Yarra Bend Park is Boroondara's premier site for nature conservation (Lorimer 2006). Its large area (143 hectares) is managed by Parks Victoria and supports a rich array of vegetation types. It is home to threatened habitats, seventy species of plants considered rare or threatened in Melbourne (and Victoria) including a critically endangered species of eucalypt Eucalyptus studleyensis. In addition to all the native animals that live in and around the river, the woodlands and grasslands on surrounding slopes provide habitat for insects and birds such as honeyeaters and hollow-dependent parrots. Grassy woodlands are an overlooked ecosystem in the state and country and even smaller remnants (such as those in Boroondara) make an important contribution to larger biodiversity goals beyond the City.
Natural Billabongs remain along the Yarra River's floodplains, including Burke Road Billabong and Willsmere Billabong and the more seasonal Chandler Billabong. During drought, water levels contract; during heavy rain, the river spills across its banks and adjacent floodplains to fill the billabongs again. River Red Gums, some centuries old, still occur along the floodplains. These large old indigenous trees are hollow-bearing and provide a whole range of environmental and habitat benefits for other species. Understory species include the delicately perfumed Tree Violet (Melicytus dentatus) and various wattles that provide habitat for small birds such as Thornbills, Scrub Wrens and Superb Fairy-wrens.
The private Kew and Greenacres golf courses along the Yarra River and Freeway Golf Course, a public course managed by City of Boroondara, are all sites of biological significance to Victoria. The golf fairways were constructed on floodplains and are marked by water hazards (wetlands, billabongs) and corridors of eucalypts and understorey shrubs. Wallabies and kangaroos are occasionally seen grazing on the fairways along with seed eating Red-rumped Parrots.
Kew Golf Course is considered the most zoologically significant site in Boroondara because of the rare fauna found in its wetlands (particularly breeding colonies of waterbirds) and is also highly significant for rare plants (Lorimer 2006).
Greenacres Golf Course has 56 large old River Red Gums providing critical habitat for hollow-dependent animals. The course also features a large old Manna Gum (along the 12th Fairway) with a trunk diameter of 1.7 metres, making it one of the largest trees in Boroondara.
Freeway Golf Course has extensive wetlands and billabongs that provide habitat for threatened fauna species including Striped Marsh Frog, Spotted Marsh Frog and Glossy Black Skink.
Gardiners Creek forms a natural fauna corridor along the south-western boundary of Boroondara. The creek begins in Box Hill and is a tributary of the Yarra River. Although highly modified with poor water quality, it still supports a surprising diversity of indigenous flora and fauna. Four native fish use the creek − three of which migrate between the sea and the creek. White-faced Herons, Chestnut Teal and other waterbirds move up and down the corridor. Major revegetation works by Council and the local Friends Group have helped attract other wildlife to the area (see page 13).
A number of other small creeks have been 'barrel drained' for part of their length; however, where they are open, they provide an important wildlife refuge.
Koonung Creek joins the Yarra River at Freeway Golf Course. Where the creek runs underground (Koonung Creek Reserve), the network of open space still serves as an ecological corridor. The constructed wetlands in the reserve are important for herons, cormorants and frogs.
Major improvements to Back Creek have increased the amenity and natural values of this waterway as it feeds to Gardiners Creek. Over 24 bird species have been recorded in the tiny section between Cornell and Riversdale Road by a local amateur ornithologist. Breeding species include Tawny Frogmouths and Eastern Spinebills. Occasional visitors include the Pink Robin and Collard Sparrowhawk.
Linear Corridors and other biologically significant sites
The Outer Circle Linear Corridor and the Alamein Rail Line Corridor retain indigenous vegetation along cuttings and ridges that make a special contribution to linking the City's biodiversity.
The rail reserve from Ashburton to Burwood Station is ecologically significant at a state level. It includes remnants of endangered habitats and has populations of plants species not recorded elsewhere in Boroondara. Wildflowers recorded at the site include: Milkmaids (Burchardia umbellate), native Bluebells (Wahlenbergia multicauslis) and butterfly attracting Rice Flowers (Pimelia humilis). In spring, this small but precious site has one of the best wildflower displays in Boroondara.
Beckett Park, Balwyn is one of most biologically significant sites in Boroondara because of the large number of indigenous plant species present. Whilst it was mown up until 1990, restoration work means the site is now dominated by wattles, grasses and spectacular native wildflowers. Animals sighted here include Echidna, Gang-gang Cockatoo, Southern Boobook Owl and Southern Brown Tree Frog.
Incredibly, the tiny Belmont Park in Canterbury has sixty-seven River Red Gums and more Swamp Gums - all remnants of pre-European flora. A special feature of the site is an abundance of Kneed Wallaby Grass, a vulnerable indigenous grass species.
Stepping stone corridors and surrounding encouragement areas are designed to create links between the Yarra River, creek corridors, linear corridors, existing reserves and other natural areas outside the municipality (such as Wattle Park). For example, Kew High School's River Red Gum woodland and adjacent Stradbroke Park are important stepping stones for wildlife heading to Hays Paddock and the Yarra River. Residents in surrounding areas have taken part in Council's Backyard Biodiversity project which encourages wildlife-friendly home gardening (see page 14 for more details).