Terrific Terricks

Look up, look down, look all around! There is so much to discover in Terrick Terrick National Park. The park’s diversity of habitats provide a home for many threatened plants and animals. It really is a haven for birdwatchers and nature lovers alike.

The park is located 225km north-west of Melbourne, and 4km north of Mitiamo. One special feature of the park is its endangered grasslands habitat. The native grasslands of Terrick Terrick are some of the best in the state, and are even home to elusive and endangered Plains-wanderer. It is one of the few places in northern Victoria where the original landscapes and vegetation of the area are mostly intact.

Fantastic Flora

In spring, the grasslands come alive with wildflowers. Twenty-six rare or threatened plant species call these grasslands home. Out of all the parks in Victoria, the endangered Annual Buttons and Pepper Grass are only found at this site. That’s pretty special! The park is also home to the largest Victorian population of the Fragrant Leek-orchid. Some orchids are known to thrive in grassland habitats, but you might be wondering, what is an orchid?

Photo credit: Reiner Richter, iNaturalist

Orchids belong to a broad group of flowering plants. Victoria has more than 400 species, and many of these grow nowhere else on Earth. Our grassland orchids have a superpower – they spend nearly half the year hiding underground and surviving as a tuber. A tuber is a special type of stem or rhizome that stores extra nutrient supplies. It’s kind of like a big, underground pantry for a plant when they can’t access the sun for food. In late autumn, new orchid stems push their way up from underground. They flower in brilliant displays from late winter through spring and go to seed before the heat of summer hits. They have a good relationship with fungi in the soil, which helps their seeds to grow. Their flowers are often only pollinated by one type of insect, so it’s important that we protect not only their homes but also their pollinators.

Another type of wildflower you can spot dancing in the breeze at Terrick Terrick is Billy Buttons. These tall beauties, also known as Drumsticks, have a long stem ending in a flowering golden globe. While they don’t make a good snack for a human, butterflies and bees LOVE them! Billy Buttons are very hardy, drought tolerant plants. Like orchids, they grow from an underground rhizome and can resprout when conditions are just right.

Amazing Animals

Before it became a national park, much of Terrick Terrick was farming country. Sheep are still allowed to graze in some sections of the park today, which is a huge help for the endangered Plains-wanderer. The Plains-wanderer is a small bird found only in south-east Australia. It is completely unique, with no close relatives. Check out the pins on this little critter!

Photo credit: Julian Robinson, Birdlife

These birds are really fussy about where they live, needing small clumps of native grass to hide in. If the grass is too tall, thick, or wet, they will move somewhere with more bare, dry ground. However, even though they can fly they rarely do so and prefer to move on foot. By allowing sheep to graze in the park, the grass is kept juuust right for the Plains-wanderer – maybe we should rename them Goldilocks!

Terrick Terrick is home to another shy creature who is often mistaken for a ferocious snake. Striped Legless Lizards slither through the grasslands, hiding out in cracks in the soil, under rocks or at the bottom of clumps of grass called tussocks. They are reptiles, which means they use the sun, air and rocks to warm up their bodies.

Unlike snakes, they call out to their friends in the grass using tiny squeaks. To avoid any sneaky predators, they drop their tails and jump (without legs!) into the air. Try that for size – lay on your belly and see if you can launch yourself into the air. It’s pretty hard to get some air without using your legs, isn’t it?  Striped Legless Lizards rely on regular cool fires to remove plant matter and weeds from their habitat. Using small patches of fire is less stressful for the animals because it leaves places for them to hide.

Have a grassland adventure you’d like to share?

If you’re planning on visiting a grassland this spring, we’d love to hear about it. Send your pictures and stories in juniorrangers@parks.vic.gov.au and we might even feature you in the next blog. Happy wildflower hunting and animal watching!