Marsupial masterpieces – Turning weeds into wildflowers

Published 10/03/16 | by Amanda Dodd

The biggest limiting factor in grassland restoration is the availability of seed. The second is the lack of community engagement and understanding in grassland ecosystems. The Marsupial Masterpieces project running at the Iramoo Wildflower Grassland Reserve in St Albans is trying to solve both of these problems by bringing ephemeral art into the fold. 

Since 2007, the Friends of Iramoo led by Rick van Keulen have been experimenting using corrugated iron sheeting to solarise areas of grassland infested with Serrated Tussock and Chilean Needle Grass, to create large-scale in situ wildflower seed orchards. This was found to be an inexpensive and low-input way of growing large quantities of wildflower seed for direct seeding projects. At first this was done just in standard rectangles. 

However in 2013, a new project began called Marsupial Masterpieces. Instead of rectangles, we decided to make a giant Eastern Barred Bandicoot. 

The process is simple: find a heavily weed-infested area of grassland, mow the weeds down, lay out the iron in an approximate shape, pop rivet the sheets together, outline the bandicoot with spray paint and cut it out with an angle grinder (making sure you have lots of water on standby). Our giant bandicoot measures 17 metres x 10 metres in size. 

Following two long hot summers, we lifted the iron in September 2015 and with 20 volunteers planted 2000 cell stock seedlings in its place – Lemon Beauty-heads (Calocephalus 

citreus) and Common Everlasting (Chrysocephalum apiculatum) – in a specific arrangement hoping to replicate the bars of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot. 

The Bandicoot was then moved into its new location – one jump away – within the grassland, where it will stay until 2017. 

In this decade-long project, aerial photography will show our bandicoot hopping through the grassland leaving wildflowers in her wake. We hope it might inspire people to better understand our long-term perspective on restoring our beautiful grassland reserve. 

Project Team: Rick van Keulen, Helen Rzesniowiecki, Dr. Megan O’Shea, Robert Jackson, Catherine van Wilgenburg, Amanda Dodd and everyone from the Friends of Iramoo. 

Find out more www.friendsofiramoograsslands.wordpress.com 

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