A few weeks ago I did a series of burns to prepare my block for fire season. I kept these bonfires very small for fear they’d get out of control, even with everything so damp. As a result, I had to struggle to keep my fires going, yet even so I learned some interesting things about what does, and does not, burn in my part of Australia.
As expected, the dry leaves and twiggy branches of gum trees burn very nicely, thank you very much. However I also discovered that even relatively fresh gum leaves will burn. As these leaves contain highly volatile oils, I should not have been surprised by this either.
Still on the subject of leaves and volatile oils, I threw some lemon tree prunings onto the fire and took a big step backwards, expecting the branches to explode into flames. The leaves did burn quite nicely but the branches seemed to burn no better than any other green wood.
Next I tried the dry stalks and flower heads of agapanthus. [Picture courtesy of wiki]
Once these flowerheads and stalks dry off, they burn like paper. The green leaves however took a long time to dry out and eventually burn. For me, the lesson here was that clumps of well maintained agapanthus may help extinguish embers. At a certain temperature, however, anything can and will burn.
While cutting out the dry agapanthus stalks, I also trimmed back some branches of a very hardy, invasive and hard to eradicate shrub whose name I don’t know. I remember finding pictures of it once, as part of a listing of ‘weeds’ in the Warrandyte area.
I took the two pictures below in the hope that someone would recognize it and name it. [Thanks for the camera tip Metan!]
The reason I want to name and shame this plant is that it snap, crackles and pops on the fire… even when it’s fresh and very green. This thing seems to burn even better than gum leaves, and in a bushfire I can imagine it merrily shooting off burning embers in all directions.
I know Nillumbik Shire Council considers it to be a noxious weed because it is not indigenous to the area, but they have done nothing to force residents to eradicate it. Nor have they, themselves, eradicated it from roadsides and other public places. This stuff should be attacked without mercy because it burns so well, not because of any airy, fairy conservationist principles.
Now that I know how dangerous this unnamed plant truly is, I’ll be blitzing it with a vengeance. If you know what it’s called please let me know asap!
The most welcome thing I learned from my burning off was that I can discourage the alpacas from pooping close to the house by :
a) relocating their poop piles and
b) burning off on the spot where the piles used to be. I suspect the smell of the ash and charcoal masks the smells that tell the alpacas ‘Here be the toilet’.
For those who haven’t been following my adventures with alpacas, these big, woolly lawn-mowers like to leave their poop in neat piles. Unfortunately a couple of their preferred toilet spots are rather close to the house. That is a problem because, although the smell isn’t really all that bad, the green volcanos that grow up around them are both unsightly and difficult to mow by hand. Trust me, you do not want to accidentally mow into a pile of wet poop. 😦
I’ve tried sprinkling lemon oil over these unwanted piles but it didn’t work as a deterrent. The burns will work, so long as you repeat the process until the alpacas ‘forget’ and move on to somewhere else. They can be rather stubborn so even this is not a magic bullet.
As always, I would love to see my fellow residents taking a more proactive part in keeping Warrandyte safe[r] from bushfires.