When Ron Miller chose Mangerton Park nature reserve as the subject of a TAFE horticultural assignment in 1984 he never imagined it would lead to a long and lasting connection.
The essay was all about the effect the introduced exotic plants have on the park’s native biodiversity and it triggered an interest that is just as strong 28 years later.
‘‘There are a number of exotic species that if left to proliferate would end up killing the native trees and plants,’’ says Mr Miller.
Along with teams of volunteers from both Wollongong City Council’s Bushcare program and Friends of Mangerton Park, Mr Miller spends about three hours a week helping to clear the damaging plants.
‘‘I didn’t end up using my horticultural certificate professionally but it’s been a big help in understanding the work I’ve been doing here at the reserve for nearly three decades,’’ says Mr Miller, a retired railway worker.
The five-hectare reserve is a mix of subtropical rainforest and turpentine woodland slopes and is positioned smack in the middle of Mangerton, surrounded by homes.
‘‘I don’t think a lot of people around here even know it exists but it’s a terrific place with so much diversity in terms of fauna and flora,’’ says Mr Miller.
It has hundreds of plant species and over the years since the maintenance programs began it is starting to attract more wildlife species.
‘‘Gradually we’re getting a few more people visit, especially on open days, and we’ve even had a few overseas tourists study groups through,’’ says Mr Miller.
He says he has come to accept the job of clearing the weeds is never done because it is difficult to completely eliminate the problem.
On the flip side, some of the weeds like lantana are temporarily retained in small patches and used as physical barriers for protecting smaller wildlife species.
EXPECT TO SEE
Trees: Two-veined hickory, maiden’s wattle, blackwood, lilli pilli, yellow wood, sassafras and red ash.
Animals: Possums, diamond-headed snakes, brush turkeys and blue-tongued lizards.
Birds: Whip birds, kookaburras, owls and various species of cuckoo.