The Koala Tree Nursery Koala

koala in tree nursery

There are only a couple of Koala Tree Nurseries in the world. There are even fewer that have their own resident koala.

Clem is a healthy adult male koala that lives wild on the Koala Clancy Foundation property and neighbouring properties in the Brisbane Ranges, Victoria. He’s been living there since at least 2015. Part of his home range includes a Koala Tree Nursery.

Wild koala looking disgruntled
Koala Clem near the nursery. He looks unimpressed. Trees not growing fast enough for his taste buds.

The Koala Clancy Foundation Koala Tree Nursery was built in 2020 to grow +/-7000 koala trees for planting out on the Western Plains. The indigenous plant nursery is tended by volunteers and staff: seeds are sown in December & January, transplanting occurs in March & April, and from June to August the trees are taken from there out to the planting sites. Additional trees, ordered from larger native nurseries, are housed safely in the nursery until planting day.

Volunteers at Koala tree seed sowing event
Voluntheroes filling pots on Seed Sowing Day on 12 December 2021

Overseeing all this is Clem. He is the expert on what makes a good koala tree. Nursery workers often find his own special brand of fertiliser (koala poo) scattered on the pots.

He seems pretty relaxed about our activities, and will usually rest comfortably while we get on with our work. Watch:

Handsome koala Clem

The Koala Tree Nursery is basically a fenced enclosure with rafters over the top. It is open to the sky, and the fence comes up to 1.6m high – high enough to stop the resident Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Swamp Wallabies hopping in for a bite.

Koala in tree outside nursery
Koala Clem in his favourite Manna Gum outside the nursery

One morning I went down to the nursery, to find Clem in the tree just outside the fence. As I watched he stretched across to the rafter, manoeuvred himself onto it, then perched on it, looking around. He seems to view the structure of the nursery as a walkway now, and I frequently find his calling cards (poo) on the ground under the supporting structure.

Working his way onto the rafters
koala in native tree nursery
Awkward! Branches are supposed to be round!

When we built the Koala Tree Nursery we opted for a high hexagonal (chicken wire) mesh fence, rafters to hold up the irrigation system, but no netting or roof on top. We also left three small trees inside the enclosure – they don’t throw too much shade, and we hate to cut down a good tree if we don’t have to. We’re so glad we made these choices. Clem frequently uses one of the trees inside the nursery, and a family of Buff-rumped Thornbills has built a nest in another. Full overhead netting would have prevented Clem from coming in and casting his expert eye over the plants! Also, whenever you fully net a garden it poses a danger to wildlife – some animals will get in and have trouble getting out. It is critical to design an exit for those creatures before it happens. An opening flap at the highest corner of the roof is the best idea for owls and other birds.

We do have some lovely Common Ringtail and Common Brushtail Possums in the area, and they do nibble the baby trees occasionally. So we use a frame and only net the tree boxes when they need it.

Koala Clem has never nibbled the baby trees. He takes his managerial responsibilities seriously.

Another day I was working in the nursery and heard someone walking towards me through the Bush. It was Clem. This time he didn’t bother climbing the tree, he just climbed the treated pine pole straight up to the rafters. Watch:

Our property has been part of Clem’s home range since 2015, but since the koala native tree nursery was built, he seems to be spending more time near it than ever before. Possibly the watering system is making the existing trees more palatable. Maybe its simply that as we spend more time there, we notice him more often.

Koala in funny position
“no, no no! I’ve told you before! That’s not a Euc camaldulensis, its a leucoxylon!”

In 2021 we planted 25,000 trees in the You Yangs region, and 7000 + of them came from our Koala Tree Nursery. The rest came from larger, professional indigenous nurseries: Rowsley Community Plant Nursery, Bili Nursery and Western Plains Flora. The seed for our 7000 koala trees comes from the wonderful people at Seeding Victoria.

koala trees sown December 2021
New trees recently sown in the Koala Tree Nursery – December 2021

In 2022 we are hoping to plant 30,000 koala trees, or more! At the time of writing we have sown 2,500 of them with our local voluntheroes. Our next seed sowing event is running in early January, but it’s already booked out. Later in January we will have a transplanting event to separate the baby trees that have come up two per pot – tickets are still available for this event.

Koala tree seed sowing event
Voluntheroes washing pots, filling pots at Seed Sowing Day

We can’t ever promise that Clem will be present if you visit the Koala Tree Nursery. He visits about once a month, sometimes for two days, but we never know which. He’s a busy fellow. Upper level management is time-consuming.

Note: the Koala Tree Nursery is not commercial, and is not open to the public. However, if we have any trees leftover at the end of the season (September) we usually offer them to local community groups. This year we donated 2000+ koala trees and native shrubs to other conservation groups.

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Where to find a koala tree nursery near you:

To find out what trees to plant for koalas, check these links: Victoria New South Wales Queensland South Australia or find species by your local government area here: Australian Koala Foundation Tree List

VICTORIA:

Rowsley Community Nursery, Rowsley, west of Melbourne: https://www.mln.org.au/rowsley-nursery

Bili Nursery, Port Melbourne: https://westgatebiodiversity.org.au/bili-nursery-andcare/

Western Plains Flora, Wildwood North of Melbourne: http://naturewest.org.au/indignurseries/322-westernplainsflora

NSW:

Friends Of The Koala Nursery, Lismore: https://friendsofthekoala.org/koala-habitat-restoration/

Wariapendi Nursery, Colo Vale, south of Sydney: https://www.wariapendi.com.au/hints-tips/koalas

QUEENSLAND:

Indigiscapes Native Nursery, Redlands south of Brisbane: https://indigiscapes.redland.qld.gov.au/info/5/nursery

Michelle’s Native Plants, Tallabudgera, Gold Coast, https://www.facebook.com/Michelles-Native-Plants-1275066389218960

Mooloolah River Landcare, Sunshine Coast: https://mrl.org.au/native-plant-nursery/

Barunga Landcare, Sunshine Coast: https://barunglandcare.org.au/native-nursery/

SOUTH AUSTRALIA:

State Flora : https://www.stateflora.sa.gov.au/

Coromandel Native Nursery, Coromandel East, south of Adelaide: https://www.natives.net.au/CNNMain.html

Provenance Indigenous Plants, Salisbury Park, north of Adelaide: https://www.provenance.net.au/trees.html

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