Grampians 1: Mount Stapylton

Forest fires are a regular, and many people say necessary occurrence in Victoria’s eucalypt forests. These fires, which are often devastating to wildlife, livestock and human inhabitants, are most frequent during the hot and dry summer months, especially in periods of extreme head and high winds. These elements come together with destructive effects.

Grampians 1 Burned landscape after 2013:14 fire

Mount Stapylton in the Grampians, called Gariwerd by the local indigenous Australians, burned in January  2014. The area is a good example of the effects of wildfire as well as of the recovery process.

Grampians 1 Regrowth after 2013:14 fire

Only six months after the fire, new leaves have emerged from the trunk of the charred eucalypts.These are called epicormic shoots, which lie dormant within the trunk of the tree. These trees are less dependent on seed germination, which in other species is at times facilitated by fires, and are more commonly found in areas which experience frequent fires of a rate of one fire event in a decade or so. Because these fires are more frequent, they are also less intense because less fuel has had the opportunity to build up.

Grampians 1 Eucalypt and grass tree regrowth after 2013:14 fire

Different species have different methods of dealing with fires.  Grass trees of the genus Xanthorrhoea, which are endemic to Australia, flower faster and more abundantly after a bushfire. A small grass tree can be seen in the photograph above below the trunk of the gum tree.

Grampians 1 Banksia seeds after 2013:14 fire

Fires facilitate the seed dispersal of some Banksia species, which release their seeds after a fire event. The release of seeds can even take place when the plant itself has been destroyed by the fire! Banksias are adapted in other ways to frequent fires. They have thick bark which protects the plant from heat, and procreate via lignotubers in the ground, from which the plant can grow after the fire has destroyed the visible parts above ground. The light colour inside the banksia cone indicates that it must have opened after the fire!

Grampians 1 Hakea seeds after 2013:14 fire

The woody seedpods of some Hakea species also open after a fire assed through. The thick shell protects the seed, which in many cases are still able to germinate even after intense fire has killed the parent plant. Many Hakeas also have lignotubers which help the plant survive after a fire.


Grampians 1 Mountain range after 2013:14 fire
Regeneration after a bush or forest fire is also helped by the layer of ash containing nutrients from which newly germinated seeds can benefit. Often, growth is accelerated after a fire and can remain so for over 30 yearsGrampians 1 View towards unburnt areas

While  most of Mount Stapylton burned, adjacent Mount Zero in the very north of the Grampians range escaped the fire. Climbing to the top of Mount Zero offers a beautiful view of the Grampians including some of the burned areas, and and allows the visitor to imagine what the area was like before the fires, and what it will look like in the years to come. Until then it offers a fascinating insight into the ecology of Australian forests.


Mount Stapylton and the Grampians National Park are open to visitors year round, subject to seasonal closures. After the 2014 fires some closures may still apply. For detailed information check the National Parks Victoria website at parkweb.vic.gov.au or call the Parks Victoria Information Centre at 13 1963.

 

Dandenong Ranges NP 1: RJ Hamer Arboretum & Bartlett Olinda State Forest Reserve

The Dandenong Ranges National Park is one of the national parks nearest to central Melbourne. The park is surrounded by picturesque little towns such as Olinda, Sassafras, Montrose and Silvan. The National Rhododendron Gardens are also nearby, as well as the Mount Dandenong Observatory and the Mount Dandenong Arboretum.

Most of the 200 native and foreign tree and plant species in the R.J. Hamer Arboretum were planted in 1978, after a fire destroyed the forest plantation which had previously occupied the area from the 1940s onwards. It is named after the premier of Victoria of 1972 – 1981, Sir Rupert Hamer.

The area is accessible through a car park and picnic area on Chalet Road coming from Olinda.The area is hilly and there are beautiful viewpoints, starting from the car park on Chalet Road. Several tracks lead north into the national park, so that a walk through the arboretum can turn into a hike of several hours.

Walking through the arboretum visitors can spot many familiar decorative species popular in European and Australian gardens, such as Rhododendrons and Grevilleas, here for instance a Grevillea banksii cultivar in bloom.

Dandenongs Grevillea banksii cultivar superb

The arboretum and adjoining park is also home to many local species of wildlife. This land crayfish, or burrowing crayfish of the genus Engaeus, one of the 35 species of land crayfish only occurring in Australia and Tasmania, lives in burrows in the ground, on top of which a towering mound is constructed.

Dandenongs Engaeus Land Crayfish


The Arboretum and National Park are open to visitors year round, subject to seasonal closures. For detailed information check the National Parks Victoria website at parkweb.vic.gov.au or call the Parks Victoria Information Centre at 13 1963.

Melbourne Botanic Gardens 3: The Greenhouse

The Greenhouse is tucked away in the recesses of the Botanic Gardens. It contains many mostly foreign species, some of which however are also popular garden and indoor plants in Melbourne’s residential homes. Some of these depend on a more humid and consistently warm environment, and don’t do well in the hot and dry climate which predominates in Melbourne’s summers.

Botanic Gardens 3 Fern wall

In the Greenhouse visitors can also find tropical mosses and epiphytic plants, such as ferns and others which usually grow on large tree trunks and receive nutrients from falling rain and leaf matter accumulating around them. Many of these can also be found in Australia’s more tropical northern regions.

Botanic Gardens 3 Heliconia orthotricha

Heliconias, such as these Heliconia orthotricha can be seen in many gardens around Melbourne. They are at home in central and south America. They are not as easy to care for compared with local plants because they require additional watering during dry times.

Botanic Gardens 3 Spathiphyllum

 

This beautiful red Spathiphyllum flower is more familiar to most people as an indoor plant. From the family Araceae, many of which are popular in private homes due to their glossy leaves and attractive flowers.

Botanic Gardens 3 Colocasia

This is also true of this species of plant from the Colocasia family, other members of which include edible varieties such as Taro, which is a staple in its native Southern India and Southeast Asia.


The Royal Botanic Gardens were established in 1846 by Lt. Gov. Charles LaTrobe. The site was rather swampy, being in the vicinity of the Yarra river, and located just across from the Central Business District of the young city. Melbourne itself had been founded by way of the negotiations with local Wurundjeri in 1835. Botanist Baron Sir Ferdinand Jacob Heinrich von Mueller, who was at the time the government Botanist of Victoria, was appointed as director of the Botanic Gardens in 1957. Mueller’s successor, William Guilfoyle, contributed to the landscaping of the gardens and many of its current features, such as the fern gully, rockeries and the ornamental lakes are based on his designs. The Botanic Gardens continue to be the playground for generations of locals and visitors.


The Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

Main entrance: Birdwood Avenue, Melbourne 3004

Open 7.30am – sunset every day of the year

Entry to the Gardens is free.

Melbourne Botanic Gardens 1: Australian trees walk

For anyone interested in the Australian natural environment the Melbourne Botanic Gardens are a good starting point. The gardens are a great place for a walk or picnic with an educational edge. Many local, national and international species can be found serendipitously whilst perambulating along the shady trails.

Melbourne Botanic Gardens 1 Australian tree walk 2

Signage provides the names of individual species, and there are also other features such as a fallen tree used to explain to visitors the importance of decomposing wood for the ecosystem.

Melbourne Botanic Gardens 1 Queensland lacebark

The Brachychiton discolor or Queensland Lacebark whose trunk is shown above, is in flower around January, and abundant pink blossoms scatter around the trunk.

Melbourne Botanic Gardens 1 Queensland lacebark flower

Most species here are from other regions of Australia, and so it’s more useful to learn about other regions of the country rather than just Victoria alone. There are also some unusual examples such as this Pisonia umbellifera, or Birdlime tree, which is reported to entrap and kill birds with its sticky fruit to fertilize the soil. Vicious!

Melbourne Botanic Gardens 1 Pisonia umbellifera 2


The Royal Botanic Gardens were established in 1846 by Lt. Gov. Charles LaTrobe. The site was rather swampy being in the vicinity of the Yarra river, and located just across from the Central Business District of the young city. Melbourne itself had been founded by way of the negotiations with local Wurundjeri in 1835. Botanist Baron Sir Ferdinand Jacob Heinrich von Mueller, who was at the time the government Botanist of Victoria, was appointed as director of the Botanic Gardens in 1957. Mueller’s successor, William Guilfoyle, contributed to the landscaping of the gardens and many of its current features, such as the fern gully, rockeries and the ornamental lakes are based on his designs. The Botanic Gardens continue to be the playground for generations of locals and visitors.


The Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

Main entrance: Birdwood Avenue, Melbourne 3004

Open 7.30am – sunset every day of the year

Entry to the Gardens is free.

Melbourne Botanic Gardens 2: Succulent walk

The Melbourne Botanic garden has many beautiful corners. One particularly interesting area is the trail leading from Gate G to the “Temple of the Winds”, a small pavilion set on a hill. Many different kinds of succulents, various types of aloe and agaves as well as cacti grow to the left and right of the trail. Some are usually in bloom, with tall flower stalks emerging from their midst.

Botanic Gardens 2 Agave attenuata II

Most of these aren’t natives to the Australian environment, but they do well here and can be seen in gardens around Melbourne. They can withstand heat and drought, and thus they can survive without being watered even in summer heat waves.

Botanic Gardens 2 Aeonium arboreum I

The genus Aeonium (this photograph: Aeonium arboreum) for instance derives its name from the ancient Greek word for ‘eternal’ or ‘ageless’, a reference to its hardiness. It is native to the Canary Islands.

Botanic Gardens 2 Agave attenuata I

The Agave attenuata in this photographs is native in Mexico. This species is a popular garden plant because it has no teeth or terminal spikes. The plant below is a small Agave protoamericana.

Botanic Gardens 2 Agave protoamericana

While this area of the Botanic Gardens might not teach the visitor that much about Australian natives, it’s definitely educational for anyone wandering the inner suburbs, where succulents are a popular plant in many front yards.

Botanic Gardens 2 Agave potatorum

Agave potatorum

Botanic Gardens 2 Echeveria

This Echeveria is also at home in to semi-desert areas of Central America, from Mexico to northwestern South America, but seems to be doing well in Melbourne.


The Royal Botanic Gardens were established in 1846 by Lt. Gov. Charles LaTrobe. The site was rather swampy, being in the vicinity of the Yarra river, and located just across from the Central Business District of the young city. Melbourne itself had been founded by way of the negotiations with local Wurundjeri in 1835. Botanist Baron Sir Ferdinand Jacob Heinrich von Mueller, who was at the time the government Botanist of Victoria, was appointed as director of the Botanic Gardens in 1957. Mueller’s successor, William Guilfoyle, contributed to the landscaping of the gardens and many of its current features, such as the fern gully, rockeries and the ornamental lakes are based on his designs. The Botanic Gardens continue to be the playground for generations of locals and visitors.


The Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

Main entrance: Birdwood Avenue, Melbourne 3004

Open 7.30am – sunset every day of the year

Entry to the Gardens is free.