This property has brought with it a learning curve steeper than its erosion gullies. For example, over the summer we’ve been attempting to learn how to gather and germinate local indigenous species to prepare for planting when the rains return. It’s a pleasure that has seen our botanical Latin go through the roof.
A couple of resources have been invaluable in helping us do this. Todd Berkinshaw’s Mangroves to Mallee has been outstanding in both its assembly of the species present in different plant associations in South Australia, as well as its detailed information on common individual species. Neville Bonney’s What Seed Is That? is the bible for the aspiring South Australian native seed collector and has detailed profiles on seed gathering of individual plants from across central southern Australia.
In gathering seed, we wanted to start to get a cross section of important species from the main plant associations for our region. Pioneer species, such as Acacia pycnantha, are useful in fixing nitrogen and preparing the soil for subsequent plantings, while thorny plants like Acacia paradoxa could potentially be used as nurse species to protect more appetising plants from marauding kangaroos. Likewise, getting these plants in the ground helps to establish a seed bank of locally adapted species for the continued regeneration of the land.
To ensure the plants’ success, and to preserve regional biodiversity, we’ve been trying to collect seed from immediately local plants as much as possible. This ensures that the offspring have a high likelihood of being adapted to our soil and climate conditions.
Armed with the books above to aid in identification, so far, we’ve successfully gathered seed from the following species:
Drooping sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata) Wear gloves to twist grey-brown seed pods off the tree while they’re still closed. After placing in a warm spot (on a tray under an old window, then just out in the open) for a day or so, the pods opened, releasing a tan-coloured winged seed. We planted them almost immediately and have had a high germination rate.
Golden wattle (Acacia pycnantha) Gather whole seed pods when they’re brown and crispy and have started to open. Shake or pluck individual black seeds from inside. Acacias, including Acacia pycnantha and Acacia paradoxa below, require hot water treatment to germinate. Pour boiling water over the seeds and leave in the water overnight before planting.
Kangaroo thorn (Acacia paradoxa) A dense, super-spiky bush, also affectionately known as ‘Bugger Bush’, it is loved by little creatures as a place to get away from it all. Acacia paradoxa produces small, spiralling furry pods containing hard brown seeds. Like Acacia pycnantha, boiling water treatment assists in germination.
Pink gum (Eucalyptus fasciculosa) and Rough-barked Manna Gum (Eucalyptus viminalis ssp. cygnetensis) Eucalyptuses are still a bit of an experiment for us. Apparently, the trick is to gather the fruit (gum-nuts) after they’ve flowered, but before the little valves have opened and sprayed their seed all over the countryside. For this we gathered a range of buds at different levels of maturity and left them in a warm spot to open. Once again, within a very short space of time (on 45 degree days) the fruit opened, releasing small black seed and plenty of brown chaff.
Dryland honey-myrtle (Melaleuca lanceolata ssp. lanceolata) Like the Eucalyptuses, we gathered small branches loaded with clusters of the small, woody, spherical fruit and left them in a warm place to open. Within a day, the tray we had gathered them in was lined with the tiny, pale brown seed.
Seed gathered and stored, we have now planted out tubes and toilet rolls with the seed. We watch, water and wait, and hopefully next winter we’ll be ready with the beginnings of a future forest.
Gathering of native seed in South Australia requires either permission from the private landowner, or a permit from the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources if gathering from public lands.