NGT bushcare ‘hits the road’ to protect native grasslands!

In Spring 2019, NGT’s bushcare crew was involved in protecting some of south-west Victoria’s native grasslands, carrying out careful weed control work in important roadside grassland reserves near Dunkeld.

With temperate native grasslands being mostly cleared or degraded by past agricultural development, most remnants in the region exist in small reserves; in hard to reach corners of agricultural properties, or in the vein-like network of roadside grasslands that runs through the volcanic plains, west of Melbourne through the western districts.

The work was part of a DELWP program that has teamed with the CFA to manage prescribed burning of roadside grasslands and follow up with careful weed control. Burning reduces the buildup of dead grass material from previous seasons, making it possible to target regrowth of weedy species such as Phalaris, which can otherwise rapidly crowd out a native grassland. All going well, this helps to maintain a sparser, tussocky structure with greater native species diversity. This in turn promotes a native grassland that has a much lower fire risk than a tall, dense stand of overgrown pasture grass.

In December, on the way to the Grampians for a hiking weekend, I couldn’t resist a quick stop to look at one of the sites.

Linear Reserves grassland, near Dunkeld (photo: J.Tuck).

It was quite a show of colours and species… complex, tangled interactions of grasses, herbs and forbs, insects, birds and reptiles. Very roughly, just in the photo: Kangaroo Grass, Supple Spear-grass, Bristly Wallaby-grass, Common Wallaby-grass, Five-awned Spear-grass, Scaly Buttons, Blue Devil, Tufted Bluebell, Chocolate Lily, Lemon Beauty-heads, Pink Bindweed… not to forget those obscured, and the myriad tiny flora species closer to the ground.

This was after several other phases of flowering in this area of grassland, which a few weeks earlier had sun orchids and grass lilies in the thousands. Considering that the Victorian Volcanic Plains region stretches across 2.3 million hectares, the grasslands must have been an astounding sight before clearance! Thankfully, some amazing spots still persist.

Thanks to the crew for their dedicated work on the project – in particular Sheryl, Tom and Dale – and to Ammie Jackson, DELWP Program Officer.

Jonathan Tuck