Rediscovering Ballarat’s Bushland

On our July excursion led by Emily Noble, we visited some of the bushland areas included in Discovering Ballarat’s Bushland*, published by the Club in 2002.

Mt Buninyong in the fog

A group of 11 gathered at the Blackberry Lane car park on a cold morning with low cloud covering Mt Buninyong. We walked past mature Messmate and Manna Gum, some with hollows. As we climbed higher the weedy species grew fewer. The ground cover was mainly Common Tussock-grass and Weeping Grass. Herbs among the grass included Bidgee-widgee, and Prickly Starwort. A variety of fungi were seen.

the grassy crater

We reached a crater from which lava flowed towards Buninyong. The lower part of the crater was a grassland area because frost prevented trees becoming established. A sign near the crater explained the volcanoes has erupted several times from over one million years ago to as recently as twelve thousand years ago.

Making of a mountain

Birds observed during the morning were White-throated Treecreeper, Yellow Robin, Grey Shrike-Thrush and Superb Fairy-wren. A concrete tank and trough were near the crater, perhaps from an earlier time when stock were grazed on the Mount.

A climb up the tower at the summit gave limited views because of the low cloud. After lunch under the picnic shelter we reviewed the information on Mt Buninyong Scenic Reserve published in 2002 and made some suggestions for improvement.

In the afternoon we travelled to the north-east corner of Union Jack Reserve, entered the reserve near the Locomotive Hill Mine. The area is marked with a plaque remembering the death of two miners.

beefsteak fungi

The open forest is dominated by Broad-leaved Peppermint on the higher ground with a sparse understorey of shrubs and a lichen crust. Thin-leaf Wattle was developing buds and Common Heath was flowering. As we moved down the hill Messmate and Scent-bark appeared. Along the creek there were Manna Gum, Blackwood, Prickly Moses and Prickly Currant-bush.

Only two cars continued on to Durham Lead where we were joined by three district residents. We inspected a patch of Crown land in Pioneer Lane. This was the most species rich area visited during the day.

We saw many orchid leaves which Emily was able to explain the features used to identify the different genera and species including Caladenia, Diuris, helmet, sun, waxlip, gnat, greenhood and duck orchids. The only orchid found with seed capsules was Red-tip Greenhood. It was pleasing to see some Black Sheoak seedlings regenerating near mature plants.

Thanks to Emily for leading this excursion in the depth of winter. She was able to help us identify many interesting plants even though few were flowering. Thanks also to John Gregurke for writing up this report.

* In 2002, the Club published Discovering Ballarat’s Bushland. Now that it is out-of-print and sold out, the Club is considering a new edition. The rationale behind this excursion was to visit some of the bushland areas included in the book and evaluate whether the information is still relevant, accurate and covers the key features or could be improved in some way.

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