Batesford Boneseed Basket-case
When the 83 hectare Lilydale House Sanctuary property, (since renamed Dog Rocks Flora and Fauna Sanctuary), at Dog Rocks Road, Batesford, 10 kilometres northwest of Geelong, was covenanted with the Trust for Nature Victoria in 2006, the largely uncleared block had become heavily infested with boneseed. This was due in part to earlier indecision as to the future of the property by the previous owners/custodians George and Lit Belcher. The land is of similar formation to the You Yangs, and clearly control of boneseed was of paramount importance if efforts to restore the land to its natural state were to succeed, and the vision for the covenanted property realised.
Immediately prior to covenanting, the property owners were successful in obtaining a Southern Victorian Bush Tender Grant through the Department of Sustainability and Environment, for environmental works over five years with boneseed control one of the principal aims. Concurrently, now that the future of the property had been decided, and having regard to the old title to the land, the owners negotiated a ‘peppercorn’ lease for a corridor along the property’s Moorabool River frontage together with the City of Greater Geelong, who accepted responsibility for public liability insurance and upkeep of the area when it became public open space.
In 2007 a National Green Corps Jobs team, under the leadership of Stuart Quick, commenced a six month project concentrating mainly on the river frontage of the property, removing environmental weeds including boneseed, boxthorn, blackberry, blanket weed, serrated tussock, olive trees, and the like. At the same time, and as part of the Bush Tender project the owners’ brother in law/brother Ted Thornley and partner Jo King headed up a five year assault on boneseed over the rest of the property. During and since this time invaluable assistance with weed control and other works has been received from National Green Corps Jobs, Conservation Volunteers, community volunteers, students from St Joseph’s College, Covenant College and Geelong Grammar School, Geelong Landcare Network, with the Batesford/Fyansford/ Stonehaven Landcare Group, which also offered managerial as well as physical help.
Whereas in 2006 it was estimated that at least one third of the property was heavily infested with mature boneseed plants, in 2012 this figure has now been reduced to 10%. As the area cleared of mature boneseed plants expands, the challenge to keep the cleared area free of seedlings increases, especially with the recent end to the prolonged period of drought seeing the rate of seedling germination explode. Principally work on boneseed removal has occurred during the cooler months. Methods employed for mature plant removal include pulling, digging, cutting and painting, with the removed foliage being piled up and burnt. Where the fire is hot enough, much of the seed bank attached to the burnt plants is destroyed, and by leaving the ground clear, regeneration of native plants is accelerated. Pulling and digging out the mature plants has been preferred, with cutting and painting a good option for plants jammed in between rocks. A second pick of new seedlings is attempted within two years, with third and subsequent, hopefully, diminishing picks to occur each two years. We are cautiously hopeful that we may conquer this weed.