Thursday, 3 January 2013

The Wonder of Weeds

While hanging out clothes the other day I was admiring my dead cape weed.  Yes really!  I was admiring it!  I am in awe of it every summer.
Cape weed is a clever weed.  It germinates on any ground that was bare in autumn.  This patch was completely bare in Autumn.  Not one blade of grass.  The cape weed came up lush and thick in spring and now, in the searing heat of summer, it has died off.
Look what it is doing for the soil! It has formed a thick carpet and now the soil has a blanket protecting it from the hot summer sun!

There are many other useful weeds.  Some with long taps roots (I think the dreaded Patterson's Curse may be one of these) that germinate in poor soil and draw nutrients up from deep down in the ground. 

Now I'm not very knowledgeable in the specific characteristics of different weeds so I would suggest you buy a book or google to educate yourself.  Or........... you could do what I do.  I haven't done much research in this area, due to other things on the go, so I just maintain a healthy respect for all plants.  I assume that, in general, they have a good reason to be where they are.

I believe our property has proved this theory to me over the years.  When we moved here, about nine years ago, we inherited the property from some goat owners.  The goats weren't fenced off but roamed the entire property.  As a result we had a few eucalyptus trees, a few black wattle, lots of tea tree and lots of Cassinia, but no new growth.  I believe Cassinia is also known as China Bush or Chinaman's Bush because in the gold rush days this bush would take over after people had been digging for gold.

I know that this property was once owned by a saw mill and therefore was cleared quite brutally.  We have stands of Eucalyptus but the remainder is covered in Cassinia and Tea Tree.

Cassinia is a pioneer plant - in other words it is one of the first to colonise an area that has been damaged in some way.  At one point Cassinia was able to be treated as a weed although it is a native.  It is very invasive.  We spent the first couple of years trying to get rid of it because it was so prolific and is incredibly flammable!

We didn't get very far with our goal, which is a good thing because then I did my permaculture design course and realised it was serving a very good purpose.   It holds our poor old hill together in the absence of trees and stops it blowing away!!!
So the Cassinia worked to control erosion; a couple of years passed without goats on the property and the Black Wattle started to increase.  Wattle has nitrogen fixing nodules on its roots.  So far we have Cassinia holding the soil together, Cape Weed protecting the bare soil and Black Wattle increasing the nitrogen in the impoverished ground.  WOW!!!  And I haven't lifted a finger!  Why do we always try to better nature?!  We don't stand a chance!!

In the last three years or so we have noticed a new wattle in the mix.  I'm don't know what type it is.  It is increasing rapidly across our property.  We're not sure about the tea tree.  Does it serve a purpose?   It's very thick and I can only assume nature put it there for a reason.  We're hoping to see new eucalypts growing soon.  We've seen a handful but would love to see the property regenerate naturally back to it's original state.  I'm loving just allowing nature a chance to do what she needs to do.
The new wattle
 It's a time thing but I'll keep you informed of the changes that are occurring naturally in our bush. But next time you find yourself cursing a weed you may discover, like we did, that it might pay to do some research!


purplepear said...

A truly important observation you have made. I made a very similar one with the oh so prevalant lantana. Underneath, the soil is beautiful most probably due to the fact that little birds make their home in there. it is also a pioneer plant .

Linda said...

Well hello YOU! You've been very quiet! Do you know how close I was on searching you out when I drove past Maitland in my quest to save Rosie! But with a twelve hour drive ahead of me I decided against it.

And I hadn't thought about the wildlife aspect but you're right!

Busy mum of 3 said...

Mother nature is a wonder isn't she.

farmer_liz said...

You are so right. We have a friend who is an ex-farmer who keeps suggesting all the different sprays we should use on these "dreaded" weeds and we keep saying that there's nothing wrong with weeds. Shame to see how much influence the chemical companies have had on the typical farmer....

Linda said...

She's brilliant Cheryl!

Spot on Liz! I think the companies do have a lot to do with it.