Trip report – ‘Touring the Plains’ grassland tour of Mortlake & Woorndoo districts

Trip report – ‘Touring the Plains’ grassland tour of Mortlake & Woorndoo districts

Well, the spring alarm clock has gone off, and many of our native grassland flora species are waking up to the warmer weather. With that happy thought in mind, a group of us hopped on board for a bus tour of grasslands in the Mortlake and Woorndoo districts last weekend, organised by NGT.

There’s a lot more to grasslands than just grass, with an amazing array of species including orchids, lilies, daisies, sedges and wetland plants to be seen. While almost all of the native grasslands that stretched over the volcanic plains of south west Vic are now converted to agriculture, some valuable areas still remain. The tour showcased some of the valuable work being undertaken by conservation groups to protect these important parts of the region’s natural history.

The first stop was at the 304 hectare Mortlake Common Flora Reserve – one of the largest intact areas of grassland in SW Vic and refuge to a huge diversity of native species. Talks discussed the volcanic plains grasslands and NGT’s project conserving the Western Gaping Leek-orchids found on the reserve, including the recent gorse control work – a problematic weed for any landholder! It was a little early to see orchids, but many early spring flowers were visible – a sign of things to come as the grasslands burst into flower over the next few months.

Bulbine Lily (Bulbine bulbosa) (photo: Kevin Sparrow)

Early Nancy (Wurmbea dioca) (photo: Kevin Sparrow)

The group also visited the Bolac Plains Road grassland which the Woorndoo Landcare Group has been involved in, with Dave Franklin from the group showing the positive results of a careful burning program undertaken by local CFA brigades, followed up by diligent weed control. An incredible array of tiny native plants were coming up in response and will be a picture when in full flower in late spring and summer.

A final site visit to the Woorndoo Landcare Group direct seeding project area on Woorndoo-Streatham Road showed the methods involved in restoring grasslands. By scraping back soil to remove excess nutrient and weed seed banks, and directly applying thousands of seeds collected from local native grassland species, heavily degraded sites are brought back to life – an impressive technical effort that is having great success.

Checking out wildflowers at the Bolac Plains Rd grassland

The contrast between the sites visited on the day demonstrated how a planned approach to burning off excess grass and weed control can produce fantastic results for native flora.

Thanks again to Dave Franklin from the Woorndoo Landcare Group and Dave Pitts from DELWP for sharing their knowledge on the day, and to our bus driver/ecologist Jess!

If anyone would like to know more about the Mortlake Common project, don’t hesitate to contact Jonathan at

Cheers – Jonathan Tuck and Lauren Kivisalu

This project is supported by a grant from the Victorian Government
under the Victorian Environmental Partnerships Program (VEPP)

Jonathan Tuck