Reptiles and Rushes Seminar

Perth NRM organised a terrific session last week on Reptiles and Rushes. The speakers were great and so were Tessa’s visiting reptiles – Sam the dugite, Sniper the adder, Sabre the tiger snake and their colleagues.

Una Bell was our first speaker.  She has been teaching us all about native grasses for many years – her enthusiasm, knowledge and love of our beautiful grasses is legendary. Una always reminds us to get to know our native grasses, always add grasses to our species list for restoration projects and never weed a grass unless we know what it is.

Una’s book Common native grasses of south-west Western Australia is a wonderful tool. There are 170 species of introduced grasses in southwest WA and 140 native species – no wonder grasses are a challenging identification job for us all. I am determined that we will grow more native grasses at our CCA restoration sites and reintroduce Coastal poa – Poa poiformis, for example.

Dr Ruchira Someweera  a reptile expert, enthusiast and educator was our next speaker. Ru has studied reptiles around the world, has written 4 books and many scientific articles. We are so fortunate to have a wonderful richness of reptile species in our part of the world. He shared beautiful photos of our 4 Turtle species; the lethal Yellow bellied sea-snake, a true marine species that lives its whole life at sea, except when we find them on the beach after a storm! We learnt 3 reptile species (dugites, bobtails and geckos) have evolved on Rottnest differently to their mainland counterparts, over the 7000 years since the island was cut off from the mainland. Ru has a great website here.
Ru spoke about flat footed lizards that are related to geckoes and legless lizards, goannas, fresh water turtles and 7 types of snakes and much more!
Tessa from Tessa’s Reptile Services had many different snakes and lizards for us all to see and a few to handle for the those of us not suffering from ophiophobia (fear of snakes) or herpetophobia (fear of reptiles). Tessa is a devoted reptile carer and teacher and talked about the danger to our local skinks and geckos from cats.

Dr Kingsley Dixon presented on Coastal Rushes & Sedges. A well known scientist and greatly admired by us all for his long term and generous sharing of his enormous body of knowledge. One of his many publications Coastal Plants is a favourite guide in our Coastcare work. Kingsley talked about the Rushes and Sedges of the Quindalup dunes, how they survive in such harsh, white sand conditions constantly buffeted by salt laden winds. Some things we learnt about were propagation issues,  sand binding roots, decoy seeds on Sword Sedge and the teflon type coating at the base of stems to protect from sand abrasion. We were able to see many photos plus plant specimens. Kingsley is a member of Cambridge Coastcare.
Kingsley also mentioned a new environmentally friendly rat poison (available at Bunnings) which is made from cornmeal and salt. This will save the lives of countless birds and animals. I took a very sick bobtail to the vet very recently which had to be euthanised, it was dying of internal bleeding which the Vet said was due to eating a dead mouse or rat poisoned with anticoagulant poison rat bait.

A big thank you to Vanessa, Hannah and Kate from Perth NRM and PNRM Coastal + Marine for the excellent session today at North Cottesloe Surf Club. Thanks to Town of Cottesloe for supporting the event. The speakers were all inspiring.

Thanks to Robyn Benken for this report.