Plants of the Greater Brixton Street Wetlands

Main Club, 7 October 2022

Our speaker was scientist and educator Bronwen Keighery. As lead botanist for the EPA for 15 years, Bronwen helped to develop native vegetation as a critical factor in environmental assessment. She and her husband Greg were founding members of the Perth branch of the Wildflower Society, and together they received Australia Day honours this year for service to environmental conservation.

Bronwen spoke to us about a success story in the field of conservation in Perth, in which she played a significant part – the establishment of the Greater Brixton St Wetlands in Kenwick. It is a series of adjoining reserves, including the Alison Baird Reserve, named after an ecologist at UWA. It is also known as the Yule Brook Regional Park.

The reserve is located on the very flat, waterlogged Pinjarra Plain at the base of the Darling Range. Its flora is extraordinarily diverse because it covers different soil types such as the Bassendean Sands, the Muchea Limestone, ironstone and cracking clays. It includes Banksia woodlands, claypans and vernal pools. Perched wetlands dry out in summer, so some plants are aestivating. It includes many plant communities that are rare or endangered. It supports mammals such as the Quenda, as well as aquatic fauna, waterbirds and Carnaby’s Cockatoo.

The fight for this reserve began in 1988 when an “infill” housing estate was proposed near the train station. The Friends of the Brixton St Wetlands was formed with the aim of having the area conserved. The Friends group was led and is still led by Regina Drummond, wife of a descendant of early WA botanist James Drummond. By 1991, the floristics of the area had been determined. And in 1992, the EPA rejected the development proposal.

In 1994, Bronwen was the chief botanist in an EPA project to develop a new conservation plan for Perth – the Perth Bush Plan, with the idea of listing certain areas as Threatened Ecological Communities, which in 2000 became the Bush Forever plan. The plan aimed at preserving a representative 10% of each vegetation complex on the metropolitan part of the Swan Coastal Plain in a network of reserves. The Greater Brixton St Wetlands was included as a Bush Forever site in 2000 and is the most floristically diverse of these sites.

Bronwen told us about many interesting plants, such as a Calytrix endemic to the reserve, the pondweed Aponogeton with floating fruit like that of Posidonia, a new species of grass named after herself (Austrostipa bronwenae), various geophytes that can survive fire using their underground bulb or corm, and an abundance of Stylidium species.

Mike Gregson

Botanist Hans Lambers has edited an excellent book on the Brixton St Wetlands. Members price with discount code, $75