A cemetery sounds like an unlikely place for an intricate tale of survival, but Strathalbyn Cemetery is the location for a bizarre and wonderful relationship between some special local species.
The Angas River Catchment Group, long term volunteers at the Cemetery Reserve (part of the Forrest Road Reserve that includes Cemetery, Archery and Scout land) have always known the vegetation behind the Cemetery was special but have only recently learned about a unique and complex relationship between the plants and animals that live within it.
Sherie Bain, Project Officer with the Angas River Catchment Group explained that the marvellous tale revolves around the Common Sourbush.
“The Common Sourbush is only found in a few places on the Fleurieu Peninsula. Even though it is called ‘Common’, it is actually really rare” said Sherie, “it is also a great example of how plants and animals rely on each other in the natural environment”.
The Common Sourbush is an erect, straggly, semi-parasitic shrub. It provides food for Brushtail and Ringtail Possums as well as the Small Bronze Azure Butterfly.
Possums eat the berries of the Common Sourbush and the seeds pass through the digestive system and are excreted. This assists the seeds to germinate and grow.
The Small Bronze Azure Butterflies lay their eggs at the base of the Common Sourbush. The Sourbush provides food for the butterflies’ larvae (soft leaves and bark). Now it’s time for the ants to get involved.
Sugar Ants look after the butterfly larvae by sheltering the larvae in their nest during the day and leading them out to the Sourbush at night when there are fewer predators around. In return, the larvae secrete a sugary substance for the ants to eat.
To celebrate this unique relationship, Natural Resources, SA Murray Darling Basin provided Angas River Catchment Group with funding to design and install signage in the reserve for visitors to read. The two signs are installed at the rear of the Cemetery along the walking track. The Catchment Group encourages people to visit, enjoy and learn about the local plants.
Sherie added “It is a beautiful part of Strathalbyn, home to Peppermint Box (Eucalyptus odorata) Grassy Woodland which is listed as endangered and has a diverse range of local native species.”
The Angas River Catchment Group has recently received additional funding support from Alexandrina Council to help care for the site.
If you would like to be involved in the Angas River Catchment Group to help manage this reserve and others around Strathalbyn please contact Sherie on 8536 5621.