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FIDO Happy Valley Weed Trip

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Six FIDO volunteers (Chris Breitenbach, Larry Hohenhaus, Geoff Carwardine, Sandra Naidoo, Navin Naidoo and Su Dawson) joined leader, Peter Shooter for the recent Happy Valley trip from 27 October to 2 November.  They also had the pleasure of the company of Jodie Rainbow, Genevieve Rainbow, Louise Roberts and Blayde Foley from the Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation for three days, Tuesday to Thursday.

The two main target species for the trip were crab’s eye (Abrus precatorius subspecies africanus), and Easter cassia (Senna pendula variety glabrata). These have been prioritised over Lantana as a range of biological agents are weakening, but not killing lantana, whereas Abrus and cassia have no biological agents containing their proliferation.

Both these species have been targeted intensively since 2014, and are now present at very low levels on land under our control in and around the village.

Wherever possible, plants are hand pulled. Quite large cassia can be pulled. Small Abrus can be pulled with care taken not to break the root off, as it regrows.  Larger cassia and other woody weeds are cut low to the ground and a herbicide applied to the butt. The team have always used 100% glyphosate product applied with a small hand held spray bottle, but are now trialling a dab on gel called Vigilant as an alternative to glyphosate for cut and squirt/paste.

Where Abrus is located, the first task is to remove all the seeds. Where Abrus can’t be pulled, it is spot sprayed with a small hand held spray bottle, or a back pack for larger plants. The herbicide used is 1.5% glyphosate product mixed with a red dye for visibility.  Abrus is the only species that is controlled with foliage spray.

One of the crew, Chris, GPS marks Abrus plants that has either seeded or are likely to have seeded, for emergent follow up on subsequent trips and workers use fluro pink flagging tape to mark mature Abrus plants for follow up, which is essential to mop up new emergents. The team’s aim is to bring the level of flowering and subsequent seed production to as close as possible to zero, which has now been achieved in large areas.

This trip we carried out follow up operations on all the areas that FIDO has responsibility for inside the wongari (dingo) fence, both sides of the road extending North West of the dump area, a large area South of the dingo fence from the Yidney Rocks Road grid on both sides of road and in the second valley North of the Ambulance Station.

The Unallocated State Land (USL) we operate on is approximately 250ha. Having made great inroads in and around the village, and in the Eastern regions of the USL, we are now in the process of exploring the more remote areas. This trip our search extended to the Western and Southern borders of the USL. Most of these regions are in good condition with very few weeds. Cassia is present in small numbers across the landscape, and we found Abrus on top of a sand dune in the South West corner. We have previously located Abrus in the North West corner as well. Locating and eliminating outliers is essential if we are to prevent these weed plants extending into the National Park. Further exploration of the more remote regions of the USL will be an ongoing part of our 2020 program.

We have been locating and removing Northern Australian Umbrella Trees (Schefflera antinophylla) since FIDO commenced their Happy Valley program. There is a sizable population in the general Western region of the USL, with in excess of 30 mature trees this trip.  More effort will be put into these as time permits.

The hard-working FIDO and BAC weed management volunteers tacking weeds at Happy Valley

There is also a small but increasing population of another Northern Australian tree, Genus Terminalia, around Happy Valley. Peter is hoping to get flowers/fruit to have it properly identified. The first adult tree was removed this week at the Yidney dump area, although others have been identified inside the town area.

Text Box: The hard-working FIDO and BAC weed management volunteers tackling weeds at Happy Valley

Two more small broad-leafed pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius) trees were located this trip and destroyed. One larger one awaits David Anderson from Eurong with his chain saw. Peter is aware of some others growing in stunted form in a mixture of weeds East of Sailfish, which are also on the team’s “to do” list.

Just when you think they are all gone, a few more basket asparagus (Asparagus aethiopicus) turn up. This includes the biggest one ever encountered at the Yidney dump. It was well over a metre across and very lush. It and others were destroyed.

The valley south of the village from the main beach entrance up towards the Yidney Rocks Road is a disaster area. It is heavily infested with para grass, Singapore daisy, siratro, broad-leafed Pepper and Easter cassia and other weeds all intertwined. In large sections there are no native plants.

The team’s immediate concern is the para grass (Brachiaria mutica) which is extending its range Westward and engulfing native vegetation. This area requires a rehabilitation management plan, and the task is massive.  In the short term, in 2020 FIDO will drag the Para Grass back off the adjoining native plants and spray it with an herbicide to try to halt the expansion.  This is a massive project that has not yet commenced.

Peter would like to thank all the FIDO volunteers and the Butchulla workers for their great effort this week. In places, it was extremely hard work, especially navigating very steep unstable dunes and thick vegetation.

Commiserations to Navin who was bitten by something that made his ankle swell up and discolour badly. (Luckily, we had a doctor in the house!).  Also, to poor Su who waded into thick para grass in pursuit of a cassia plant, and disappeared into a hole but luckily managed to get herself out. And Geoff who thrashed/swam his way through swampy head high para grass while taking a short cut. We won’t be doing that again!

Through dogged perseverance we are making great inroads into our target weeds in Happy Valley.

Eliminating the seed source, especially of Abrus, is our highest priority.  A big thank you to the Butchulla workers for joining us again this trip. Apart from all the work you did, you were great company and it is a privilege for us to work on country with you. We hope to have you back with us next year.

Article submitted by Peter Shooter, Fraser Island Defenders Organisation

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