Last Sunday, myself and a group of friends and colleagues from UNSW went on a bushwalk in Muogamarra Nature Reserve. We’ve recently started a new group called the “Botanical, casual, youthful and social group” (N.B. youthfulness is up to the member’s own personal interpretation). We’ve been on a few walks, each one has been fantastic as we allow each other to stop at least every two minutes to take photos of the native plants. We also allow the regular “ORCHID!” shrieks of excitement, followed by everyone running back and huddling around a tiny orchid someone has spotted. The group comprises of mostly biologists with a broad range of backgrounds including specialisation in mammals, invertebrates, plants and fungi. But we also have people from a range of different fields, like psychology, fine arts and more. This makes the walks extra exciting as there is always interesting conversation and something natural to revel at. Likewise, at least one member will have an identification and facts about the many plants and animals we come across.
Muogamarra Nature Reserve is no ordinary bushwalk. It is a protected area in the Northern Sydney area which is only open to the public six weekends a year. Everyone in our crew had been eagerly awaiting it’s opening since last year and excited to see the huge array of native flowers in bloom.
It was an awesome day, I’ve been borrowing my in-laws camera (which is better than my trusty old iPhone camera) and got so many shots of the amazingly diverse flora. Bear with me as I learn how to use a professional camera, but here are a few of the plant species we found, along with some quick facts about them:
Pretty pictures of plants (the most important part)
Some animals (if you’re that way inclined)
Muogamarra is home to some cool and cute native animals that get a bit of peace and quiet from the built up towns that are nearby. The swamp wallaby (Wallabia bicolor) brush tail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) and tiger quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) all call this area home.
Someone in the group with a keen eye also spotted a disorientated baby Eastern Pygmy Possum (Cercartetus nanus) that had fallen out of the tree onto the path. It was only about 6cm long and quivering on the path. With advice from the National Parks ranger we relocated it off the path and hoped for the best for the poor little guy.
We stopped for a quick lunch break (with lots of shared chocolate!) and admired the epic views over the Hawkesbury River as a Sea Eagle soared around the cliff edge. Pretty spectacular.
Muogamarra is closed to the public for the majority of the year for a few reasons. It is protected by the state government for natural and historical reasons in order to preserve the biodiversity as well as a few historical sites such as aboriginal carvings and early European architecture. The reserve contains over 900 plant species and is an important link between the coastal vegetation of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and the inland vegetation of Blue Mountains and Wollemi Regions.
There are many threatened plant communities that are protected within Muogomarra. There are groups of different species that are not common in other regions and need to be conserved to protect numerous species within them. Muogamarra also contains 8 plant species which are endangered or vulnerable, which sounds like a small number but is actually pretty big in ecology! This kind of reserve is vital for research and conservation at places like Plantbank in the Australian Botanic Gardens (where I’m doing my PhD) so that we can collect seeds or plant material such as leaves and stems and grow more individuals of these endangered species and maybe one day translocate them back into regions where they have now been lost from.
The rich Aboriginal Heritage at Muogamarra is evident through shell middens, engravings and really cool cave art. These date back to around 12,000 years ago! This area was occupied by the Kuring-gai and Darug Aboriginal people at the time of European settlement. I won’t post any images of the Aboriginal art for sensitivity, but you’ll have to go check out the reserve for yourself!
Finally, the other historical conservation part of Muogamarra is the early archictecture built after Govener Arthur Phillip took a top up the Hawkesbury river in 1789. There are remains of a tent school, foundations of builsings, dry stone walls, earthenware pipes and even tunnels constructed during WWII. Pretty cool!
The park became protected as a sanctuary in 1934 by one man – John Duncan Tiper, who bought the land. He eventually gave the land over to the government and in 1954 it became an area for study and conservation of native plants and animals.
I hope one day I’ll be able bring my kids and grand kids to Muogamarra and they can enjoy the almost-untouched piece of nature too.