WOOGAROO SCRUB PROJECT

preserving flora and fauna for future generations.

Exciting revegetation work being carried out around Springfield, the site of a new city near Ipswich.

Compiled by Bruce Tinworth, for the Woogaroo Scrub project coordinator, Lloyd Bird.

 

The Woogaroo Scrub Project aims to restore an area of fragmented riverine rainforest and a surrounding flat along Opossum Creek. The area, near Ipswich in South-east Queensland was originally part of the Woogaroo, or Goodna, Scrub. The area now lies within Springfield, a new city development between Ipswich and Brisbane.

 

South-east Queensland is experiencing rapid urbanisation and increasing population pressures. While extensive tracts of relatively intact bushland remain in close proximity to Brisbane and Ipswich, urban expansion will eventually result in the loss of much of this green space.

Opossum, Woogaroo and Mountain Creeks serve as major drainage lines within the Springfield development. Both streams and their tributaries are of major importance as wildlife corridors providing a link between the Brisbane River and extensive tracts of bushland to the south in the vicinity of White Rock, Spring Mountain and Mount Flinders. A fringing rainforest known as the Woogaroo, or Goodna Scrub once extended from the Brisbane River to Goodna upstream for five kilometres. The lower reaches of Opossum Creek also contain small fragmented patches of disturbed rainforest.

 

Historical value of Woogaroo Scrub

The Woogaroo Scrub was a popular destination for early botanists and naturalists. Many took the train to Goodna, where they alighted and spent time exploring the rainforest. The following is a report on one of these field trips dated May 24, 1889. The party was led by the famous botanists F.M.Bailey and J.M.Simmonds, and many of the plant species recorded that day can still be found along Woogaroo and Opossum Creeks.

 

A Naturalist's Holiday:

"Taking advantage of the public holiday last Friday, a most delightful excursion was made to the Goodna Scrub, under the leadership of Messrs Bailey and Simmonds. Though, on arrival at the station at about 8am, some doubts were expressed as to the exact route to be taken, a path was soon struck out by way of the lagoons, and the search for natural history specimens proceeded with. Among the very first to attract attention was the little Hydrocotyle. Of which an allied species from Mauritius has lately been creating a good deal of attention among the medical faculty, owing to the beneficial results derived from a preparation of it in the treatment of scurvy. A good deal of merriment was soon caused by one of the party, a late arrival from the Emerald Isle, expressing his doubt as to the identity of an Oxalis with the true and only shamrock, in spite of the earnest assurances of the Government botanist. Some good examples were then secured of the 'Nada' water weed, of the lonidium, a twin-brother to the violate, of various orchids, and a few ferns. In passing through some pig weed it was pointed out that Burke and Wills might possibly have been saved had they but known that the black seeds of the widely distributed plant can form a palatable food. Great excitement was now caused by a lady finding a fungus (lysurus), of which but one specimen in the colony had previously been discovered at Oxley. Notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, the rain now attempting to damp the day's proceedings, the wanderers still continued on their pilgrimage, and some interesting facts were noted with regard to various species of eucalyptus, the scrub ironwood (Myrtus hilli) with, perhaps, one of the hardest woods and yet possessing the thinnest bark. The blood-wood tree (Beloghia lucida) with its beautiful dye, which so far has not been utilised commercially, the grass tree (Xanthorea arborea) that so far as we know is geologically the oldest tree in Australia, the ivory tree (Siphonodon australe), and several others. Lunch time being called, and a fire lighted on the sandy bottom of the dried up creek, the sun soon shone forth again, and the entomologists subsequently started collecting their share of the many spoils around. In the course of the next two or three hours they managed to bottle some eight or nine scorpions, several varieties of beetles, centipedes, bulldog ants, and ticks. Several typical examples of white ants' nests on one side only of the iron barks drew forth a good deal of speculation on the habits and customs of these labourers of the scrub. Though the track was unfortunately lost, the naturalists managed to find their way by a circuitous route back to the station in time for the 6.50 pm for Brisbane, very much better, both physically and mentally, for their day's outing." W.E.K.

 

List of plants noticed in flower or fruit on the 24th of May [1889] at Goodna Scrub by Field Naturalists. (current names are indicated in square brackets)

 




 
 
Viola hederacea in flower
Hibiscus splendens in fruit - this tall shrub is rare in the Brisbane district
Dysoxylum rufum in fruit
Siphonodon australis in fruit - ivory wood
Vitis [Cissus] hypoglauca in fruit - native grape
Ratonia [Toechima] tenax in flower
Rhus [Rhodosphaera] rhodanthema in fruit - deep yellowwood
Pultenaea euchila in fruit
Cassia australis var. revoluta [Senna aciphylla] in flower and fruit
Drosera peltata in flower - sundew
Plectronia [Hippocratea] barbata in flower
Psychotria loniceroides in flower
Brachyscome microcarpa in flower
Tagetes glandulifera in flower - stinking roger
Centipeda [minima] orbicularis in flower - sneeze weed
Myrsine [Rapanea] variabilis in flower
Lyonsia reticulata [Parsonsia straminea] in flower
Tylophora grandiflora in flower - a climbing plant with purple flower
Westringia eremicola in flower
Phytolacca octandra in flower - poke weed
Phyllanthus subcrenulatus in flower
Breynia oblongifolia in fruit
Tragia novae-hollandiae in flower - climbing nettle
Pterostylis ophioglossa in flower
Laxmannia gracilis in flower
Xerotes [Lomandra] multiflora in flower
Also seen in the area during the excursion:
Myrtus [Austromyrtus] hillii
Xanthorrhoea arborea [probably X. latifolia]
Baloghia lucida
 
 The members of the excursion included F.M.Bailey, J.F.Shirley, J.H.Simmonds, W.T.Roth, Mrs Roth, Misses Waugh and (?) Lorne. All except two of the twenty-nine plant species recorded during the outing have been collected during recent surveys.

 

The fragmentation problem.

Timber getting, agricultural pursuits and fires have resulted in fragmentation of the closed forest. Valuable timbers, including hoop pine (Araucaria cunninghamii), red cedar (Toona ciliata - syn. T. australis), black bean (Castanospermum australe) and bumpy ash (Flindersia schottiana) were logged almost to the point of extinction. Invasive tree species such as camphor laurel (Cinnamomum camphora) and Chinese Elm (Celtis sinensis) rapidly colonised disturbed areas.

During the planning process, Springfield Land Corporation Pty Ltd decided to encourage involvement by residents, schools and the Scouting Association in a number of environmental projects aimed at retaining important habitats to conserve local flora and fauna. A scheme was formulated to regenerate riparian vegetation fringing Opossum Creek, including both disturbed dry rainforest and tall open forest.

 

The vegetation.

A vegetation survey carried out prior to the start of the project recorded 130 closed forest species present within a small area. Located at the base of a steep ridge facing south, the creek flat had the advantages of being a fire-proof environment, was sheltered from desiccating winds and was easily accessible.

More recent flora and fauna surveys have discovered 35 species of butterfly, and the powerful owl. 18 species of frog, including the rare green-thighed frog, have been identified in Woogaroo Creek. Threatened flora discovered include, Indigofera baileyi (QDPI), Marsdenia coronata (ANZECC), Sarcochilus dilatatus (ANZECC), and a new species Plectranthus habrophyllus.

Unfortunately Sarcochilus dilatatus has not been observed since the devastating bushfires of 1997.

When the project started in late 1992 areas up from Opossum Creek were heavily infested with Lantana (Lantana camara) and along the creek bank itself the exotic "weed" trees camphor laurel (Cinnamomum camphora) and Chinese Elm (Celtis sinensis) dominated. A large number of camphor laurel and Chinese elm have now been poisoned with herbicide.

Lantana Clearing

Tackling the 'walls' of Lantana at first appeared to be a major undertaking. However within a year the majority of it had been cleared. A large amount of work was initially and progressively carried out by the Australian Trust for Conservation Volunteers (ATCV), members of the Society for Growing Australian Plants (SGAP Ipswich Branch) and the rest by local volunteers.

All the Lantana has been cleared using hand tools such as brush hooks, machetes and secateurs. The reason for this was the numerous native seedlings such as White Cedar (Melia azedarach), Silky Oak (Grevillea robusta) and Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) under the Lantana which would have been destroyed using machinery. The Lantana was cut back near the base which was either dug out or left for follow up poisoning with herbicide. Many rainforest seeds germinated once the Lantana was removed. These species include Maiden's Wattle (Acacia maidenii), Native Pomegranate (Capparis arborea), Red Olive Berry (Cassine australis var. australis), Ivory Tree (Siphonodon australis).

 

The right plant in the right place

Use of the right plant in the right place, combined with copious amounts of mulch, has resulted in minimal losses up to the present time. After Lantana is removed the soil is left in good condition with a thick layer of mulch.

Planting into this humus-rich soil contributes towards optimum survival rates. Slopes are also left with this rich soil as the Lantana has prevented it from being washed away. During the recent drought this mulch has helped keep alive the hundreds of trees, shrubs and vines planted in cleared areas. These p1ants were given only small amounts of water when planted, as Opossum Creek has been dry for over a year. All the water that was used for planting has been brought into the area in containers. Hardier species were planted on the slopes and ones requiring more water were planted nearer the creek in moisture pockets.

Propagation

A number of rainforest plant species endemic to Opossum Creek are either not available through commercial nurseries or only in limited quantities. In order to restore the area with enrichment planting, many species are being propagated by SGAP (Ipswich), Redbank Plains High School, and the Bremer Institute of TAFE Native Plant Nursery.

Seeds and cuttings from local sources are used when possible. However, some original species have disappeared and in these cases propagating material from other locations is being used. Species planted at Opossum Creek are endemic to similar riverine rainforest within a 40km radius. The exception being some rare species such as Native Jute (Corchorus cunninghamii).

Other species that are currently being propagated include: pavetta (Pavetta australiensis), corkwood (Duboisia myoporoides), whalebone tree (Streblus brunonianus), round lime (Microcitrus australis), hairy psychotria (Psychotria loniceroides) and kangaroo apple (Solanum aviculare), plunkett mallee (Eucalyptus curtisii), native indigo (Indigofera baileyi), milk vine (Marsdenia coronata), and native coleus (Plectranthus habrophyllus).

Preserving Plant Diversity

The restoration of the remnant rainforest at Opossum Creek is important in helping to preserve the diversity of local plant species which have medical potential. Some species could also have potential in the food industry.

On a recent expedition to a patch of Woogaroo Scrub, Dr David Lin, from Queensland University of Technology, found plant material of the rainforest Yellow Wood tree (Sarcomelicope simplicifolia). Dr Lin is presently researching the medicinal potential of a number of species found in closeted forests in south east Queensland.

A number of other plant species from the Woogaroo Scrub have been collected for similar purposes during the preceding years.

Among these are Chain Fruit (Alyxia ruscifolia), Tape Vine (Stephania japonica), Black Bean (Castanospermum australe), and Black Teak (Pentaceras australis). Scaly Myrtle (Austromyrtus hillii), Mallet Wood (Rhodamnia argentea), and Native Guava (Rhodomyrtus psidioides) were also collected for evaluation of essential oils. Yellow Persimmon (Diospyros australis), Iron Tree (D. geminata), Long Tom (D. fasciculosa), and Wild Lime (Microcitrus australis) have been collected for research into commercial fruit production.

Koala Habitat

A surrounding flat next to Opossum Creek is also being restored. Various Eucalyptus species, particularly koala food trees such as the Queensland blue gum (Eucalyptus tereticornis) and the gum-topped box (E. moluccana), are now being planted. On a recent visit a koala was spotted climbing up a camphor laurel tree. Hopefully the planting of these Eucalyptus trees will not only encourage koalas to the area but also aid in their survival.

Communities working together for the future.

The restoration of sections of the Woogaroo Scrub is a genuine attempt by a cross section of the community to involve itself in conserving our dwindling natural resources.

The involvement in the project by local schools, the Society for Growing Australian Plants (SGAP), the scouting association and the Bremer Institute of TAFE, and various other community groups is being encouraged...

Hopefully, the enthusiasm generated by this project will result in the formation of a Woogaroo Creek Catchment Association involved in a number of nature-based activities including tree planting, bird watching and bush walking.

Rapid urbanisation must not allow us to lose sight of the fact that, along with larger tracts of bushland, many small specialised habitats - such as Opossum Creek - are a vital link in preserving diversity of flora and fauna for the enjoyment of future generations.

Dr Mary White, in her book "Listen Our Land is Crying: Australia's Environmental Problems and Solutions", (p.273) writes,

"As is so often the case in conservation exercises, it was largely the passion and enthusiasm of one person, in this case Lloyd Bird, an amateur botanist/ex-miner/conservationist which started the fight to save the bush he loves."


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