On Friday, fifteen Atlassians went out to Long Reef to help with an ongoing bush regeneration project. Our team leaders were Matt and Emma from Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA). We were there under the auspices of the Atlassian Foundation, a company initiative driven by the interest of all Atlassians in improving our society and environment. Each Atlassian can take up to five days “Foundation leave” per year to devote to their pet project. So we went conservation volunteering.

The battle field

Take a look at exactly where we were — point A on this map.

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Drawing the battle lines

At the start of the day, Matt and Emma briefed us on the history of the area. CVA have been working in Long Reef for six years, under consultation with the Warringah Council, the Reefcare volunteer group and Pittwater Council’s Bushcare.

The area is ecologically important because it forms a headland which juts out into the ocean quite a distance and so is exposed to a number of currents and winds. The soil and rock types are different from the surrounding areas too. So there is quite a large variety of plants and animals, both land and marine, including some not found elsewhere on the New South Wales coast.

Thanks to the ongoing bush regeneration activities, a number of important native species have returned to the area over recent years. Green and Golden Bell Frogs have reappeared. Penguins stop by occasionally, and we hope that they may re-establish the colony that once lived here. The number of migratory birds has also increased. Native plants, like Kangaroo Grass, have sprung up again where weeds once smothered native growth.

Major and minor skirmishes

Our task for the day was to remove a number of annual and longer-lasting weeds.

The CVA also hoped that we would have fun, learn something, and know that we had made a contribution to the area.

Spoiler: Mission accomplished!

Atlassians versus Weeds of National Significance

We targeted some major weeds. The battle was fierce, with wins on both sides. Atlassians suffered splinters, thirst, dust, and concerted sticky-seed attacks. But we persevered and won the day.

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Above: Council of war on the evils of the Bitou Bush.

The Bitou Bush is a “Weed of National Significance”, “noxious”, and generally not a Good Thing. If you find it growing in your garden, you are legally obliged to get rid of it. The plant was deliberately introduced into Australia, in an effort to control erosion of the sand dunes. But then it spread. Now threatens the native vegetation up and down the east coast.

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Above: Pat and Gurleen versus the Cestrum.

Cestrum has rather pretty yellow tubular flowers, and a nasty smell when you crush the leaves. The plant has a swollen root base and can re-sprout after chopping. To get rid of it, we learned how to scrape a vertical stripe up each stem, starting near the base and going upwards for about 30 cm. Then we dripped herbicide onto the scrape (the red stuff in the photograph).

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Above: Pat declared himself the “Lantana King” and waged his own private war.

Lantana is another one for the hall of fame: a “Weed of National Significance” which “must be continuously suppressed and destroyed”.

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Above: Bogdan emerges victorious, clutching the vanquished Cobbler’s Pegs. Gurleen uses a mattock against the same terrible foe.

Cobbler’s Pegs have sticky seeds that adhere to everything. Uproot and bag the plant. When you leave the area, try to remove as many of the seeds from your clothing as possible.

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Above: James victorious against the dreaded Asparagus Fern.

Here’s a snippet of conversation overheard during the peak of the battle:
James: Oh my goodness, what’s this?
Sarah: That’s grass.
James: This branch thingy? Crumbs.
(Well, that last word is not actually the one he used, but it will do.)

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Above: Surrounded! Atlassians get to grips with Fleabane.

Fleabane is an annual weed that can smother native vegetation. Strategy: Pull them out and leave them lying on the ground. They will not re-grow. But if there is a seed head, cut off the head and bag it.

Battle stories

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Above: As so often in history, this battle was fought in the most beautiful of locations.

David Y arrived in Australia just last week. He is based in our San Francisco office. Today he heard his first kookaburra! And he suffered some Atlassian-style ribbing:
Matt (CVA) to David Y: Are you here on some sort of exchange?
David Y: Yeah, you could call it that.
Matt: Why have they sent you here?
Bogdan (in his best Polish accent): We teach him English.

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Above: Dave attempted to negotiate a truce with the encroaching hordes.

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Above: We may not look all that warlike, but when the going gets tough, Roy keeps going.

A conversation overheard:
Roy (when he heard we were stopping work): Is there another session?
Emma (CVA): No, we’re wrapping up now.
Roy: Oh no!
Emma: We’re going for a walk, to see the rest of the area.
Bogdan: OK, you go! We carry on here.

The survivors

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Above: The survivors. Fifteen Atlassians plus one CVA team leader. (The other CVA team leader survived too. She took the photograph.)

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Above: OK, so this is a weed. But it was not on our target list for today. And it’s pretty. So it survived too.

Special thanks

Matt and Emma let us know that Reefcare and the Warringah Council greatly appreciate the contribution which volunteers make to bush conservation and regeneration.

Thank you to Emma and Matt and the CVA, for a carefully planned and thoughtfully managed day. We had fun, learned a lot and I certainly feel that we made our mark on that patch of bush. Thank you to the Atlassian Foundation for making it possible.

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