Hakea shrub spotted in Creswick forest

PROJECT: Parks staff have completed work at Slaty Creek in the Creswick Regional Park to reduce the presence of weedy hakea in the area.
PROJECT: Parks staff have completed work at Slaty Creek in the Creswick Regional Park to reduce the presence of weedy hakea in the area.

Several native Australian plants have become weeds in the Ballarat district. 

Examples are the Western Australian bluebell creeper, the sweet pittosporum and the burgan (Kunzea) from eastern Victoria, and the Cootamundra wattle and the sallow wattle from New South Wales. Some of these are serious weeds, and some are increasing rapidly, often invading bushland.

Not yet well-known locally as a weed is a three-metre bushy shrub in the Creswick forest, known as willow-leaf hakea (Hakea salicifolia). This is a common garden shrub – especially on rural properties – valued for its dense screening growth. 

The willow-leaf hakea has been growing at Slaty Creek in Creswick Regional Park for many years. Its occurrence there is a mystery – it is unlikely to have been planted. Perhaps it started from seed in dumped garden prunings, judging from the oldest plants being close to a road.

We have one local hakea, the bushy needlewood (Hakea decurrens). Its seeds are a natural food of the yellow-tailed black cockatoo. The seeds of the weedy willow-leaved hakea are also sought by black cockatoos, although there is no evidence of this at Slaty Creek.

Parks Victoria has recently undertaken work at Slaty Creek to reduce the weedy hakea population there. 

Unlike the bushy needlewood and many other hakea species, the willow-leaved hakea is not prickly.

This environmental weed is also a nuisance in other parts of southern Victoria and into South Australia, as well as in New Zealand, southern Europe and South Africa. It is native to eastern Queensland and New South Wales and regenerates rapidly after bushfires.

So far, most local weedy occurrences of this hakea are small, with seedlings spreading out from parent plants on rural properties. Its spread does not appear to be rapid.

GHOST FUNGI 

With recent rains, fungi of many shapes and colours are appearing in gardens, parks and forest.

One that is always of interest is the ghost fungus, noticed last weekend in the forest at Creswick. This species is remarkable for its caps which glow in the dark. Its glow is white with a tinge of green. Photographs always depict the fungus much greener than it actually is.

It is usually found at ground-level at the base of older living trees. It looks unspectacular in the daytime, being creamy-white, usually with a dark greyish centre, often tinted with dull yellow. Older specimens have overlapping caps.

Last week’s rain has caused numerous fungi to sprout up, creating the anticipated annual interest for naturalists and photographers alike.