“Salt of the Earth” Archives

April 2008

Salt of the Earth

Welcome to the first Salt of the Earth column. Within this monthly column, I will take a look at local weed species of significance, planting tips, updates on the progress of the Coolum Community Native Nursery and local plant profiles.

Our local plants not only look great, they are low maintenance, drought resistant and salt tolerant. They have evolved over countless generations to adapt to the unique environmental conditions of the Sunshine Coast. In addition, they provide food and shelter for local wildlife, while preserving the unique character of the Coast.

Over the years many local residents have fought hard to conserve and protect large areas of coastal vegetation including the wallum. Their dedication has paid off, as now we have permanent access to a great range of national parks and conservation reserves. This protection has ensured that our natural heritage can be enjoyed for generations to come but there is more we can do.

One simple thing you can is to reduce the spread of weeds and plant local native species where possible. Many bushland weeds were once exotic garden plants that escaped the confines of the backyard. This often occurs when garden waste is dumped in nearby bushland and competes with native plants. Exotic plants don’t have the same pests and predators they had in their land of origin, so often out compete local plants.  If the spread of weeds continues unabated, everywhere will essentially look the same and there will be nothing unique anywhere.

The new Coolum Community Native Nursery is a not for profit community nursery run by volunteers with an emphasis on training and education. The nursery specialises in growing local coastal native plants and salt tolerant species.  If you would like to get involved and learn more about our local plants you can volunteer at the nursery in a range of activities. If you require more information please feel free to contact the Nursery Manager on (07) 5473 9322 on weekdays between 7.30am and 3.30pm.

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May 2008

Volunteering for the environment

Did you know that over four million Australians volunteer their time for various causes?    Volunteering is an easy, fun and a great way to give back to your community while shaping the future direction of the environment in which you live.

Volunteering takes up our time, energy, and sometimes, money. It can be hard work. It can find us doing and seeing new things, which can be challenging and even a little scary. So why does anyone even go there?

Volunteering is good for others. The world is not a perfect place, and many people, animals, places, and communities need help. Governments and professionals try to meet everyone’s needs, but it’s impossible
for them to do it all.

This is why people become volunteers: because they can make a difference where someone or something needs help. If people never help each other and only care about themselves, the world becomes a crueler, sadder place. But when we volunteer our time, money, or talents, we help make our planet a better, happier home where people work together to make life easier for all.

Volunteers and volunteer groups can:

  • Bring food to hungry people
  • Find homes or clothes for those who need them
  • Make neighborhoods safer and more beautiful
  • Protect wildlife and natural areas
  • Help care for pets and other animals
  • Bring comfort and happiness to lonely people
  • Care for people who are sick, or help find cures for diseases
  • Help people learn to read or do better in school

Volunteering is good for YOU. Are you thinking, “What’s in it for me?” The answer is, plenty! Here are some of the things you might get in return for your giving:

  • Making new friends
  • Gaining important skills and experience that will help you later in life
  • Making connections that can lead to a job or career
  • Seeing more of your community and world
  • Building confidence and self-esteem
  • Exploring what you want to do with your life
  • Feeling needed and important
  • Feeling satisfaction at getting things done and helping others
  • Meeting people who could be role models
  • Using your mind, body, and creativity
  • Getting active and healthier
  • Relieving stress
  • Fighting boredom
  • Spending time doing what you really care about
  • Gaining an edge on getting into college
  • Feeling like you’re part of a community
  • Having fun!

Hey…it looks like being a volunteer gives as much good stuff to you as it does to the people, places, or animals you’re trying to help! That’s the secret of volunteering. People who become volunteers usually lead richer, happier, and more satisfying lives than those who don’t volunteer.

There are no specific selection criteria for becoming a volunteer. All we ask is that you are able to commit to an agreed amount of time. Our volunteers can help us with all aspects of our work – from seed collection, propagation, nursery management, customer service, supporting our fundraising activities, helping us run our publicity campaigns and becoming involved in administration duties.

I’m interested! How do I sign up? Firstly, welcome to the team! Your support will help us continue to fight to preserve our local environment. Please contact the Coolum Community Native Nursery manager Gabe Mcghee on 5473 9322 or drop in and see us at the new nursery on Warran Rd Yaroomba.

The Coolum Community Native Nursery is a not for profit community nursery that specialises in local coastal native plants and is staffed by volunteers. Our volunteers are the reason that the community nursery is able to continue to tackle a broad range of issues and fight to conserve our environmental heritage.

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June 2008

BRINGING BACK THE BIRDWING BUTTERFLY

The Richmond birdwing butterfly was once abundant in coastal rainforests of the Sunshine Coast, but is now vulnerable to extinction.

It is the largest and most beautiful butterfly in Southeastern Queensland. Today it is rarely seen in urban Southeastern Queensland where it has suffered from a decline in numbers and range due to clearing of the food vine habitat, the birdwing butterfly vine (Pararistalochia praevenosa). The butterfly must lay their eggs on this vine in sheltered rainforest and only the softest leaves are edible. Without food and natural habitat the butterflies cannot breed.

The particular ecology of the vine is also worth noting. The vine grows particularly well after rain and during autumn and winter when there are few or no caterpillars to feed on them. Only midges pollinate the flowers (even some midges have their purpose!). The seed pods begin to form in spring, slowly expand to ripen over summer and turn golden orange in autumn then fall unopened from the vine. Brush turkeys help germination by burying the seeds with their claws as they feed on the fruit.

The vines have become rare and there is a need to plant this vine in gardens and reserves to provide sufficient food for caterpillars of the Birdwing butterfly.

A recent initiative to distribute the vines to local residents was touted as a huge success. As part of the Southeastern Queensland recovery network for the Richmond Birdwing, local community groups and the Sunshine Coast Regional Council joined forces with the Coolum Community Native Nursery to provide more than 150 vines for local residents in the Coolum and Yaroomba region. This will aid in creating essential food and habitat corridors for the butterfly in order bring the butterfly back.

By planting the vine and keeping an eye out for these large (up to 20 cm wingspan) green butterflies and their food vine in your backyard, you can help to play an important role in bringing back the Birdwing butterfly.

For more information please contact the Coolum Community Native Nursery (07) 5473 9322. Material for this article was taken with permission and gratitude from the Richmond Birdwing Recovery Network and the Sunshine Coast Regional Council.

Pararstolochia praevenosa fruit and flower

Pararstolochia praevenosa fruit and flower

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August 2008

GETTING RID OF WEEDS

Exactly what is a weed? A weed is any plant found out of place, or a plant that becomes a pest. Weeds can occur anywhere, within the backyard, in bushland reserves and parklands, along waterways and road verges, and in national parks.

Many bushland weeds were once exotic garden plants that escaped the confines of the backyard. Two thirds of all Australian weeds are garden escapees. Local weeds can also be native plants from other parts of the country. The Umbrella Tree is a good example of a North Queensland plant running wild in local bushland on the Sunshine Coast.

Weed plants often don’t have the same climatic conditions and predators they had in their place of origin, so they out-compete local plants. Whilst we are blessed with a mild Sunshine Coast climate, this acts as a curse when combined with our many soil types and diverse terrain. Weeds love the Coast too!

Dumping of garden waste in nearby bushland is one way that we create weed problems in our native bush and waterways. In the right conditions, a few small cuttings or seeds can create major problems, competing with native plants for light, water and nutrients. Weeds can also be spread by the wind, animal movements (especially birds), vehicles and clothing, or water flow.

By smothering our native bushland, weeds can also affect the food and habitat available to our native animals, which can change their numbers, favouring some animals to the detriment of others.

So how do we know which plants are weeds? There are some great free brochures, fact sheets and posters available for local residents to assist in identifying weeds. These are available from Council, or at the Coolum Community Native Nursery, and if in doubt, bring a fresh sample of flowers, fruit, and/or a leaf bushel to the nursery for us to ID for you.

Controlling weeds is sometimes a time consuming business, but a very rewarding one. In the backyard or in your local bush reserve, hand-pulling and digging can be very effective, and create minimal disturbance. Start with the least weedy areas and work toward the worst, making sure to get as much seed and root material as possible. Always wear protective clothing, and put personal safety first. Herbicide may also be used with “cut and swab”, stem injection, and foliar spraying but only with correct safety measures and at certain times during the year (best left to professional contractors).

Our local coastcare and bushcare groups do a fantastic job of regular weed control in the coastal dunes and other natural areas. Asparagus Fern, Singapore Daisy, and Broad-leaf Pepper are just three of the worst species our local volunteers battle in coastal areas. To find out more about weed control in your local area, visit www.coolumcoastcare.org.au, or www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au.

Planting native species in your backyard is one of the best ways to reduce the impact of weeds on the Sunshine Coast. There is such a variety of natives that we can use in every garden situation, it’s possible to create a fantastic, low maintenance garden that will thrive in our local conditions. To view a range of local native plants, visit the Coolum Community Native Nursery, located at 23 Warran Rd, Yaroomba, ph. 5473 9322. We are open Tuesday to Friday, from 8am – 3pm.

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January 2009

PLANTING A NATIVE GARDEN

Whether you have an existing garden that needs a spruce-up, a brand new yard that needs planting from scratch, or just want to replace some exotics with local natives, here is a few tips to get you started:

If you’re planning a new garden, consider the overall style you want. It could be based on natures own styles, for example: “rainforest”, “low-heathland”, “coastal wetland”, “sand dune” or “desert-scape” (great for dry, no-watering sites).

Or maybe you’re aiming for something more traditional like “cottage”, “courtyard” and “semi-formal”. Every garden type lends itself to the use of at least some natives with the varieties available today.

It’s certainly possible to blend local natives with existing exotic plants. Choose natives whose growth habits and foliage types blend together with your existing garden. Get as much information as possible on growth form and habit before selecting your plants.

Seaside native plants are fantastic because they create a sense of place more than other Australian natives. The twisted shapes and windswept styling of melaleucas, banksias, leptospermums, and acacias form a perfect backbone and create cover for smaller plants.

If you want to encourage birdlife and other native wildlife into the garden, plant three layers of foliage, a canopy, a dense mid-layer, and a groundcover layer for an irresistible fauna ecosystem.

Local native plants respond well to pruning. Regular pruning ensures they maintain an attractive bushy appearance, and encourages vigorous flowering wood. As a general rule prune one third of the current years’ growth after flowering.

There are many local native plants tall and bushy enough to screen off fences and neighbours, and some that can be pruned into formal hedges.

There’s also a wide variety of local native groundcovers, grasses and sedges, perfect for filling gaps and providing interest for the eye.

Australian native plant gardens are likely to be a blend of foliage, bark, flowers with shape and texture producing an experience like no other. Experiment with some different types, see what works, you will be amazed at the outcomes.

Such is the variety of natives that we can use in every garden situation, it’s possible to create a fantastic, low maintenance garden that will thrive in our local conditions. To view a range of indigenous native plants, visit the Coolum Community Native Nursery, located at 23 Warran Rd, Yaroomba, ph. 5473 9322. Open Tuesday to Friday 8am – 3pm, Saturday 8am – 12 noon.

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February 2009

Happy Valentines Day

As Valentines Day approaches, we’ve had some interesting discussions at the nursery about romantic symbols present in some of our beloved local natives.  Here’s a few you may or may not have noticed:

Homolanthus nutans (Bleeding Heart Tree): the most obvious choice!  Beautiful heart shaped leaves that turn scarlet as they mature, healthy specimens often have a sea of green with a scattering of red leaves throughout the foliage.  The seed pods also turn a magnificent purplish red before they pop open to reveal the little black seeds.  A great backyard tree that only grows to 3-4 metres and provides a nice broad canopy for sitting under with your lover on that old swinging seat (native doves and pigeons love the seeds too, look out for the white ones).

Pseuderanthemum variabile (Love Flower): A small groundcover plant that grows only to 30cm tall, beautiful dark green and silver leaves, purple underneath, and flowers that can be white, pink or mauve.  Love Flower reproduces rapidly to give those bare, shady areas in the garden some new life. A perfect plant to give as a gift to your garden.

Hibiscus tileaceus (Cotton Tree): Everybody knows the ubiquitous Cotton Tree.  It’s a fantastic screening plant (for creating privacy), a great wind break, and heaps of lovely yellow hibiscus flowers to give to a loved one.  The grey-green leaves are heart shaped and blush as they get older. A plant for the bigger back yard, or pick some flowers next time you walk down to the beach.

Pararistolochia praevenosa (Richmond Birdwing Butterfly Vine):  This scrambling climber is the habitat plant for the vulnerable Richmond Birdwing Butterfly.  The unusual tubular flowers in spring are followed by yellow fruit in summer that contain (wait for it) heart-shaped seeds! A fantastic choice of native plant for those who love their native wildlife.  Plant in a semi-shaded position where it can slowly smother a large tree.

Especially to celebrate Saint Valentines Day this Saturday the 14th, the Coolum Community Native Nursery is giving away one free native tube (your choice) to every customer who visits between 8am-12noon.  Find us at 23 Warran Rd Yaroomba, we’re also open Tuesday to Friday 8am -3pm.  Happy Valentines Day!

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May 2009

MOTHERS DAY FLOWERING PLANTS

Mothers Day is just around the corner.  Now that we’ve recovered from the Easter chocolate overload, it’s time to think about a present for Mum.  Instead of the traditional bunch of flowers that dies off after a week, why not do something really special and buy a flowering native shrub or tree to give as a gift that will last a lifetime.

Melastoma malabrathicum (Native Lasiandra) is a quintessential flowering native shrub to 1.5 metres that bears masses of purple or white flowers all year.  Loves a sunny spot with fairly moist soil, and can be pruned to form a really compact shrub.

Leptospermum spp.  (The Wild Mays or Tea Trees) all bear masses of small white flowers and create a fantastic feature plant under which to grow smaller plants.  They normally get to 2-3 metres and prefer a moister position like the Melastoma.

Viola heteraceae (Native Violet) consistently shows small mauve-white flowers.  A great plant to locate in darker areas that need sprucing up, or even as a lawn replacement in those shady areas.  A true native groundcover for anything from the rainforest to the cottage style garden.

Hovea acutifolia (Purple Pea Bush) is the purple show that you see on the side of the road in spring, especially along the Sunshine Motorway.  A prolific flowerer, this 1.5 metre shrub makes a great addition to any garden.  Thrives in the sun or shade.

Melicope elleryana (Pink Euodia) a medium-sized tree 10-15 metres tall that exhibits amazing pink clusters of flowers across the lateral branches in summer.  A great street tree or feature tree in the backyard.  Your mother will never forget you if you plant one of these.

The Coolum Community Native Nursery is pleased to offer one free tube for every customer this Saturday the 2nd and also Saturday the 9th May (between 8 am-12 noon), and free giftwrap is available too.  Find us at 23 Warran Rd Yaroomba, we’re also open Tuesday to Friday 8am -3pm.

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June 2009

WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY

This Friday June 5 is World Environment Day.  The term “environment” has many meanings, what does it mean to you?

At the Coolum Community Native Nursery we think of it as the “natural” environment, all of natures elements and their interaction with each other.  The oceans, waterways, landforms, vegetation and fauna.  The environment has many intrinsic qualities: the aesthetic beauty; its complex web; and the very life it allows us to live.

Here on the Coast we are virtually surrounded by protected natural areas: national parks, state forests, council reserves and marine parks.  How does planting local native plants help these areas? By extending these often pristine areas into suburbia, by linking fragments and creating corridors, by improving soil quality and reducing run-off, and recreating fauna habitat.

Bringing nature back into suburbia and into our every day lives helps us stay connected to the environment and reminds us what it is to be a human, and part of the complex web of life.

And if that isn’t enough, planting natives will reduce your carbon footprint by converting carbon dioxide into oxygen.  This years’ theme for World Environment Day is “UNite to combat climate change”.  Whilst our federal government sits on its hands in terms of reducing Australian greenhouse emissions, as individuals we can offset some of our own polluting actions by planting native plants at home or in the local area.

To celebrate World Environment Day, the Coolum Community Native Nursery is giving away one free plant per customer this Saturday the 6th June.  And we will be open this time.  Apologies for the two weeks we were closed (especially on the Mothers Day weekend), this was due to circumstances beyond our control.  Saturday we’re open 8am -12noon, and from Tuesday -Friday 8am-3pm, at 23 Warran Rd Yaroomba.

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August 2009

Bringing Back the Wildflowers

Many of you would have noticed the early flush of native wildflowers around the Coolum district.  So far this season there has been three standout species putting on brilliant shows over the past few weeks:

Hovea acutifolia – Purple Pea Bush – up to approximately 2m tall, appearing extensively along the Sunshine Motorway.  Some specimens are looking so good this year there are no leaves to be seen amongst the iridescent purple display.

Acacia hubbardiana – Prickly Moses – creamy yellow ball flowers, on a shrub up to 2m tall.  Often growing in damp areas with poor drainage, these shrubs exhibit an unusual leaf that grows on the stem as well as the branches, and is semi-prickly (great for keeping out pesky cats!)  There are fields of this flower displaying in the Lake Weyba/Peregian Springs area at the moment.

Ricinocarpos pinifolius – Wedding Bush – an outstanding shrub that grows to 3m in drier areas, particularly sandy soils.  Masses of white five-petalled flowers that have been on display since late autumn (very hard to get seed for hence no stock in the nursery at the moment).  Very pretty lime-dark green soft foliage also.  Spotted on the edges of many National Parks in the area.

There are so many other local native shrubs and plants worthy of planting in the garden that are about to spring into summer with their showy displays.  If you are interested in learning more about how to get natives established in your garden, come to our “Landscaping with Natives” workshop on Friday 21st August 9-10.30am.  Being presented by local landscaping expert Mark Bizzell.

We are also holding a general “walk and talk” tour of the Coolum Community Native Nursery for anyone interested in learning more about the history of the nursery and operations from seed collecting to propagation and sales.  Friday 28th August 9-10am.

Both workshops are free, and held at the Coolum Community Native Nursery at 23 Warran Rd Yaroomba.  Booking essential as spaces are filling fast.  Phone 5473 9322 for bookings and information.

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December 2009

Christmas Hanging Baskets

Still looking for the perfect Christmas gift? Why not give a living gift, a native hanging basket from Coolum Community Native Nursery.  Plants are a healing, mood lifting addition to any home, and a hanging basket is the perfect way to bring nature indoors or onto the patio.

At the moment we have a range of native hanging baskets available.  These species are all local to the Coolum area:

Lobelia species – “Angled Lobelia” and “Forest Lobelia” have gorgeous purple flowers and dainty green foliage.  Great for hanging on the porch rafters.

Viola species – “Native Violet” and “Arrow-Leaded Violet” possess permanent flowering capability and year round dense foliage.  Try one in the bathroom.

Polymeria calcina – “Pink Creeper” fantastic pink flowers and unusual narrow leaves make this plant another fantastic hanger.

Scaevola albida – “Fan Flower” – great for a dryer more exposed part of the house, or those who forget to water!  Small purple fan flowers year round.

Hanging baskets are available in three colours: beige, olive green and terracotta, and are priced at $8.50 each.  The ideal economical gift!

The Coolum Community Native Nursery is located at 23 Warran Rd Yaroomba, open from Tuesday to Friday 8am -3pm, Saturday 8am-12 noon.  We will be open up until Christmas eve (24th) 3pm, and reopen Tuesday the 5th January 2010.  Bye bye noughties!

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December 2010

The Humble Lilly Pilly

With such a wet winter behind us the spring show of wildflowers continues to be nothing short of spectacular across the Sunshine Coast, especially in the Wallum areas of the National Parks around West and North Coolum, along the Sunshine Motorway, and around the Sunshine Coast Airport.

Now it is time for the Lilly Pillies to put on their display.  Lilly Pillies are one of the most popular and well-known Australian native plants. They are characterised by masses of smallish green leaves and flushes of new growth that range from bright pink to copper and yellowish tones.

Lilly Pilly flowers are fluffy and white, and followed by long-lasting red, purple or white berries.  These berries are edible, some being quite flavoursome, and others rather tasteless.  Certain species are cultivated by the bushfood industry for jams and conserves.

The dense Lilly Pilly foliage means they are usually planted in the garden as screening or hedging plants.  Many wild species are available, although these can grow up to 20 metres tall and therefore better suited to a larger yard space.  The best suited wild species is Syzygium smithii as it naturally grows to only 4 metres and is ideally suited for screening and hedging.  Taller species can be hedged, but it is important to remember that their roots keep growing even if their crowns are cropped, potentially causing foundation and plumbing problems in smaller   backyards.

Many cultivars are also available that reputedly grow anywhere from 50cm to 2-3 metres, although in my experience in this subtropical part of the world, even on sand, these varieties often grow taller than is printed on the label.  So add a metre when checking the label out.  Aren’t we lucky to have such ideal growing conditions!

Here are four local wild species that are ideally suited for the coastal salt winds and sandy soils:

Syzygium smithii (var. minor) Lillipilli – Shrub – Grows to 4 metres by 2 metres wide, masses of dense foliage with pink new growth, very salt tolerant, withstands SE winds, grows on sand and heavier soils, great for hedging.  Occurs naturally on the dunes at Sunrise and Castaways Beaches. Psyllid resistant.

Syzygium oleoseum Blue Lilly Pilly – Large Shrub – Grows to 6 metres in cultivation by 2-3 metres wide, distinctive yellowish new growth, roundish glossy leaves, large blue berries that taste like red apple.  Grows on sand dunes and resists SE salt winds.  Occurs naturally on hind-dunes all along the coast.

Syzygium hemilamprum Broad Leaved Lilly Pilly – Tree – Grows to 12 metres in cultivation.  Shiny medium green leaves, red new growth.  Planted extensively as a street tree, e.g. Birtwill St Coolum Beach (flowering at the moment).   Resistant to salt spray, suited for a larger garden or feature tree.

Syzygium luehmannii Riberry -Tree – Grows to 12+ metres in cultivation.  Small attractive tear drop-shaped leaves.   Weeping, bright pink new growth in spring and summer.  Used a lot as a hedge but gets too big for most property boundaries.  Psyllid resistant.  Occurs in forest just back from the shoreline.

These and many other Lilly Pillies and local native plants are available now (at very competitive prices) at Coolum Community Native Nursery, located 23 Warran Rd Yaroomba.  Open Tuesday to Friday 8am-3pm, Saturday 8am-12noon.  Phone 5473 9322 for more information.

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