Advanced plant ID workshop

An over-subscribed workshop. Non-members lining up to become members so they could attend at member’s prices. This shows how popular this workshop was – and how successful. With a fantastic presenter (Dr Kevin Thiele – former Curator of the WA Herbarium) and 5 assistants for 20 registrants, each with their own binocular microscope, this was a supermassive learning experience. Even the presenters and assistants learnt as the on–line database keys used to identify locally collected plants in flower required experienced botanists to interpret. Only a little botanical experience was required as Kevin went through the basics of what the plant parts are – describing them with the actual plants that everyone had in their hand, drawing little pictures or using our new digital microscope to demonstrate. Everyone took home a scalpel and pair of tweezers so they could undertake their own dissecting at home in future – all they need is their own microscope or hand lens.

The afternoon field trip to Kensington bushland was equally instructive as Mike Hislop and Rob Davis assisted everyone in applying their knowledge in identifying and recognising plants in flower – and then amazed everyone by identifying plants that weren’t in flower – including such cryptic plants as Lomandras, Alexgeorgias and Amphipogons.

And if you don’t know what they are, better look out for the next Plant ID Workshop coming soon to a place near you.

 

Dr Eddy Wajon

Meet 2017 Team of Murdoch Branch

The last AGM at Murdoch Branch resulted in the election of a new group of enthusiastic Murdoch Branch Committee Members. With a few changes along the way our current committee is: President: Christine Allen, Vice-President: Diana Corbyn, Secretary: Sheree Walter, Treasurer: Mathew Woods, General Committee Members: Felicity Bairstow, Gus King, Ross Young, and Eddy Wajon. Let’s introduce you to the team:

Dr Christine Allen has been a life-long plant-lover and spent her childhood exploring the second-oldest National Park in the world, the Royal National Park in NSW. The weird and wonderful diversity of plants in the southwest of WA drew her to Perth where she completed a PhD at UWA with DPaW on threatened flora in the Stirling Range National Park. Christine is now an active advocate for conservation and sustainability. Favourite plant: Banksia coccinea.

Diana Corbyn has served as Branch President through three terms, has been a Vice President and a committee member throughout the life of the branch. Since she became a lecturer at South Metropolitan TAFE’s Murdoch Campus in 1991 she continually enthuses her love and knowledge of the local flora in hearts and minds of the students she teaches. In 1998 she initiated the wildflower walks and has continued to this day. Come on out this year and meet Diana at Wireless Hill, Orelia or Samson Park.

Sheree Walters joined Murdoch committee for the first time, few weeks after our AGM (Welcome!), and she took bravely on a responsible role of secretary. Sheree grew up in the wheatbelt region of Western Australia with a passion for the environment and natural landscapes. After completing a Bachelor degree in Environmental Science in 2014, Sheree has recently returned to Curtin University to undertake a PhD in restoration genetics of native flora. She is particularly interested in landscape ecology and the importance of biodiversity – including plants, animals, insects and fungi – in both natural and restored landscapes.

Mathew Woods is our fantastic treasurer. Mat works in the Bushland’s and Wetland’s of Perth. Mat has a Love of all plant life but especially WA natives. He is particularly fascinated by the food plants and prehistoric flora. He was exposed to the native plants very early while camping in the Jarrah forest and surrounding regions and could not get enough. This fascination led him to study Conservation and Land Management at the Challenger Institute of Technology. In his spare time Mat enjoys practicing traditional bushman skills.

Felicity Bairstow (ex McGeorge) calls herself a life long nature nerd from country WA. She has spent the last 20 or so years working to conserve bushland and wetlands south of the Swan river here in Perth. A lot of that time went into the long campaign to protect the North Lake Reserve from Roe Highway Stage 8. She is now a co-convenor of the Community Wildlife Corridor group which has the vision of transforming the now partially cleared road reserve into a wildlife corridor and trail for people to enjoy and learn about the amazing plants, animals and culture of this area. Felicity served on the Murdoch committee many years ago and is very pleased to be back on Committee and dealing with much more pleasant aspects of plant conservation.

Ross Young is fresh out of uni, having graduated from Curtin University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Biology. Don’t let that fool you, though – he’s longer in the tooth than you think, as uni followed a 27-year jaunt with Commonwealth Bank (and an accounting degree). Ross has a keen interest in plant ecology (and birds) and Western Australian plants (and birds), in particular – and has always been interested in the natural world around him. As a kid, he learnt (from his Mum) the pleasure to be had from being able to recognise (and name) the plants (and birds) in the garden (which, even then, included native plants). Banksias are probably his favourite plants (especially Banksia coccinea and Banksia ilicifolia) but, if pressed, he’ll still admit to a lingering fondness for roses.

Dr Eddy Wajon loves nature – whether it be chemical, botanical or zoological, he loves beauty in all its forms. He’s been called a disrupter – challenging the status quo, thinking outside the box, trying to be different, and generally annoying those in power and supposed leadership positions. However, he tries to be creative, inclusive, contributory and a force for positive change.

Angus (Gus) King, like Eddy, loves the beauty and magic of nature, especially our native trees. Other than recognising their beauty and threatened status he knows little about native plants but can still actively contribute to preserving them for future generations. He originally studied geology but more by accident than design had a career in IT. His real passion is renewable energy and even though retired he probably still spends too much time on his computer helping to bring about its adoption rather than learning those plant names.

Come and say Hi!

LIKE US and See more updates on our MURDOCH BRANCH FACEBOOK PAGE.

May Management Update Now Available

The most recent monthly update from the Management Committee is now also available on our website, access exclusively for Members only. Log in to the Members area and then the tab ‘Management Committee Updates.’ If you have any difficulties logging in to the system, please email our volunteer administrator at nmcl@westnet.com.au – we can reset your password, give you a simpler password, or guide you through the log-in procedure.

Come and Learn about WA Native Community

DPaW invites you to attend the Banksia Woodland Management Workshop on Friday 16th June 2017 from 10am – 4.30pm at the McNamara Conservation Science Centre, Department of Parks and Wildlife (17 Dick Perry Avenue, Kensington, WA). SEE VENUE CHANGE BELOW

Department of Parks and Wildlife is planning a packed program with 21 speakers giving 5, 15 and 20-minute talks for community and professional land managers of Banksia woodland. One of the speakers is the patron of Murdoch Branch Dr Joe Fontaine. Joe will also talk on outcomes of PhD project undertaken by one of his student Pawel Waryszak. Pawel and Joe spent 4 years surveying and analysing the outcomes of multiple experimental treatments in the restoration project that utilized  topsoil salvaged from under cleared Banksia woodland at the Jandakot Airport. The topsoil, that contains large native seed bank, was transferred to two restoration sites, at Anketell Road and Forrestdale Lake, with aim to rehabilitate degraded paddock. Come, learn and show your support for this unique WA ecological community.

The workshop is planned to start with an overview of Banksia woodlands on the Swan Coastal Plain and more details about its very recent federal listing as a threatened ecological community. Parks and Wildlife staff will then share outcomes from five years of the Banksia Woodland Restoration Project, as well as research on fire recovery and weed management. To follow, sessions will showcase studies from respected academics and researchers on the topics of dieback, groundwater, genetics, fire, and fauna, and feature case studies of Banksia woodland management from local government and community perspectives. An opportunity for informal discussion will follow. The workshop is a free event with lunch, afternoon tea and refreshments provided but registration is critical.

On Tuesday 20th June 2017 (10am – 12 noon),  Parks and Wildlife staff offers also a guided tour to Banksia woodland restoration site at Anketell Road in Oakford (self-drive).

To register, contact Julia Cullity at Julia.Cullity@dpaw.wa.gov.au or on 9442 0320 (please indicate whether you will be attending the workshop, field trip or both). Registrations close Friday 2nd June 2017.

STOP PRESS:  CHANGE OF VENUE AS AT 29 MAY 2017

Due to a huge response of interest, we have changed the venue of the Banksia Woodland Management Workshop.

  • Banksia Woodland Management Workshop
  • The University Club of Western Australia, UWA
  • 9.45–4.30pm Friday 16 June 2017

Parking may be limited. Additional free parking at Parks and Wildlife Crawley office is available 1km from the venue. Please see reception for a parking permit.

Please confirm that you can make this change of venue. And if you haven’t already responded, please let me know if you have any special dietary requirements and if you would like to attend the post-conference field trip on Tuesday 20 June 2017.

Cheers

Julia Cullity

Community Bushland Coordinator

P: 9442 0320| M: 0400 017 977| E: julia.cullity@dpaw.wa.gov.au

Western Australian Fossil Plants and Climate

Dr Ken McNamara, University of Cambridge was guest speaker for Armadale Branch meeting in April 2017.

Ken began his talk by stressing the importance of looking at the nature of rocks and fossil plants in helping to understand past climates. In particular they have helped show that over the last half a billion years, the Earth has experienced long periods of alternating ‘Greenhouse’ and ‘Icehouse’ worlds. During the former, CO2 levels and global temperature were much higher than in the current ‘Icehouse’ world we inhabit.

Ken’s talk centred on two fossil plant sites, both of which have only received preliminary studies. One, dated at about 130 million years old (Cretaceous Period) is near Kalbarri. The other, about 40 million years old, is at Walebing, east of Moora. They are very different from one another in that the older site near Kalbarri contains plants living before the advent of flowering plants. The fossils show that the area was dominated by ferns (about 40% of the flora), including gleicheniacean, dipteridacean and osmundacean types. The rest of the flora was mainly arauraciacean conifers (25%) and an extinct group, the seed ferns (25%). The rest are forms yet to be identified. Some of the seed ferns are similar to fossils found in India, which was close to Australia at this time. While much of the fossil plant material is leaves and broken branches, there are a number of seeds and also frequent seed scales from the conifers.

Like this Cretaceous flora, the younger 40 million-year-old (Eocene Epoch) Walebing site preserves the fossils as impressions in very silicified sandstones. These rocks are known as silcretes and reflect formation at a time when the climate was much wetter and warmer than today, despite being located at much higher latitudes than now (55°–60°), with pronounced seasonality. The fossils are very common and reflect a very diverse flora, dominated by proteaceans, such as banksia, grevillea and possibly macadamia. The very diverse array of banksia leaf types show biodiversity levels were high even at this time, and probably had been on the nutrient-poor soils for tens of millions of years before, back into late Cretaceous times.

As well as these sclerophyllous plants the flora also contains rainforest elements, such as the Southern Antarctic beech, Nothofagus and many myrtaceous leaves that resemble modern rainforest types. Araucareaceans are still present, as well as casuarina-type fruiting bodies, including some types present today only in rainforests in eastern Australia and New Caledonia.

Study of the leaves of one of the banksia species, B. paleocrypta, shows that it has sunken stomata, suggesting that it was preadapted for the drying out of the Australian continent that has occurred over the last 25 million years or so. The rainforest elements have disappeared from WA, leaving only those forms, such as the proteaceans, that were preadapted to both the nutrient-deficient soils and the seasonal periods of low water availability.

In his closing comments, Ken pointed out that much more work needs to carried out on these floras. This will help provide a better understanding of the evolution of the rich flora that we see in Western Australia today.

Nothofagus and Banksia leaves, Walebing (Photo: K. McNamara)
Kalbarri fern, Microphyllopteris (Photo: K. McNamara)

 

Call for Nominations for Society Awards 2017

There are three categories of Awards presented at the Society’s AGM, which will be held on Saturday on the 24th of June 2017 and hosted by the Merredin Branch in Merredin, WA. The closing date for nominations is Tuesday on the 2nd of May 2017. Please mark your nominations CONFIDENTIAL and forward them to the Honorary General Secretary, Wildflower Society of WA (Inc.), PO Box 519, Floreat, WA 6014. Members should consider resubmitting a previous nomination if it was unsuccessful.

Wildflower Society Award
The criterion for this award is that the person or group should have advanced the aims of the Society. The recipient does not necessarily have to be a member of the Society but most are. Nominations should be no more than two pages long. A nomination may be made by an individual or by a Branch Committee. A subcommittee of the Management Committee is established specifically for this award after the deadline for nominations. None of this subcommittee’s members can be nominators or potential recipients.

Honorary Life Membership
This award is not restricted to one member per year nor is it necessarily made annually. A member nominated for this award should have rendered special or meritorious service to the Society and must be nominated by a member of the Society. The nomination is approved by the Management Committee. Honorary Life Members do not pay the annual fee but are entitled to the benefits and privileges of an Individual Member. Nominations should not be more than one page in length.

Meritorious Award
Nominations for this award are made by Branches and are for services to the Society at a Branch level. The nomination is approved by the Management Committee. There is no restriction on the number of Meritorious Awards given each year, and Branches may nominate more than one member.

Kerry Smith, Honorary General Secretary

Photo:  Diana Corbyn, one of the Award Recipients in 2016

Plants in Science fiction and Fantasy

Plants are everywhere, always in the background, never really having much focus drawn on them. But often creating the sense of place and atmosphere of the area they are in. An example of this is when we in Australia see eucalyptus, we instantly think of our Australian outback. Or when we see boreal forests and Cacti. We are reminded of where they are.

This is true when we think of plants in works of fiction and at that especially in science fiction where these places are limited only by the individuals imagination. Usually when we think about plant life on another world we tend to resort to analogues within our own. Many early science fiction works, when written imagined lush tropical forests filled with plants that had giant man-eating flora.

A common theme for plants in science fiction is just that, an antagonistic force either actively hostile to human life as in the Day of the Triffids, (1951) or as parasitic vegetation. Other themes of plant life in sci-fi include human form flora, an example of this is the plant Groot from Marvels Guardians of the Galaxy series of comics. Opposite to the first theme, some fictional plant species are intelligent and benevolent towards the human race. We encounter this in Clifford D simaks, All Flesh is Grass (1965) when a planet wide intelligent plant proclaims the brotherhood of all species (albeit ruthlessly enforced). Intelligent plant life is no stranger to science fiction with Kevin J Andersons Saga of Seven Suns Verdani trees.

In other works of fiction plants are not active things but instead serve to create a unique background from which the main story takes place in. Of course some of these are dangerous carnivorous plants. But others are similar to the Tesla tree’s from Dan Simmons Hyperion cantos series (1989) which store electricity and release it to scorch nearby competitors. Another is the Red weed from H.G Wells War of the Worlds (1897) which invades earth along with the alien tripods. Or James Camerons Avatar (2009) where upon the alien planet, almost every flora has bioluminescent  foliage.

Plant life on earth is often what we use to try and imagine what plant life in these science fiction and fantasy stories might look and behave like. Of course with a little bit of imagination thrown into the mix. This imagination is not limited to recent times, the concept of fictional flora is rooted in antiquity being a subject of imaginative fascination for many people at the start of fictional writing and even today.

In conclusion Plant life in science fiction and Fantasy writing can be just as important as the aliens and the spaceships that are far more popularised.

 

Author Mathew Woods. Murdoch branch.

 

References:

http://visual.ly/garden-fantasy-flora-80-plants-fiction

https://bigpictureeducation.com/plants-rooted-science-fiction

http://www.tor.com/2011/03/14/talking-trees-and-killer-spores-the-flora-of-science-fiction-and-fantasy/

http://www.usrbin.ca/damon/plants.html

http://ezinearticles.com/?Intelligent-Plants-in-Science-Fiction&id=813730

Australian Identity is Hidden in the Bush

Dr Eddy Wajon introduces native flora to local MP.

While walking through the Roe 8 reserve, recently, with a Member of Parliament (MP), we all agreed that knowing about the Australian Bush is a key element in building Australia’s national identity.

‘The Bush’ is not an easy thing to get to know, though, and many Australians are not only unwilling to learn more about it but are truly afraid of it. We sense the bush as if “it might have reached a long black arm and gripped us” – to put it in the words of DH Lawrence.

Nuytsia floribunda

 When the first European settlement of Western Australia began in 1827, for the most part, the settlers showed little interest in the bush that surrounded them. Instead, homesick Europeans started immediately to clear away the local vegetation. They tried to reinstate the things the way there were back on old continent. As a result new colonies in Western Australia nearly starved through failing to understand the local soils and landscapes and trying to farm using British methods. English-style gardens and European culture still dominated the hearts and minds of early settlers. The striking Nuytsia floribunda (WA Christmas Tree) was named as late as 200 years after Pieter Nuyts sailed around the south coast of WA en route to Batavia in the Dutch East Indies (1627).

Presently, although there are only few little islands of remnant bushland left in WA, the land clearing goes on. One of the greatest Nuytsias found on Swan Coastal Plain is being felled for an extension of another Highway – it does feel like our present government still has a 19th-century mindset.

Image of Great Nuytsia that has been already cleared for Roe 8.

I do hope that the Aussie nation will open its eyes to that rich source of stories, knowledge and identity found in the local bush before we turn into a mindless mass of consumers.

Author @PWaryszak

 

 

 

 

WA Wildflowers in Northern Germany?

These lovely photos are from Wildflower Society member Gerald Lorenz who joined the Society four years ago when he was visiting Perth. With his renewal he sent us a beautiful calendar with his photos – all taken in Germany! He says ‘I have lost my heart to your animals, flowers and nature that lives in Australia – especially in WA. Since then I’m growing some of your plants here. Now my collection counts about 50 different species of trees, bushes and flowers.’ Thank you Lorenz for your beautiful photos – you are an inspiration to us!

Connecting with Nature in the City (Letter from Dawn)

Dear WSWA members,

There’s something special about watching the sun rise from Kings Park… when the surface of the river is like glass, the sky has a rosy tinge, and there’s a bit of chill in the air. The city emerges from the gloom and the trees along Fraser Avenue turn gold. Some parrots erupt from the canopy in a sudden assault of sound, and then the mournful call of a raven and some warbling magpies. And the flowers… the flowers in spring! All that colour and variety and beauty that words just can’t convey…

Kings Park has to be my favourite green space in Perth.  But you probably have your own favourite – it might be a park, or some remnant bushland, even a backyard. These spaces will also be special to you for very individual reasons. It is something I’ve been exploring for my PhD as well as how important intangible things (like beauty or solitude or relaxation) are to people’s experiences of urban green space. I’m interested because I want to know if green spaces in a city like Perth are enough for users to feel connected with nature.

The American ecologist, Robert M. Pyle came up with the rather gloomy term, ‘extinction of experience’ which he used to describe an ever-diminishing connection between humans and common species of plants and animals in an everyday environment, especially in the developed world. He warned that “those who know and recognise less, care less, and therefore act less, leading to still more losses”.[1]  So if people in cities can connect with nature in urban green spaces that would probably be a good thing!

If you’d like to hear more about connecting with nature in the city, I’ll be talking about my PhD research at the Murdoch branch on 2 March 2017 so please come along. You can also help me with my research! I’m collecting information at the moment in an online survey to see how Perth residents use and experience urban green space. It only takes about 15 minutes to complete and can be accessed here: http://tinyurl.com/GREENspacePerthSurvey Please share this link with your Perth friends too as every little bit of information helps.

Thanks and hope to see you soon!

Dawn Dickinson

(dawn.dickinson@research.uwa.edu.au)


Reference:
[1] Pyle, R. M. (2003). “Nature matrix: reconnecting people and nature.” Oryx 37:209.