Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Australia: A Patch of Wandoo

The morning of September 17, 2013, found our little group heading east again from Jurien Bay for another day of immersion in the Western Australian spring flora.  Once again (for the last time, though, at least for this Western Australian trip) it will take several posts to share it all.

On the first week of our circuit through southwestern Australia, when Eileen and I traveled on our own south and west from Perth, we had several times found ourselves in a type of open eucalyptus woodland dominated by Wandoo (Eucalyptus wandoo).  Our first stop for the day found us back in it again, this time in the pleasant little Coomallo Creek Rest Area (just south of the junction of Jurien Road and the Brand Highway, in case you are looking for it).

A boardwalk led into the stand of Wandoo bordering the creek itself.

This warning sign helpfully advises you of what, I suppose, is one of the occupational hazards of visiting an area with plenty of wildflowers.

Eucalyptus sp
I believe that this is a sprig of Wandoo; in any case, it demonstrates that eucalypt woodland turns out a lot of fruit that we find inedible, but that cockatoos devour with gusto. 

Galah (Eolophus roseicapilla)
Galah (Eolophus roseicapilla)
Galah (Eolophus roseicapilla)
To prove my point, the place was full of Galahs (Eolophus roseicapilla).

Australian Ringneck (Barnardius zonarius)
Australian Ringneck (Barnardius zonarius)
Australian Ringnecks (Barnardius zonarius) were here too, though they are hardly dependent on eucalypts for food (they eat a wide range of fruits and seeds, as do the Galahs).  What they and the Galahs both need, though, are large trees with nesting hollows, something very hard to come by in the heathlands but readily available among the Wandoos.

Witches' Butter (Tremalla mesenterica)
The woodands were also a good place to find fungi, something we had seen little of on our flower-watching quests.  This one may be Witches' Butter (Tremalla mesenterica), a jellylike fungus found almost worldwide, or something similar. 

This one is a more typical mushroom; perhaps an Amanita of some kind?

And this is the remains of an earthstar (Family Geastraceae), its spores already dispersed and its soft central spore sac disintegrated.

The Wandoo woodland grows in a narrow band, following the banks of Coomallo Creek.  Beyond it lies more Kwongan heathland, and more flowers, things far more interesting to my companions than a bunch of Galahs.

Admittedly the flower-laden pink bushes were hard to ignore; this is one of Myrtaceae, perhaps Large-flowered Baeckea (Baeckea grandiflora) but I cannot be sure.
Melaleuca concreta
Melaleuca concreta
 Also in the myrtle family were the delicate white stamens of a Melaleuca, presumably M. concreta.

Honey Bush (Hakea lissocarpha)
Honey Bush (Hakea lissocarpha)
As usual in the heathlands, myrtles largely shared the shrub layer with proteas (Proteaceae).  This one is Honey Bush (Hakea lissocarpha): attractive, aromatic, and very prickly.

Conostylis sp
At ground level we found the usual coneflowers (Conostylis sp)....

Cowslip Orchid (Caladenia flava)
...the by now familiar Cowslip Orchid (Caladenia flava)...

Purple Tassels (Sowerbaea laxiflora)
Purple Tassels (Sowerbaea laxiflora)
...and the drooping little flowers of Purple Tassels (Sowerbaea laxiflora), all plants we had seen many times before, but still worth a look and a photograph (who knows if we will pass this way again?).

 Blowfly Grass (Briza maxima)
I close with a weed: Blowfly Grass (Briza maxima) is a native of North Africa, widely introduced into other parts of the world.  It is, however, one of the few grasses that even I can identify, and (to me at least) that counts for something.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Australia: Paterson’s Curse

Near the end of my last post, I used a photo of an exotic weed to make a point (albeit a minor one) about plant life at the edge the Western Australian desert. This entry, about what we saw on our drive back to the coast on the afternoon of September 13, 2013, is itself named after a weed.  We have a very similar European invader back home in Canada, where we call it by the unlovely name of Viper's Bugloss (Echium vulgare), but it's cousin's name in Australia is far more evocative: Paterson's Curse (Echium plantagineum).

By now, we had left the edge of the desert behind us and were driving back through, mostly, agricultural land, with wildflowers confined pretty much to the road edge.

Paterson's Curse (Echium plantagineum)
Paterson's Curse (Echium plantagineum)
Paterson's Curse is bound by no such restrictions. Of course it does grow among the wildflowers and tussock grasses along the roadsides, where I could get a close-up of its individual flowers. It is a member, by the way, of the borage family (Boraginaceae), and gets is Aussie  name, supposedly, from a certain Paterson (either male or female, depending on which account you read) who brought the plant out from England in the 1880s (where it is also a weed; it hails from the Mediterranean) to beautify his (or her) garden, only to see it take over the surrounding countryside like kudzu on steroids.

Paterson's Curse (Echium plantagineum)
Paterson's Curse (Echium plantagineum)Paterson's Curse (Echium plantagineum)
Today, it grows in great abundance in farmers' fields, much to the annoyance (I suspect) of the farmers. It is, to some degree, toxic to livestock, and has was been responsible for a number of deaths of both horses and cattle.

Hibbertia sp
 Even in this heavily farmed area, we found a variety of native wildflowers sharing the road verges. This is one of the native 'buttercups' (Hibbertia sp.).

Catkin Grevillea (Grevillea synapheae)
The west is rich in grevilleas, handsome and highly variable members of the protea family (Proteaceae) popular with both gardeners and nectar-feeding birds.  This one, Catkin Grevillea (Grevillea synapheae), gets its scientific name because its flattened, leaflike branches recall a related genus, Synaphea (scroll down to see one).

Large-flowreed Baeckea (Baeckea grandiflora)
The flowers framing the grevillea in the previous photo are, I believe, Large-flowered Baeckea (Baeckea grandiflora), a member of the myrtle family (Myrtaceae).

Pink Pokers (Grevillea petrophiloides)
Pink Pokers (Grevillea petrophiloides)
Here's another of the grevilleas, and this one really is spectacular: Pink Pokers (Grevillea petrophiloides), one of the prettiest members of its genus.

Grevillea teretifolia
Here is yet another: Round-leaf Grevillea (Grevillea teretifolia).

Wiry Honey-Myrtle (Melaleuca filifolia)
I believe I have correctly identified this, though the range of Wiry Honey-Myrtle (Melaleuca filifolia) is somewhat to the north.  The bright purple flowers and long, wiry leaves seem to be a match.  Mind you, there are lots of Melaleuca species out there.

Orange Immortelle (Waitzia acuminata)
Orange Immortelle (Waitzia acuminata)
Orange Immortelles (Waitzia acuminata), which we had seen earlier only as highly attractive buds, we're now beginning to open.

Keraudrenia cf hermanniifolia
Keraudrenia cf hermanniifolia
I have this one down as Keraudrenia hermanniifolia. It cetrainly seems tobe a member of the genus Keraudrenia, a member of the mallow family (Malvaceae), but I am less certain about the species.

Common Cotula (Cotula australis)
Common Cotula (Cotula australis) is one of a number of species in the composite or daisy family (Asteraceae) that are, as botanists put it, disciform - meaning that they lack ray florets (the things that look like petals on a daisy).  There are other disciform composites in Australia, so I may have this one wrong.  Are any Australian botanists reading this?

Lomandra sp
Not every native plant along the roadside bears eye-catching flowers. This is a species of Lomandra, an Australian genus in the Asparagaceae.  Gardeners plant them for their foliage, but their flowers are unspectacular.

Anarthriaceae sp
Similarly unspectacular are the flowers of the peculiarly Western Australian plant family Anarthriaceae, relatives of sedges and rushes.

Sandplain lupin (Lupinus cosentinii)
Paterson's Curse, of course, was not the only foreign weed in this largely man-made, agricultural landscape.  Sandplain lupin (Lupinus cosentinii), though sometimes referred to as the Western Australian Blue Lupin, is actually native to the western Mediterranean.  In Western Australia it is an invasive pest that can disrupt native ecosystems.

The town of Three Springs, 313 km north of Perth, prides itself, according to its official website, on its "abundance of gorgeous wildflowers in season, close proximity to the beautiful central coastline, and its idyllic bush setting."  As its welcoming sign indicates, it is a good place to find everlastings, flowers that were pretty much holy grails for our companions.  A stop was, therefore, de rigeur.

Splendid Everlasting (Rhodanthe chlorocephala)
Splendid Everlasting (Rhodanthe chlorocephala)
Splendid Everlasting (Rhodanthe chlorocephala)
The Splendid Everlasting (Rhodanthe chlorocephala) is certainly extremely pretty.  Whether these were growing here naturally, or had been sown to beautify the town, I cannot say (nor, as Three Springs is in the heart of their natural range, does it particularly matter).

As we drove coastward, heading back to our base in Jurien Bay, we re-entered the coastal heathland, or Kwongan, and were surrounded once again by its typical flowers.

Yellow Plumes (Synaphea gracillima) and Conostylis sp
The dry soil along the roadside was dotted with flowers - here, the lacy stems of Yellow Plumes (Synaphea gracillima) grow beside a shorter, more compact clump of Conostylis.
Blue Leschenaultia (Leschenaultia biloba)
Blue Leschenaultia (Leschenaultia biloba)
Blue Leschenaultia (Leschenaultia biloba)
 Here, too, we found the electric-blue flowers of Blue Leschenaultia (Leschenaultia biloba), a flower Eileen and I had seen more frequently farther south, during our first week in Western Australia.

Velvet Fanflower (Scaevola phlebopetala)
Velvet Fanflower (Scaevola phlebopetala)  is a coastal heathland specialty endemic to the southern Indian Ocean coast.  It is a member of the Goodeniaceae, and therefore is a cousin of the Leschenaultias.

Golden Long-Heads (Podotheca gnaphalioides)
Golden Long-Heads (Podotheca gnaphalioides) may not look it, but it is another composite, with the individual florets separate rather than massed together to give the impression of a single flower (the botanical term for something like a daisy "flower" is pseudanthium, meaning "false flower" in Greek).

Burchardia sp
Another by-now-familar flower: one of the milkmaids (Burchardia sp).

Also familiar were the yellow-flowers of a  Goodenia, though again I do not know which species this is.

Among the more showy flowering plants were some attractive grasses.  I have no idea what this one is either, I'm afraid. 

Feather Speargrass (Austrostipa elegantissima)
Feather Speargrass (Austrostipa elegantissima), one of the more ornamental of the grasses, is a widespread species ranging across much of southern Australia.

Sphaerolobium pulchellum
Sphaerolobium pulchellum is a very local, Near-Threatened member of the pea family, pretty much confined to the area of Kwongan we were travelling through.  I think that is what this is, though IUCN describes it as a small tree.  Well, let's just call it a very small tree.  Florabase calls it a low shrub, and I'll accept that description.  It is at risk from the same things that threaten much of the southwestern endemic flora: conversion to agriculture, grazing and dieback disease.

Banksia (Dryandra) glaucifolia
Banksia glaucifolia, formerly known as Dryandra glauca, is one of the more fearsome-looking of the dryandras, especially after its bright yellow flower heads have begun to fade and droop.  It is another highly local plant, endemic to this part of the Kwongan.

Needle-Leaved Petrophile (Petrophile brevifolia)Needle-Leaved Petrophile (Petrophile brevifolia)
Needle-Leaved Petrophile (Petrophile brevifolia)
Petrophiles, like grevilleas and dryandras, are members of the protea family and like most proteas boast large and impressive heads of flowers.  Needle-leaved Petrophile (Petrophile brevifolia) is fairly widely spread in the southwest.

Hill River Poison (Gastrolobium polystachyum)
Hill River Poison (Gastrolobium polystachyum)
Horned or Hill River Poison (Gastrolobium polystachyum), another localized species, is one of the Western Australian peas whose tissues are laced with virulent toxins (hence the English name).

Sticky Eremaea (Eremaea beaufortioides)
Sticky Eremaea (Eremaea beaufortioides)
Sticky Eremaea (Eremaea beaufortioides) is an attractive Kwongan specialty, ranging north to near Geraldton.  It is a popular garden plant in Australia, though its natural range is small.  All of the eremaeas are confined to the southwest, and this one is the best-known.  It is, I think, easy to see why.

I began this post with an account of a weed, so I am ending with photos of what is probably another - though there are native Australian composites that look like this.  It's a sign that even in the richest and most remote of floras, we have managed to sow interlopers - and, as happened with Paterson's Curse, we are more likely than not to regret it.