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The Great Easter Cassia Blitz of 2018!

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The idea of a Blitz near Happy Valley while the Easter Cassia (Senna pendula var. glabrata) was flowering might have been my idea. However, the credit for the success of the Cassia Blitz goes to FIDO’s John Sinclair and Peter Shooter who organised the week-long event and to BMRG (Burnett Mary Regional Group) who funded it.

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And what a success it was.

There were 14 volunteers working for an average of four and a half hours over five days adding up to over 300 hours. In the week before the blitz, I marked a network of paths up and along the side and across the top of the ridge immediately south of Happy Valley to make initial access for the teams of two easier. The target species was obviously Easter cassia, but we also sought out Brazilian nightshade (Solanum seaforthianum) lantana (Lantana camara) and abrus (Abrus precatorius subsp. africanus).

Easter cassia has long thin stems which often don’t branch until well above eyeline and are easily missed. When cassia does branch it’s not uncommon for the branches to head off at right angles seeking a path through the canopy and creating a tangle before setting its flowers.

The timing of the blitz was perfect with cassia in full bloom and without any mature seeds. There was heavy rain in the hours before we began, but the sun was shining when we started and it stayed fine for the duration. While the foliage was wet we pulled the seedlings and small plants on top of the ridge. Brazilian nightshade seeds were bagged. Small abrus seedlings were pulled and the locations of larger plants were marked for later attention.

After a late morning tea, we began tackling the larger cassia bushes on the slopes in the gullies. That was challenging because many of the cassia bushes were dense and tangled with lantana and dead wattle and banksia branches. To add to the challenge, the cassia branches had to be traced back to the main stems. To achieve that meant cutting into the tangled foliage, barging in through dead falls, branches and twigs, and sometimes crawling, sometimes sliding on bellies or backsides. Some stems, or trunks were too thick for the long-handled loppers and had to be cut by pruning saws. Sometimes even smaller stems couldn’t be accessed with loppers because the long handles were impeded by the under growth. Peter resorted to a battery-operated reciprocating saw.

The blitz extended further south towards Yidney Rocks and west of the access road between the two settlements. Some teams tackled the areas north and west of Happy Valley. By day five, cassia was becoming harder to find so our team returned to the ridge south of Happy Valley to deal with plants that had been missed.

We looked for the fresh yellow flowers and green foliage among the dead and dying cassia and fought our way in and under to trace the live branches to their stems. There were also some strays which set their flowers high up in the canopy of large trees. It was hard work. It didn’t rain, but every day I was drenched with perspiration and it took me the whole long weekend that followed to get over my aches and pains.

It was also rewarding. We collectively reduced the Easter Cassia population around Happy Valley by the thousands.

There will need to be follow-up working bees to deal with emerging seedlings, but they are unlikely to be anywhere near as exacting.

We were making too much noise to worry about snakes. There was only one sighting and it crossed the Happy Valley walkway and took to the safety of the guinea grass as we approached.

And what did I do on the days following my weekend of recovery?

I removed Easter Cassia from around the residential valley at Eurong. There were not as many, but some were just as difficult to reach.

Article submitted by David Anderson, Fraser Island Association

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