Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wattle we do now?

We had a small but keen group of Family Nature Club members who were prepared to find out the answers to our question:  'Wattle we do now?'

We took this opportunity to move our study site to the One Tree Hill section of the National Park, meeting in Kairn Road to find out what this very interesting part of our forest had to offer us.

Thanks, again, to our willing band of knowledgeable helpers, we managed to discover quite a lot about the wattles and other plants which were growing there.  The children were encouraged to add to their own records by making rubbings of the leaves & phyllodes that they and we found.  Some very good leaf/phyllode rubbings were produced under Jan's guidance.

After a brief talk about which wattles grew here, we then went on a wattle hunt to try and find them, managing a good total of 5 species in just a small area.  The children were encouraged to complete a 'Tick' list of the wattles that they found and to write the names of these wattles on the sheet of colour photos that each one had been given (of the wattles of this area which had phyllodes instead of leaves). 

We looked for, but didn't have time to find, Black Wattle to examine its leaves (not phyllodes) but had already studied and made rubbings of the 'ferny' leaves of Cootamundra Wattle, which was quite common in this area.

Of course, and as usual with this group of keen-eyed people, many other interesting creatures, rocks and plants were also noticed.  This specimen, probably a Geometrid Moth larva, took some finding because it blended in so well, but it made the mistake of moving and was noticed immediately.  During the time that we examined it and took its photo, it moved continuously and continued eating the stamens of the wattle flower.

The answer to the question 'Why is the larva the same colour as the flowers of the Spreading Wattle?' was given very neatly by a parent - 'What colour would you expect to be if you ate only Broccoli?'  No further questions!

We had a final brief talk about why wattles were important in our bushland because of their role in Nitrogen Fixing, in association with specialised bacteria living in their roots.  Everyone had noticed the hard, dry, rocky soil but these plants were doing very well in these conditions because they were able to make their own supplies of nitrogen fertilizer.

The weather was beautiful, the bush was very interesting and attractive and everyone went home knowing a bit more about how to identify wattles even when most of them weren't flowering.  Everyone also discovered how to spell 'phyllode' and what it meant.

There are many other very interesting sections of the Greater Bendigo National Park that we will also use in future for our Family Nature Club's activities.

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