Coral-fern.JPG (21332 bytes)Banksias vs. Coral Fern: Over 25 years ago we were Rangers employed in New England National Park, east of Armidale on the Northern Tablelands of New south Wales. A walking track, near our house, provided access to the lower areas of the Park. At the house end of the track there is a slope that in our time was home to many Banksia spinulosa plants. In autumn and winter this area was alive with honeyeaters as they feasted on the nectar-rich Banksia flowers. Also growing on the slope were scattered clumps of Coral Fern (Gleichenia dicarpa).
Since the time we worked in the Park the Coral Fern has developed at the cost of the Banksias. We visited the Park in December 2002 and observed that the Coral Fern has swamped the Banksias. There is now a smothering blanket of Coral Fern covering the slope. Only a few Banksia plants have survived this botanical tidal wave.
Should this change be regarded as a Park management matter? Should nature be allowed to take its course without human intervention? We feel that a balance should be struck between Banksias and Coral Fern. The area has not been burnt for at least 30 years. Perhaps the area could be burnt with a low temperature fire in autumn or winter to see if the Banksias will regenerate. Firstly a small area could be burnt to see if it promotes Banksia regeneration. If the trial burn is successful then the whole slope could be burnt. Over the years fire could then be used to maintain a balance between Banksias and Coral Fern.
The image shows a section of the slope completely dominated by Coral Fern. This area previously supported a population of Banksia spinulosa.