Monday, November 19, 2007

Bark Falling

The bark is falling in sheathes from the eucalypt trunks releasing a fresh new covering. Like the snake sheds its skin, so too the gum trees lose their bark, sloughing it off in the renewal that is spring. With the coming of new rain over the past few days, there's not only the sight of new skin emerging from the old bark, there's also massive new growth spurting forth in all directions. But along with the beauty of the native vegetation comes the plethora of unwanteds, myriad noxious weeds thickening in the undergrowth.

At the 25th birthday celebrations of Greening Australia last weekend there was a great display of these noxious plant varieties and even a 2008 Calender of Weeds. Most of the weeds on display also thrive along the river bank. Weed seeds can be spread by birds, wind and water and the moving tidal river can be a carrier for these destructive invaders. The spread of such huge numbers of weeds seems insurmountable for the small group of Bushcare volunteers to deal with.

But there was a wonderful sign of hope at the Greening Australia (GA) event. All through GA's grounds there were signs of change and dedication from the committed band of volunteer weed eradicators to the art and craft workshop run by the inspirational basketmaker Kris Martin from Weaving Wizardry who crafts huge basketry sculptures out of one of the most prolific and dangerous plants - Cat's Claw.

There is an endless supply of this noxious weed infiltrating Australia's eastcoast bushland. Kris collects mountains of this climbing yellow flowering weed in an attempt to stop its destructive movement through local forests where the weight of the fast climbing vine can crush and strangle whole swathes of standing trees. When large tree colonies are destroyed, more light enters the forestscape and this allows even more noxious weeds to take hold.

Weeds are considered plants out of place. The weaving wizard Kris Martin gives them central place in his artwork and at the same time raises awareness about the damage noxious weeds can cause. What I love about his work is not only its imaginative use of these nasty weeds but also it's the wonderful forms he constructs. As well as shopping baskets and woven bowls and plates, Kris Martin also weaves gigantic tube-nosed bats to bring attention to the plight of these vulnerable small creatures. It's a lovely process of transformation and renewal.