Vegetation

Pre-European Vegetation:

         













Running postman                                                                                                                                                   Tree violet bush

(Updated 1/1/16
)

It is likely that since its eruption some 20,000 years ago, Mount Elephant has supported an open woodland with a grassy understorey. A painting by Eugene von Guerard in 1857 showed scattered trees on the slopes , with apparently denser concentrations within the crater and around the base. A drawing of Mount Elephant also by von Guerard shows belts of stunted trees (probably manna gums, sheoaks, honeysuckles (Banksia marginata) and blackwoods on the stony rises at the base. Copies of these paintings and links to their sites are in the Photo gallery - Historic.

We can only guess that prior to pastoral settlement Mount Elephant was covered by “scoria cone woodland” (Commonwealth and Victorian RFA Steering Committee 2000). This vegetation type was dominated by manna gum, drooping sheoak, blackwood, banksias, sweet bursaria, and tree violet. The understorey  consisted largely of native grasses (especially common tussock grass and wallaby grass) bracken, and a conspicuous herb layer including native peas and daisies. The proportions of each of these species would vary across the mountain depending on their exposure to soil, sun, rain and wind.

The effects of pastoral settlement were dramatic on the vegetation of the Mount. The removal of timber for yards, huts and firewood and grazing by sheep would have favoured the grasses (especially the introduced annual grasses) over the tree regrowth and the native herb flora. Vegetation diversity was quickly diminished across the plains also. The arrival of rabbits in the district probably caused the most drastic decline in native vegetation. A photograph by Gabriel Knight held at the State Library of Victoria, taken of the north-east peak in 1911, shows scattered adult trees each about 30 metres in height, with many scattered stumps and dying trees.  There are thistles in the foreground, bare ground on the steeper slopes, and no young trees to be seen. Unfortunately since the devastating fires of 1944 and 1977 the only traces of trees are several charred logs.

looking east over the railway pit.
looking east over the railway pit. New grass and tree plantings.

Present situation:

It takes a keen eye to find traces of the original vegetation. We have recently taken a complete inventory (listed on another page), however the different vegetation types can be easily seen. Shrubs of tree violet are surviving on the southern slope of the crater, and some charred logs of possibly drooping sheoak remain on the slopes of the north-east peak. Areas of native tussock (Poa sp.) and Danthonia sp. are on the north slope beside the access track to the crater. Introduced grasses include Phalaris, yorkshire fog grass and wild oats growing on the sheltered southern and eastern slopes. Annual ryegrass, wild oats, scotch and variegated thistle grow on the lower parts of the exposed northern slopes and along the access track from the highway.

Existing plants of interest: Original

(Click on the blue names to go to an interesting link on the topic.)

Tree violet is still thriving on the southern side of the crater and high on the outer eastern slope. Flowers are very perfumed. The dense cover gives refuge for small birds and animals.

    The berries are popular with birds and skinks.

    There is also a stunted bush 15cm high where the hawks eat their rabbits. It is surrounded by intestines and bones, which are cleaned up by the foxes from time to time.

Running postman (Kennedia prostrata), is thriving among rocks on the northwest side of the northeast col. The area is grazed by rabbits but it survives this.

Wallaby grass  (Austrodanthonia sp.) This is widespread on the mount. It summit, ridges and northern slopes. The rabbits like to graze it.

Silver tussock  (Poa sp.)

Lichen

                        Introduced "weeds" of interest.

Swan plant (or narrow leaf cotton bush) This is an introduced weed but is host to the interesting migratory wanderer (or monarch) butterfly.

Patersons curse (seems to have appeared after the 1982 drought). Biological control may help, but we mostly spray it in early spring. It makes good honey.

                        In some districts it is partly controlled by introduced beetles. Flea beetle seems the most successful.

Introduced flea beetle laying an egg onto a patersons curse leaf in august 2015.

Roots of patersons curse which have been ringbarked by beetle grubs in dec 2015.

Weld, or Dyer's Rocket Is a nasty weed, but is popular to make yellow dye for wool, linen and silk. If mixed with woad (blue dye) it makes Lincoln green.

paddy melon        ll

Horehound            //   This is another nasty weed. We presently control it by spot spraying.

                     It is possible to control also by introducing the clearwing moth which has grubs which eat roots,  and the plume moth which has grubs which eat the leaves.

Twiggy mullein            //



 
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