A tiny pocket of ‘Big Scrub’ rainforest has been painstakingly reintroduced alongside Youngman’s Creek at Alpine Nurseries Alstonville thanks to the pioneering efforts of employee, Doug Blythe.
Working on days off for almost four years, Doug has successfully restored the former weed infested creek and planted over 6,500 local species to lay the foundations for a lush new rainforest.
Described by employer Peter Knox as a ‘much loved and authentic’ individual, Doug is passionate about regenerating and restoring bushland with plants that are indigenous to the area.
“Doug has really made the creek zone his own, and we are delighted with the result and the way it’s been done. We now have a beautiful area within the nursery that has been restored with biodiversity in mind for the enjoyment of future generations,” Peter said.
“Youngman’s Creek now flows properly during a rain event, with the concurrent construction of wetland zones helping to filter water run off before it enters the creek, which further protects the rainforest,” he said.
“Originally, the creek was overgrown with two metre high Setaria Grass, African Coral Trees and Camphor Laurels. After clearing, we replanted with seconds stock from the nursery, but these have been steadily replaced with species that are indigenous to the Alstonville Big Scrub,” Doug said.
Around half of all the trees planted in the rainforest have been carefully grown from seeds that Doug has collected and propagated while on walks through places such as Minyon Falls and Protestors Falls, and around Alstonville.
Rare gems amongst the rainforest include a Bolwarra, which is an ancient shrub in a plant family all of its own; Gondwana-era Plum Pines, Stringy Bark Pines and Hoop Pine Trees as well as super-distinctive Watermelon Trees.
“You can’t just buy these plants off the shelf. You have to get out there and find the seeds and then work out how to grow them. Even though I have been in the region for 21 years, I’m still learning,” Doug said.
“Rainforest natives can be particularly hard to grow as they need to pass through birds or bats to germinate, and I spend a lot of time investigating droppings and then popping them onto a seed tray to see what appears,” he said.
Doug’s passion for plants was sparked as a young five year old when he grew lines of wheat from chicken feed in his Melbourne backyard, and learned that you could grow plants from seeds.
Later, as a young man studying horticulture, he discovered that the Melbourne native plant craze taking place at that time only included a tiny fraction of the plants which were native to the region, and so began an eleven year mission to investigate indigenous natives of the greater Melbourne region, resulting in a published list of 8,000 plants.
“I hadn’t realised until then what a big subject indigenous horticulture is. Wherever you live in the world, you need to plant local to support the local fauna and flora. From an ecological point of view, it just makes sense,” he said.
“For me, my reward is sitting in stillness in the rainforest and listening to the sounds of the birds and the insects. This is my real passion in life – to put back something that was originally there.”
While only a ‘baby’ rainforest, significant fauna sightings to date include a pair of barred cuckoo shrikes and a rarely seen, brilliantly coloured Noisy Pita.
Doug’s reference point for plant selection is ‘Rainforest Trees and Shrubs of South East Australia’, by Alex Floyd.