Tasmanian Ent Moot? Rare unique conifers in Tasmania bear seed and the race is on to collect it


It called ‘Masting’ and means that that a range of indigenous conifers have decided it’s time to bear seed. last time was five years ago in 2015.

How do they all decide that it’s the right time? An ENT Moot perhaps? (Tolkien readers will understand this reference). Likely it’s a range of subtle environmental triggers that the plants monitor so they can time their fruiting & seeding efforts for the best possible result.

Who said plants are not intelligent, just because they sit there?

In a recent post we covered seed banks and how they are really a Devils bargain in taking plant seeds out of context into a technological fantasy world.

This blog we look at seed collection going on this year on in Tasmania.

Tasmania – have you been there? I remember travelling over on the boat in the 90s and seeing the Mountainous cloud shrouded profile of Tasmania appear as we headed to Launceston. It’s certainly a special place.

Busy collecting this seed in a hurry is James Wood – Why?

The hurry comes from the coordinated timing of all of the plants to produce seed and that It happens irregularly.  They are also scattered over the alpine landscape in Tasmania so that means a lot of walking!

James Wood a botanist from Kew Gardens in London, works in the seed bank at the Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens in Hobart. Wood is on a mission to collect seed from these rare Tasmanian conifers.

Yes! Australia has its own conifers and in Tasmanina they are very special – Pencil Pines, King Billy Pines, Huon Pines. Tasmanian is Australia’s Conifer hot spot.

As I said the sense of urgency is from the irregular timing of seed production plus the real threat from global warming that is changing the climate in the alpine areas these plants grow in.

You may remember the fires within the last couple of years where alpine areas normally too wet to burn, dried out enough for this to happen.

Also, when you collect the seed it needs to be from a variety of different plants form different parts of the landscape to capture the genetic diversity. Pencil pines it turns out grow often in clonal groups. This means they are all of one genetic strain likely all grown from only a few parent trees.

“It’s not a bad-sized haul as an insurance policy for the future,” says Wood.

The collection will be stored in the Tasmanian Seed Conservation Centre and the UK’s Millennium Seed Bank. One day, the seeds may be reintroduced back into the landscape to flourish again which, for Wood, is a comforting thought.

Oh, OOH there those seed banks again – Why does reintroduction into the landscape again be only comforting thought? How about an urgent practicality?

Perhaps they could take a leaf (bad pun) from the book of the Sydney Botanic Garden and how they took action with discovery of the Wollemi Pine. Seed and plants were collected then there was an intense effort to propagate the trees so they could be grown by everyone.

This takes the pressure off the wild species from poachers and includes everyone into the conservation effort.

Wood says “As Tasmania’s habitat changes, many alpine species may become extinct — some have already been lost and may not be able to re-establish themselves naturally……. the increasing aridity and likelihood of fire in these areas is very worrying,” he says.

So, seed collection, propagation and storage plus growing on in the Botanical garden can here serve as a useful buffer. It just does not stop at the seed collection and storage part though.

“It will be nice if we can leave those who come after us with more than just a glimpse of what the world was in the beginning,” Wood says.

We would all agree with that

Based on an article from the ABC news site you can access here.

Hope in the Amazon – Radical Farming for a post Corona virus world

You hear mostly the doom and gloom stories about the Amazon, here is one that has lots of hope.

As Paul Hawken says………

If you look just at the scientific facts you despair, if you look at the people you will have hope.

A doctor and infectious disease specialist Eugenio Scannavino Netto set up the Experimental Active Forest Centre (CEFA) at an Amazon reserve  in 2016 to work on solutions for re-foresting cleared and burned land plus regenerating abandoned stock pasture.

Its amazon agroforestry.

Dr. Scannavino Netto says

The culture here is slash and burn, and we’re trying to change that,”

He has set up the experimental centre, plus a Health and Happiness NGO and then organised a sustainable agriculture gathering.

Dr. Netto sees the actions of clearing forests increase the risk of viruses jumping animal species and then to humans. DR Netto criticises the modern agriculture practice of monoculture (growing only one crop) and the usage of chemicals (pesticide herbicides antibiotics)

This destabilises the environment and all the inbuilt balances between species bacteria, viruses’, animals, plants.

Dr Netto says

Covid-19 has been a warning. “Either we change,” he said in a recent phone interview, “or we will die in the next pandemic. And it will be fast.”

Dr. Netto’s forest research centre grows up to 40,000 trees to distribute with local communities for planting.

The main tree propagated is the Cumaru tree, a native Amazonian tree whose seeds are used in cosmetics. Then there is Pau-brasil for wood, Urucum plants that has seeds used for body paint and lipstick colour plus Pau-rosa used in perfume.

All these are replanted out with a range of other supporting plants plus mulch for protection and support.

Dr. Netto’s own NGO the Health and Happiness Project works on community projects with health and education services. Its known by its Portuguese initial PSA.

Taking it even further Dr Netto then organised a sustainable agriculture event where a range of farmers talked about their techniques.

Agroforestry techniques like this were used by indigenous communities before Spanish and Portuguese explorers arrived – Ernst Götsch, 72, a Swiss farmer at the PSA sustainable agriculture event

 Good news is out there, you just have to look harder. Don’t expect to find it on the nightly TV news that’s all.

Here is the Link to the Guardian article by Dom Phillips

‘Either we change or we die’: the radical farming project in the Amazon

Tinderry Mountain Herbs(TMH) places a tithe on all income earned of 10%. This money is spent on various enterprises that help plants and the earths ecosystem. 

TMH supports the Amazon Conservation Team an organisation that supports Amazonian native peoples on their own lands keeping their wisdom traditions alive in the context of the forest with its plants and animals.