As I have noted in previous articles I’m amazed at how many plants of this species have appeared in the areas where the cat’s claw and Ochna have been removed. Hundreds of plants have come up and continue to do so. This is despite the fact that a few years ago I could not find a plant anywhere in the reserve. While these plants are not very exciting in appearance, I think they are particularly useful in our current regenerating environment. They are an early pioneer species and grow quickly. However they are especially useful for providing bush tucker for the native wildlife.
- Our swamp wallabies seem to love nibbling the new growth on the ends of the lower branches.
- The plants start to flower and set fruit when they are about three years old. The small black fruit attract fruit eating birds such as Silver eyes and Lewin’s Honeyeaters. Even though these shrubs produce copious quantities of fruit the birds seem to take all the fruit as soon as it is ripe.
- The leaves of this species also provide food for many insect larvae. For this reason the plants generally have a fairly ragged appearance. Even though many of the leaves show the signs of insect attack, it is actually quite hard to find any caterpillars.
- The leaves also provide food for leaf eating insects.
These Trema tomentosa shrubs came up here just over two years ago and are now about 4 metres high and laden with ripening fruit. The small fruit are about 3mm in diameter and turn black when ripe. The ripe fruit seem to disappear very quickly and I suspect they are being eaten by small birds. (February 2010)
I continue to be astounded by the hundreds (possibly thousands) of seedlings of this species that have germinated in the cleared areas; particularly so because I have never found a mature plant in the Reserve. It is difficult to believe that so many seeds could have been distributed so widely by birds. I can only conclude that this species must have been common on the site before it was overrun by the cat’s claw creeper and that the seeds can lie dormant for an extended period. The plants that came up about 15 months ago are now in flower and starting to set fruit. This plant seems to be an excellent pioneer species in the regeneration of the areas that have been cleared of cat’s claw, Ochna and other weeds. It also seems to be a favourite of the swamp wallabies as most young plants have the tips and new growth eaten off. (January 2009)