In 1991, I began to question and defend the indiscriminate removal of one of South Gippsland’s most distinctive native plants – Pittosporum undulatum, without adequate local evidence, assessment, research or debate.
Disappointedly it seems that the policy of many South Gippsland ‘conservation organisations’ still sees our prominent indigenous plant as a threat, despite records and research that proves Pittosporum undulatum or Yellow Wood, has been a prominent feature of our Strzelecki Ranges before European settlement.
It’s referenced in pioneer settler recollections in ‘Land of the Lyrebird’ to naturalist Leon Costerman’s research in ‘Shrubs & Trees of South Eastern Australia’.
Since 1991, there has been an hysterical call from some local ‘Botanical Ethnic Cleansers’ that South Gippsland, as we know and love, will be invaded and destroyed by this conveniently or dishonestly called ‘Foreign Pest’ and ‘Invader’, to be feared more than the blackberry.
What a concocted theory, or tall story! It’s likely a convenient plant scapegoat or diversion because of bureaucratic inertia on the reduction of declared noxious weeds.
This shrill campaign of fear is scary in itself, causing a knee jerk overreaction and encourages indiscriminate removal of Pittosporum in South Gippsland.
The South Gippsland Shire booklet, ‘Common Weeds of Gippsland’, lists many of over 70 invasive, introduced weed species and almost 40 are listed as noxious.
Why the preoccupation with the perceived threat of one indigenous species, while largely ineffectively managing the growing number and threat of over 70 invasive, introduced species?
Self-proclaimed, preoccupied Pittosporum pullers need to put their minds and hands to the real, growing, exotic weed problem.
It is likely that our indigenous Pittosporum could be our most effective natural defence against the growing threat of introduced weeds and wildfire.
I have visited an East Gippsland native nurseryman and CFA member, who praises Pittosporum for saving his house during a recent wildfire.
I can only imagine how many of our declared exotic noxious weeds will claim the place of many indiscriminately removed Pittosporum. Is that regarded as success?
In 2008, I shared a WGCMA report, stating that Pittosporum undulatum was protected as a listed species in the endangered Strzelecki Ranges EVC and that it is also protected under the Victoria Flora & Fauna Guarantee, 1998.
When questioned about the status of Pittosporum, local authorities generally show inadequate and disappointing response or leadership.
I treasure the Pittosporum undulatum, especially in my Landcare planting, to challenge relentless competition from exotic weeds and grasses.
I manage their natural distribution like any other free seeding species, both native and exotic, that find refuge in my Landcare planting.
Pittosporum seedlings are the easiest to manage, as many weed species are prickly, deeply rooted or poisonous.
The SGAP (Australian Plant Study Group) book ‘Grow What Where’ lists and recommends Pittosporum undulatum for over 20 Environmental amenity plantings.
Let us dig deep and honestly deal with the incredible and dramatic effects our European Settlement has had on our natural ecosystems.
Don’t look for convenient plant scapegoats. Be honest, be part of the deliberation and the resolution.
Most weeds play an important, dynamic and virtuous part in our changing and challenging man-affected, natural ecosystems.
Richard Lester, Leongatha.