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How the bush springs back

Wednesday 26 February 2020

After the summer’s devastating bushfires and storms, Eurobodalla Council’s sustainability team wants residents and visitors to step back into nature and watch the bush spring back to life.

Council’s natural resource supervisor Heidi Thomson has stressed the shire’s incredible natural environment would recover after the fires.

“It looks like total devastation but the Australian bush is adapted to cope,” Ms Thomson said.

“There’s some pretty exciting things happening in the bush right now. A lot of eucalypts have started putting out epicormic shoots, which help their recovery after fire.”

Normally suppressed by hormones, epicormic growth – leaves shooting directly from trunks and branches – is stimulated by trauma, including bushfire. Ms Thomson said the fibrous-barked species were more likely to put out epicormics shoots from their trunks.

“With some of our other eucalyptus, like the smooth-barked spotted gums, you’ll need to look up to see new growth at the top, while others will sprout at ground level,” she said.

Some plants have already added welcome splashes of green to Eurobodalla’s blackened bush, including cabbage tree palms, tree ferns and bracken. Ms Thomson said these plants had characteristics that enabled rapid regrowth.

“Cabbage tree palms hold a lot of water in their root systems, while tree ferns have an above ground root system – that’s what the stem is – so they shoot straight out,” she said.

“A lot of our local natives will seed and germinate directly after fire; you might notice blankets of fluffy white grasses and small native flowers. Bracken is also native, and does a really good job of covering the ground, helping to prevent run-off during heavy rain, while colourful fungi and lichen feed off the ash left after fire, helping to support the return of soil life.”

Ms Thomson said most areas of bush would regenerate naturally but those subjected to particularly intense burns would be given a helping hand, and nature-lovers could do their bit by watching for any new weed species or infestations.

“Unfortunately, weeds are going to come back with a vengeance,” Ms Thomson said.

“Council has requested grant funding to help property-owners with control of high-priority weeds such as blackberry, African love grass, serrated tussock, and St John’s wort.

“There’ll be other weeds too. If you see weedy or unfamiliar plants coming up, take note. You can use the weedfinder on the Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Garden website to identify weeds in the first instance. If you can’t find your weed there, then get in touch.”

To use the weedfinder, visit Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Gardens website. For more information on weeds in the region, visit Council's South coast weeds page.