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I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation. In January 2018 I was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for 'service to conservation and the environment'.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Botanic Gardens of Regional Queensland; Emerald and Goondiwindi

It's been a while since I posted another in my sporadic series of favourite botanic gardens, so I thought I'd compensate today with two for the price of one, both of which I visited (one for the first time) on my recent trip to tropical Queensland. Both these were visited on the trips up and back - Emerald is within the tropics by only about 15km, Goondiwindi ('gun-da-WINdy') much further south, though still sub-tropical. Both have average rainfalls between 600 and 650mm a year, with most falling in summer (more pronounced for Emerald). Both are only around 200 metres above sea level and can get very hot in summer. Despite these apparent similarities however their respective botanic gardens, which both had their genesis in the late 1980s - and are both delightful in their own ways - are very different indeed.
Emerald is (naturally) at the end of the green arrow, Goondiwindi is indicated by the red one.
Perhaps appropriately, the Emerald gardens are much greener; on the shores of the Nogoa river (which flows, via the Fitzroy River, east into the Pacific) I assume the river is used to irrigate them. The town name, incidentally, comes from the name of the cattle station on which it was built, which of course explains nothing at all.
Emerald Botanic Gardens, on the banks of the Nogoa River.
While plantings are of course significant - many, but certainly not all, being native - lawns and picnic
tables feature heavily. A council overnight caravan parking area is just outside the gates,  and the
gardens provide patrons with facilities.

Some of the central shady lawns, well used by visitors and locals (the latter including many birds).
Purportedly there are six kilometres of walking tracks in 42 hectares of land; without in any way
calling this figure into doubt, I'm sure I didn't see all those hectares. Perhaps there is more
undeveloped land along the river, or perhaps the surrounding playing fields are included.
The gardens opened in 1987 - though I don't have any details on the history of their development - and are managed by the local council.

Palms feature heavily; above is one of the palm groves through which the tracks pass.
Below is a very impressive specimen of the magnificent Madagascan Traveller's Palm Ravenala madagascariensis.(Well, actually it's not a palm at all, but in the family Strelitziaceae, but why spoil a story...)

I have no doubt that this oasis in a busy mining-oriented town has lots of wildlife, but I was only there fairly briefly during the afternoon and saw mostly common species. Still, no reason not to celebrate them too.
Laughing Kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae, utilising the facilities.
Rainbow Lorikeets Trichoglossus moluccanus attracted by scattered seed. Not such a great idea,
as they are very pugnacious and will drive other birds off, but they really are gorgeously coloured.
However, other residents are pretty capable of looking after themselves, including these big honeyeaters.
Yellow-throated Miners Manorina flavigula are aggressive, colonial inland dwellers.
Blue-faced Honeyeater Entomyzon cyanotis, a striking big honeyeater of the inland east and the tropics.
This is a young bird without a strongly blue face.
The Goondiwindi gardens are very different in intent and their appearance is accordingly also very different; their formal name, Botanic Gardens of the Western Woodlands, reflects this. Their 22 hectares were gazetted in 1987, following determined action by a committee of local field naturalists to turn a newly excavated area of degraded woodland to good use. They were supported by the local council who acted as a trustee and later by a federal Bicentennial grant in 1988 and by private donations. 
Welcome to the gardens, on the northern edge of town.
Plantings began in 1988 of thousands of trees and shrubs across the site but I can't determine when the gardens opened to the public. The key difference between this garden and Emerald's is that the Goondiwindi committee determined from the start that the focus was to be exclusively on the plants of the upper Darling catchment; the plantings represent species of 27 plant communities within this semi-arid area. (The Darling is one of the two major rivers of the mighty Murray-Darling Basin which dominates south-eastern Australia, flowing to the sea on the south coast.)
The large lake, with island, is the focal point of the gardens.
It was excavated in the 1980s to provide fill for the nearby raised bulk grain storage facility.
To their credit the council at the time insisted that the perimeter shape and 'island' be left
suitable for a future possible lake.

As with Emerald, there are lawns and covered areas (including the concert stand below) to serve the community, in addition to the magnificent plantings.

But it's the plantings that I'll be going back for whenever I'm in that part of the world again. Given the age of them, it's not always clear what are planted and what original, but that adds to the attraction and of course as years go by the lines will be increasingly blurred.
Queensland Bottle Tree Brachychiton rupestris.
Labelling is generally excellent.

Weeping Myall Acacia pendula; a very elegant wattle of the western plains.

River Cooba Acacia salcina, a wattle mostly associated with watercourses.
Wilga Geijera parviflora, Family Rutaceae. A beautiful spreading small tree, the appearance of whose
delicate small flowers bely the fact that they are pollinated by blowflies, and smell accordingly...
Senna sp.; there are many species, and within some species a bewildering array of sub-species
with different leaf forms. I don't blame them for not labelling this one, and I can't help!
Nonetheless, as previously noted, the signage is overall very good.
An Eremophila garden is always of interest to me; the signage is broadly informative, well beyond
just identifying plants.

Sadly these Australian Wood Ducks seemed both uninterested in the information on the wetland reclamation
details, and heedless of the warning, as they took to the 10 metre deep water immediately afterwards.
I must admit that they did seem to know that they were doing...
We were travelling fairly long distances on the return trip and didn't have much time for birding (and it was the middle of the day) but this beauty made up for that.
Scaly-breasted Lorikeet Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus, a smaller and relatively demure relation
of the raucous and pushy Rainbows (see above), feeding on eucalyptus blossom.

If you're passing through either of these towns - and many people do - please make the time to visit their gardens. You won't be disappointed.

(Any hints for gardens, especially native ones, that I should visit would be gratefully received.)



ChristopherJames said...

Thank you for this post. It has really been a while since I've been here! It's a good reminder for me to take my track pants and shoes out of storage and bring them out into the fresh air again!

Ian Fraser said...

Thanks Christopher and welcome back. Yes, we can't get out in the fresh air too much!