Anyone who has visited Deep Creek Conservation Park would know
that it is synonymous with the Southern Grass Tree (Xanthorrehoea Australis)
The District Council of Yankalilla has used it as its logo for many years.
But did you know that these grass trees are slow growing and long lived with
some estimated to be 450 years old.
A feast of Yaccas in the Stringybark Forest
In fact, the rough trunk only develops after many
years of growth. Its typical black appearance is the result of exposure to bushfires over decades.
The reason the tree usually survives a fire is that its living growth-point
is buried underground, protected by a tightly packed leaf base.
Growth rates, although hard to quantify, have been estimated at between 1-3 cm per year.
Flowering takes several years and does not happen annually.
However, after bushfires up to 80% of grass trees will flower producing
a single spear-like cream coloured stem that can reach up to 3m in height.
Flowering Yaccas at Cobbler Hill with Kangaroo Island in the background
The Southern grasstree was an important plant for Aborigines, both as a source
of food and drink as well as for fibre and materials for tool and weapon construction.
The flowering stem, when soaked in water, produces a sweet drink
while it also releases a resin that was used as a glue when making tools.
Stems could also be used as part of a spear or as a base for fire making
implements and the tough seed pods were used as cutting implements.
The distinctive leaves of grass trees are captivating
European settlers used the resin to produce a lacquer for furniture.
Grass trees are also known as ‘yacca’, which is likely derived from
a South Australian Aboriginal language, mostly likely Kaurna.
Today you can marvel at the majesty of these great survivors
from the comfort of your patio at the Ridgetop Retreats.
Watch the leaves of the Yacca dance to the tune of the wind from your patio
Dappled sun and shadows show the value of camouflage for this shingleback
Known by a variety of names including stumpy tail, sleepy lizard,
shingleback and pinecone lizard the Tiliqua Rugosa is widespread
in low rainfall areas as well as coastal parts of Western & South Australia.
They favour coastal heath and sclerophyll forests which
are abundant in Deep Creek Conservation Park.
Although omnivorous their diet usually consists of flowers and leaves.
However, they don’t mind a broader palette that includes snails, beetles and other insects.
Did you know shinglebacks mate for life? They are strictly monogamous
and will seek out the same partner year after year.
Marital bliss? Shinglebacks mate for life.
According to extensive research undertaken by Michael Bull
from Flinders University, they can live in excess of 50 years
and during drought years can skip parenthood to focus on survival.
Typically, a litter consists of 2 live young which together make up ⅓ of
the female’s body weight. This has been compared to a woman
giving birth to a 7-year-old child…. Respect!
Tongue & cheek
They are ectothermic meaning they can’t generate their own
body heat and must rely on warmth from their surroundings.
Although shinglebacks seem sluggish it is surprising how
they just disappear if you take your eyes off them for a moment!
During springtime the male will follow the female within a few centimetres for
many days before they get to mate. According to Prof. Michael Bull it’s like a little train.
Shingle back in Deep Creek Conservation park
‘Bruce’ the bandicoot at the Ridgetop Retreats
Prior to European settlement the Southern Brown Bandicoot was wide spread
throughout the Mount Lofty Ranges but it is now a fairly rare sighting.
Indeed, of the eight species of Bilby and Bandicoot that could be found in South Australia
the Southern Brown Bandicoot is now the only one remaining.
Fortunately, Deep Creek Conservation Park provides an important refuge for this marsupial.
They are predominantly solitary and nocturnal although day time sightings are not uncommon.
Typical life expectancy is between 3 and 5 years.
‘Bruce’ calling in to say hello on his morning walk at the Ridgetop Retreats
Bandicoots are omnivorous but principally eat anything that crawls or flies in the insect world.
Their diet is further supplemented by plant matter such as grasses, fungi, fruits, and seeds.
Dense ground cover such as that found in Deep Creek is essential for their survival
with threats primarily coming from birds of prey, dogs, foxes, and cats.
During the past three years, the Ridgetop Retreats have become ‘home’ to
several bandicoots who live in the native vegetation that surrounds them.
Guests are frequently welcomed on their patio by ‘Bruce’ who is very inquisitive.
Check out this short video of him ‘on the scrounge’ here
Flaming fungus – Deep Creek Conservation Park
Ok, yes its true. Fungi don’t quite have the same magnetic appeal of
say a furry animal but that does not make them any less interesting.
Did you know that fungi are neither plant nor animal.
They play a vital role in the breakdown of other organisms
and are the great recyclers of our ecosystem.
Put simply, plants produce, animals consume but fungi recycle.
Equally less well known is the fact the Deep Creek Conservation Park
is a mecca for different fungi. The Stringybark Walking Trail in particular
is somewhat of a fungal hot spot due to the type of vegetation
and favourable conditions that have prevailed for many years.
To fully appreciate the sheer diversity in shape, colour and size
a visit to this trail during June and July is a must.
The trail is suitable for the whole family and can be easily completed
in 20-30 minutes but allow time to marvel at what lies at your feet.
For a more extensive account of this amazing living organism see the
Fungi emerge in many shapes, sizes and colours along the Stringybark trail