The deliberately fire at Kings Park burnt 20ha of the Mt Eliza escarpment. Australia’s bush is resilient in regenerating after fire and the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority (BGPA) is confident the area will return to good cover within four to five years , but it might need some help.
From 1996 to 2005 a major project to restore the escarpment’s ecosystem health was undertaken . Introduced plant species were removed, including eradication of major weeds: veldt grass, century plant (Agave americana) and bridal creeper (Asparagus asparagoides). Jute matting was laid down to improve soil stability and the escarpment was revegetated with locally collected plant species.
The escarpment comprises limestone heath which is poorly represented in the Perth region . It is one of only three remaining areas of estuarine cliff along the Swan River and is the most inland. A disjunct population of the Scarp Snail (Bothriembryon indutus) lives on the limestone cliffs, it usually occurs along the Darling Range. Hopefully the population was not wiped out by the fire. A number of trapdoor spiders also inhabit the area, including Aganippe rhaphiduca which has localised population differences not found in other populations on the Darling Scarp and southern jarrah forests .
Plants are more resilient to fire than animals and many benefit from fire, not least of which are the weeds which were so carefully removed during the restoration. Grass specific herbicides will help with their removal, but other methods may be necessary. Another introduced species which grew extensively on the escarpment was Geraldton Wax (Chamelaucium uncinatum). It’s not fire tolerant and hopefully was eradicated by the fire. The removal of weeds will enable the fire tolerant native plants to return after the autumn rains.
Jarrah, marri and tuart regrow from epicormic shoots, although they have to be more than fifteen years old. Older trees may develop hollows following a fire. I just blogged about the rarity of nesting hollows in urban areas, but reserves such as Kings Park are a haven for nesting birds. Many Banksia and Hakea release seed after fire , and sprout from lignotuberous roots or epicormic buds. Banskia menziesii and Banskia attenuata both do and are common in Kings Park. Hakea lissocarpha, although uncommon on the escarpment, is lignotuberous and releases seed after fire. Banksia dallanneyi (formerly Dryandra lindleyana) is also lignotuberous and flowers profusely following fire, as do Xanthorrhoea brunonis and Xanthorrhoea preisii.
I’ve just discovered my current favourite flower Trachymene coerulea (Blue lace flower) is a “post fire ephemeral” . They look so pretty in my garden and perhaps next summer the escarpment will be a field of nodding blue blooms. Before that, the regrowth will begin after the first autumn rains and this resilience of nature is an amazing sight to behold.
Note: the photos are from Star Swamp when there was a fire at the end of summer 2007. I went there a week after the fire and realised what an awful place the aftermath of a bush fire is. I won’t be visiting the Mt Eliza escarpment until after autumn.
- Calautti, Lisa (2008) Four homes damaged as massive blazes burn through 14,000ha The West Australian, 17 January.
- BGPA (2008) Kings Park Reopened.
- Barrett & Tay (2005) Perth Plants Perth: BGPA.
- BGPA (2008) Biodiversity of Kings Park.
- Thiele, Kevin (2007) “WA’s National Parks: Home to a Noah’s Ark of Flora” Landscope, vol.23, no.1, p.32-8.