It was an early start for the wheel cactus volunteers, arriving at the Crystal Mine car park near Mt Kooyoora at 9 am. In keeping with the environmental theme a car pool was organised, with eight volunteers travelling from Bendigo in two cars.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by a very cold and strong wind. Much to our surprise, outdoor ed students from Latrobe uni were also in the area to practice their orienteering skills. The students had seen wheel cactus plants in the area, including a plant near one of their controls.
James Nelsson from Loddon Plains Landcare Network and his wife Trudy soon arrived with all the wheel cactus eradication equipment. This time the volunteers decided to split into teams to cover a greater area. My team set off for the steep northern slope of Mt Kooyoora while the other teams hunted in the area where the outdoor ed students had seen the wheel cactus plants.
Luckily the cold wind died down and it became a warm and pleasant morning. My team was guided by Julie Flynn who did a great job of picking an easy path over Mt Kooyoora. After a bit of searching, we spotted a large patch of wheel cactus and set to work. This patch had been tackled at the last wheel cactus day but it was so large and thick that the inner plants couldn’t be reached. Ten months after poisoning, the outer plants had rotted to the ground and the inner plants were now all accessible.
It seems that even the hardy wheel cactus can struggle in dry Australian conditions; the plants were much thinner and softer than they were in the previous year. This made them much harder to inject with the poison, so progress was slow. Eventually all the wheel cactus plants in the area had been injected, just in time to get back to the car park for lunch.
As the volunteers sat together in the wonderful autumn sunshine and enjoyed our lunch we were all satisfied that we had done our bit to fight the wheel cactus scourge. Kooyoora is such a fantastic area, not just for the challenging orienteering but also its natural beauty. It truly deserves our care and protection.
A big thank you to James and Trudy Nelsson for supplying the equipment, and volunteers Neil Barr, Julie Flynn, Andrew Lewis, Lorraine Leversha, Jim Russell, Dianne Searle and Peter Searle.