Bracken is by far our best-known fern. But there are many others, such as tree ferns, maidenhair and more.
There are actually more than 40 species of ferns in the Ballarat region. And they are not all large, like bracken. Plenty of them are small.
One of these smaller species is the blanket fern. The example in the photograph was an average size, less than 10cm wide.
Blanket fern has a definite association with basalt rock outcrops. Most of its local occurrences are on basalt cliffs and sheltered basalt rock faces. The one pictured was found at Devil’s Kitchen, Piggoreet.
Often the blanket fern is a surprise discovery, one of the few remaining native plants in rocky outcrops that have been grazed by livestock or rabbits for many years.
It is a good survivor, sometimes found in sheltered niches in otherwise open, dry and hot rocky places.
During dry summers it shrivels up, resprouting with winter rains.
Blanket fern is widespread in local basalt country, but it’s never common. It is known to appear on rocky slopes along Creswick Creek, rock outcrops at Skipton and among basalt boulders at Lake Goldsmith.
At Mount Beckworth, it shelters among boulders of granite.
Its leaves are attractive and clothed with a layer of fine hairs.
Sheltered plants are soft and green, while those in more exposed positions are hairier, smaller and often bronze-coloured.
Other small ferns are also found among our basalt rocks, including necklace fern, sickle fern, bat’s wing fern and the rare annual fern.
Local bird observers were pleased last month to learn more about the progress of research into the rare night parrot on a cattle station in outback Queensland.
The parrot was rediscovered there in 2013, after many decades without a confirmed sighting.
A large area of spinifex country has been reserved with the help of the Queensland government. Within this, a nest has been discovered in a spinifex clump.
At least one bird has been tagged with a transmitter. This has shown that the night parrot does indeed drink, something which had been doubted in the past.
Also proven was that the night parrot feeds on seeds of annual native grasses, as well as spinifex. The reserved area has been providing an abundance of seeds.
Feral cats are thought to pose a risk to the parrots, so a reduction program is under way. The effect of fire on night parrots is unknown, but the area where they are present has been unburnt for more than 60 years.
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