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Rare lily flourishing near the NGV

06 Oct 2020

Rare lily flourishing near the NGV Image

By Rhonda Dredge

We are now in the second half of the Kulin Nation tadpole season and the local Southbank grasses are flowering.

This rare Lomandra species was once prevalent across Melbourne in the native eucalypt forests. But now there are no remnant patches of pre-colonial seed to be collected.

Nick Brinkley and Holden Sayers work for Westgate Biodiversity in Fishermans Bend and they are keeping an eye out for healthy plantings of this native mat rush.

The species is actually a lily and a butterfly food as well, although it looks like a grass.

On the first day of the tadpole season Nick was out on a reconnaissance mission for the lily on nature strips in the Arts Precinct.

A very healthy planting of the grass was capturing his attention. He does not want to reveal the exact location in case the seed is stolen.

“It was true woodland,” he said of Melbourne’s former habitat. “There’s almost none left. We can’t get the seed that predates settlement.”

Westgate Biodiversity propagates 35 native species from seed. Some rare species are collected from bayside locations.

“Remnant is the key term for stuff that has survived from the past,” Holden said. “Finding these sites in urban areas is increasingly difficult.”

“When you put through an ecological burn you might get a change in structure to allow in light and heat. You might germinate seed that is 50 years old that links to 50 years before.”

Local councils notify them, and they collect the seeds and store them in a seed bank. They will be going out to collect from Westgate Park in week 47 and the seed goes straight into bags.

Ecological vegetation classes help ecologists create a map of what Southbank was like in 1750. There was deep sand, herbage woodland forest and grasslands, Holden said.

“Southbank is an interesting convergence of basalt plain with the mouth of the Yarra and river sediment soils this way.”

Indigenous plants such as the mat rush do well because they have co-evolved with the landscape and have adaptations to the soil.

The City of Melbourne has a pilot program of native plantings to attract bees between the tram tracks near the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) on Southbank Boulevard.

Pig face was in bloom when Southbank News visited, and a small Emperor moth was flitting about despite the regular disturbance by the South Melbourne tram.

“This provides a great ecosystem function for a bee,” Nick said. “Lawns are as useless as a desert.”

“There are even bush foods between the tram tracks. I wouldn’t eat them though.” •

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