The City of Boroondara's suburbs are highly regarded for their tree-lined streets, heritage homes and established gardens, and extensive parks and reserves. Despite the predominantly urban character of Boroondara, the City still retains significant remnants of the original vegetation, magnificent indigenous trees (some hundreds of years old), and substantial revegetated areas that provide critical habitat for native birds, butterflies, reptiles, frogs and other animals.
Before European settlement, Boroondara's natural landscape was dominated by majestic River Red Gums, Yellow Gums and Manna Gums, extensive floodplains, wetlands and rivers. Wildflower meadows and grasslands carpeted valleys, and woodlands and grasslands dominated rises and escarpments. This landscape supported the needs of the Traditional Owners, the Wurundjeri People. They understood the cycles of the seasons and lived on the abundant natural resources that provided food and fibre. This included fresh fish and eels, wallabies and possums, birds and their eggs and the huge variety of plants yielding berries, tubers and nectar. Today there are only a few scattered trees carrying the scars from bark removed for canoes, shields or containers to remind us of these times.
Early land use and nature conservation1
In 1803 an official survey party crossed Dight's Falls to explore the Studley Park area. Records from this excursion provide the first descriptions of the landscape and its flora. Further surveys occurred in the1830s led by Robert Hoddle, the official government surveyor. He used the Aboriginal name Boroondara – literally, 'a shady place' – for the district. Land was initially cleared by timber cutters as cattle stations, farms and settlements grew around Kew, Camberwell, Hawthorn, Balwyn and Glen Iris. The provision of services (water and gas) and extension of the metropolitan rail network to Hawthorn and then to Camberwell and beyond saw rapid land development and expansion from the 1880s.
The area now known as Yarra Bend Park was gazetted as a parkland reserve in 1877 primarily because of its lack of grazing potential. A private garden established in Balwyn was purchased by the former City of Camberwell in 1920 to become Maranoa Gardens, now a well renowned showcase of diverse Australian native flora. Belmont Park was created when the widow of early settler Robert Reid gifted seven acres of land along Mont Albert Road to Camberwell City Council, for the primary purpose of protecting majestic eucalypts. The City of Camberwell also acquired land along Ashburton Creek, known as the 'Old Gum Tree Forest' to protect native flora. Surprisingly, Boroondara was home to two private native wildlife sanctuaries, both established in Balwyn in the 1930s.
The majority of the remaining natural vegetation in Boroondara occurs on Crown land managed either by Council, Parks Victoria, Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) or VicTrack. The City manages 260 open space reserves parks, gardens, ovals and bushland sites that account for around 10% (598 hectares) of the City's total land area. Approximately 36 hectares of that land is actively managed for biodiversity by Council.
The City has four golf courses nestled along the Yarra River. Their billabongs and natural vegetation provide some of the most valuable wildlife habitat in the city.
Boroondara's biodiversity corridors, biogeographical zones and sites of biologically significance
The Yarra River and Yarra Bend Park are of national biological significance. There are a further 11 sites along the river that are biologically significant for Victoria.
The Yarra River and its remaining billabongs support a rich diversity of fish including the nationally vulnerable Australian Grayling and the nationally endangered Macquarie Perch. Nine native fish species including the Australian Grayling migrate between the Yarra River and the sea as a necessary part of their lifecycle.
Platypus are occasionally sighted in the lower reaches of the river. More common and sometimes mistaken for Platypus is Rakali − a golden bellied native water rat. This small mammal has a long white-tipped tail and looks something like an otter with its webbed feet and waterproof coat.
Tiny microbats use the river corridor by night to catch insects on the wing. They nest during the day in tree hollows. Thousands of Grey-headed Flying Foxes live in trees at Bellbird Picnic Area in Kew. At dusk they noisily leave their camp and use the reflected moonlight to follow the river before setting off across the suburbs in search of fruit and flowers. The Grey-headed Flying Fox is listed nationally as vulnerable to extinction. The Flying Fox is an important seed disperser and pollinator of both native and exotic trees.
The river and its riparian habitat provide nesting sites and food for various ducks and other waterbirds. Azure Kingfishers and Nankeen Night Herons are relatively common along the river and feed on small fish, insects and crustaceans. Small terrestrial birds nest in foliage and locally endangered Spotted Pardalotes nest in riverbank burrows. Several species of raptors have been recorded here too and their ongoing presence suggests a stable abundance of food.
Bluetongue Lizards, Gippsland Water Dragons and various snakes and skinks live amongst the reeds and vegetation along the river and are regularly spotted in gardens close by.
There is an almost unbroken corridor of vegetation extending along the Yarra River from Yarra Bend Park to Freeway Golf Course and beyond. This vegetation includes many rare and endangered plant species and eight of 12 threatened habitat types (Ecological Vegetation Classes (EVCs) found in Boroondara.