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A Good Read

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Reviews in this issue cover Native Plants for the Fitzroy Basin by SGAP Rockhampton Branch, Nest boxes for wildlife - a practical guide by Allan and Stacey Franks and Plants of the Great South West by Kevin Sparrow and Andrew Pritchard.
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Native Plants for the Fitzroy Basin
SGAP Rockhampton Branch

Published by SGAP Rockhampton Branch, 2003.

Reviewed by Jan Sked

It is excellent to see another of our Branches producing a book to cater for gardeners, bush regenerators and anyone else who wishes to use suitable native plants in their area, namely the Fitzroy basin in central Queensland, with its variable environments, rainfall and soils.

This book has been funded by a grant from the Natural Heritage Trust and has been compiled by members of Rockhampton Branch of SGAP.

I found the concept of the book quite interesting with the species selection based on the nine catchments of the Fitzroy River Basin. A Catchment Map is provided, showing these nine catchments, and readers are advised on how to use this map and the Species Selection Table to choose the correct plants for their area.

The Species Selection Table is at the beginning of the book and provides a chart where 350 species are listed showing the catchments in which they occur, the soil type, habitat, habit of each plant and the various uses to which they may be put. It is very simple to use and most informative, although at first I thought I would have to stand on my head to read sections of it.

The Species Descriptions follow the Species Selection Table, and these provide detailed descriptions of all 350 species listed in the Species Selection Table. Species are arranged alphabetically by botanical name.

There is a chapter on Propagation, providing basic propagation methods and a page of tips on various aspects of propagation that members have learned through experience.

Planting Advice covers site preparation, fertilizing, nursery conditioning, planting, mulching, watering, plant protection, salinity (a major challenge in revegetation projects), various management options, and a list of plants not to plant, ie. significant environmental weeds in the Fitzroy Basin.

The book finishes up with a list of References and Further Reading, and an Index of Common Names.

There are no colour photographs in the book, although it does have a colourful cover illustrated with two paintings by Dawn Pound, who has also provided a number of line drawings throughout the book.

The more I read this book, the more I like it. It is simply set out and very easy to understand. I am sure it will be of immeasurable use to the people of Rockhampton and Gladstone and areas north, south and west of there. My hearty congratulations to the members of Rockhampton Branch for producing such a useful publication. Being a confirmed bush tucker taster, I particularly like the mention of the edibility of various plants.

Reproduced from the Bulletin, newsletter of the Society for Growing Australian Plants (Queensland), September 2004.

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Nest Boxes for Wildlife - A Practical Guide
Allan and Stacey Franks

Published by Bloomings Books, Melbourne 2003.
Soft cover, 72 pages.

Reviewed by Tony Moore

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In his foreword to this book, Ric Nattrass mentions his early lack of enthusiasm for manufactured wildlife boxes.

I also have had mixed success in this area and therefore eagerly read this fine little book to see what improvement tips I could Iearn.

The book is well presented with clear, plainly written text, a good number of photo illustrations and line drawings The book is further enlivened by some relevant and amusing poems and quotations.

The book starts with the 'Why' of making wildlife boxes and explains, in simple terms the need for habitat provision. The text is further supported by answers to a number of frequently asked questions about wild life habitat.

The second section gives short but clear descriptions of the living and nesting habits of the birds and animals that are commonly found in many properties and gardens.

The next section covers the actual construction of suitable nest boxes. The information is both of a general constructional nature and is also specific to animal type, giving suggested dimensions and other details related to species type. Finally the book addresses other habitat issues both in the normal garden and farm size properties.

A Scientific Names and Observational Records Appendix and References and Further Reading and Index sections support the book.

This is a pleasing little book to own, clearly written and illustrated with some lovely photographs. It is easily read and understood and provides concise, practical information on this interesting topic. I recommend the book to anyone who has an interest in providing safe and secure habitat for our wildlife friends.

Reproduced from Growing Australian, newsletter of the Australian Plants Society (Victoria), March 2004.

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Plants of the Great South West:
an identification and history of the plants of south-west Victoria
Kevin Sparrow and Andrew Pritchard

Published by Society for Growing Australian Plants, Warrnambool and District Group Inc., 2003.
150 pages, maps and coloured illustrations.
$A15.00 plus postage (an order form can be downloaded from SGAP Warrnambool's web site)

Reviewed by Tony Cavanagh

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This is the fourth publication of the very active Warrnambool and District Group and they are to be congratulated on this excellent little book. It might well serve as a model for similar publications describing the plants of various areas of our state. It is also a model of conciseness for within the space of just 109 pages, they manage to list all 935 species found in coastal areas between Port Campbell and the South Australian border and briefly describe and illustrate 185 of them. I believe that it would be the most comprehensive survey of the plants of this region ever undertaken and as the authors have gone to great pains to ensure that they have used the latest botanical names (and have included common names where possible), it is likely to become the "bible" for plant lovers and naturalists alike for many years to come.

The book is divided into two main sections. The first 36 pages are devoted to short chapters dealing with the physical environment, bioregions and plant communities, a history of the coastal vegetation and weed infestations. The main body deals with the plant list and plant descriptions. Although Kevin Sparrow and Andrew Pritchard are listed as main authors, the book is actually the work of a writing "team".

  • John Sherwood describes the area's physical environment, its climate and soils and shows how soil types and texture affect the way plants grow.
  • Andrew Pritchard deals with the plant communities and in particular with how they have changed since European settlement. He leaves us with the sobering thought that of 26 plant communities that existed pre-1750, only 15 remain today and these are drastically reduced in size, with as little as 5% remaining (sec the maps on p. 11). Moreover, 118 or 12% of the indigenous flora are now classified as threatened.
  • Jodic Honan's history of the coastal vegetation is fascinating, chronicling the destruction of the local vegetation for farming and timber, the loss of the dunes and the draining of the "useless" swamps and wetlands. The establishment of reserves and a recognition by many farmers and others of the value of the indigenous vegetation are now partly restoring the situation.
  • Lastly, Cherree Densley alerts us to the dangers of the "green invaders", introduced plants and weeds which are spreading unchecked through much of the SW coastal vegetation. She includes a list of the 12 worst enemies and also five "native" plants which in recent years have undergone a population explosion and arc also becoming invasive.

Kevin Sparrow in conjunction with Andrew Pritchard prepared the plant list (which excluded fungi, mosses, lichens and liverworts), and plant descriptions. Each of the latter include a small photo (about 47 x 47mm); most are quite satisfactory although because of their small size, detail is lacking in some pictures. The species lists were compiled from many sources but rely heavily of the surveys by naturalist and conscrvationist Cliff Beauglehole in the 1970s and 1980s, updated where necessary with recent lists from local reserves. The book is dedicated to his memory and his work. Each description gives a common name, locality where found, conservation status, size, flowering time, habitat, brief description and propagation information, a main aim of the book being to encourage people to grow some of these local species. The locality information is quite comprehensive, using a series of codes which are tied to a map showing all the reserves in the area. The species are arranged in 10 groups, ranging from tall trees down to ferns, the tops of the pages in each section being colour coded. The book has a glossary, a combined index of scientific and common names and several excellent and up-to-date lists of references.

I recommend this book to everyone who is interested in the indigenous flora of their area. It is an excellent example of what a dedicated group can achieve in promoting the local flora and encouraging others to replant with indigenous vegetation. Congratulations, Warrnambool (and it is good to see that the book was entirely produced in Warrnambool, even down to the printing).

Reproduced from Growing Australian, newsletter of the Australian Plants Society (Victoria), June 2004.


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Australian Plants online - September 2004
Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants