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Open Woodlands

One of the things that struck the early European explorers of the Victorian Volcanic Plains was the striking ‘park like’ appearance of the landscape. Major Thomas Mitchell described it as ‘resembling an English park’. A variety of woodlands arose here and there, scattered across the plains, particularly on the higher ground and around water. The dominant trees of these grassy woodlands were mostly eucalypts, Red River Gums along water courses and Grey Box and Yellow Box in the drier areas, interspersed with a few other tree and shrub species. In open woodlands the crowns of the trees are not overlapping, nor are the trees very high, usually between ten to thirty metres, and the groundcover can be of grasses and herbs rather than shrubs. The combination of species varied according to local conditions and could also include, or even be dominated by, Swamp Gum, Manna Gum, Drooping Sheoaks, Silver Banksia, Black Wattle and other gums and wattles. Usually these had grasses, flowers and herbs spread across the ground in between the taller vegetation. Most of the woodlands have been cleared for agriculture and for firewood. The reduction of woodlands has further reduced habitat for birds to nest in, and cover for small to medium native animals and flightless birds. Donald McDonald, writing for the Argus newspaper, lamented the loss of these woodland areas as early as the 1880s when he wrote: ‘The sheoaks also are a dying race. They are declining before civilisation.’

Legless Lizard

A priority for the Iramoo Sustainable Community Centre is the protection of the Legless Lizard, an endangered species of the open grassland plains. The Legless Lizard, which can grow up to 300 millimetres, is related to geckoes and can superficially look like a small snake. It lives in lowland native grasslands, typically dominated by native tussock forming grass species such as Kangaroo Grass and Spear Grass. Within Victoria, the native grassland habitat of the species typically occurs on deep cracking clay soils, with volcanic rocks scattered about the surface. The Legless Lizard feeds only on invertebrate prey such as crickets, moth larvae, cockroaches, and spiders. Iramoo has the largest population in existence of this endangered animal, in a wildlife reserve now surrounded by houses – there are about 2,000 to 3,000 animals in this reserve. The greatest threat to the lizard has been, and continues to be, the loss of habitat due to the ongoing conversion of lowland grassland areas for housing and agriculture. It used to be found all over Victoria but has been pushed back to a small number of scattered remnants across Victoria, the ACT and NSW. The National Striped Legless Lizard Working Group coordinates actions to help conserve and recover this special lizard.






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