Over the last 18- months Bengalee Landcare has been working on a major project involving the repatriation of an area of approximately eight hectares (20 acres) of land along the escarpment at Tapitallee, severely infested with lantana.
This month they celebrated the completion of the initial stage of the project.
The Bengalee Lantana Clearing project is managed by a sub-committee of 4 Bengalee Landcare volunteer members; Dan Crowley, Garry Daly, John Kubale and Peter Mair, assisted by a core group of active volunteer Landcare members.
Shoalhaven Landcare Association oversees the project.
Initially the group engaged an external contractor with mechanised equipment to cut access pathways through the infestation.
This enabled chemical spraying of the lantana thickets using the Landcare spray trailer which has a 600 litre capacity tank.
More spraying was also undertaken using backpack, splatter gun equipment to follow up the initial volume spraying. Hand cutting and pasting was also used for isolated lantana regrowth areas.
Mechanical slashing was undertaken once the major areas initially sprayed had died back. Hand clearing and slashing was needed in areas that were not accessible to mechanised equipment.
After spraying and clearing they began revegetation.
A total of 966 individual plants, from over 30 different suitable species of indigenous native plants were purchased from three main nurseries.
Plant selection took into account the soil conditions encountered on the properties, current native species occurring in the areas, bird attracting species, species suitable for the differing microclimates encountered in the regeneration zones and species capable of restoring the tree canopy necessary to provide the shade which inhibits the regrowth of lantana.
All plants required protection with a wire mesh tree guard 1800mm high x 380mm diameter, wired to star pickets, in order to protect the plants from wombats, wallabies and, unfortunately, deer.
More watering was necessary between December 2018 until the recent rain, and this has been achieved by having water-filled, two litre recycled milk containers at each position from the time that the trees were first planted.
- Six planning meetings
- 17 organised working bees dedicated to this project
- Local community members volunteering close to 1000 hours of their time and labour
- 822 individual plants plated so far - of which all but 12 have survived
- Three public inspection events
Sunday, October 13 was the final inspection day.
Twenty-five people attended and walked through the project site, seeing first-hand the lantana clearing and native revegetation that has taken place.
Talks by Peter Mair, Garry Daly, Kim Touzel, and John Kubale highlighted various aspects of the project.
A barbecue followed to celebrate the achievements of this small local Landcare group - not the least being the local community that has developed around the common project.
Now the initial phase has been completed, they will move into the maintenance phase. It involves watering, weeding, repair of cages, replacement of dead plants and the treatment of any lantana re-growth.
This will continue over approximately five years and should see further plantings arranged by the Bengalee Local Landcare group
The Bengalee Landcare Lantana Clearing Project received funding from South East Local Land Services and Shoalhaven Landcare Association.
Lantana (Lantana camara), is an invasive introduced weed. It is a large flowering shrub native to Central and South America that readily grows into thickets.
It was brought to Australia as an ornamental garden plant in about 1841. The weed quickly escaped domestic cultivation and within 20 years was established in the wild.
Lantana was first declared noxious around 1920 and by the 1950s it had spread over more than 1600 kilometres of the eastern Australian coastline. Currently, lantana covers more than five million hectares of subcoastal New South Wales to Far North Queensland.
It has also been estimated that graziers spend $17.1 million a year on lantana control and lose more than $104 million in production due to lantana invasion.
Research indicates more than 1400 native species are negatively affected by lantana invasion, including many endangered and threatened species. As lantana is a woody shrub that has thin, combustible canes, its presence can also create hotter bushfires, altering native vegetation communities and pastures.
A single plant can produce up to 12,000 fruit (and seeds) in a year. Most seeds are spread by birds and some animals that eat the fruit.
Lantana seed is more likely to germinate if it has been through the gut of a bird or mammal. Seeds are also spread by water, in soil, on machinery and garden waste. Lantana is allelopathic and can release chemicals into the surrounding soil which prevent germination and competition from some other plant species.