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Grange Heathland Reserve, Clayton South

The Grange Heathland is Kingston’s “jewel of the crown”, it is a 6.6 hectare reserve which is highly valued as a conservation area due to the relative intactness and diversity (some 230 species, including a number of regionally rare species) of “heath” vegetation spread across four different -Ecological Vegetation Classes- (EVC’s): The Grange Heathland Reserve is located off Osborne Avenue, Clayton South (Melway ref 79 F8).

Flora

At the higher, western end of the reserve on the crest of the sand dune with well –drained sandy loam soils are the following EVC’s: Sand Heathland (EVC 6) and Heathy Woodland (EVC 48),. This area supports. a huge diversity of plants including a tree layer of Coast Manna Gum (Eucalyptus pryoriana), and an understorey shrub layer including Spike Wattle (Acacia oxycedrus), Furze Hakea (Hakea ulicina) and Victoria’s floral emblem the Common Heath (Epacris impressa). The ground layer includes a vast array of diverse species including the rare Prawn Orchid (Pterostylis pedoglossa), and 20 other orchid species, the carnivorous Tall Sundew (Drosera pelata) and several species of lilies including the very beautiful and fragile Twining Fringe Lily (Thysanotus patersonii).

Located in the centre of the reserve is Swampy Woodland (EVC 937) where there is a gradual transition between the crest of the sand dune in the west and the swale in the east, on poorly – drained sandy clay loam soils. The dominant tree species is Silver-leafed stringybark (Eucalyptus cephalocarpa) a medium sized tree with characteristic silver powdery leaves. The dominant shrub species include Scented Paperbark (Melaleuca squarrosa) a shrub growing to 2 metres with scented yellow bottle brush flowers and stiff triangular leaves, Tree Everlasting (Ozothamnus ferrugineus) and Prickly Tea Tree (Leptospermum continentale). The ground layer includes, amongst others, Weeping Grass (Microleana stipoides), Bidgee Widgee (Acaena novae-zelandiae) and Saw sedge (Gahnia radula).

Located in the low lying area to the east of the reserve on seasonally waterlogged sandy clay soils is Swamp Scrub (EVC 53). The dominant species is the Swamp Paperbark (Melaleuca ericafolia) characterised by its papery bark and bottlebrush flowers. All of the species which inhabit this community tolerate water logging including the Common Reed (Phragmites australis).

Fauna

More than 63 species of indigenous animals have been recorded in the reserve, and countless species of insects, including several species of butterflies, moths and dragonflies. Some of the animal inhabitants of the reserve, like birds are obvious and easily seen, others are elusive, camouflaged or nocturnal and may take some time for you to observe. More than 48 species of birds have been recorded within the Grange Heathland Reserve, including birds of prey like the Brown Goshawk, the Peregrine Falcon, the Brown Falcon, and the Australian Kestrel. If you’re lucky you may see one of these raptors preying on small birds or mice in the reserve. They are occasionally seen perched on stag trees devouring their catch.

Six species of reptile have been recorded within the reserve including two species of skinks, the blotched blue tongue lizard, and geckos. Several Lowland Copperhead Snakes live in the reserve basking in the sun on warm days and feeding on skinks, frogs and small mammals. Due to the presence of snakes in the reserve it is important for visitors to stay on the defined tracks for their own safety.

Four species of frogs live in the Grange, mostly in the wetter swampy heath community in the east of the reserve or around the man-made filtration ponds near the soccer fields. Frogs are most obvious after rain, when pools of water provide perfect breeding grounds for them, or at night when you can hear the males calling for a mate.

In times past the area which is now the Grange Heathland Reserve would have supported a diverse range of mammals including Kangaroos, Wallabies, Koalas, Quolls, Dingos, Echidna and Potoroos. Today the reserve provides habitat for up to 5 species of mammal including both Ringtail and Brushtail possums and 2 species of Bats all of which are best observed and heard at night.

Management Issues

Pest plants and animals

The major threats to the reserve come from introduced plants and animals A feral proof fence was constructed around the Heathland in 1999 to protect the flora and fauna from pest animals. The fence prevents rabbits from entering the reserve and destroying plants, causing erosion and disturbing the soil through their feeding and burrowing habits. Cats, dogs and foxes are also excluded from the reserve thus preventing them from preying on indigenous fauna. Occasionally due to damage to the fence the park may need to be closed to enable contractors to remove pest animals which may have entered the reserve. Maintenance and protection of the fence is imperative to ensure the survival of plants and animals. Rangers and volunteers work continuously at the Grange to remove a variety of grassy and woody weeds through manual, mechanical, chemical methods and fire management.

Caring for The Grange as a visitor

It is extremely important that all visitors to the reserve understand the sensitivity of the heathland environment to disturbance. Straying off tracks, dropping litter, bringing dogs into the reserve and lighting wild fires all have serious negative impacts on the natural environment.

Straying off the designated walking tracks results in the trampling of indigenous plants, in particular orchids and young seedlings. Trampling through the bush encourages new tracks which ultimately results in less bushland and habitat. Visitors are also reminded that snakes live in the reserve thus keeping to the tracks is highly recommended for your own safety.

Fire is important to heathland communities however uncontrolled or unplanned fires can have severely negative effects on the vegetation and be dangerous to visitors. Fires which occur in the wrong season, too often or do not burn at the correct intensity can cause flora and fauna populations to decline and may encourage invasion from weed species.

Keeping your dogs on leash and picking up your dogs droppings in the area of the reserve outside of the feral proof fence

Protecting the feral proof fence by not attempting to enter the feral proof area if it has been locked up for total fire ban days or management purposes.