Tallaganda Dreaming I:Regrowth and Index to recovered species

This is the first of a series of posts on flora and fauna within the Tallaganda Wilderness following the devastating 2019 drought and firestorm, and a 2020 deluge. Tallaganda is the First People's name for the creeks and gullies feeding the Shoalhaven River.

Blechnum nudum (Fishbone water fern) within the fire zone of the Tallaganda Wilderness

On 24 November 2019 the Tallaganda Wilderness started to burn in a fierce firestorm. Within five days, the fire had engaged the southern part of the wilderness.

It seemed that nothing would be left.

Much of the wilderness has been closed (including common access points) because of the extreme danger posed by falling trees in the fire zone. However, i am able to hike into the remaining unburnt forest and an adjoining area of fire affected forest outside the prohibited zone with a group of local land owners, to conduct a side-by-side assessment of wildlife in both zones (on the basis of 'leave no trace' hiking).

As at this update, two surveys post fire have taken place in the vicinity of the Southern Tallaganda Eucalyptus Still in the Mulloon Creek (sometimes called Long Swamp Creek - a reference to the highland bogs in the area) tributaries:
1st survey: 24 February 2020 (creeks running)
2nd survey: 2 March 2020 (creeks barely running after warm days)

Keeping to defined tracks and rocky ground, we follow a deep loop along fire trails and an old mining trail giving access to creeks and waterfalls unseen for decades hidden beneath tons of invasive weeds (esp. blackberries and serrated tussock) and conduct a preliminary assessment of species damage and recovery. The results might usefully form the basis of submissions about the management of the wilderness area i am providing to the Australian Risk Policy Institute.

It is now a month on from the declaration that the Tallaganda Wilderness fire was out (and perhaps 2 months since the fire ravaged this area). There is some regrowth in fire affected part of the forest. A list of species encountered is included below and will be added to over time.

We have encountered a couple of significant surprises. One shock was the survival of species, seemingly untouched by the inferno that burnt around them. The temperature of the fire at forest floor level in the zones examined could have varied from a high of 1,000ºC in the mountain ash – peppermint gum zone down to 600ºC in dry creek bed areas.

1: Asura cervicalis in Exocarpos cupressiformis

A moth pollinating tiny flowers of a Native Cherry within the fire zone of the Tallaganda Wilderness.
Exocarpos cupressiformis: Native Cherries, a form of Sandalwood which looks like a cypress, survived the inferno. It has needle like leaves which can bear a heavy crop of fruit with the cherry ‘seed’ on the outside of the flesh.

Native Cherry, Exocarpos cupressiformis, in the fire zone

The tree is not well understood, often being mistaken for a pine. It is commonly thought to be a parasite on host eucalypti, but this is clearly not the case with established trees. It is also believed to be poisonous to stock, but there is no proof of toxicity. The (edible) seedless cherry is sometimes suggested for cultivation, but this has not proceeded.

On the second survey we observed a Southern Boobock Owl rising from a Native Cherry and observed signs of nesting in the tree.

Asura cervicalis: Within the safety of these trees, pollinating moths have also survived. The Asura cervicalis are usually observed eating trunk lichen off ficus, acacia and eucalyptus species – here they are colonizing the Native Cherries in the post-fire environment.

INDEX: Species identified within the fire zone

In progress as we work through the identification process (of 60 small shrubs, only a handful have been identified - some will need to await flowing). Note that links, where included, will take you to relevant pages with images. Not all species here have been imaged in the two field excursions to date. 


Sulphur crested cockatoos
Yellow-tailed black cockatoo
Butcher Bird
Boobook Owl (erroneously first identified as a Brown hawk)
Fan tail
Brown tree creeper
Varied sittella


Pretty faces wallaby
Black wallaby
Dingo / feral dogs (tracks in creek bed)
Wombats (skats)
Feral pigs (skats)


Funnel web spider
Forest brown butterfly, Argynnina cyrila
Jumping ants
Native bees
Lichen moth, Asura cervicalis

Heaths, Peas, Shrubs and Lillies

Native raspberry
Tasman Flax Lily Dianella Tasmanica
Acrothamnus Hookeri Mountain Beard Heath

Ferns, Mosses and Worts


Native Cherry, Exocarpos cupressiformis
Candlebark Gum, e. rubida
Brittle Gum, e. mannifera
Mountain Ash, e. regnans
Narrow leaf Peppermint Gum, e. Binomia
River She Oak, River Oak Casuarina Cunninghamiana

Other posts in the Tallaganda Wilderness Firestorm and Recovery series

I:       Index of recovering species, Asura cervicalis in Exocarpos cupressiformis
II:      Creek Zones: Ferns, Mosses, Lichens, Worts
III:    Southern Boobook Owl Ninox novaeseelandiae
IV:    First Wildflowers
V.      Fire sculptures
VI.    Funnel Web Spider  Atrax Sutherlandi
VII.  Trees of the Forest - in preparation
VIII. Heaths and shrubs of the Forest - in preparation
IX.    Highland Bog Zones - in preparation
X.     Mountains Zones - in preparation

Background Chronologies
i.   Tallaganda Wilderness Fire 2019-20: Chronology Part 1 24-29 November
ii   Tallaganda Wilderness Fire 2019-20: Chronology Part 1 29 November +, in preparation
iii. Tallaganda Wilderness immediately before the fire October 2019 in preparation


Anonymous said…
Isn't nature just amazing.

Thank you for being such an inspiration and showing the world these little miracles.
Anonymous said…
Isn't nature just amazing.

Thank you for being such an inspiration and showing the world these little miracles.
Peter Quinton said…
Thank you for your encouragement :)

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