Photography and insights from Big Scub Landcare member Stephanie and Leo Lymburner.

In 1968 Di Mercer acquired a piece of ‘rubbish land’ on the Far North Coast of New South Wales, a block deemed ‘useless’  by its dairy farming owner due to its steep, rocky slopes. Di, who had been a keen conservationist for some years, decided she would like to rehabilitate it to the original vegetation type of the area – subtropical rainforest of the Big Scrub.

One of the vines she planted was (she mistakenly thought) the host plant of the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly (Aristolochia elegans). Whilst it grew well, it was actually an exotic vine, poisonous to the caterpillars of the butterfly.

In 1994 Di’s daughter Stephanie and her late husband Julian took over the property and began attending the local TAFE to learn about regeneration. Realising Di’s mistake, the couple removed the exotic vine and began to plant the correct vine for this magnificent threatened species.

Several years later, with a healthy Richmond River Birdwing Butterfly Vine (Parastilochia praevenosa) present, Stephanie observed a fat, pale-brown caterpillar chewing on the vine growing just outside the kitchen window!

They were rewarded over the following years by seeing these magnificent butterflies in the garden and observing the caterpillars in the vine near the house.

This year for the first time a caterpillar has transformed into a pupae on the same vine, allowing Stephanie to observe the pupae develop into a butterfly.

The butterfly spreading its wings will be a wonderful tribute to the family’s foresight and commitment to the restoration of lowland subtropical tropical rainforest on the Far North Coast.

Read more about the remarkable story of Crystal Hill and Julian Lymburner.