Re-Planting Local Environments

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Re-Planting Local Environments

Don visited a remnant cabbage tree palm forest on Sydney’s northern beaches and gave local residents some tips on preserving these beautiful native palms. The mature cabbage palms looked healthy, but they were growing in a lawn. Although they set seed, which fell to the ground and germinated, the young seedlings were continually mown by the lawn mower. Don explained that without new, replacement plants growing among the mature trees, the existing stand will eventually die of old age and be lost to the environment.

He recommended removing the lawn (taking care to leave any young palm seedlings) and replacing it with a mulch of fallen palm fronds. To make the mulch the fronds were collected then put through a commercial chipper. To boost growth and development he recommended an application three to four times a year of a 50:50 mixture of Nitrosol and Seasol applied using a hose-end applicator. This simple regime will ensure that there will always be palms for future generations of people to enjoy.

Mulching palm fronds

The local residents had made enquiries about mulching the palm fronds, but were told it couldn’t be done. While it is true that palm fronds are not easy to chop up because their fibres tend to clog small machines, they can easily be mulched in a large commercial chipper as demonstrated in our segment, and palm fronds make wonderful mulch for the garden. Fronds are easier to mulch when dry. The mulch was applied at a depth of about 50-60mm taking care not to smother small palms.

Cabbage Tree Palm (Livistona australis)

This is Australia’s southernmost palm, with a range extending from Fraser Island in Queensland to Victoria. There are remnant stands of this palm in many areas along the east coast. It grows to about 30m (100′) tall and has a ringed, grey trunk and a dense crown of glossy green leaves with spiny stalks. It is a hardy garden plant which grows best planted in rich soil in a semi-shaded position. It is also a popular pot or tub plant for a brightly lit room or a sheltered patio.

Preserving indigenous vegetation

To maintain stocks of young plants of indigenous (that is local) native species propagate these plants using seed or cuttings collected in the local area. If you are building and need to clear areas and remove native plants, take cuttings or collect seed to use to replace them with later. It is also a good practice to stockpile all topsoil and reapply it after building. The topsoil often contains quantities of native seeds.

Community groups can also help their local environment by collecting seed from indigenous plants, planting the seed and then, when the seedlings come up, planting them out in the local area. You don’t need expensive equipment (seeds can be planted in recycled plastic or foam containers) and people of all ages can become involved, including the kids. Remember to talk to your local council or preservation society before you start, and don’t collect seed from bushland or parkland without permission.

Further information

We filmed with members of the Bilgola Preservation Society at Bilgola, NSW.

Palm frond mulching was done by:
Aussie Tree & Stump Grinding Service
Phone: (02) 9636 8069
Mulching costs $165 for the first hour and $110 per hour thereafter.

Nitrosol and Seasol are available at nurseries, hardware stores and some supermarkets and both come in 2 litre hose-on applicators for around $9-$12 each. To mix the two products, empty half of one product from its applicator into a storage container then top up the applicator with the second product.