Woodlands Historic Park

Kangaroos in a patch of Chocolate Lilies on the former Greenvale Sanatorium Land in Woodlands Historic Park

Woodlands Historic Park, north of Melbourne Airport, is an area of 820 ha preserved under the National Parks Act for passive recreation and the conservation of natural and historic values.

Woodlands Historic Park balancing stone
Where is this rock? Take the tour to find out.

The name "Woodlands" is taken from the name of one of the properties acquired to form the park, as described on the history page, but it also describes the original landscape of widely spaced trees.

Attractions for the visitor include a large population of wild Kangaroos, many ancient River Red Gum and Grey Box Trees, prolific bird life, scenic granite outcrops and the view of the city from Gellibrand Hill. For the past 28 years the park has been a major site for conservation of the Endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoot. Historical highlights include Aboriginal scar trees, Victoria's first granite quarry and Woodlands Homestead.

Woodlands Historic Park is managed by Parks Victoria, but there is almost no information about it on their website. They provide a link to Google Maps. Here is an alternative map they created about a decade ago for the information shelter at the Somerton Road picnic ground. The latest management plan for the park dates from 1997 when the area of the park was 116 ha less and the area of the Back Paddock was at least 120 ha more, which is probably why they have removed it from the website.

There are various other maps on this site including this clickable satellite map which is mainly an aid to describing the vegetation and the land use history of the park.

Purpose of this site

The site provides information about the park as it is today, as well as some aspects of its history not covered in Red Gums and Riders. It also covers some areas of land adjoining the park which are associated with the park or have a large impact on it.

The major aim of the site is to describe the biodiversity of the park, how it has declined since European invasion and how it continues to be threatened. A quick search provides this definition of biodiversity on the Australian Museum website: Biodiversity is the variety of all living things; the different plants, animals and micro organisms, the genetic information they contain and the ecosystems they form.

Apart from missing one very important group of organisms (the fungi), this definition only works at the global level. Implicit in any definition of biodiversity, but never stated, is that only species that are indigenous to a particular place contribute to biodiversity. Alien species, ie those deliberately or accidentally introduced by man, occur by definition somewhere else as well, generally in many places (apart from endangered animals in a zoo perhaps). Their loss locally would not affect biodiversity globally. On the other hand many indigenous species are unique, if not to the park then to similar habitat in south-eastern Australia, for example. Furthermore, the alien species usually have a detrimental affect on local species - for example, cats killing wildlife or a weed competing with indigenous plants for sunlight, nutrients and moisture.

A Flame Robin at Woodlands Historic Park
A Flame Robin at Woodlands Historic Park (Andrew Allen)

There are as far as we know no species in Woodlands Historic Park which do not occur elsewhere as well. Does this mean that the biodiversity of Woodlands Historic Park does not matter? No, because biodiversity is defined as including the genetic variation within species, and individuals in the park might have genetic differences from those of the same species elsewhere. Also, for some threatened species such as the Flame Robin the park might be a big enough area to contribute meaningfully to their conservation.

Our level of ambition in "describing the biodiversity of the park and its environs and how it has deteriorated" is necessarily low. We know nothing about micro-organisms in the park, and very little about the fungi and all but the largest animals (vertebrates). The same thing is generally true for Australia as a whole, since there are museums full of fungus and insect specimens belonging to unknown species. This site presents more or less complete species lists for plants, birds and other vertebrate animals of the park, a very incomplete list for fungi, and a photographic catalogue of some of the insects. (Most pages on this site use only the common names of species, but the species lists have the scientific name as well. Higher classifications where not in the tables can be found on the Species Classification Page, which acts as an index into the species lists).

We also know nothing about the genetics of any species in the park, except that if there are very few individuals then the genetic variation will be low. For the more easily recognisable plants it is possible to observe if this is the case. For birds it is not relevant since they can easily travel. We don't know if any other vertebrate animals in the park are rare. For fungi and invertebrates we are only likely to have seen the commonest species.

The other fact relevant to genetic variation is that if a species has been lost from the park, reintroducing it to the park does not restore the lost biodiversity, although it may improve the chances of survival of other species if it supplies food or habitat or alters the environment in their favour.

About the site

This site is independent: neither Parks Victoria nor any other organisation has any control over it, although everyone is encouraged to make comments and suggestions via the Contact link at the bottom of each page. The site is truly non-profit: nobody gets paid for working on it. So far we have not had to pay for hosting, and have even been too stingy to pay for a domain name. Any advertising is provided as a community service.

All text and photographs on the site are copyright by the respective authors/photographers.