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Living With Fire

Fire is required to restore balance to plants, animals and habitats. Although fire belongs in the bush, when it gets too close to people, we act. 

In the summer of 2019/2020, bushfires made a big impact on people’s lives all around Australia. The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah was threatened when bushfire activity significantly impacted the area. With assistance from Sydney Water, the NSW RFS, as well as staff and volunteers from the Garden, much of the ‘Living Collection’ was saved. The horticulturists and scientists worked together to rejuvenate burnt areas, and monitor and study the recovery of the unique Blue Mountains ecosystem. In the Gardening Australia segment below, ‘After the Fire’ you will see Costa and Dr Brett Summerell, Director of Research & Chief Botanist at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney discuss the regeneration process. 

Activities - Living With Fire

1. Ask some inquiry questions

  • Plants can bounce back after fire. Which plants did Dr Brett Summerell name in the video that you recognise? e.g. Bracken, Tree fern.  
  • If a fire is particularly intense, no ground plants will be left at all, as if a vacuum cleaner has been along the forest floor and sucked everything up. Go outside and name the plants you see on the ground near you. Be sure to take a close look – there may be more than grass! 
  • Where the forest floor is completely burnt, the seeds of native plants (which were in the top layer of soil) are destroyed. When this happens, weeds can be the first plants to come back. Why is this a bad thing? 

2. Make a table

After fire, diversity of surviving plants is a good thing. Re-watch the video above and complete a table using the one below as a guide. First make a list of the plants mentioned by Dr Brett Summerell, and then what each one will do during and after fire. Find more information on the Land for Wildlife website and by using the iNaturalist app.  

Table example:

Plant 

During the fire 

After the fire  

Eucalyptus trees 

The thick bark will protect the trunk during the fire  

The leaves will sprout again. 

Cycads 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Banksias and Fire

Use the following flash cards to study the details of how Banksia trees cope during fires. When you have finished, test yourself using the practice button.