A closer look at Land Hoppers.  Pity they were dead.

 Land Hoppers. Pity they were dead.

We had a bit of a scare recently finding masses of what appeared to be giant fleas lying dead on the floor of our courtyard.

I asked my ‘brains trust’ friends who identified them as Amphipods, a group of group of Crustacea called ‘Land Hoppers’ (Arcitalitrus sylvaticus), a common species in gardens in Sydney & Melbourne. Tasmania has 15 known species of Land Hopper. They are also known as ‘Lawn Shrimps’ or ‘House Hoppers’ in North America.

It may be that many of you know about these Amphipods, but for us, this was a first. I read up & found out that Land Hoppers were a sign of biodiversity in our garden, so not a bad thing at all.

This species is native to Australia & found in New South Wales & Victoria.  Land Hoppers have migrated to areas of the Pacific close to Australia, as well as New Zealand, Florida, California in North America & as far away as Great Britain & Ireland. It is thought that they migrate via nursery plants, potting soil & especially Eucalyptus trees.

They live unseen in moist soil, damp leaf litter, mulch, groundcovers & under pot plants. They love the ground habitat surrounding Eucalyptus trees. Land Hoppers are good for the garden in that they shred & eat the dead organic matter in the soil. They tend to be active at night.

They need to keep moist as they die if they get too dehydrated & can often be found floating in small amounts of water on their search for moisture.   One friend told me that they are occasionally seen floating in her dog’s water bowl. They also drown if the soil gets too wet, which is why they surfaced as a mass grave in our garden after a big storm.

Land Hoppers breed several times during the warmer months. The female has a fluid-filled brood pouch under her thorax. She extrudes her eggs into this pouch when the male fertilizes them. Mating can last for an hour or more. The female carries the fertilized eggs until they hatch, fully formed in around three weeks. The young look like small versions of the adult. They are 0.5-1.5 cm in length & they really do look like giant fleas. They have short lives of around 12-months.

Don’t panic if you see their dead bodies in the house. They cannot live in such environments & unlike fleas, will not have eggs ready to hatch & infest your house & bite your legs. Land Hoppers do not bite. Their existence in our garden provides proof that our gardening practices are building on biodiversity, which is always a good thing.

The first thought was giant fleas, but now we know these are good for the garden

You can understand why were thought they were giant fleas, but now we know these are good for the garden

Photo taken September 2011

Photo taken September 2011

And now,  What a postive improvement.

And February 2016.  What a postive improvement & work has not been finished yet.  I love the Banksia tree in the middle.

Work has started on Toyer Street Reserve in Tempe. I last wrote about this park in September 2011. This tiny playground was the epitome of neglect, so it was great to see that significant work is being done by Marrickville Council to upgrade this green space & make it a nice & safe place for people to spend time.

The playground equipment has been replaced & the ground prepared for the installation of a rubber surface. The playground is slightly below street level. Council has planted native grasses along the slope to act as a soft barrier to the road. Native grasses also line the exterior wall & fence of the property beside the park. Council says they will install new seating, which is always good.

What is nice is the three spectacular gum trees have been retained & a good size Banksia tree has been planted at the centre of the playground with a decent sized bed around it. I think this tree looks great. The flowers will be of interest to the children & of great interest to the wildlife, which is an added benefit.

It already looks good even though it is a construction site. I look forward to seeing the works when completed.

I am glad to see mulch around these beautiful trees.  Hopefully this area will become garden beds.

I am glad to see mulch around these beautiful trees. Hopefully this area will become garden beds.  The small playground is in the distance behind the fence.

And the flying foxes put on a wonderful show

The flying foxes put on a wonderful show

March is ‘Australasian Bat Month’ & the Wolli Creek Preservation Society will be having their annual Bat Watch Picnic in Turrella Reserve.

Bring a picnic dinner, rug or chair & insect repellent (for the mosquitoes) & watch thousands of grey-headed flying foxes stream out of their Turrella camp.  To me this has been one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.

We are so lucky to have such nature close to us.  Flying foxes are extremely beneficial to the environment & without them, our forests would be in real trouble.

WHERE: Turrella Reserve beside Wolli creek.  Enter via Henderson Street Turrella or Finlays Avenue Earlwood.  Please note that there are no toilets at Turrella Reserve.

WHEN: Friday 11th March 2016.

TIME: 6.30pm. Last year’s event was finished by 8.30pm.

This is a free event.  I will post a reminder & more details closer to the date.

 

Dead Sydney Blue gum in Tooth Lane Camperdown

Dead Sydney Blue gum in Tooth Lane Camperdown.

Marrickville Council has given notice of their intention to remove a Sydney Blue Gum (Eucalyptus saligna) in Tooth Lane Camperdown.

Council gives the following reasons for removal –

  • “The tree has died (scenecent) [sic]
  • The tree poses an unacceptable level of risk to the public and property.”

I visited this tree & it is as Council says – dead. What is incredible is that this tree had been allowed to live in the first place. Either it was left in-situ when the units were being developed or it was planted shortly afterwards. It is the only tree in this lane. It once had a significant canopy that I can only assume was enjoyed by the people who looked onto its canopy & enjoyed the shade it provided. This tree provided significant amenity for many years.

Council says they will not be planting a replacement tree “due to site restraints.”

I agree with Council that planting another tree here is unfeasible because there simply is no room.   However, with Marrickville municipality officially recognised as having one of the poorest canopies in Sydney, I would consider it a good move toward increasing our urban forest if Council planted a Sydney Blue Gum in another location where its growth will not be restrained. There are plenty of suitable places.

It seems counterproductive in these days of climate change not to use every opportunity to replace any tree lost with at least one other of comparable size & amenity. In many places the standard is to replace one lost with two to four new trees.  To lose a tree, & a big tree at that, & decide to replace with nothing is disappointing. It makes me wonder how Marrickville’s urban forest will ever achieve the 20% increase as campaigned for by the 202020 Vision.

Sydney Blue gums are valuable trees to local wildlife providing habitat & food. They also are one of the few tall tree species in the municipality, so provide green on the skyline for the community to see.  The benefits of trees have been repeatedly spoken about in this blog.  Just being able to see trees on the skyline instead of red tiled roofs offers some respite from the harshness of the inner city landscape.

I offer Broadway, Ultimo & Chippendale as nearby suburbs that have 3-4 storey street trees as a norm. Marrickville municipality has, on average, wider streetscapes & verges than those suburbs, yet our streetscapes are remarkably different.

The deadline for submissions is Friday 12th February 2016.

A very detirmined tree to live in this space for as long as it did.  When it is gone the space is perfect for a small garden to keep some beauty in this lane.  Better than weeds.

A very detirmined tree to live in this space for as long as it did. 

Historic slipway Quibaree Park

Historic slipway Quibaree Park wit a great view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Gumnut Babies.  Many of the scultptures has freshly picked flowers placed beside them.  I thought someone must be remembering the artist.

Gumnut Babies, one of the many sculptures along the foreshire walk.  Many of the sculptures has freshly picked flowers placed beside them. 

This is a series of posts – Clark Park see – http://bit.ly/1Ngshb8, Wendy’s Secret Garden – see http://bit.ly/1Ngshb8 & Watt Park – see http://bit.ly/1OG2gYB

Quibaree is the Aboriginal name for Lavender Bay. The sign says that the name is believed to mean “a spring of fresh water.” On the far right of the bay is a heritage Neptune Engineering Slipway, which was functioning from the late 19th century to 1989.

Much attention has been given to greening this area with big trees & masses of planting all around the edges. The plants are a mix of natives & exotics. My guess it they use what works here as plants would need to be hardy to cope with the environment.

There are lots of interpretive signs by the North Sydney Heritage Society scattered all through the public spaces. I found it interesting to read the history of the area.

There is a clean & modern toilet that services Quibaree Park, Watt Park, Clark Park, the Lavender Bay Foreshore & Wendy’s Secret Garden.

We came to walk along the Lavender Bay Foreshore to Art Barton Park to see the sculptures. It did not take long to find a sculpture, as they are scattered along both sides of the foreshore walk that takes you to Luna Park. These delightful little artworks are quintessentially Australian & many were characters from children’s stories or from Luna Park.

While the water view is spectacular, we both found that our eyes were drawn to the many & varied plants on both sides of the foreshore walk. There were lots of trees, Banksias, Flowering gums, Angophoras & Grevillieas. There were also roses & many cottage garden plants that grew alongside native grasses. No mono-planting here.

The gardens were lush with plants in most areas along this walkway & many were in flower. There were bees, other insects & we even saw a ladybird sitting on a rose leaf. It clearly demonstrated that exotics can blend well with natives & that any planting is better than just looking at mulch.

The rail line is interesting. I cannot work out where it goes at it seems to come to a stop at the western end of Quibaree Park & at Luna Park in the east. NSW Transport has quite a few trees along the fence line & I was impressed to see gabion walls in many sections. These make terrific habitat for lizards, insects & small mammals, so these walls were good to see. I find them attractive to look at too, so an added benefit.

Art Barton Park appears to be a small grassed area with two very beautiful Fig trees, both of which have their side branches, instead of being pruned upwards. Two benches are underneath the trees & neither bench has a base of concrete, which I like.   Behind the park is a wall of green consisting of all kinds of trees, shrubs & understory planting.   It was a good place to sit & watch the view & the people promenading past.

As we were almost at Luna Park, we decided to have a look & then went in search of ice-cream. Luna Park was loud, busy & full of people. It’s a very exciting place with terrific views across the harbour. I am glad it is still there, though I doubt the units that overlook Luna Park are enthusiastic about the place.

We did a slow wander back & returned to our car via Clark Park.  If I had the energy I would have happily visited Wendy’s Garden again.

So that is three radically different parks close to each other offering a big dose of beauty to sooth your spirit & help you get back to work on Monday feeling good. Half an hour from Marrickville via car & 10-minutes walk from North Sydney Station makes this an attractive option for a nature charge in my opinion.

No litter, negligible graffiti, lots of big trees & birds, lots of landscaping, art works & sculptures, a spectacular water view & a different perspective of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, ice-cream available to purchase at Luna Park & the magical Wendy’s Secret Garden – so much to see & at no cost, except for the optional ice-cream. What is not to like?

There was a great variety of plants, both natuve and exotic and many of them were flowering plants.

There was a great variety of plants, both native and exotic and many of them were flowering plants.  The foreshore path is next to the pole on the left of this photo.

View from the foreshore walk back to Quibaree Park

View from the foreshore walk back to Quibaree Park.

Inside Luna Park.

Inside Luna Park.

Marrickville streetscape.  There was more concrete behind me.

Marrickville streetscape – photo taken last week. There was more concrete behind me.

The news has been very tree-orientated in the last few days with Greg Hunt the Federal Environment Minister announcing that the government will have a vision for improved urban tree coverage within 18-months. See – http://bit.ly/1KvzEuO

The federal government’s plan for cities is to increase the urban canopy every decade to 2050 to “reduce heat within city environments and improve health outcomes.”

“Green cities — cities with high levels of trees, foliage and green spaces — provide enormous benefits to their residents. Increasing urban canopy coverage decreases heat, which improves health and quality of life.”

Finally the urban canopy is being acknowledged as a health issue!  Recent research has found an increase in respiratory & cardiac illness with more fatal cardiac arrests in areas with a poor canopy. Add increased depression & obesity & you have an unhealthy, unhappy community, which ultimately has a cost on all of the community.

Unless there is a change of culture, I believe these problems will only increase with the current trend of high-rise housing with little or no green space or access to peaceful green space, as many of our parks are being transformed into entertainment areas.  Therefore, an Australia-wide initiative driven by the federal government to increase the urban forest canopy can only be applauded. We can have high-rise & green space. Green walls & green roofs can be incorporated into new designs just as easily as a pool for example.

The federal government’s announcement might be alarming for those state governments which are removing trees at a fierce rate in the push for development.  In Sydney alone 400 trees, many of them large Fig trees that are iconic to Sydney are being removed in Randwick for the eastern suburbs light rail project. This is despite Randwick Council saying that the light rail line can travel the same route without removing the trees. A whopping 760 trees will be removed along the entire light rail route.

The NSW government’s response to criticism about the tree loss has been that eight new trees will be planted for every tree removed. Sounds good, but I will watch with interest at what species of tree is planted, how many survive & what the canopy looks like in a decade. I highly doubt the canopy will ever look like it did in the beginning of December 2015.

Even closer to Marrickville LGA is Sydney Park at St Peters where 350 trees are being removed to establish a construction depot for the WestConnex Motorway.  See – http://bit.ly/1OpHg63.  It seems that trees & green spaces are fair game for development, even when there are other options. Bushland at Wolli Creek is also threatened for WestConnex. The most expedient & cheapest way is to remove trees, yet the impact of doing so has far reaching consequences on both the community & the wildlife.

Then there is the 10/50 Code that allows for any tree to be removed within 10-metres of a home & remove underlying vegetation within 50-metres of a home without seeking approval because of bushfire risk. The North Shore & Pittwater areas of Sydney have been losing trees like they have no meaning.  The 10/50 Code offers a giant loophole for landowners to remove trees for any reason they like & according to Lane Cove Council, bushfire risk in the area is minimal. Still their urban forest has been decimated.

Globally 2015 was the hottest year since records started. 2011 to 2015 have been the hottest 5-year period world-wide since records started.  Sydney is expected to be like living in Rockhampton in subtropical Queensland by the turn of the century. See – http://bit.ly/1DM40tk Therefore, what is planted also needs to be taken into consideration if local councils want the trees to survive more than a few years.

Part of greening our cities, which also includes suburbs, requires a culture-shift of the community itself. Many areas of Sydney are defined by their trees – the North Shore, Pittwater, Eastwood area & Sutherland Shire as examples. Then there are suburbs with few trees, both public & private.

I took this photo in Bexley today.  This was one of a number of other street trees pruned like this.

I took this photo today in Bexley. This street tree has negligible amenity, except for the person who pruned it.  It adds no benefit to the wider community or to managing climate change

I think it may be a battle for a while until the prevailing attitude towards trees changes. To change public perception of trees, the government will need to embark on a strong multi-media education program. Twice in the past week I passed individuals in Marrickville who were casually pruning street trees into small stumps with no canopy.   That they do this in broad daylight shows that they believe that it is their right to do so & that they have little care or no conception that the street tree belongs to the whole community.

With luck, tree vandalism will become a rare occurrence, street trees will be planted in better conditions & the community will embrace the care of the tree by watering it while it is establishing & also during dry periods.

What will be wonderful in my opinion is that large canopy trees will become the norm because it is these trees that provide the most benefit & utility in cooling the streets & also in carbon sequestration.  It is also these types of trees that the federal government is talking about. I will be very pleased to see spindly street trees only used in spaces where there is no room for anything larger.

I will also enjoy the resultant beauty along our streetscapes when trees become more of a feature than buildings & where landscaping is used more often than concrete. Green walls & green roofs will be wonderful as well.

Lastly, greening our suburbs will bring wildlife in & support wildlife already here. Instead of the constant noise of traffic & planes, we will listen to white noise of bird song during the day & crickets & frogs at dusk. I know this to be true because the simple addition of some native trees & an under-storey has brought much wildlife to out place, whereas it was almost bereft when we moved in.

We have to change as individuals & as communities. Local Councils need to change as well. Much needs to be tossed out of current tree policies if they do not support increasing the canopy or the tree species chosen & placement does little to lower the urban heat island effect.  I suspect local councils will rapidly get on board with federal government directives, but I fear some in the community may find it hard to embrace an environment full of trees. We all have much to gain from a greener environment, from large canopy trees, to areas of under-storey filled with shrubs & plants & grasses & from being able to walk around without dashing from patch of shade to patch of shade.

Climate change will demand that everyone cooperates with the greening of our cities or we will suffer, cause our community to suffer & make it unlivable for future generations.

 

Map of area to be acquired for a construction area for WestConnex. Photo via Sunday Herald. The millet and mung bean meadow created to add nitrogen to the soil for the orchard is in this area.

Map of area to be acquired for a construction area for WestConnex. Image via Sunday Herald. The millet and mung bean meadow created to add nitrogen to the soil for the orchard is in this area, which is just below last year’s National Tree Day planting site.

Bad news for Sydney Park in the Sunday Herald newspaper today. See – http://bit.ly/1Ztiyoa

The WestConnex Authority is compulsorily acquiring 6,000 square metres of parkland along Campbell Street St Peters for use as a construction site while building the St Peters Interchange. This will require the removal of a whopping 350 trees.

According to the article, the WestConnex Authority has already earmarked 8000 square metres of Sydney Park to create wider roads, which will be a permanent loss of green space.

Sydney Motorway Corporation said the 6,000 square metres of parkland along Campbell Street will be “rehabilitated & returned for use as open space.” The expected completion date of WestConnex Motorway is 2023.

While at National Tree Day 2015 in Sydney Park, I talked to staff who were at the City Farm stall.  This very exciting project is to create a city farm with orchard in the south-west corner of Sydney Park, which I think is exactly where WestConnex now intends to take 6,000 square metres of land.  If so, this makes the news even more devastating.

 

I had not seen a Queensland Bottle tree, except in photos, so it was great to get up close to one.  This was not a tree I expected to see in Sydney.

A gorgeous looking tree and quite a surprise to come across.

We were out cycling through another municipality when we came across a Queensland Bottle tree (Brachychiton rupestris). It was about 4-metres tall, with a girth of around 2.5-metres.

My luck the owners were there & were very happy to discuss the tree. Apparently the previous owner of the house had planted it around 80-years ago. I was told that they worked as a Horticulturist & had an extensive plant collection in greenhouses in the back garden.

When the house was being negotiated for sale, the owner explained the significance of the Bottle tree & asked them to protect it & leave it in place. He also wanted to sell to people who would use the greenhouses for plants & look after any plants that were left in the garden. The person who bought the house & remains the owner kept these agreements being a keen gardener himself.   His son is also a keen gardener, so the tradition of growing & caring for plants on this property continues.

They said that around a decade ago, the Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney asked to be given this tree to plant in the Gardens, but permission was declined.

I had not seen a Queensland Bottle tree, except in photos, so it was great to get up close to one. This was not a tree I expected to see in Sydney.

The Australian National Botanic Gardens website says the following about these trees –

The name of the bottle tree can be taken literally, as there is a significant amount of water stored between the inner bark and the trunk. Aboriginals historically carved holes into the soft bark to create reservoir-like structures. The seeds, roots, stems, and bark have all traditionally been a source of food for people and animals alike. Another use has been made of the fibrous inner bark to make twine or rope and even woven together to make fishing nets.” See – http://bit.ly/1OUu5vd

The raised boardwalk through the Badu Mangroves.

The raised boardwalk through the Badu Mangroves.

The path beside The Pond.

The path beside The Pond.

The Pond through a screen of Bulrushes.

A small section of The Pond through a screen of Bulrushes.

We spent a very interesting afternoon at Bicentennial Park, part of the Sydney Olympic Village in Homebush yesterday. There is so much to do there, as the park spreads over 40-hectares. We started off on a long walk through the stunning Badu Wetlands.

The wetland starts with a Casuarina forest. The trees are young, but close together & the ground is thick with needles. Then the mangroves start. The raised wooden boardwalk takes you past different aspects of the mangrove forest. In some areas lush green plants grow in the under-storey. In other areas the ground is filled with water & millions of pneumatophores poke up above the shallow water. Pneumatophores are roots that obtain oxygen for the mangrove tree & can be found many metres away.

Anywhere where there is water you can see schools of tiny fish darting around in the sunshine. Some were living in around 10-centimetres of water. The mangroves did not have much of a smell, but what I did smell was nice. The area is obviously healthy with water transference happening to prevent stagnation.

Apart from the mangroves there are lots of Casuarinas, some eucalypts and some paperbark trees. There are also plenty of birds, including waterbirds.

Of special enjoyment was the abundance of dragonflies that were everywhere. They appeared quite curious flying close for a look & following us on our walk. I would not be exaggerating if I said we saw 50 dragonflies – blue, red, black & brown. Since it is special to see a dragonfly in Marrickville, I found seeing so many exciting. Plus I have never taken a walk with dragonflies as my escort.

Mangroves are carbon sinks with their carbon sequestration similar to rainforests, so they are extremely important in managing climate change. They are complex ecosystems rich in biodiversity & serve as a nursery for fish, both fresh & saltwater, plus crabs & other crustaceans.

I am very happy such a large area of mangrove wetland has been preserved & not given over to development. There is plenty of development with multiple high-rise next to the park with more being built, which you can see anytime you face the right direction & look up. These are tall buildings.

Once you walk through the mangroves the path takes you to The Pond, which is much larger than I anticipated. The pond itself is gorgeous & very natural. There are many islands in this body of water & the vegetation everywhere is lush. I found it beautiful & was sorry when this walk ended.

The bitumen path beside The Pond is suitable for wheelchairs. The raised wooden boardwalk through the mangroves may be suitable too, but might be a bit bumpy over the wooden slats. I love that there are areas for wildlife only & it is clear that people should not enter.

From here we walked up a hill to see what we could see. This took us into an area with rows of tall eucalypts, a large area of lawn, then rows of London plane trees. It reminded me of Canberra. Large groups of people were picnicking in the shade of these trees.

We found a hedged garden. The Murraya hedge is in bloom, so the perfume of oranges was in the air. Inside is a path that followed formal plantings of flowers. There are lots of Salvia for the bees & they were enjoying themselves. There are two large canopy trees with a bench on either side. Each bench was being used by a person taking time out to read.

In the middle if this formal garden is a large Iceberg rose with many blooms & a plaque underneath that read – “Love is all that we have, the only way that we can each help the other. ~ Euripides (480-505 BC. Greek Playwright).”   

We followed a long tree-lined pedestrian promenade that has a waterplay area at one end & the Treillage Tower at the other. I declined climbing it, but there were many people up there enjoying the view.

From here we went to Lake Belvedere, a very large lake surrounded by picnic areas & the location of a café/restaurant. The lake had many coots, black swans & ducks swimming around. I could see two darters resting on a tree on an island. Massive fish could be seen.  I think they were Koi, but it doesn’t matter because they do not allow fishing.   There are also eels according to some children I spoke with.  According to the signs there are many species of water birds living there & guided bird walks are held regularly.

This is a wildlife paradise, as people are kept out of their areas & stopped from killing them. Programs like wildlife classrooms teach people the benefits of wildlife, so we get to look, learn & watch. There are also a number of signs explaining what people should not do & why. I like this approach a lot.

There are scattered picnic kiosks & lots of shady areas to set up a picnic.  The lake has a large pier where people can interact with the ducks, fish & black swans that come to say hello hoping for food that the signs say not to provide & for good reasons too.   The lack of food doesn’t stop the fish & birds from being friendly though.

One other thing that I really liked about this park is the trees. There are lots of trees & good variety of species.  I was particularly pleased to see that, like Sydney Park, they have planted hundreds of Hill’s Figs. They provide a wonderful sight planted along the roads & of course, are great trees for wildlife.

It’s been around a decade since I visited & the improvements are remarkable. I recommend a visit, as there is plenty to see & do. There are areas full of people & areas where you could be anywhere – where it is quiet & there is only you & nature. Places like this are precious.

A grassed area with the hedged garden, rows of trees and waterplay in the distance.

A grassed area with the hedged garden, rows of trees and waterplay in the distance gives an idea just how large this park is.

A small view of Lake Belvedere.

A small view of Lake Belvedere showing a promenade and part of the pier on the left.

Only because Black Swans are so special.

Only because Black Swans are so special.

 

Showing the progress of the new bridge crossing the Cooks River from Marrickville Golf Course to Beaman Park Earlwood.

Showing the progress of the new bridge crossing the Cooks River from Marrickville Golf Course to Beaman Park Earlwood.

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