The properties that God’s Way Ltd purchased have been overgrazed and cropped for many years and need to be regenerated and repaired so that they can return, as close as possible, to the pristine natural environments they once were. This means to return the land to how it was before mankind began grazing, cropping, forestry and removing other native vegetation. In order to do this God’s Way Ltd will use various methods to foster the new and re-growth of native trees, shrubs, vines and grasses.
The best way of finding out the vegetation needed to restore the properties was to gather as much information as possible about Australian flora and order this logically into a database.
Jesus (AJ Miller) immediately saw that the best way to achieve this would be to create a comprehensive database of native grasses, shrubs, vines, trees and other vegetation, which listed the various properties, functions and features of each plant. This includes details such as whether or not a plant is flowering, perennial or annual, if it is nitrogen fixing in the soil, the types of environments it prefers etc. The properties of each plant can then be examined and chosen according to how they suit the aims of projects upon each property. Many current projects in the Environmental Branch will need seeds with specific purposes and functions. This includes things like frost resistance, flowers that attract insects and plants that need a damp or wet soil.
This seed catalogue is currently being created in a large spreadsheet and will form the basis of an ongoing and expanding database used by God’s Way Ltd and eventually shared with the public. Jesus was instrumental in specifying the type of information that was to be gathered and suggested the best format for storing the data in the short and longer term so that it can be easily be searched and utilized for years to come.
The Benefits of a Seed Database
This catalogue of information will be able to be used by God’s Way Ltd properties now and in the future. God’s Way company directors are using the information to guide seed purchasing for various projects of the Eco System Recovery Programme, ensuring that a wide variety of native seeds are reintroduced into the natural system. The plan is also to share this information in database form so that it may also be of use to the general public who wish to plant Australian natives on their property.
Those living in other countries and God’s Way Ltd Centres that are established overseas in future will be able to use the same catalogue structure, but populate this with information about species native to their particular area or countries.
There are many nurseries in Australia selling plants directly or online but not much information about the properties of each plant. Volunteers have researched and gathered the information in the God’s Way Ltd catalogue from a large array of different websites and books. It would be a great advantage to others if we share this store of information on the internet when it is completed.
How the Database was Created
Using seeds already purchased for environmental projects, God’s Way volunteers, led by director Catherine Spence and member Kate Eckersall, began to create a Microsoft Excel database that collated data about the various growing conditions the plant prefers as well as other information such as: family and common name, annual or perennial, type (tree, shrub, vine or grass), fruiting time and description of flowering, propagation (by insects, birds etc), edible plants, deciduous, whether frost and drought tolerant, germination, height and width of each plant. There was also a space for noting special features such as if the plant may be good for erosion control. Where the information was sourced from has been recorded. A list of the quantity of seed that God’s Way Ltd currently stock of each plant variety is also recorded in the spreadsheet.
Refining the Catalogue
After all the information was accumulated, some changes were made to the structure of the catalogue to make it easier to search for information. More columns were added to the catalogue because we may wish to extract a list of drought tolerant plants, or view the acacias (wattles) that grow over 10 meters tall etc. Mary specified the extra columns and Kate added them to the spreadsheet.
Kate and Catherine then began inserting the information into the new structure, and added some further details that were required. Kate set up two computers and screens to be used simultaneously, which made work on the project so much easier. Before Kate came on the scene the team were using Catherine’s small laptop computer. It would have been interesting to have timed how long the project has taken. A lot has been learned by the directors about working with volunteer teams, work flow and clear communication!
A database of over 700 species has now been completed. This valuable information can now be put to use in planning for projects on God’s Way Ltd properties.
However the next steps have already begun. More seed and plant varieties were found on a different supplier’s website and they are now being incorporated into the database.
Kate Eckersall is in charge of the technical side of the database and there has also been a new inclusion to the catalogue: photos of the flowers, seeds and foliage (many of these photos are very difficult to find). There are volunteers that have shown a desire to be included in this project and have begun working on the catalogue.
Catherine’s Reflections Working on the Project
When Jesus asked me if I would like to catalogue the seeds I said “yes great, I will enjoy doing that”. I didn’t realise my lack of knowledge using a computer, especially Microsoft Excel, would effect my enjoyment and how long it would take! However I have enjoyed it.
I have learnt a lot and have enjoyed working with Cecilia Lui, Amaia Ruiz and Kate Eckersall.
In 2018, Amaia and Cecilia were staying at the hostel-type accommodation that is on my property and offered to help me get the project started. Little did they know what they had let themselves in for! Finding and entering data about each seed into the spreadsheet took time and care over a number of work sessions. But they very willing worked with me. Cecilia has even continued after her return to Hong Kong. She began gathering information about the long list of plants we had recorded – she filled information from the bottom of the list up while I plodded on from the top down.
We also enjoyed looking at the flowers, their colour and shape; neither Cecilia or Amaia knew how diverse Australian flowers could be. I showed them the Golden Wattle, the Australian National Flower. They showed me the Spanish and Chinese national flowers. Whenever an Australian State Emblem Flower came up we had to have a look and wondered at times why the flower was chosen.
I would like to thank all who helped with the project including, Jesus, Mary, Cecilia, Amaia, Tristan, Kate, Denise, Suzanne and Alwyn. I have enjoyed working with you and getting to know you more.
Thank all for helping with the project.
Information Sharing Auditor & Editor
Branch Auditor: AJ Miller (Jesus)
Branch Manager: AJ Miller (Jesus)
Programme: Eco System Recovery
Project: Seed Database