- Red Hill Reserve is an important component of the ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy.
Red Hill is an area of Yellow Box/Red Gum Grassy Woodland. Today only scattered areas of this type of woodland exist in the ACT and it has been declared a critically endangered ecological community under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). .
Yellow Box/Red Gum Grassy Woodland is an open woodland in which Yellow Box (Eucalyptus melliodora) and Blakely’s Red Gum (Eucalyptus blakelyi) are the dominant trees. The trees form an open canopy above a species-rich understorey of native tussock grasses, herbs and scattered shrubs.
Yellow Box/Red Gum Grassy Woodlands are utilised by a large number of animal species. The name Yellow Box/Red Gum Grassy Woodland encompasses the dominant trees of the upper stratum, the characteristic plants of the understorey and the characteristic animals that interact with the vegetation complex.
A number of plant, bird and insect species associated with Yellow Box/Red Gum Grassy Woodland have also been declared as vulnerable to extinction or endangered in the ACT. They are:
- Button Wrinklewort (Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides)
- Small Purple Pea (Swainsona Recta)
- Hooded Robin (Melanodryas cucullata)
- Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor)
- Superb Parrot (Polytelis Swainsonii)
- Brown Treecreeper (Climacteris Picumnus)
- Painted Honeyeater (Grantiella Picta)
- Regent Honeyeater (Xanthomyza Phrygia)
- Perunga Grasshopper (Perunga Ochracea)
Woodland is characterised by a discontinuous layer of tree canopies 10 – 30 metres in height having a foliage cover of 10% – 30%. In Grassy Woodland, the next tallest vegetation layer with a cover of more than 10% is dominated by grasses.
In Yellow Box/Red Gum Grassy Woodland, the understorey is usually dominated by a more or less continuous layer in which mid-height tussock grasses are prominent. Structurally and floristically, this stratum closely resembles Natural Temperate Grassland.
Shrubs may also be present and may sometimes form a discontinuous middle layer.
The smooth barked Red Gum (Eucalyptus blakleyi) and Yellow Box (Eucalyptus melliodora) which has bark most of the way up the trunk, are the commonest trees on Red Hill. The Red Gum and Yellow Box trees are well spaced to form an open canopy under which flourishes a diverse grassland containing many wildflowers. Elsewhere the Red Gum – Yellow Box grassy woodland has been extensively cleared and it is now an endangered community in the ACT.
Did you know? The name Yellow Box may have been named because it has flouro yellow roots.
The Apple Box (Eucalyptus bridgesiana) occurs on the lower ridges and rocky slopes. It can be readily identified by its persistent greyish, fibrous bark and very long leaves which taper to a fine point.
Did you know? The Apple Box may have been named because of the apple like growths that form on their leaves by wasps that inject egg larvae into the young leaf that then grows to form a soft apple like growth or gall, until the wasp emerges.
Many of the older Eucalypts have hollows where they have dropped branches. These are an important habitat for birds and possums. If you keep your eyes open you are likely to see a parrot peeking out of one of these hollows.
The Drooping Sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata) is a small tree with drooping greyish-green stems. Its leaves are barely visible to the eye. It grows amongst eucalypts in grassy woodlands but forms pure stands on rocky outcrops.
Wild cherry or Cherry Ballart (Exocarpus cupressiformis) Scattered around Red Hill are specimens of this small cypress-like tree which bears orange-red fleshy fruit stalks in winter. Its distinctive fine, drooping, rusty-olive-green foliage provides an interesting contrast to the other colours and shapes of the woodland. What makes this plant so interesting is its semi-parasitic nature – it usually needs the roots of other plants to attach its own roots to before it will grow.
Other tree species may be associated with Eucalyptus melliodoraand Eucalyptus blakelyi in the Yellow Box/Red Gum Grassy Woodland community. These include:
- Apple Box (Eucalyptus bridgesiana)
- Broad-leaved Peppermint (Eucalyptus Dives)
- Red Box (Eucalyptus Polyanthemos)
- Mealy Bundy (Eucalyptus nortonii)
- Candlebark (Eucalyptus rubida)
- Brittle Gum (Eucalyptus mannifera)
- Scribbly Gum (Eucalyptus rossii)
- Red Stringybark (Eucalyptus macrorhyncha)
- Hill She-Oak (Allocasuarina verticillata)
The ground layer, the lowest stratum, frequently includes:
- Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra)
- Red-leg Grass (Bothriochloa macra)
- several species of Wallaby Grass (Austrodanthonia genus)
The native grasses on Red Hill include Kangaroo Grass (Themeda Australis) and Snowgrass (Poa Sieberiana)
A number of daisy species occur on Red Hill. One of these, Rutidosis Leptorrhynchoides (Button Wrinklewort), is an endangered species, and at more than 5,000 plants, Red Hill has one of the largest remaining populations. Features which distinguish it from other daisies are small button flowers, a long, slender stem and narrow, needle-like leaves. Rutidosis is now bred for commercial sale at Yarralumla Nursery.
It may also include a rich flora of forbs (herbs). These include:
- Common Woodruff (Asperula conferta)
- Bulbine Lily (Bulbine bulbosa)
- Yellow Button (Chrysocephalum apiculatum)
- Glycines (Glycine genus)
- Scrambled Eggs (Goodenia pinnatifida)
- Stinking Pennywort (Hydrocotyle laxiflora)
- Bluebell (Wahlenbergia species)
- Early Nancy (Wurmbea dioica)
Less commonly found are:
- Billy Buttons (Craspedia variabilis)
- Rice Flower (Pimelea linifolia).
A shrub layer, when present, may contain some of the following:
- Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata)
- Lightwood (Acacia implexa)
- Hill She-oak (Allocasuarina verticillata)
- Burgan or Tea tree (Kunzea ericoides)
- Blackthorn (Bursaria spinosa subspecies lasiophylla)
- Peach Heath (Lissantha Strigosa)
- Native Cherry (Exocarpos cupressiformis)
- Cassinia ( Cassinia genus).
Yellow Box/Red Gum Grassy Woodland provides habitat for many animals, including birds, bats, reptiles, ground dwelling and arboreal mammals, and invertebrates.
The hollows in older tree trunks and branches, together with fallen wood, are vital habitat for many of these species. Trees do not develop hollows until they are at least seventy years old and some standing trees are now about 300 years old. Termites, fire and wood rotting fungi promote hollow formation but the hollows may carry fire up into trees and eventually destroy them.
Loose bark provides shelter for some of the invertebrates which in turn provide food for birds. The shrub and grassy understorey also provides nesting sites, shelter and food resources for fauna.
In the ACT, about fifty bird species occur as residents or summer migrants in grassy woodland which is an important breeding habitat for many species including:
- Crimson Rosella (Platycerus elegans)
- Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaguineae)
Red Hill’s bird population peaks in late Autumn when flocks of small birds including Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis), Weebil (Smicronis brevirostris) and Thornbills (Acanthiza pusilla, A. reguloides and A. chrysorrhoa) move through the area. The numerous old, hollow bearing trees provide nesting sites for the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) and Crimson and Eastern Rosellas (Platycercus elegans, P. Eximius).
The Canberra Orithologists Group (COG) has information about woodland birds of concern, which can be found on Red Hill.
Species which have declined in numbers, in addition to the vulnerable and endangered species mentioned above, are:
- Jacky Winter (Microeca fascinans)
- Diamond Firetale (Emblema guttata)
- Rufous Songlark (Cincloramphus mathewsi)
- Western Gerygone (Gerygone fusca)
- Crested Shrike Tit (Falcunculus frontatus).
Among the birds of prey are:
- Brown Falcon (Falco berigora)
- Australian Kestrel (Falco cenchroides)
- Wedge-Tailed Eagle (Aquila audax)
The Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus) is abundant in the ACT and occurs in all types of grassy woodland on both rural and reserve lands. In the marginal dry hill country of the lower Naas and Gudgenby catchments, the Wallaroo (Macropus robustus) is present in small numbers. Other mammals found in grassy woodland include:
- Swamp Wallaby (Wallabia bicolor)
- Red-necked Wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus)
- the arboreal Brush-tailed Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula)
- Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps)
Red Hill supports about eighty Eastern Grey Kangaroos (Macropus giganteus). During the day groups rest in the shade or shelter of trees and shrubs and move out to graze on the cleared grasslands from late afternoon to early morning.
The Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeata) is a terrestrial inhabitant of woodland, and shelters in the soil and feeds on ants and termites.
Three species of bats occur in lowland ACT woodland.:
- Vespadelus vulturnus
- Vespadelus regulus
- Nyctinomus australis
Many species of reptiles have been recorded in woodland areas including:
- Tree Dragon (Amphibolurus muricatus)
- Shingleback (Trachydosaurus rugosus)
- Three-toed Skink (Hemieris decresiensis)
- Common Dwarf Skink (Menetia greyi)
- Common Bearded Dragon (Pogona barbata)
- Rosenberg’s Monitor (Varanus rosenbergi)
- Lace Monitor (Varanus varius)
- Olive Legless Lizard (Delma inornata)
Snakes found include:
- Red-bellied Black Snake (Pseudechis porphyriaceus)
- Eastern Brown Snake (Pseudonaja textiis).
Frogs occur in wetter areas within woodland and may use logs, rocks and thick grass for shelter. Species recorded in ACT woodland include:
- Peron’s Tree Frog (Litoria peronii)
- Smooth Toadlet (Uperoleia laevigata).
For further information see “Yellow Box/Red Gum Grassy Woodland. An endangered ecological community“. and references cited therein.
Some information in this page is taken from the Woodlands for Wildlife: ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy (Action Plan No. 27)