Vine thickets are an important part of Australia’s natural ecology. Like similar rainforest growth around the globe, vine thickets help conserve moisture, prevent erosion by water or wind, provide habitat for native animal species, and conserve natural biodiversity. It is difficult to assess how well-preserved Australia’s various vine thickets are because of the wide variety of types of vine thicket. Each pocket of vegetation can be just a little different from the one a few miles distant, and that slight difference could mean life or death for a native Australian species. While understanding of the varying ecologies has vastly improved in the last twenty years, most scientist agree that there is still a great deal to learn.
Vine Thickets and the trees that grow in them
There are many kinds of trees and lesser plants that grow in a vine thicket. Tall trees, such as brachychiton rupestris, otherwise known as the Queensland bottle tree, or Queensland kurrajong, act as a sort of central buttress for liana vines, certain species of mistletoe, and similar vegetation that require support. Beneath the canopy formed by the tall trees grows a wide variety of smaller bushes or similar flowering plants that help create a dense thicket. One such plant is the native Australian finger lime, or citrus australasica.
- Brachychiton Rupestris, Queensland Bottle trees, Kurrajong. Names are slippery things, especially when you are working through loose translations. According to Wikipedia, the original name “scientific” name for Queensland bottle trees was Delabechea Rupestris, the first part being selected to honor Henry De La Beche, the head of the exploratory expedition. The second part, rupestris, simply means “among rocks” and probably refers to this bottle tree’s preference for well-drained soil.
Oddly, the Australian name, Kurrajong, is almost as slippery. One source states that kurrajong is the word for “shade tree,” while another says that it is derived from the Dharuk word “garrajun”, which means “fishing line” because they used fiber from this tree to make fishing lines. Understanding how language drift works, both could be correct.
- Native Australian Finger Limes, citrus australasica, is a tiny taste treat so delicious that there is a white paper considering it for growth as a commercial crop in Hawaii.
Finger limes are genetically diverse, with at least six distinct varieties. The flowers can be white or pale pink. The fruit ranges in color from yellow green to purple to nearly black. It was once highly prized for its medicinal value and its ability to ward off illness. Small wonder! This tiny fruit packs a powerful punch in the Vitamin C department.
These tiny fruits are extremely seasonal. They have a brief fruiting season and must be harvested by hand. There is a strong restaurant market for these tiny fruits, and they can often be found (in season) at farmers’ markets. However, they are not usually found in grocery stores. They are easy to grow if you have the right environment, so you can easily have a bush growing these scrumptious little fruits in your backyard.
- Like many natural or wild growth areas, the vine thickets are shrinking in size and number. Fortunately, there are ways that you can assist with preserving these pockets of natural plant diversity.
Here are some ways that you can help:
- Keep farm and feral animals from roaming vine thickets
- Examine landscape and water distribution carefully before planning development.
- Include correctly licensed and purchased native plants and trees in your landscaping
- Examine your location; make sure the plant/tree is a good fit
- Nurture native plants and trees if already in place
- Remove “weed” trees and other invasive plants to keep them from crowding out the native growth.
Good planning equals good stewardship
- Before you plant a tree or bush, do your research. Consider how large it will become, how vigorously it will seed itself or spread, its water and soil needs.
- Just a little forethought saves a lot of work later on.