Gold theft: the demise of a wattle

 

By DES NELSON

 

The grader blade of NT Government land developers and camels on airport land are decimating one of The Centre’s most magnificent bushes – in full bloom right now.

 

Acacia murrayana is a fairly ordinary looking small tree until September when it bursts forth into one of the best displays of balls of golden wattle blooms.

 

It is known as Colony Wattle due to its method of forming small stands of plants with a common root system.

 

It grows well in poor sandy soils.

 

Whether the season is good or in drought it will flower each year.

 

For many years it featured, along with Acacia victoriae which produces contrasting pale wattle balls, along the Stuart Highway just south of Alice Springs.

 

Those species formed a dense scrub between the road and the rail line.

 

Their spectacular flowering caused the area to be called “The Golden Mile” although the extent would have been more like two miles.

 

In the 1980s that scrub we had admired so much was destroyed.

 

Some claimed it could be the hideout of undesirables but development played a major part.

 

Underground services passed through the area.

 

Water, telephone, sewerage – all needing to be readily accessed when need arose.

 

So the scrub was cleared. Entirely. Not a remnant remains to show what used to be.

 

The area now resembles park-land but its former floral glory is a memory.

 

Along a road, Colonel Rose Drive which leads from the Stuart Highway to a rural residential area is a three kilometre stretch along which grew a good lot of A. murrayana trees.

 

So residents of the region still enjoyed the annual wattle display.

 

This year it was decided to improve drainage along almost a kilometre of Colonel Rose Drive.

 

All trees and shrubs along that stretch succumbed to the grader blades.

 

It was a part on which had grown some of the most prolific stands of A. murrayana.

 

In paddocks on the other side of the road, camels were introduced.

 

Their numbers varied, up to eight but usually we would count six to be seen at any time.

 

They nibble at A. victoriae and ironwood (Acacia estrophiolata) but have devastated the A. murrayana for which they show a marked preference.

 

When they have grazed the away the easily reached foliage they then break down the branches to strip them.

 

Damaged trees resemble the frames of Native American teepees.

 

It is interesting to note that a study of the diet of beef cattle in Central Australia during the severe 1958-65 drought showed a minimal amount of A. murrayana in the analyses.

 

Today’s observations show that the species is much in favour to camels.

 

An Acacia murrayane in 2009.

 

So far, there is a lesser area of the Colonel Rose Drive untouched.

 

So with that, and some locally scattered trees we can still get a sample of what was once an abundance of wattle blooms.

 

 

 

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One Comment (starting with the most recent)

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  1. Trevor Shiell
    Posted October 7, 2019 at 3:46 pm

    Interesting observation. Apart from camel grazing, there is a world of science which has been ignored to our detriment.
    I wonder when it will dawn on pollies that there are huge economic opportunities underlying what has been lost at that site.
    Commercial interests in SA are farming both of these species of Acacia (and our Caparis, and bush tomato) both for soil enrichment (being legumes), shelter and now seed production for high value bush food.
    Prior to that much of the research into the economic potential of these species has been underway in North Africa and India for quite a few years, while we think only of houses, and grader blades.
    The soil science of these species is a huge economic goldmine but once more ignored by Governments which have ignored or are ignorant of the science involved.
    A WA university has been researching desert Michorriza and native desert legumes for years to improve soil fertility.
    Mention that word (Michoriza) to the pollies and you get a huge yawn.
    There are other things that could have provided a lot of opportunities here but are ignored.
    What is it about native Cyprus pine, for example, that repels termites?
    No one bothers to ask and yet research into that would save us millions and create research opportunities, and jobs.
    Animal pheromones to control their feral numbers? No one seems to notice their effects on feral animals and use their behaviour to aggregate and control them.
    This is used on other animals (fruit fly, etc) but never contemplated here.
    Have they ever been charged by a boar intent on mating? Or a herd of 1000 camels charged with hormones and pheromones?
    Scientific ignorance or just plain ignorance amongst politicians who see only new houses the same as everywhere else, and grader blades. All of these and others could have been the basis of a completely new set of industries here, but sadly have set up elsewhere. Sad!

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