Thursday, 26 May 2016

Suburb Guide: Underwood

The pastel love flower is a charming, shade-loving native plant.

The stretch of highway on the way to the Gold Coast running between Mount Gravatt and Yatala has always been a bit of a vague blur to me at the best of times, and a peak hour nuisance at worst. An endless strip of superstores, car dealerships and fast food outlets, I tend to hurry on through as quickly as the traffic will allow, chasing greener horizons further south. It turns out that the view from the M1 doesn’t really do this area justice though, as I found out recently while exploring the Logan suburb of Underwood. 

Featured areas: (1) Suburban Underwood,
(2) Concourse Park, (3) Brookvale Park,
and (4) Jacaranda Ridge. Image courtesy
of Google Maps
Named after a European settler who lived in the area during the late 19th century, Underwood as it stands today is home to many businesses, particularly around the large ‘Marketplace’ development in the centre of the suburb, where a regional mail sorting centre is also located. Away from the main roads, the land is mainly used for residential purposes, with large and modern homes packed closely together, each on small blocks of land.

What Underwood residents lack in garden size, they make up for in community green space, however. Interwoven through much of the suburb are bushland corridors and parkland, each offering a variety of facilities such as walking paths, barbecues, outdoor exercise equipment, picnic tables and more. Despite being bordered on all sides by busy roads, including one of the busiest in South-east Queensland, native flora and fauna manages to persist in the suburb, thanks to these green areas.

The scrub cherry is a native rainforest lillypilly that has been cultivated into a popular ornamental tree.

1. Suburban Underwood

Logan City Council is admirably vigorous
in its dog-leashing signage, with
multiple notices lining the pathways in
areas like Concourse Park. Combined with
a dedicated bushcare group at Brookvale
Park, and reasonably well-linked habitat
corridors, Underwood has made a
respectable effort in ensuring the survival
of its feathered, furred and scaled residents.  
If you’re knowledgeable with your trees, one thing you might quickly notice in Underwood is that the street plantings are almost all Australian natives. Throughout the suburb, mature specimens of tuckeroo (Cupaniopsis anacardioides) and golden penda (Xanthostemon chrysanthus) shade the footpaths, providing food and shelter for animals including the black-faced cuckoo-shrike (Coracina novaehollandiae) and inland golden orb-weaver (Nephila edulis). Along Perrin Drive, an impressive scrub cherry (Syzygium australe) grows behind Bunnings, something I will remember should I ever fancy trying one of its edible fruits! Apart from the main roads, most streets in the area have an abundance of roundabouts and chicanes that make conditions safer not just for children and pedestrians, but also for wildlife like ducks, wallabies and reptiles.

Waterbirds can be easily viewed from the pond edge at Concourse Park.

White-eyed duck.
2. Concourse Park
Running south-west to north-east between Centenial Street and Botanical Drive, Concourse Park centres on a narrow stony stream draining out from a small ornamental pond. Vegetated with native water snowflakes (Nymphoides indica), the pond itself is home to a variety of waterbirds, including white-eyed ducks (Aythya australis), little pied cormorants (Microcarbo melanoleucos) and Australasian grebes (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae). The rocky edges of the waterbody offer perfect sunbathing spots for eastern water dragons (Intellagama lesueurii), a species which does quite well in even the most built-up of suburbs. 

Rainbow lorikeet, feeding from a paperbark blossom.
Most of the ground surface in Concourse Park is overlaid with lawn, but groves of mature broad-leaved paperbarks (Melaleuca quinquenervia) provide good wildlife habitat. When covered in masses of their white ‘bottlebrush’ flowers, these trees attract large flocks of rainbow lorikeets (Trichoglossus moluccana) in the day, and flying-foxes (Pteropus species) at night. Other native park trees include bumpy ash (Flindersia schottiana) and blue quandong (Elaeocarpus grandis).

The forest floor of Brookvale Park is covered by native grasses, ferns and groundcovers.

3. Brookvale Park
Best accessed from Brookvale Drive or Samba Place, Brookvale Park protects the highest quality wildlife habitat in Underwood. Amazingly, the thick creekside vegetation is home to swamp wallabies (Wallabia bicolor) that are managing to eke out a living just a stone’s throw away from some very busy roads. Part of their survival success is due to their wary, fleet-footed nature; expect to see nothing more than a low, black shape bounding into the scrub, as well as their trackways and droppings.

Yellow paper wasp (Ropalidia romandi) nests are very
large and usually secured to the upper branches of a eucalypt.
Lovers of all things botanical will enjoy this location, as it preserves some wonderful trees and plants, including some very old swamp box (Lophostemon suaveolens) specimens. One of my favourite native plants—the pastel love flower (Pseuderanthemum variabile)—grows among the leaf litter on the forest floor, its gorgeous little blossoms never failing to brighten up my day.

Earlier this year, I carried out a spider survey in the bushland on this site, and became acquainted with interesting species like the elegant lynx spider (Oxyopes elegans), Bleeker’s jumping spider (Euryattus bleekeri) and the leaf-curling spider (Phonognatha graeffi). For those less willing to make eight-legged friends, other interesting insects in the vegetation include stem grasshoppers (Adreppus species) and garden mantids (Orthodera ministralis).

The Crescent runs along the top of Jacaranda Ridge, with houses on one side and bushland on the other.

4. Jacaranda Ridge
Considered once-upon-a-time to be a
rare visitor in these parts, black kite
(Milvus migrans) sightings have been
on the rise in South-east Queensland
since 2012, especially in Logan. Hot-
spots include the Berrinba and
Eagleby Wetlands, but their distinctive
fork-tailed silhouettes can be seen in
the skies above Underwood from time
to time as well.
The community living atop this small rise have commendably chosen to forego an eye-pleasing coastal view in exchange for retaining a patch of ridgetop bushland. Nestled among spotted (Corymbia citriodora) and forest red gums (Eucalyptus tereticornis) is a small picnic shelter, where a short, downhill concrete track also begins. The close proximity to nearby gardens means that the area suffers from a slight weed problem, with small-leaved privet (Ligustrum sinense) and exotic passionflower (Passiflora species) vines creeping slowly into the bushland. The area is still nevertheless utilised by a variety of birds, with welcome swallows (Hirundo neoxena), rainbow bee-eaters (Merops ornatus) and brown goshawks (Accipiter fasciatus) exploiting the updrafts above.

Leaf-curling spiders have found a unique way to hide from hungry birds.


6 comments:

  1. I am glad you discovered these suburbs as they have a wealth of plants and critters. Love the Rainbow Loriket and that is a super shot of the Leaf Spider

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    1. Thanks Margaret, I had to get the flash just right to even show the spider at all! Glad you liked the way it turned out :)

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  2. Replies
    1. Isn't it! I saw my first ever specimen a few years ago, growing in a tiny patch of bush in Tarragindi, and have loved it ever since.

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