Plant of the month is Banksia spinulosa (Golden Candlesticks), a shrub to 3 metres or so growing mainly in dry eucalypt forest. The orange-yellow flowers occur autumn to winter and attract honeyeaters. This is an attractive feature shrub that is tolerant of salt spray and will survive in most well-drained soils. Photograph courtesy Mary Boyce
Cooloola City Farm, opposite the Community Centre, on Tin Can Bay Road, is open to the public for plant sales on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 8am-3pm, 07 54862304, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.cooloolacityfarm.org
Continuing the topic of wet eucalypt (sclerophyll) forest, this month we will discuss understorey plants. These range from grasses, ferns, vines and herbs to shrubs, some of which may be rainforest species.
Most wet sclerophyll eucalypts produce small seeds with a short life span, that need good light to grow and have difficulty germinating on undisturbed forest floor.
Without occasional fires, rainforest species can take over, creating shade that inhibits the growth of eucalypt seedlings, and in this way, wet eucalypt forest eventually becomes rainforest. Animals that depend on the conditions in wet sclerophyll are threatened when it is replaced by rainforest.
As mentioned in previous articles on other vegetation communities, fire can have beneficial or harmful effects. Controlled, regular, low intensity fires can reduce weeds and fuel load and maintain the grassy understorey by suppressing shrub growth.
Extremely hot fires, especially frequent ones, can destroy fire-sensitive eucalypts and understorey plants, while encouraging the growth of fire-tolerant plants both native and exotic, thus changing the environment significantly.