Arbutus Feast on the La Gerche Trail

The long rainy season has led to a much bigger that average crop of Arbutus unedo along the La Gerche Trail this year. Not only is the crop more prolific but the fruit are ripening and tasting sweeter that usual.  If you’re quick, you could collect a basket of fruit and make Irish Strawberry Marmalade (or Wine) for the winter months ahead.  

Why would Field Naturalists feature an introduced species (‘a weed’ some might say) on this website?  Well, the La Gerche Trail features many exotic species planted by early foresters near the historic forest nursery north of Creswick. Tree Strawberry has a remarkable place among other plants brought here from Europe.

Like plants of the genus Pinus, many in the genus Arbutus are well known for their strong relationships with Mycorrhizal fungi, which enable them to extract soil nutrients and water more efficiently than most other plants. It seems that Arbutus and Pinus share many of the same Mycorrhizal fungi. Tree Strawberry is evergreen and grows most prolifically under Pines (especially P. nigra) in this area. Arbutus growing outside the Pine plantations in this area is not an invasive species, as it tends to be under pines.  

Ripe (red) Fruit – about 2 cm in diameter, has a slightly rough but edible skin

It is this link to Mycorrhizal fungi that enables Arbutus spp. to obtain enough nutrients from the poor acid soils of this site to produce such a prolific fruit crop. No local native species is able to fruit as prolifically on the same soils.

Tree Strawberry Marmalade 

Heat 1 kg of (mostly ripe) fruit for about 20 minutes with 3 cups of water, and then finely sieve the product to remove most of the granules that come from the skins. Add 400 grams of sugar and then add the juice and the finely cut skin of a whole lemon (or orange) to the mix. Cook slowly until thick enough for marmalade. The raw fruit is high in pectin and very high in Vitamin C and several antioxidants.

Bottle in sterile jars as for other jams. 

Words and photos contibuted by John P.

Irish or “Tree Strawberry” on the La Gerche Trail near the Smokeytown Water Race

Botanical Wanderings

After our walk along Hovells Creek Trail on Sunday we drove ‘very slowly’ due to the activity on the foreshore, to have lunch near the Geelong Botanic Gardens. We managed to time entry to the gardens it to take advantage of a guided walk.

The garden are looking very lush and green and we enjoyed hearing about  the back stories to some of the many interesting plants. The keen-eyed spotted a few big bracket fungi which are probably not a good omen for the tree.

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A leisurely stroll at Limeburner’s Bay

Limeburners Bay is a broad and sandy estuarine inlet of high conservation value, located on the northern shore of Corio Bay, Geelong, where Hovells Creek enters. Hovells Creek begins below the Brisbane Ranges National Park south of Granite Road, near Mt Anakie.

Our recent excursion was to Geelong and began with a 3km return walk along Hovells Creek trail with access is via the carpark at the end Foreshore Road near Geelong Grammar. The view across the salt marsh to the You Yangs is beautiful as is the one looking back across more than 100 resting swans towards Geelong.

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Waterbugs of the Yarrowee / Yaramlok

Waterbugs of the Yarrowee / Yaramlok is a family discovery session, held on Sunday 28th February 9 am to 12 midday, with Don Butcher, member of Friends of the Yarrowee River

Come discover the minibeasts of our Yarrowee – some older than dinosaurs! Discover dragons and damsels! Many waterbugs are like cicadas – destined to fly but they are swimmers before they fly.

Kids love waterbugs (so do ducks, turtles, fish, platypus & rakali), and this will be a fun way to focus kids on the wonders of our river and her wetlands. Waterbugs provide an important insight for water quality and our river’s health. Continue reading

Benefits of using iNaturalist

The recent Great Southern Bioblitz weekend motivated quite a few of our members to become involved and has seen a greater use of iNaturalist. It is one online place to explore and share our observations from the natural world.

Genduara punctigera, Crexa Moth

Our club has provided an online training session, some guiding notes and followup question and answer sessions and now many members are more confident about loading photos.

It is an interesting way to keep track of sightings and source identification for harder to name species. To reach ‘research grade’ more than one person needs to agree with an identification. One of the best aspects is that the records help scientists and resource managers understand when and where organisms occur.

Schizophyllum commune, Splitgill

Our administrator has recently added a new series of projects to help us track species observed in some of the more common places we visit, such as Creswick Regional Park, Woowookarung Regional Park and Lake Burrumbeet.

Commius elegans, Shield Bug on a cherry ballart

Records may be added via the phone app or from the computer. Some species are really hard to identify from photos and it may come down to the hairs on a stem, shape of a petal or the length of an antenna! So remember to take several photos and make sure you get ones of the main features and from a few different angles.

Wildflowers on a racecourse

A field trip to Morrisons Racecourse today was rewarded with lots of wildflowers and plenty of water in the small dam. This is a reserve under the management of the Ballarat Environment Network.

Back to Mt Beckworth

It is not so long since we wrote about a trip to Mt Beckworth but we found ourselves there again last weekend. There are more orchids flowering and and masses of sundews.

Exploring Creswick Regional Park

Creswick Regional Park has lots of interesting sites to visit and it is amazing to see how well the vegetation has reclaimed areas that were heavily turned over by mining in the past. Here are some photos taken near the boundary with State Forest on Slaty Creek Road.

There are some hidden gems in this interesting landscape but you will have to find them for yourselves.

Paddy Ranges State Park

Paddy Ranges State Park on the edge of Maryborough had a range of plant flowering early in September. Interesting birds seen included Flame Robin and Striated Pardalote.

Plant names starting at top:

Acacia paradoxa Hedge Wattle

Acacia pycnantha Golden Wattle

Acacia acinacea Gold-dust Wattle

Caladenia carnea Pink fingers

Diuris pardina Leopard Wattle

Daviesia ulicifolia subsp ruscifolia Gorse Bitter-pea

Grevillea alpina Cats Claws, Downy Grevillea

Microseris walterii Yam Daisy

Pauridia glabella Tiny Star

Rhytidosperma procumbens White Marianth

Tetratheca ciliata Pink Bells

Wurmbea dioica Early Nancy

Mud nest of White-winged Chough in tall Red Ironbark

Lal Lal Falls

Heavy rainfall in August has saturated the soil, filled dams and swamps, and increased stream flows. Rainfall of about 100mm has be recorded in Ballarat this month. A picture of Lal Lal Falls on facebook prompted a visit to the falls on 24th August 2020. The car park was full of visitors cars.

Lal Lal Creek begins north of the Western Freeway. The falls were formed when the creek tumbles over 2.5 million yrear old baslt flow from Clarkes Hill. The creek has cut a valley upstream about 1 kilometre from the Moorabool River West Branch.

Water flowing down the creek above the falls had submerged the weir so it was not possible to cross to the Australian Anchor Plant. Members of FNCB helped to collect seed and plant seedlings among the remnant plants surviving on a steep bank.

Discaria pubescens Australian Anchor Plant