Backyard Barnyards!

By Candice Appleby

 

Chicks huddling to keep warm under the lamp (Image C. Heenan).

 

Chickens make great mates, to you and to your garden. They not only provide you and your family with a wealth of freshly laid eggs. They also produce incredibly nitrogen rich fertiliser and reduce the amount of household waste in the form of food scraps heading to landfill at the tip. It is now approaching the time of year when the chicks you purchased at the Alice Springs Show are starting to get big enough to be moved out to your chicken run. Have you got everything ready, and how can you maximise the benefit from your new family member?

Here in Alice Springs there are a few things you need to consider when constructing and maintaining an outside chicken run!

Weather conditions can be quite variable. Summer is quite the character-builder and our chickens respond to the heat in much a similar way to us. Ensure you provide adequate shade and a sufficient water supply. A little trick I use is hooking up the chickens’ water supply to the garden irrigation system, much like you would with a bird bath, this ensures the chickens water gets topped up daily and your chickens are happy!

Winter nights can also get down to seriously cool temperatures. Provide an insulated nesting box made of wood for your chickens to keep warm and lay eggs. Chickens will also tend to eat more in winter (don’t we all) so don’t worry if you are finding them going through more food.

Something that can often be overlooked in the backyard chicken run, but is vitally essential, is a good old-fashioned dust bath. A dust bath is great for prevention of parasite infestation in the chickens’ feathers and legs. The simplest way to provide this is just a small cleared area covered with some dusting material; sand is the best for this purpose. Remember to keep this area moderately clean of faeces and food scraps by raking it out and adding fresh dusting material regularly. If, however, you want to treat your ladies to a day at the chicken spa, add a few herbs like rosemary, lavender, thyme and mint. This will leave them feeling pampered and smelling lovely, while utilising the herbs’ natural insecticide and anti-inflammatory properties. If you’re finding mites, fleas and ticks are still becoming a problem, you can also try popping a handful of garlic husks in the chicken nesting boxes to help prevent infestation.

Feeding your chickens is quite easy, they eat everything right? Well, somewhat, but not exactly. It’s important not to over-feed your chickens. Typically only feed your chickens the amount they can eat in ten minutes. Also, be sure not use food scraps that are showing signs of rot, as rotten scraps can be a source for botulism disease.

Foods not to give to chickens:

Decomposing material or maggots

Meat or bones

Tea leaves

Coffee grounds

Citrus fruits

Onion

Rhubarb

Orange

Banana

Raw potato peels

 

The outcome: So many Eggs!

Now that your chickens are happy and settled into their new home it won’t be long until they start popping out eggs left and right (unless you have yourself a rooster!). Keep in mind, in order to sell your chickens eggs, you will need to be registered as a food business. However, for private consumption simply ensure your eggs are thoroughly cleaned, throw away any cracked eggs not suitable for consumption and store the rest in the refrigerator below any cooked or ready to eat foods. It is important to also remember that over the counter wormers and medicated feed have the potential to transfer to the eggs. Take note of any warnings on packaging and the respect egg ‘Withholding Periods’ (WHP).

Everything is fair in love and chickens; however it is important to be aware of legalities. Luckily for us here in Alice Springs there aren’t too many restrictions regarding keeping chickens on your premises, for either rural or suburban properties. Alice Springs by-law states that “chickens have to be contained in a securely fenced yard or run which is no closer to a house than 12 metres”.

Northern Territory Government also requires properties with poultry to be registered with a ‘Property Identification Code’ (PIC) regardless of the number of animals on the property. This PIC is a biosecurity tool to help the government manage any outbreaks of disease by quickly and efficiently notifying anyone who may be effected. Registration is free and can be completed online at www.nt.gov.au/industry/agriculture/livestock/get-aproperty-identification-code

Enjoy your new garden friends!

~ Candice Appleby

 

Chick (Image C. Appleby).

National Tree Day Festivities

By Candice Appleby

To celebrate National Tree Day on Sunday 30th July, the Land for Wildlife team hosted an official launch of the new online interactive Central Australia Register of Significant Trees map. Thanks to the support from Territory Natural Resource Management, Olive Pink Botanic Gardens and Low Ecological Services P/L.

The NT Register of Significant Trees online register was launched on National Tree Day at Olive Pink Botanic Garden.

 

It was a lovely mild winter’s afternoon at Olive Pink Botanic Gardens on Sunday the 30th July. The birds were singing, the breeze was softly blowing and all the trees were celebrating happily as it was their day – National Tree Day.

Land for Wildlife was pleased to call this the setting of the official launch of Central Australia’s Register of Significant Trees interactive online map. There was a great turn out on the day with around 30 people attending. Over a cuppa and slice of delightful cake (baked by Caragh Heenan, our ever so talented Land for Wildlife coordinator), attendees had the chance to learn a little more about the history of the register and the recent work that has brought it to its new digital platform. Some great discussions took place around how the register should be presented to the public regarding retaining historical listings if the trees may be no longer present, and what actions we as a community can take to advocate for tree protection in and around the Alice Springs municipality. The latter seemed to be a major concern to those attending, with many developments proposed in the local area and Alice Springs currently having no tree protection by-laws in place.

Fiona Walsh also presented an update from the ‘Strategies to reduce loss of our Red River Gum Habitat’ meeting that took place at Olive Pink Botanic Gardens in late July. Offering some suggestions and insight as to how the community can get behind preventing habitat loss in the Todd River caused by wildfires through management and wildfire response. Thank you Fiona for your contribution!

The launch also served as an opportunity to announce an open expression of interest to members of the public to join the NT Significant Trees Committee. This committee will be responsible for attending triannual meetings to discuss significant tree matters and to conduct final assessments of new listing nominations. If you think you would like to join the NT Significant Trees Committee send an email through to lfw@lowecol.com.au and let us know!!

It was a great afternoon tea and a nice way to spend National Tree Day. Land for Wildlife would like to thank Territory Natural Resource Management for supporting this event through the National Landcare Program with a small community grant. TNRM made it possible for LFW to host the event as well as design and print a new NT Significant Trees brochure to be available at upcoming community events and downloadable from the Land for wildlife website.

We would also like to thank Olive Pink Botanic Gardens for providing the wonderful venue for the day, and the on-going support from Low Ecological Services P/L.

Head to the project page at the Land for Wildlife website to read more about the register, see a list of the trees on the central Australian register, download PDF fact sheets about the trees and even take a ‘virtual’ tour of the register via an interactive Google Map.

~ Candice Appleby

Cat Owners Feline Fine About Domestic Cat Monitoring and Awareness in Alice Springs Results

As the Domestic Cat Monitoring and Awareness in Alice Springs project starts to wrap up, we have been engaging with domestic cat owners that took part in the project regarding the monitoring results. We conducted a workshop this month on the findings from the cat monitoring, which will be officially released in a report next month. The owners had positive feedback from the monitoring and were genuinely interested about the results from the GPS-tracking, video surveillance and scat analysis.

The video surveillance is the first item on the agenda for the public and has been released on our YouTube channel. Head there to see all Land for Wildlife videos or go and watch the videos as a playlist.

Stay posted for the official release of the monitoring results – coming soon!

Domestic cat owners receive their results from the monitoring and awareness program (Image C. Appleby).

 

The Structure and Insulation of Avian Nests

Birds’ nests have evolved into many shapes and sizes, but they all function to provide a secure substrate for eggs and hatchlings, camouflage and defence from predators, as well as protect the eggs, hatchlings and incubating parent from harsh climatic conditions. My doctoral studies focused on understanding the factors influencing the structure and insulation of avian nests and hence the manner in which a nest may influence the energetic cost of incubation.

Nest materials can range from natural plant items (sticks and grass) and organic material (mud), to animal materials (hair, fur, spider silk) and man-made items (wool, wire and cloth). This nest is made completely from horse hair and a few strands of grass.

FACTORS INFLUENCING NEST SIZE AND SHAPE

Parent mass

Comparing the size and shape of nests of 36 Australian passerine species against parent mass reveals that nest surface area increases in direct proportion to the size of the parent. Nest diameter and height increase with parent mass but as nests become larger in line with increases in parent mass, the nest cup also becomes shallower and the opening becomes wider than expected, which allows for the space that the chicks will occupy.

Nest mass increases with parent mass at a rate that matches that of a supporting structure, suggesting that structural considerations of nest construction are of primary importance to nest design. The requirement for structural support is also evident for nest thickness, which increases more than proportionally expected as parent size increases. Structurally adequate nests become thicker than expected for their size in larger birds.

The clutch

Of interest is how the size or number of eggs in a clutch relates to the size of a nest. The clutch surface area and the internal surface area of the nest increase simultaneously; and the clutch volume and volume of the nest cup are also associated. Since nest design for the majority of birds in the study is in part influenced by the male and egg shape is controlled by muscles in the pelvis of the female, it is likely that one does not control the other. However, nest and egg size/shape are influenced by body size and ancestry. Therefore, it is likely that the nest and clutch are in fact independent, yet matched secondarily due to the shared influence of body mass and genetic ancestry.

The delicate nest of a Singing Honeyeater is decorated with Emu feathers and held together with spider silk and hair.

FACTORS INFLUENCING NEST INSULATION

Nest structure

As we know, the nest surface area increases in proportion to bird size, however nests become much thicker than expected as bird size increases. The thick walls provide structural support for the parent and clutch, with the consequence that structurally adequate nests achieve greater insulation than expected, as they increase in size. Nests are often viewed as objects that are designed to prevent heat loss from the clutch and incubating parent; however the requirement for adequate structural support is the primary selective influence on nest construction, not the requirement for insulation.

Nest microclimate

By assessing the insulation of Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (Acanthagenys rufogularis) and Yellow-throated Miner (Manorina flavigula) nests under varying wind conditions, I found that wind enters the nest material and dissipates heat, resulting in a decrease in thermal insulation with greater wind speeds. The consequence of increased wind currents around and through the nests would be a near-doubling in heat production required by the parent when incubating.

While ambient temperature does not influence the structure of nests in my study, it does influence the insulation of nests and the thermal efficiency of the material. However, temperature and precipitation (henceforth referred to as climate) act in combination, indicating that the response of Australian passerines to one variable depends upon the level of the other.

 In sites with low temperatures, nest insulation may be important to maintain an appropriate microclimate for offspring and therefore birds construct nests with good insulation, irrespective of the rainfall at the site. For nests constructed in warm climates but at the two extremes of rainfall, there is a pronounced decrease in insulation for nests built in areas with high rainfall, compared to areas with low rainfall.

The effect of climate extends to the thermal efficiency of the nest materials, indicating that not only the ambient temperature, but also the precipitation of the breeding site, influences material selection during the nest construction phase. Birds breeding in warm and wet climates construct their nests with materials that have a poor thermal efficiency compared to those in dry climates. The warm temperatures may cause a relaxation in the need for insulation, and poorly insulating materials (such as sticks and grasses, rather than fur and wool) are possibly less absorptive and able to dry out faster following a rain event, to restore the insulating function of the nest.

To determine the effect of water (from rain, dew or absorption from the nest substrate) on the heat loss from the nest, I measured Tawny-crowned Honeyeater (Gliciphila melanops) nests under varying water content levels (from dry to saturated). Water penetrating the nesting material increases conductance of G. melanops nests by up to two and a half times the rate seen in a dry nest – a consequence of the decreased thermal efficiency of materials in a wet nest. As a result, additional energy is required by the incubating parent to keep clutches warm when nests become wet. Individuals should be capable of obtaining additional floral resources to deal with an energy deficit in cold and wet conditions. However, if floral resources are poor and an individual is unable to meet such energy demands, it may abandon the nest altogether.

Not all nests seem to be sufficient – this nest has large holes but is strong and doesn’t absorb water – but they have functions other than insulation of the young.

SUMMARY

My studies highlight the importance of nest design and construction for the thermal properties of nests – small variations in nest design can have significant impacts on the insulation value of a nest, which will in turn influence the energetic cost of incubation. The effect of rain and wind on nest insulation, and the consequence of this for the energetics of the incubating parent, reinforces the view that appropriate nest site selection that provides additional shelter is crucial for avian reproductive success.

Slater’s Skink – a Lesser-known Central Australian Resident

Mugshots: Spotty, Kelly and Billy (Slater) (Image C. Treilibs).

By Claire Treilibs

Without fur, feathers, or large-adorable eyes, reptiles generally draw the short straw when it comes to popular appeal of our native critters. Some (mammal-centric) commentators might argue that reptiles lack charisma, but these scaly creatures have their own je ne sais quoi.

A lesser-known central Australian resident is the endangered Slater’s skink (Liopholis slateri). With an air of nonchalance, these sly skinks laze outside their burrow entrances, peering through narrowed eyes, basking. Then – wham! At lightning speed, they pounce upon their prey – any ants or termites that might be wandering by.

I got to know a population of Slater’s skink over four years of a PhD study. I could tell who was whom from the spots and scale patterns on their faces. Once I found a way of recognising individuals by photograph, I could track them over time. Take ‘Spotty’ for instance. If I recorded where Spotty was when I snapped the photo, then I could track Spotty’s whereabouts; which burrows she uses, and for how long. I found that these skinks were surprisingly mobile within the population compared with the more sedentary habits of many of their close relatives.

Slater’s skinks are extraordinary in that they are specialist floodplain users. In fact, they only occur in the floodplains of the east and west MacDonnell Ranges. The entire global population occurs within 150 km of Alice Springs in 11 (mostly isolated) populations. Buffel grass, fire, climate change, and in some populations, cattle, are causing dramatic changes to their floodplain habitats and risking the future of this endangered skink.

Last month, indigenous ranger groups and other land managers got together to share information, discuss current monitoring and management of the skink, and how to help look after it in future. You can read more about the two-day Slater’s skink forum on the ABC post and the TNRM post.

~ Claire Treilibs

Slater’s skink, Liopholis slateri, is a floodplain specialist (Image C. Treilibs).

Significant Tree Register Goes Online

By Candice Appleby

As you may all recall earlier this year Land for Wildlife announced that we would be coordinating the rejuvenation of the National Trust NT Significant Trees Register. Overall, LFW are appointed to coordinate the maintenance of the register for the entire Northern Territory, however initially we have decided to focus our energy locally and revitalise the Central Australia Register.

A lot has changed in the region in the past 28 years since the inception of the register in 1989. Several listings have been removed from the register, as they have made way for town development or simply suffered the fate of nature (like fire, hail, old age and white ants). Likewise numerous listings were added in the 90’s when Greening Australia NT was managing the register.

Over the last few months we have made it a priority to get all this information into the digital age by GPS plotting each listing and getting all the information into an interactive database. After numerous site visits, sorting through old documents and culling expired listings, Land for Wildlife is excited to announce the Significant Trees Register (Central Australia Region) has now gone live!

Head to the project page at the Land for Wildlife website to read more about the register, see a list of the trees on the central Australian register, download PDF fact sheets about the trees and even take a ‘virtual’ tour of the register via an interactive Google Map.

Stay tuned for more updates to the register – next on the list to update is the Katherine- Daly Rivers Region. This is a region rich in Banyans, Boabs and historical blazes! Currently the Significant Tree Project is unfunded. Land for Wildlife is actively seeking funding to assist with the groundwork costs associated with reassessing trees and getting this information recorded on the database. Land for Wildlife would like to extend a great appreciation to our host Bill Low of Low Ecological Services for his ongoing support.

~ Candice Appleby

Significant Trees Register

The NT Register of Significant Trees is managed by Land for Wildlife Central Australia, on behalf of the National Trust NT.
The register was initiated by the National Trust NT, with input from Greening Australia NT, and coordination by Land for Wildlife Central Australia since 2011.

Domestic Cat Monitoring and Awareness Wrapping Up

 The Domestic Cat Monitoring and Awareness in Alice Springs program is wrapping up for another round and the cats are exhausted from all their hard work recording where they go and what they see. The tracker data has been through the wringer! Maps have been produced showing where the cats go and what their hotspots are. We will be running the timing of movements and distances through the calculator to get some statistics prepared. The final step in the process will be to collate the information and present this to the cat owners so they can see the results.

An additional monitoring round will take place in Tennant Creek in a couple of weeks if all goes to plan, with the intention of broadening the range of our community engagement. Several Tennant Creek residents with pet cats have offered to take part in the monitoring, with their data sneaking into the mix in the final couple of weeks of the funding round.

Domestic Cat Monitoring and Awareness: Possum’s roaming zone is far-reaching

As a little taster of the data to come, this is the measured home-range of Possum, a young Tabby that spends a significant amount of time outside. Possum spends much of its time outside near the house (red hotspot) but the tracking data shows that Possum also spends a good proportion of his time near the main road, roaming in the riverbed and also in nearby bushland (90% of GPS fixes are within the green shaded zone). Not only does Possum roam on the large property, but he also visits neighbouring properties. Possum’s video surveillance and tracking data will be presented to his owner in the coming weeks as the project is wrapped up for another year.

Interested in having your cat tracked but you haven’t taken part in the monitoring yet? Land for Wildlife will look at continuing the monitoring process for members of the Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife programs to engage with cat owners about responsible management of their free-roaming felines.

This project is supported by Territory Natural Resource Management, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.

Cat Trapping Success

Feral cats have contributed to the disappearance of many ground dwelling birds and mammals in the arid zone and continue to threaten the success of recovery programs for endangered species. It’s therefore a service to the native animals of the region to trap any feral cats you find roaming your property. Land for Wildlife loan out cat traps to members and can provide you with the information and advice needed to get you on your way to become a successful trapper.

Are you already trapping cats? Land for Wildlife would like to hear from you. We are in the process of gathering information on trapping success by Land for Wildlife members on their property. This information will be used to help the Alice Springs Town Council’s Environment Advisory Committee to assess the effectiveness of various trapping programs in the region.

We can determine trapping success by taking the ratio of the number of cats trapped to the number of trapping nights (successful and unsuccessful). If you are trapping feral cats on your property and are able to provide us with this information, we would appreciate it! Email us at lfw@lowecol.com.au with the two figures plus the suburb you are trapping in and we can collate the data from our members.

Plant Scent: What’s That Smell?

The production of a scent by a flower is well-understood by many as a method of attracting birds, bats, butterflies, beetles, ants and various other invertebrates to the flower. The smell produced by a flower acts as an attractant, which is generally combined with a reward of nectar, and has the primary function of assisting the plant with reproduction via pollination.

For some plants, the floral scent can be a delight, with each flower producing a distinctive scent that is attractive to a certain faunal assemblage. For other flowers, the scent can be less appealing to the human nose, but attracts the correct pollinator none-the-less. Flowers that smell like carrion have evolved to attract flies and beetles that would normally lay their eggs in rotting meat and faeces. They are often tempted to the carrion flowers by the smell and their visitation to the flower inadvertently pollinates it, before they depart for a more suitable place to lay their eggs.

But what about the strong scent emitted by leaves, bark and other plant tissues when no flowers are present? The roots of many Acacia have a strong foetid smell when being handled, which is produced by nitrifying root bacteria nodules, indicating that they are active and performing their task. But often, the scent in plant leaves is produced by complex chemicals. The complex chemicals that give plants their odour are often the by-products or waste components of plant metabolism, or photosynthesis. These secondary metabolites are known as volatile organic compounds. They are known as volatile, because they evaporate quickly from the liquid state and enter the air as gas, which causes the sudden detection of a scent. The largest groups of volatile organic compounds are the terpenoids (compounds with an isoprenoid structure) and green leaf volatiles. For other plants the odours are a result of other secondary metabolites called flavonoids and phenols, which are composed of hydroxyl groups attached to an aromatic ring.

Green leaf volatiles are best known as the smell that is produced by freshly mown grass, generally resulting from 6-carbon aldehydes and alcohols. When grass is damaged (e.g. cut by a lawnmower) it triggers enzymes to start breaking down fats and phospholipids, leading to the formation of linolenic and linoleic acids that are oxidised and broken down by another enzyme. The process splits the molecule into fragments that lead to the cut grass smell.

Terpenoids are responsible for contributing to many scents produced by plants. The smell of Native Pine (Callitris glaucophylla) comes from pinene. The smell of native lemongrass (Cymbopogon ambiguus) is a result of limonene and α-terpineol (both commonly found in citrus), as well as eugenol and elemicin (found in nutmeg and clove). Species of Eucalyptus contain a terpenoid called cineole, which gives the leaves their characteristic fresh scent. Cineole can also be found in other local native plants such as Striped Mintbush (Prostanthera striatiflora). Sticky Bluerod (Stemodia viscosa) contains terpenoids such as caryophyllene (pepper-like scent in rosemary), fenchol (found in basil) and limonene.

Some other strongly scented natives are Apple Bush (Pterocaulon sphacelatum), Gidgee (Acacia cambagei), and Curry Wattle (Acacia spondylophylla).

While Sticky Hopbush (Dodonaea viscosa) has a distinctive scent and flower capsules that are visually similar to Hops (Humulus lupulus), used in the production of beer, they are not botanically related. Hopbush (D. viscosa) gets its name, as is was used to make beer by early European Australians, yet there are no taxonomic links to Hops (H. lupulus). Sticky Hopbush produces a scent from a combination of flavonoids such as isorhamnetin, hyperoside and a citrus flavonoid rutin, whereas Hops produces its scent from  myrcene, beta-pinene and alpha-humulene (a sesquiterpene). Their scent is, however, somewhat similar despite the difference composition. On a side note, Hops and Marijuana (Cannabis sativa) have similar organoleptic properties (taste and smell), as they have similar aromatic compounds, owing to their taxonomic relatedness.

Volatile organic compound emissions are affected by factors that include temperature (determines rates of volatilization) and sunlight (determines rates of biosynthesis). Emission occurs almost exclusively from the leaves, the stomata in particular. Hence, the Gidgee around town will smell to varying degrees, depending on the weather. There is a stand of Gidgee near Billygoat Hill in Alice Springs, which commonly will stink out the region on a rainy, misty and high humidity morning during a period of weather depressions.

The production of volatile organic compounds can require extra energy by plants and therefore can come at a cost. So why bother? Strong odours emitted by plants may also be a way of deterring browsing herbivores or insects. Volatile terpenoids released by plants when under attack from herbivorous insects allows predatory insects (or insect parasitoids) to locate prey secondarily through infected hosts (E.g. Pine trees). Volatile organic compounds may even be produced to help kill off other plants in the vicinity, in order to thrive themselves (E.g. Eucalyptus sp.). Some plants give off scent when crushed that induces defence mechanisms in neighbouring plants or promote production of new cells at the site of the wound to repair the damage. Some compounds even act as antibiotics to prevent infection at the site of the crush.

So if you start smelling something strange on the wind following a change in weather, you may be able to sniff it out to a plant upwind!

Plant Stowaways in Camel Harness

By Marg Friedel

Back In March, Marg gave a talk to the Alice Springs Field Naturalists Club, which she called “Where did they come from and how did they get here? Examining the evidence for some familiar weeds of arid central Australia”.  As part of her rummaging in the records of Australia’s Virtual Herbarium (AVH), and lots of follow-up reading and discussion, she found evidence for camel harness being the source of a surprising number of invasive plant species.

Not so surprising was the evidence for Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris), which was first recorded in AVH south of Wyndham in 1897, near the Ord River.  Camels were in use, supplying the goldfields at Hall’s Creek, and the cameleers commonly rested at waterholes and creeks.  From the 1880s, camels were sourced from India to modern Afghanistan and were brought into Western Australia via Fremantle predominantly, as well as Geraldton, Port Hedland and Albany. They serviced the pastoral industry and mines both inland and along the WA coast.  Joe Moore, storekeeper at Port Headland, persuaded school children to collect the seeds from buffel grass growing around the town from about 1910, and distributed it to stations in the district.

Buffel Grass at Nicker Creek WA, 2014, from 1930s Michael Terry expedition (Image M. Friedel).

Buffel grass also came with camels via Port Augusta from the 1860s, and camel trains and Ghan towns were a feature of much of inland South Australia, Northern Territory and New South Wales, as well as WA. The first herbarium record for NT is Woodforde Well in 1931, but we know from Walter Smith that cameleers were deliberately spreading buffel grass well before that.

Fountain Grass (Cenchrus setaceus) first appears in AVH in 1903 at Eurelia, near Orroroo, South Australia. Cloncurry Buffel (Cenchrus pennisetiformis), supposedly introduced by General Birdwood after WWI, appears in 1915 in the Geraldton-Greenough area. Birdwood Grass (Cenchrus setigera), appears at Roebourne in 1932, in keeping with its introduction by General Birdwood.  Hence it’s likely that three of the Cenchrus species, including buffel grass, came with camels initially, and that subsequently there were deliberate introductions.

Rosy Dock (Acetosa vesicaria) was first collected by naturalist Richard Helms in Perth in 1892, after he left the Lindsay expedition in the Murchison district.  Rosy dock is native to north Africa, southwestern Asia and the Indian sub-continent, so it’s a likely accidental inclusion in camel harness arriving in Fremantle.

Rosy Dock (Acetosa vesicaria) in Palmer Valley, 1979 (Image M. Friedel).

Kapok Bush (Aerva javanica) was found in 1937 on the de Grey River and Roy Hill Station in 1938, according to AVH.  The Ord River Regeneration Project was undertaken from the 1960s, using seed sourced from existing populations on Anna Plains station in the Pilbara and Fitzroy Crossing in the West Kimberley.  These populations were understood at the time to have come from camel harness, and kapok bush was known to be used historically by Arabian people for cushion and saddle padding.

Kapok Bush (Aerva javanica) at Alice Springs, 2017 (Image Weed Management Branch, NTG).

Perhaps more surprisingly Rubber Bush (Calotropis procera) is likely to have arrived with the camels that serviced the railhead at Mungana, in Queensland, for the nearby copper mines.  A railway operated from Mareeba to Mungana from about 1900, and Mungana was the focus for camel teams for about six years. Rubber bush was first reported in AVH in 1935 at Mungana.

Rubber Bush (Calotropis procera) on Barkly Tablelands, 2004 (Weed Management Branch, NTG).

And of course the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) was distributed by cameleers, all up giving us quite a substantial list of species likely to have arrived with cameleers and their camels.

Marg would like to hear from anyone with any additional information – whether in support or counter to her story.

~ Marg Friedel