equates to a loss of 93% of the entire woodland community. For this reason it is known as an endangered community.
We were fortunate to have a list of the plants identified as occurring in reserve prepared by Tony Price, a retired school teacher and member of the Friends of Duck River. IN the 1970’s he spent three years surveying and collecting plants in the Auburn area particularly the remnant vegetation of Rookwood Cemetery and Duck River Reserve. He compiled an extensive list of the existing plant species, recorded ecological observations, and interpolated them into a picture of the landscape and vegetation of the district at the time of European settlement. At a time when field botany was inaccessible to many, and the focus of conservation was largely on the broader scale, Price’s local scale work at these sites was unusual and important. Though never formally published, Price’s 1979 account ‘The Vegetation of Duck River and Rookwood Cemetery, Auburn’ has been cited in all subsequent work of consequence for the area. Tony Price passed away in 2010.
As well as the Acacia pubescens plants we also identified the following plants:
My thanks to Tony Maxwell for sourcing the following article about Tony Price.
Alison Hewitt “Revisiting Tony Price’s (1979) account of the native vegetation of Duck River and Rookwood Cemetery, Western Sydney” in Cunninghamia 17/6/2013
Group Bushwalk on Saturday 25th July to Glenorie
Acacia gordonii in typical habitat
We were hoping that other species would be starting to flower this early in native plant spring. We were certainly not disappointed. The fire trail runs along a rocky and sandy sandstone ridge top. The sparse tree cover was mostly Corymbia eximia. Large areas of rock shelf, with cracks and cervices, spread out on both sides of the track. This is the usual habitat of Acacia gordonii, and there was lots of it in small patches, now very obvious amongst other heath species. Out of flower it is hard to pick because most of the local heath plants there have small, thin leaves. One difference is that, on feeling the leaves, A. gordonii has hairy, very soft foliage, especially when young.
Rocky sandstone ridge habitat with Corymbia eximia
At one point the track passed through a more heavily-wooded area, with Eucalyptus punctata and heamastoma, Angophera bakeri and even Syncarpia glomulifera. This is not Acacia gordonii habitat. Further on, the trees petered out to open onto a large area of low heath. Again the golden pompoms appeared, and these A. gordonii plants were especially healthy. It was good to see this species flourishing in a number of areas. One previous area, off the beginning of the track, had been burnt about 18 months ago, probably illegally. It had contained a large localised patch of A.gordonii in the past. Now there is just one surviving flowering plant and a few small seedlings. Hopefully more will germinate from old seed in the sand. The area had also previously contained a beautiful mauve form of Philotheca salsolifera. We found a plant of this further along the track.
In all this was a very enjoyable and informative activity. It is to be hoped that our little, endangered plant survives the climate and the activities of man. Our propagation group intends to grow some, if possible, to ensure it survives in captivity as well.
|Acacia gordonii||Epacria microphylla||Lasiopetalum ferrugineum|
|Acacia suaveolens||Epacris pulchella||Leucopogon microphylla|
|Acacia ulicifolia||Gompholobium minus||Leucopogon muticus|
|Banksia ericifolia||Grevillea buxifolia||Lissanthe stringosa|
|Banksia spinulosa||Grevillea mucronulata||Philotheca salsolifera|
|Boronia ledifolia||Grevillea speciosa||Pimelea linifolia|
|Boronia pinnata||Hakea sericea||Tetratheca glandulosa|
|Boossiaea scolopendria||Hovea linearis||Zieria laevigata|
|Calytrix tetragona||Kunzea capitata|
On 27th June we had our first group meeting via Zoom. Our guest speaker was Brian Roach, from Westleigh Native Plants. With decreasing size of house blocks and increasing numbers of people living in units and retirement villages, this topic is very relevant. It is also possible to grow some of the difficult-to-grow species in a pot because you can control the growing environment more easily than for plants in the ground. There is the chance to grow some of the desirable Western Australian species. Having plants in pots means that you can move them around, to take advantage of sun and light, or move them out of the strongest sun in summer. You can also move that beautiful plant in full flower to a spot where you can see it better and show it off to visitors. Maybe a difficult plant can be left where you can check on it easily and control the watering more closely. There are other containers you can use instead of pots, eg lengths of old clay piping left over from a plumbing job. These can be partly buried to stabilise them.
Brian had some practical advice about pots. He especially warned us to avoid the urn-shaped pots which curve in at the top. The curve makes it almost impossible to tip the plant out in order to repot it when it outgrows its pot. He advocated purchasing a native pot mix then adding perlite and cocopeat. Some plants have larger root systems and eventually outgrow any pot. They need to be pensioned off or planted in the garden if appropriate. In general the smaller growing plants are the most suitable.
During the talk Brian showed great photos of the plants he has grown in pots. These included Pimelea linifolia, both Crowea exalata and saligna, some boronias and Lechanaultia biloba with its brilliant blue flowers. The latter demonstrates that pot culture can be successful for this prized Western Australian plant, which regularly dies in the ground in Sydney. Other species he featured were Darwinia taxifolia ssp macrolaena, the native Rhododendron viriosum (formally R. lochiae), Billardia leumanniana and Conostylis aurea. The last two species are also examples of floriferous Western Australian plants. Brian has registered some new names with the Australian Cultivar Authority for different and desirable variants of some species. One example is Homoranthus prolixus ‘Golditops’ which has masses of brilliant gold flowers. This form was found in northern NSW. More recently he has named a natural hybrid between Grevillea fililoba and hirtella found by Peter Olde in Western Australia. He called this small plant Grevillea ‘Butterfly Beauty” because the flowers look like crimson butterflies in the bush.
As usual Brian was an interesting and very knowledgeable speaker, much appreciated by those who logged in via Zoom.