Plant of the Month – August 2014


(Xanthorrhoea semiplana ssp tateana)


   (Photos: old plant, forest of plants; E. Cousins, Cape Jervis)

There are many beautiful yacca specimens on the peninsula… take a walk through Newland Head Conservation Park to see forests of them! Their trunks are made of accumulated leaf bases, not wood, so they are more of a grass than a tree, hence the common name. The yaccas around Cape Jervis have trunks up to 4 metres tall, and flower spikes up to another 2.5 metres on top. Phenomenally slow growth rates mean it takes a long time for a trunk to get to this size though.  Aboriginal peoples used this plant for tools, drinks and navigation: the flowering spike made spears for fishing; the nectar from the flowers for a sweet drink; the side the flowers opened on first to indicate north (sunnier side). The resin was used for glue/adhesives; in fact, the botanical name Xanthorrhoea is from the Greek xanthos, meaning yellow, and rheo, meaning to flow; referring to the resin.

Weed of the Month – August 2014


(Gomphocarpus cancellatus)

(Photos: plant, monarch butterfly and caterpillar; flower bud; E. Cousins; Cape Jervis)

This woody weed from South Africa grows to about 1 metre high, and competes with natives for space, nutrients and water. It has escaped cultivation as an ornamental, and has invaded many reserves and national parks. The plant seed is spread by wind and water; its sap can be an irritating or toxic to some people, so use gloves when dealing with infestations. Hand pull small plants; use cut-and-swab or drill-and-fill techniques to poison large ones. If infestations are kept under control, the cotton bush does bring one benefit. Over the winter, you’ll notice the plant has many white-purple flowers…and often plenty of caterpillars, devouring the soft leaves and stems. These are the larvae of the Monarch butterfly, which have been plentiful around Cape Jervis this year. The Monarch is not truly an Australian native (though a resident for hundreds of years!), but apparently the larvae of the Lesser Monarch, which IS an Australian native butterfly, also uses this bush as a food source!

Carolyn’s update – Birdcages and direct seeding!

You may have noticed two wire cages near the ferry terminal or the four cages opposite the old Christie homestead on Sorata St. This is our first attempt at direct seeding, with the cages protecting the seedlings from rabbits. Direct sowing of seed will have two benefits: 1.  We can revegetate more of the site with less effort and 2. we can grow more species including the pretty daisies and hard to germinate plants. We are following a method from Greening Australia (downloaded from It includes a pre-germination step where seed are placed in a bag with a little water, air and perlite (right photo). We trialled two mixes, a “sure-set” mix of local Acacias and hardy shrubs and a “smalls” mix of grasses and daisies, including the yam daisy and paper daisies. The Acacias are already up and growing but it’s much harder to tell the others apart from the weeds. We will keep you posted. Mustn’t forget to thank Waite Conservation Reserve for donating the cages.