FoMM Newsletter – January 2024

Third Sunday working bee 21 January

We will work at The Fair, pulling Southern Blue Gum seedlings which have escaped from the neighbouring Valour Park. This beautiful gum is native to Victoria and the grassy woodland of Mount Majura is not the place for them. To avoid a small Blue Gum forest growing, we need to remove the seedlings. While we’re working there, we will also look out for other woody weeds to treat, such as Cootamundra Wattle (Acacia baileyana) and Sweet Briar roses (Rosa rubiginosa). This is a shady spot to work in at the height of summer. No experience necessary – the Blue Gum seedlings are easy to identify.

When: 9.00am to noon Sunday 21 January

Where: Meet at the entrance to the nature park, corner of Tay and Ian Nicol Streets North Watson.

Bring drinking water, sun protection, garden gloves if you have them. Wear clothes which cover your limbs and sturdy shoes. We provide tools and nitrile gloves and a cake for morning tea.

More information and a map of the site here.

Blue Gum seedlings growing on the nature reserve with trunks of parent trees in Valour Park in the background. Photo Max Pouwer

Twilight weeding

Summer evenings on Mount Majura are often beautiful, with light winds and lovely cloud formations. Once again FoMM has resumed twilight weeding at the Fair site in North Watson.

We will work on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings through January and February, hand pulling St John’s Wort from the dense wildflower patches before this weed drops its seeds.

We meet at the entrance to the nature park at Tay and Ian Nicol Streets at 6pm, usually working until about 7.30pm.

No experience necessary; all welcome on any of these evening sessions for just as much time as you can spare. Wear clothes which cover your limbs; bring drinking water and garden gloves if you have them. We provide tools and gloves.

A beautiful evening sky on Mount Majura. Photo Waltraud Pix

St John’s Wort

St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is one of the most troublesome weeds on Mount Majura. It is a horribly efficient coloniser, not only dropping thousands of seeds from each plant head but also sprouting new shoots from rhizomes which spread underground. It has thrived in the recent La Niña seasons of plentiful rain. Native to Europe and Asia, SJW was introduced to colonial Australia as an attractive garden plant and for its medicinal properties, notably to relieve anxiety. It is a declared noxious weed in more than 30 countries, including Australia. A small Chrysolina beetle attacks the new spring growth and is an effective biological control agent but unfortunately the few beetles we see on Mount Majura are not enough to make an impact.

FoMM protects the areas of dense wildflowers growing at the Fair site from being overtaken by hand-pulling SJW plants from these patches, bagging the heads once seeds form to stop them dropping. In open areas FoMM volunteers who are ChemCert accredited use knapsack sprayers to apply herbicide to prevent incursion and give native plants a chance to thrive. We are delighted that FoMM’s application for funds granted through the ACT Government’s Community Stewardship Weed Control program have enabled the employment of contractors to spray larger areas of SJW.

Controlling SJW can seem never-ending, but we observe we are keeping it at bay from the significant patches of wildflowers which are flourishing on Mt Majura.

Saint John’s Wort at sunset on Mount Majura. Photo Max Pouwer

Little Friarbird visits one of FoMM’s sites

Another of our ongoing weeding projects has been to remove Cleavers (aka Sticky weed – Galium aparine) which were smothering Cherry ballarts at The Fair site. These native cherry trees (Exocarpos cupressiformis) were also sheltering native groundcover plants such as Creeping Saltbush (Einadia nutans) Stinking Pennywort (Hydrocotyle laxiflora) and Grassland Cranesbill (Geranium retrorsum). As well as hand-weeding under the trees, we used a selective herbicide to kill the Cleavers in areas where there were no natives growing. We also planted the native grass Microlaena stipoides under some trees.

The weeded Cherry ballarts are looking very healthy and have developed new growth and loads of ‘cherries’. Birds are attracted to the red coloured fruit which holds the tree’s seed on its tip. Recently we were delighted to spot a Little Friarbird enjoying the fruit. The Little Friarbird (Philemon citreogularis) is a rare summer visitor to the ACT, more commonly found in northern and eastern Australia and southern Papua New Guinea.

A Little Friarbird at Mount Majura, with Cherry ballart foliage in the background. Photo courtesy Canberra Nature Map
A Cherry ballart at Mount Majura before the infestation of Cleaver was removed. Photo: Liese Baker
Cherry ballart ‘fruit’, showing the seed at its tip. Photo Jenni Marsh.

Monday mornings at the Fair

Every week a group of FoMM volunteers works at The Fair site in North Watson. If you’re enjoying summer holidays and want to give something back to the beautiful nature reserve on our doorstep, why not join us? Meet us any Monday at 9.30am at the park entrance near Tay and Ian Nicol Streets. No experience necessary – you will learn from others who will share their knowledge. In January we will be hand-pulling St John’s Wort where it is growing close to wildflowers, an easy task since the recent rain means the soil is moist.

Hoary sunray and Clustered everlasting wildflowers at The Fair, after the removal of St John’s Wort. Photo Margy Burn.

Hackett students fundraise on International Mountain Day

On Saturday 10 December a group of Radford students who live in Hackett celebrated International Mountain Day by holding a stall in Rivett Street. Zoe and her friends sold handcrafts, homemade cakes and lemonade and raised $140 which they donated to FoMM.

International Mountain Day was established by the UN General Assembly in 2003 to encourage sustainable development in mountains. As their advertising poster read: We all love mountains especially Mount Majura. Unfortunately though, mountains like a lot of other habitats, are being destroyed by people’s careless actions. This is particularly bad because mountains are home to over 80% of earth’s amphibians, birds and animals and supply half the human population with water. This means it’s vital we protect our mountains! Congratulations to Zoe, Piper, Maya, Lola, Malaika, Elliott and Maeve for this wonderful initiative.

December working bee

A keen group of volunteers tackled weeds near the water course and the Hackett tank to follow up earlier efforts in this area where woody weeds are spread by seed eating birds. Some of the group spread mulch along the area where previous spraying by a contractor had reduced but not eliminated the Chilean Needle Grass. Mulching will change the soil fertility to favour native species like Variable Glycine and hopefully reduce the amount of CNG.

Max and Elsa spreading mulch on an area previously sprayed for control of CNG and other weeds. Photo Waltraud Pix.
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