The good war
Blogger: Forest & Bird’s South Island Field Officer, Debs Martin.
It’s a crisp winter’s Sunday morning – no cloud and not a breath of wind – and I’m loaded into a car with three outdoors-type men getting ready to achieve our G.O.A.L. – Get Outtatheoffice And Live; or Grub Oldmansbeard and Annihilate with Loppers (I admit the acronym needs more work).
The G.O.A.L. is “ Weedbusting”. Akin to white-cloaked heroes with ghost-buster emblems on their overalls, we piled into an ancient car and went off to do war. For them it was ghosts, for us it’s the nemesis of native bush throughout Nelson and Tasman – the forest-wrecking-duo known as Clematis vitalba (Old Man’s Beard) and Passiflora mollisima (Banana passionfruit vine), a.k.a. “Beard” and “Banana”.
Dangerous when at large, this pair originally escaped from gardens and now lurk on the edges of bush where they plan their takeover of the land via white fluffy seed heads (like cotton on dead vines) in winter, and drooping luscious looking fruit to seed the forest floor. “Beard” gets carried on the wind – like thistledown; and “Banana” endears itself to our fruit eating birds.
Forest & Birders know these weeds well – and both Nelson based Julie McLintock, and Golden Bay weedbuster Jo-Anne Vaughan often remind me of how now-problem weeds were once a garden adornment … until one day! Julie’s core message is “work on the new ones, otherwise if you wait till they’re a problem, its too late!”
Can’t agree more, but our mission is to ensure that “Banana” and “Beard” don’t destroy the remnants of native bush left on the flat and rolling lands that make up our neighbourhood of Tasman Bay. Today we (that’s the Nelson/Tasman Weedbusters) are tackling a delightful QE2 covenant bush in the Ngatimoti Valley – endowed with a giant rimu, enormous hollowed-out matai, and ancient kowhai. And – of course – the dreaded “Beard”.
Armed with loppers, secateurs and my trusty grubber, half a dozen of us (which DOES include men and women of varying ages and fitness) venture towards a virtual thicket of old man’s beard. To the uninitiated it may seem daunting, but to those of us that know “Beard” well, we know it’s “good-night destructor vine”!
Across the region, weedbusting is an essential part of native forest restoration. “Beard” and “Banana” cause forest canopy ‘crash’, bringing down such giants as totara and rimu. Without these trees in our forests, native birds and insects lose their food source, their homes, their nesting sites, and their ability to hide from predators.
Trapping groups are springing up along the length of the region – with around 20 between Cable Bay and Farewell Spit. Many of these groups are also grappling with the weeds that threaten the bush they’re trying to protect from predators. Weedbusting, pest eradication, and replanting – the trio of forest recovery.
Even the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary has its share of weeds, and a diligent group of weeders head out once a fortnight to ‘clean up’ this treasure trove from invading “Beard”, “Banana”, and another escapee “Sycamore”!
After a hearty lunch and an even heartier grubbing out of the biggest old man’s beard root I’ve ever seen we gaze down a gully now de-“Bearded”. Next year we’ll be back – there’s still a few more vines up the hill – and we leave knowing the tree giants in this gully will survive to support this forest.
To join us on these excursions (once every six weeks) phone 545-2431 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or check out other weedbusting activities in your area. Better still – start your own! See www.weedbusters.org.nz and don’t forget to ferret out any “Beards”, “Bananas” and other nasties lurking your way.