Friday, November 4, 2011

Last time we went up to the land (for a gorgeous picnic of local lamb and vegetables, delectably roasted by the roasting queen, Pearl) we were a little concerned by the extreme growth of the floating plant on our dam. It had basically doubled its empire in the space of 2 days, which was a little scary given that we didn't know what it was.

In the back of my mind were several thoughts concerning the identity of the plant, most of which involved fears of noxious plant status and/or toxic algal blooms. I took a little sample home, and got to studying my trusty Robbo, who revealed the plant to be Azolla filliculoides, an apparently cosmopolitan floating fern.

Cool! But is it a pest? Its quick growth on our dam indicated that it could well be, so I consulted the interweb and found an awesome gardening site, extolling the virtues of Azolla spp. as a "super plant". Could it be? A super plant already growing on our land? It fixes nitrogen! It takes up nutrient from the water to actually prevent algal bloom! It provides habitat and food for tons of little water-dwelling creatures! You can use it as a green manure (as people in China have been doing for eons between their rice crops)! It inhibits the capacity for mosquito breeding in your water! And its frenetic growth is seasonal, so it dies back in the cooler months.
Still, it was a U.S. website, so I was still wary of little Azolla's status in the Bega Valley. Enter the friendly weeds lady from council, who I emailed this morning (yes, working at council certainly has its perks in the know-how department). She sent me an awesome fact sheet, confirming all of Azolla's super-plant credentials and confirmed that she's A-OK to grow to her heart's content. Woo hoo!!!
Boy, did my mind start to race, concocting many ideas of what to do with our little water-borne gold mine. The most exciting, in my mind, is to use it in the pond at the end of our phytoremediation wetland, which is going to treat all our kitchen, laundry and bathroom water instead of having to get a stinky (and quite frankly kinda weird) septic system.... Ah but that for another post. For now I'm pretty much just thrilled to bits by the auspicious surprises that life chucks up at ya when you're just sitting around eating yer lamb.

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