The fourth Saturday of each month, 10 am, from 288 Gap Road, we head out into Barrm Birrm, to find what’s growing. It’s our ‘Wildflowers and Weeds’ walk. We are rather severe with the weeds and perhaps a little indulgent towards the wildflowers, them being so pretty, but in truth they are all living beings.
And any excuse to walk through the bush to find what is happening as the season shifts … any reason is a good reason to be out there.
The winter rains are gathered in by the forking trunks of the eucalyptus and drawn down to the ground, and here around the base of the tree are gardens of emerald green moss. Startling spikes of another moss grows up through, or are those honey pots? Leaves speckled with yellow decay; stones have a sheen of the palest green lichen.
The whole place is seething with life, yet it’s the dead of winter, seven degrees, short days, long nights. I would stay hunkered down inside if I didn’t know that stepping out into the bush means I will be surprised, stopped in my tracks, by something unexpected.
Our monthly walk is a time to be surprise, but also to catch up on old friends, like the Prickly Moses, slowly budding and getting ready to flower, patiently accumulating its energies in preparation for early spring, when the damp hollow in the hillside they favour will all at once ripple open with yellow.
Prickly Moses in late June
Individual species catch the eye, but it’s the ensembles of plants I find most intriguing. There must be some kind of working relationship between the plants to design an arrangement of such balance and proportion, plants nestled in together, a kind of cooperation we can only guess at. This is more than each species doing its own thing. This is a collective effort.
And what we call the weeds are as astounding as any other plant. The gorse puts out its fresh growth, and underground its roots stretch further down. The flax-leaf broom reaches up in clusters of green. The feral acacias ripple in the morning light. The bright bluebell creeper winds its way along fallen branches.
The very pretty flax-leaf broom
So why hurt them, you ask. Why call them weeds? Don’t they deserve their place? The answer is simple: they know no bounds. They don’t respect the plants that live here. They grow and extend, spread into and over and through. They smother. They are intent only on domination. They don’t join in the delicate combinations of plants that organise themselves for diversity. They have in mind just one thing: themselves.
So for the sake of those other plants, we intervene. We pull out those fresh shoots of flax-leaf broom, and lift out the gorse, and poison the feral acacias. On our hands and knees, we get to know these bold and resourceful plants really well, and bid them farewell.
It’s a contradiction perhaps, to appreciate a plant and kill it. That’s part of the wild adventure of looking after this lovely bushland we call Barrm Birrm.
Come along for the ride one Saturday morning, fourth of the month. You’ll be surprised by what you find, and the humans are excellent company as well!