The Newsletter of Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife in Central Australia - December 2015
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A Bourke's Parrot (Neopsephotus bourkii) shows off its 'hairy' chest to its amazed mates! C. Connellan.

Land for Wildlife

Garden for Wildlife


Central Australia

Newsletter December 2015


Happy Festive season GfW's and LfW's!

Recent rains have naturally instigated growth, germination and life-cycle progression among some invertebrates. Some of our team have noticed Cossid Moths, the adult stage of the Witchetty grub to the north-west of Alice (see image below). Reptile activity is in full swing as we witnessed a Sand Goanna attack a crested pigeon nest (egg) from our office window!

This month we share a snapshot about adaptations of arid plants, Ella shares some ideas on greywater systems and summarise our TNRM Conference activities with an update on 'Monitoring and raising awareness about domestic cats in Alice Springs'.

We hope the warmer time of year brings you a reprieve from the 'busi-ness' of the cooler months and an opportunity to take stock and connect with the special people and places in your life. 

Happy Festive Season!


Jen, Tim and Bill
LfW and GfW team

An adult Cossid Moth (probably Endoxyla leucomochla) spends the early years as a larvae living in and eating the roots of various Acacia spp., predominately Acacia kempeana (Witchetty bush). B. Low.

Wildcare Inc. is looking for Wildlife release sites

Wildcare Inc. and Parks and Wildlife Officers are working together to identify potential sites for release of animals (in particular Red Kangaroos) that have recovered from sickness, injury or being orphaned and have asked for our help. Sites that offer sufficient natural sources of shelter, food and water are ideal. Red Kangaroos prefer open, fairly flat country (not rocky), with a diversity of vegetation including groundcovers, middle storey and upper storey vegetation. If you think you might know of a potential site for release of Red Kangaroos (Macropus rufus) or other animals, get in touch. Photos (below): J.Tyne.


  • Peter Latz won the award for 'Best Individual Landcarer' at the November 2015 Territory NRM Conference in Darwin! This was In recognition for Peter's lifetime commitment and contribution to Central Australian flora and as an advocate for their cultural significance. Not to mention several published books on these subjects. 
  • The Alice Springs Land for Wildlife / Garden for Wildlife team were recognised for their efforts, winning the award for 'Best Urban NRM Group' in the NT. A huge thank you to all of our volunteer members and other community organisations that we collaborate with for your contributions, ideas, support and belief in our efforts over the past 12 months. The award recognises the efforts of many passionate (volunteer) individuals committed to nature conservation in our community - A big thank you to everyone!
  • Finalists for other award categories can be found at Territory NRM 2015 Conference and Awards

Leaving town?

If your property is registered with Land for Wildlife or Garden for Wildlife and you have sold or changed management (or acquired tenants), it is your responsibility to let us know so we can maintain our membership database. Thank you for keeping in touch:

New Member of GfW or LfW? - Reminder to put up your new sign!

Over the past 12 months we have extended our network, recruiting 22 Garden for Wildlife properties in urban areas of Alice and finalised ten Land for Wildlife memberships; including Narwietooma Station (pastoral), Kuprillya Springs (Aboriginal freehold), Old Andado Homestead among other properties in the Alice rural area. We offer our congratulations to new volunteer members, committed to managing their block for nature conservation; reminder to put up your sign! 

Land for Wildlife / Garden for Wildlife coordinators Jen and Tim were recognised for their efforts, winning the Territory NRM award for 'Best Urban NRM Group' at the recent conference in Darwin! Territory NRM.

Update: Monitoring and raising awareness about domestic pet cats in the Alice Springs urban ecosystem.

We recently presented about our Territory NRM supported project at their conference in Darwin.  With a cracking presentation length of only eight minutes, we summarised the key points and shared maps of data collected from pet cats so far and then fielded enthusiastic questions from the audience for the next two days! Thank you to our volunteer pet owners for your continued interest and involvement. If you are interested in finding out where your pet cat travels to, get in touch: or 08 89555 222.

For example, the image below shows a domestic cat in The Gap (suburb) travelled up to 75m (radius) from home in just under 24hrs.


This project is supported by Territory Natural Resource Management, through funding from the Australian Government's National Landcare Programme.


Adaptations of Arid plants 

Jen Kreusser and Tim Dowling

Arid plants have unique adaptations that allow them to be successful in the harsh conditions of Central Australia. We used some simple digital microscopy (Microview) to investigate some of these unique attributes more closely. We have presented a few ideas together that we hope you find interesting. This is certainly not a comprehensive list, merely a suggestion of some of the remarkable adaptations of arid plants and encouragement for you to go out and look for additional adaptations.
  • Plants have adapted to very infrequent rainfall by maximising catchment when it does rain. An obvious example is Mulga trees (Acacia aneura; Fig. 1), having the shape of a goblet - where branches catch and direct rainfall to the trunk and root system. On a smaller scale the leaf blade of Spinifex (Triodia spp.) holds a spherical shape to funnel moisture directly to the root base. Many other plant families have also incorporated this adaptation into their leaf shape (e.g. Senna).

Fig. 1. Mulga trees (Acacia aneura) have a classic shape, a goblet, which is an efficient way to maximise rainfall catchment; even their phyllodes are directed upward, like fingers reaching for rain!

  • Interestingly, leaves of some Eucalyptus spp. have been found to angle their leaf edge towards the sun to minimise moisture loss as less leaf area receives direct sunlight; also known as heliotropism (solar tracking). In contrast, leaves in moderate/temperate/alpine climates often have their leaf surface perpendicular to the sun. 
  • During photosynthesis, leaves convert energy from sunlight requiring their stomata (or 'windows') to be open for taking in Carbon Dioxide and releasing Oxygen - the lungs of the plant. However during this process, plants are vulnerable to moisture loss from their stomata. So some plants in the arid zone take advantage of the cooler times of the day and are able to sufficiently photosynthesise for short periods at dawn and then close their stomata for the rest of the day, Saltbush is an example (Atriplex nummularia var. nummularia).
  • Acacia spp. have taken adaptations to a unique level; their apparent 'leaves' are actually phyllodes (leaf stems), and are devoid of stomata entirely. No wonder there are over 800 species that have adapted to the vast climates of the Australian continent! This begs the question: how do these plants exchange gases if they have no stomata? If you know, can you let us know so that we can let everyone else know in our next newsletter? 
  • Many small shrubs and forbs in Central Australia are covered in very fine hairs that reflect light and heat and act as an insulator against desiccation (Fig. 2). Many wildflowers exhibit some sort of hairy exterior for this reason (Ptilotus spp., Pterocaulon spp. Enchylaena tomentosa Fig.3). 

Figure 2 - Microscopic image of the tiny hairs present on the leaves of a Bluebush (Mariana spp.).

Figure 3 - The flower of Ruby saltbush (Enchylaena tomentosa) is a white hairy ball, looking like a tiny cotton ball.
  • Succulents have a low surface to volume ratio. That is they have a large amount of flesh with a minimal amount of surface, reducing the loss of water through the pores or microscopic stomata (E.g. Portulaca spp. Apple bush varieties, Calandrinia spp. Parakeelya varieties).
  • White powdery trunks reflect sunlight and heat, keeping a tree's vascular system cooler (e.g. Eucalyptus camaldulensis, River Red-gum, Corymbia aparrerinja Ghost gum).
  • Seed coating and viability is well planned for as seeds need to survive scorching temperatures and potential desiccation at the ground's surface. Only the appropriate combination of temperature and moisture will allow seeds to germinate, which is specific to each species.
  • Roots are often able to project down at great depths, seeking out the water table or underground rivers (E.g. Allocasurina decaisneana Desert Oak, Triodia spp. Spinifex).
  • Mallee (e.g. Eucalyptus gamophylla) have a thick water holding root base (lignotuber) that protects them from long periods without rain and also allows them to regenerate after fire, which is provoked by their shedding of branches and bark creating high fuel loads.
Australian plants have evolved with fire over thousands of years producing unique adaptations that allow regeneration and germination, such as:
  • Shooting from the stem or base (epicormic shoots and lignotubers in the case of Eucalyptus spp.)
  • Thick and corky bark for protection (E.g Allocasurina spp., Hakea spp.).
  • Seed coat cracking (even though the mother plants have been killed)
  • Production of ash bed contributes to availability of soil nutrients
  • Volatile oils promote fire (e.g. eucalyptus oil in Eucalyptus spp.)
  • Some plants are fire retardant (e.g. Aluta maisonneuvei Desert heath myrtle, Atriplex numularia var. numularia Old man saltbush).
  • We must briefly hero the fauna that has evolved with plants, for example the symbiotic relationship between ants and Acacia spp. Where ants act as are predators of the elaiosome (small fleshy part attached to seed) and happily harvest seeds to their burrows (away from the parent Acacia spp.), where elaiosomes are eaten and seeds are discarded/distributed underground; a fascinating example of a symbiotic and coevolutionary relationship. 

Cooba Wattle (Acacia salicina) seeds offer a generous treat for ants with their fleshy red elaiosome.

Of course we are not even scratching the surface on the amount of interesting and unique adaptations of arid plants. However, we encourage our members to support and protect native vegetation that may have germinated from recent rains, as these natives will serve you in the long term with their aesthetics, food and habitat supply for wildlife and offer you less maintenance and more free time on weekends to get creative or go exploring!

A special thank you to the Alice Springs Plant Society for inviting Land for Wildlife to share some interesting ideas and digital microscope images at a presentation in October. Thank you for the valuable contributions and discussion from the interested, knowledgeable and experienced audience!

Photos from our members and friends...

Thank you to those who have submitted images for this current newsletter. We always love to share them with our readers!

Image extract: Wicking's cartoon references our project: 'Raising awareness and monitoring of domestic cats in the Alice Springs urban ecosystem (Advocate, 13th November, 2015). Thanks for your support Wicking!

This Central Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps) poses on a tree branch, seemingly common around the landscape this month. D. Price.

This Pygmy Mulga Goanna (Varanus gilleni) is a tree-dwelling resident on a Land for Wildlife property in Ross. T. Leane. 

Small children and pushbike riders aren't the only target for territorial Magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen). A Barn Owl (Tyto alba) gets a serve too! C. Connellan.

Thinking about installing a greywater system?

By Ella Henderson

Summer is well and truly here and we must remind ourselves that our water comes from an aquifer - with a finite amount. If we are able to conserve and reuse water, we can prolong the availability of this valuable resource into the future (whilst providing a cut to the water bill)!

What is grey water?

Grey water is all non toilet 'waste' water from showers, dishwashers, sinks, washing machines, hand basins, baths, spas and pools.
Water from kitchen sinks and dishwashers is sometimes classified as "dark grey water" as (depending on what you eat and what kind of detergent you use) it generally contains more chemicals and organic matter then say, bathwater. 

What can it be used for?

Properly treated, grey water can be used for toilet flushing and watering ornamental and food plants (the phosphorus and nitrogen in grey water is great plant food!).

What are the benefits? 

Reusing grey water can save us money on our water bills, it conserves valuable drinking water for our community's future, it keeps our plants happy and helps us to become more mindful of the resources we use. 

How can greywater be treated and reused?
There are many different ways we can treat and reuse grey water. Such as using a bucket to collect water from your shower; connecting a hose or irrigation pipes from your washing machine to your garden (it may need to be treated); building a DIY greywater treatment reed bed or installing a factory built greywater treatment system! To minimise the need to treat your shower and washing machine water, consider using eco friendly laundry detergents and shower products.For more inspiration check out the PowerWater Water wise action in Central Australia booklet.

For further information, including the legal requirements about greywater treatment in the Northern Territory, please check out the following links:

NT Department of Health environmental health factsheet on greywater systems for domestic dwellings:

Choice guide to home grey water systems:

A guide to eco friendly laundry liquids:

Image from:

Thanks for reading our final newsletter for  2015!

Remain enthusiastic and vigilant after these recent few showers...keep buffel seedlings from establishing and contributing to the viable buffel grass seed in your soil. 

Happy festive season and go on... get out there, and have a closer look at your property. You might notice something remarkable!

We thank all of our members and friends for your contributions to nature conservation in rural and urban areas of Alice throughout 2015 and we look forward to working with you in 2016! Whoot!

Happy holidays,

Jen, Tim and Bill
December, 2015
Copyright © 2015 Low Ecological Services, All rights reserved.

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