Grass Trees


by Julie McNeill

My sister’s eyes bulged and she gasped when she saw the price tag. Somebody had brought in a load of grass trees to the Fernvale Market, “From $40.00! They’d cost a hundred pounds and more back home!”

We agreed it would be the perfect present for my fussy husband, who is an avid native gardener. The stall holders showed certification to sell these living fossils to us and green-eyed, green-thumbed sister bought two.

It is always a marvel to spot the grass trees as we drive around the Shire of Esk. Xanthorrhoea species only grow in Australia and developed early in evolutionary stakes for flowering plants. They are very slow growing, but the mature trees we can thankfully see from our car windows are centuries old, the lifespan being 600 years!

Unfortunately they have been reduced due to careless land clearing and land development so when this is going to happen it is far better to transplant them than to destroy these awesome trees, although it is better to leave in their natural habitat.

Respect for this species is easy when one considers also the valuable use to humans. Without destroying the tree, Aboriginals ate the white, tender sections of leaf bases and roots, and collected the seeds to grind into flour. The resin at the base waterproofed their canoes, fixed their axe heads and spears. They also fermented the nectar to have a celebratory brew!

Early Colonists were also inventive, using the resin for their dwellings on floorboards and walls, stove polish, soaps, perfumes, incense in church and later in the manufacture of early gramophone records!

Check with the seller about where they come from before buying, then transplant into a well-drained site, water deeply once a week until established, maybe add a native plant fertiliser with low phosphorous.

Plant this Australian landscape icon. It is fire tolerant, frost hardy, and drought resistant. The flowering spear attracts honey birds and native bees and butterflies and provides a shelter for lizards. Of course the grass tree is agelessly stylish and a great investment for garden design.


Save our Burrows


If I were a platypus I’d want to hide,
I’d want to feel safe in my burrow
On the banks of Obi Obi Creek.

I’d be wondering why the walls are shaking,
Why there’s vibrations making me anxious
And my eggs all addled and sinking deep in the soil.

I should leave but where would I go –
Into the mouths of cats and dogs
Or squashed on the road like toads and dragons?

The water that runs through the town of Maleny
Keeps me fed and fresh and mates to play with me!
Will I be shifted by conglomerate greed, litres and litres
Of poisonous disinfectants polluting our water system here,
And fumes and plastic bags flying in the air?

The yabbies won’t like it,
Nor will the worms, the fish and the fly catchers, our feathered friends
Will wither and seal all our fates forever.

But there’ll be a concrete Woolies and trolleys making a racket,
Big food transport on daily shifts,
And we’ll be homeless, egg-less, and starving except for
The rats and crows and magpies and other pests.

Where is the Great Spirit of Protection and Reconciliation
To Save our Burrows and waterways for future generations?


By Roy and Julie McNeill – Fernvale, in support of the residents of Maleny who want to keep their town beautiful, and the creek that meanders through the town, a sacred, breeding home for our unique wildlife.

For more information and how to support our neighbours cause, please go to

cat – astrophe

kitty 2013


When our migrating family arrived in Fernvale (1996), there were still drought conditions. Our hectare of land was mainly dust, but over time we built a dam and Roy started planting his rainforest of cabinet timbers. We were optimistic!

Now for the first time the dam is full, yabbies and silver perch add to the fecundity and the birds are increasing in number and variety.  Touch wood the snakes stay out of our way….When the religious come to the gate with divine aspirations, we say we have already achieved Paradise.

The grass is lush and green like an emerald. We go to the Fernvale Markets regularly to buy tubes of Queensland trees, and native plants we didn’t know existed thank to Pete, a former coal-miner now a passionate hobby nursery man.

20171119_155037.jpg20171110_090351.jpgIndigenous flora and fauna are in abundance.

However there is one creature, in fact, there are several who roam up to our ‘greenie’ creation who if they had their way would play and hunt with our colonised native species – the neighbours cats!

Those cute moggies might live a kilometre or two away but when they are hunting they travel far and wide, no matter how well fed they are at home. It is a fact that pet cats are an environmental hazard. Cats kill for fun! They kill millions of birds and 1000’s of native animals annually.

I’m not talking about feral cats as they are in another category, although lack of responsibility for our furry friends is contributing to this nations mass extinction of native wildlife. The cats that have trespassed into our forest give birth to three kittens and as they begin to source the bounteous lizards and birds around our place they go off further afield. They don’t need water as they get sufficient moisture from their prey so can survive well in all conditions.

A female cat produces two litters per year averaging 4 kittens. In her life she and her female progeny will produce over 100 cats. Each cat eats 300g of meat each day. A male blue wren weighs 8.9g. A male brown antechinus is 35g so a feral cat surviving on blue wrens and brown antechinus would need to kill approximately seven a day.


SOMERSET SHIRE has cat traps available at Lowood Library for a refundable deposit of $44.00. The animal officer can pick up your trapped feral and keep it long enough for an owner to find it. It costs $75.00 to get your cat back, or they will go to kitty heaven.

Whilst we must eradicate feral cats, we must be responsible to control and confine our domestic pets. If you want to be ‘true blue’ yea ha and love of this nation, there’s a way to prevent extinction of our amazing Australian threatened species: Not to put the cat out – but keep the cat in!

(c)copyrightJ.P.McNeill 2004

updated January 10 2018.