A bottle tree in remnant beach scrub
‘It’s in fairly good condition’
NQ Dry Tropics project officer Thijs Krugers said that on the whole the condition of the 18 beach scrub communities from Crystal Creek near Rollingstone to Bowen was fairly good.
“The biggest threat is posed by weeds and the fire risk they introduce,” Mr Krugers said.
He said fire was devastating for beach scrub and most beach scrub communities would not survive even one bushfire. Tall grass, particularly, posed a significant threat.
“If the canopy is five to eight metres off the ground, and invading tall grass, such as guinea grass, for instance, burns in a fire, it will lead to a canopy fire,” he said.
Once sunlight was able to penetrate to the ground through the damaged canopy, undergrowth would quickly overtake trees in the beach scrub community even if some of the trees survived the fire.
Relatively fire-resistant species such as the Burdekin plum and beach cherry trees were often the only beach scrub community members left standing after a fire, but, without intervention and some rigorous maintenance, they would be overwhelmed by the subsequent invasion of grass and other ground cover plants.
It’s a delicately-balanced ecosystem and there are ever-present threats to it, even from within its own ranks.
The beach cherry (pictured) is a pretty shrub with thin, small leaves, and bright orange fruit, sometimes so elongated, it resembles the shape of a teardrop.
Looks, however, can be deceiving. It is actually a parasitic tree itching for the opportunity to murder its neighbours by sucking out their sap through its roots.
While the natural balance of the beach scrub community is maintained, the beach cherry makes for a comfortable neighbour adding its canopy to the collective.
But, if the ecosystem becomes unbalanced, and its neighbours are diminished in vitality because of it, watch out!
Crab's eye vine, or giddee giddee
A horseshoe flower in sparsely-populated beach scrub
of our beach scrub
And it's so-often overlooked by the people who live nearby.
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