She-oak – the native “everything likes to eat” bush – has been given critically endangered status to help rejuvenation

When the Nosworthy family purchased Lake Hamilton Station on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula in 1945, it had already been farmed for 100 years.

Its paddocks, devoid of vegetation, resembled the surface of the moon.

Bill Nosworthy is the third generation of his family on the station and has spearheaded a greener path, protecting and expanding patches of remaining vegetation, including shed oaks.

The trees have just been nationally protected as critically endangered species under a plant community called “Grasswood Forest of Drooping Oaks on Calcrete”.

The protection application process began in 2018 with the help of landowners, Greening Australia and community groups in Elliston and Coffin Bay.

A sample enclosure of oaks in 2010, before being fitted out.(Provided: Eyre Peninsula landscape board)
Image of a paddock with bushy trees and shrubs
Oak regeneration after 10 years, photographed in 2020.(Provided by: Eyre Peninsula Landscaoe Board)

Andrew Freeman, head of planning and assessment for the Eyre Peninsula Landscape Council, said while oaks grew elsewhere, the protected ecosystem was only in limestone and included shrubs like acacias and grasses in the understory.

Ecosystems once covered large areas of the state’s west coast, but only a few healthy remnants remain near Streaky Bay, Elliston, and Coffin Bay.

They were hardy enough to survive growing in limestone, but fire and overgrazing had taken a toll on their survival.

Mr Freeman said the stock as well as native and wild animals eat oak trees.

A man with a hat standing in front of plants near the ocean
Andrew Freeman has worked with farmers and community members for four years to protect oak ecosystems.(ABC Eyre Peninsula: Jodie Hamilton)

“If they go into a paddock and there are oak trees there, they always eat them first unless there is green grass.”

Mr Freeman said Critically Endangered status not only offered protection but also potential funding for farmers to fence off oak areas.

“A few farmers are doing it very well now,” Mr. Freeman said.

“At key times of the year they will stake their stock and allow oak trees to grow or native grasses to seed, which just helps the continued survival of this system.”

Mr. Nosworthy has taken areas of oak trees out of stock for long periods of time.

Farmer in hat and blue work pants and top in paddock with man in legionnaire cap, white shirt blue pants in paddock
Mr. Nosworthy discussing oak forest management with Anthony Hoffman about 10 years ago.(Supplied: Landscape SA)

“When we had a big germination event in 1980…it was just perfect rain, perfect season, everything germinated at once…we decided to close the paddock, which we did for seven years and then the trees just took off,” Mr. Nosworthy said.

He said oaks were a legume, beneficial to soil and grasses while providing shade to allow extra moisture into the soil.

“The benefit is that you have a greener pasture for a longer time of the year.” said Mr. Nosworthy.

A 1200 hectare paddock with oak vegetation was now a seed bank and saplings were growing 4 kilometers away.

“The landscape is not comparable when you look at an old photograph with today; it’s just an incredible difference,” Mr Nosworthy said.

About Jason Norton

Check Also

With Twitter Delisted, Put Your Money Into These Stocks Instead

It’s official, Twitter is no longer available to the general public. With Elon Musk already …