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How many kinds of plants, just growing wild, are there in the Surf Coast, not counting those in gardens and on farms? More specifically, we are talking only of the “higher” plants, not the mosses or fungi etc., but including ferns.

The current, Angair indigenous plant list has 739 species, with occasional new records being added.

But non-indigenous species are growing in the wild too. Some are well-known garden weeds such as Dandelions and Oxalis. Some are pasture and crop species spreading beyond their paddocks, like Cocksfoot and Phalaris grasses. Some are garden plants that spread from their homes with the help of wind, water, birds – this is where our dreaded Boneseed and Polygala came from. Some come mixed up with lawn clippings and other garden material that people dump in the bush to save tip fees. The “Old Aireys” tip site was once a legal place for dumping rubbish of this kind, thus leading to current serious infestations by a range of environmental weeds.

Some weeds have very serious impact on the environment, so much so, that the State Government has declared them to be noxious under the Catchment and Land Protection Act. They are designated Declared Noxious Weeds or DNS. Boxthorn and Blackberry are two examples. Some are serious local weeds, and these are listed in the booklet Environmental Weeds – Invaders of our Surf Coast (click to download PDF version), jointly published by Angair and the Surf Coast Shire. Non-local natives feature prominently, typically Coast Tea-tree and various Melaleucas. There are many species that blend in with our indigenous species, or take advantage of site disturbance without spreading much, such as the small Hair Grass and Pimpernel. There are a surprising number of “one-off” sites, usually resulting from garden dumpings, that are not spreading at all. New Zealand Flax and San Pedro Cactus are two examples.

So how many does this all add up to? Angair is currently collecting and documenting these non-indigenous plants in a herbarium. Dried, pressed specimens, and colour photos are stored in the Angair Natural History Centre, where they are available for research and identification. We currently have 312 species in this collection.

Information, including the date and place of collection, a written description of the features of the plant, close-up and whole-plant photos, all combine to provide a useful resource, if you want to know if something you have come across in our bush is a weed. Call in at the library on a Monday afternoon between 12 noon and 2 p.m. and have a look at the folder. We also hope to include the information on our web site, and, perhaps, prepare a CD. Stay tuned for details.

Neil Tucker