Grassland cemeteries are a small one stop shop for the values and issues of grassland management. This week Dowling Forest Cemetery grassland is a mass of white with milkmaids (Burchardia umbellifera) in full flower, intermingled with the yellow bulbine lilies (Bulbine bulbifera) and a sprinkling of hot pink with a common cemetery weed, ixias. It is the first time in all my visits that I have seen the grassland at its spring best. My previous visit was in December to show the Ballarat Australian Plants Society around a drying grassland.
It is interesting but no surprise, to see how much capeweed is present in areas that have undergone some disturbance for the placement of a lawn cemetery and new shelter. Capeweed is blooming all over the country side this year. Over the years funding has allowed weed control to be undertaken in the grassland and the level of exotics has been greatly reduced, but after the rain there are areas where weedy grasses such as squirreltail fescue (Vulpia bromoides), wild oats and shivery grass (Briza minor) are now invading. Keeping the weeds at bay is an ongoing process in most reserves and roadsides.
Cypress trees border the cemetery and while effort has gone into cleaning up underneath the trees, the dead branches have been stacked on the grassland. No doubt this is to make mowing easier and to enable the heaps to be burnt when the grassland is burnt. This seems to be standard practice but the heat generated by the stacks will leave open areas which are eventually invaded by weeds. The grassland takes a long time if ever to recover. If there a fire heap is needed choose one place to sacrifice that is out of the way and already degraded.
This cemetery has a beautiful grassland and I hope visitors in the spring enjoy the beautiful flowers and see that it is possible to have somewhere to bury their loved ones and to protect a grassland for future generations at the same time.