The bulk of the wildflower diversity in Kwongan vegetation is concentrated in relatively few plant families, so we continue to encounter representatives of families we have already seen. Here, for example, is Bristly Cottonheads (Conostylis setigera), another member of the Haemadoraceae, the family I profiled in my last post.
This is one of the plants in the endemic Western Australian family Dasypogonaceae: Drumsticks (Dasypogon bromeliifolius), a plant we first saw on our trip the previous week from Perth to Albany.
We had seen the ivory spikes of Creamy Candles (Stackhousia monogyna) before too, a number of times.
Now, however, we found it with a relative, the yellow-flowered Stackhousia huegelii, near the northern limit of its coastal range.
Granny Bonnets (Isotropis cuneifolia), or whichever pea this is, has flowers that look more handsome from the back than from the front.
Another pea, Scarlet Runner (Kennedia prostrata) scrambles over sandy soils in much of the southwest.
This is either Pink-tipped Pearl Flower (Conostephium minus), a Kwongan specialty, or the more widespread Pearl Flower (C. pendulum). The genus, a member of the heath family (Ericaceae), is endemic to the Australian southwest. There are about a dozen species. Pearl flower anthers are tightly enclosed within a tube formed by the petals, and it appears that their pollen can only be released when the flower is shaken by the vibrating wings of certain bees, including bumblebees. This phenomenon is called buzz pollination; other plants that rely on it include tomatoes, potatoes and blueberries.
I haved identified this plant as Pentaptilon (Pentaptilon careyi), but according to the Florabase range map Lesueur may be a bit too far south for it. It probably belongs to the same family, Goodeniaceae (the flowers certainly resemble those of the widespread native buttercups (Hibbertia)), but I am none too sure that I have this one right.
Purple Tassels (Sowerbaea laxifolia) is common in the southwest, and is, by now, a familiar sight.
Wild Violet (Hybanthus calycinus) may look a bit odd to northern-hemisphere violet fanciers, but the Australian genus Hybanthus is a true violet all the same. At least it is purple; others in the genus are white, yellow or even (recalling a flower I found many years ago in Australia's tropical north) bright orange.
As usual, there are lots of flowers I can't identify. This is one of them.
As I did in my first installment on our drive through Lesueur, I want to end by focusing on a particular plant family. In this case it is a particular favorite of mine, the Proteaceae, a Gondwanaland relic whose members I have seen growing wild in Australia, Africa, New Zealand and Chile. The family takes its name from the wonderful African genus Protea, which takes its name in turn from the shape-shifting Greek demigod Proteus. Its members are indeed very variable, though almost all of them are strikingly unusual to a visitor from the Northern Hemisphere. They are heathland plants par excellence, and are among the dominant plant families in the Kwongan.
By far the best-known of Australia's Proteaceae are the Banksias. Banksia is a large and diverse genus, especially that it now includes the dryandras. Their flower heads are almost as distinctive after the blooms fade (they can remain on the plant for months) as they are before, and, as I explained a few years back, have found their way into Australian children's literature.
Firewood Banksia (Banksia menziesii) is a large shrub or, if you prefer, small tree (it can reach 7 or even 15 metres in height). It is common in the Kwongan heathlands. It gets its name because its wood burns quickly away, leaving a fine ash. The artist Philippa Nikulinsky has devoted a whole book of paintings to this species alone.
Parrot Bush (Banksia [Dryandra] sessilis), one of the dryandras, grows across much of the southwest. Honeyeaters pollinate it, and its seeds are eaten by Long-billed Black Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus baudinii) and Australian Ringneck parrots (Barnardius zonarius).
Blueboy (Stirlingia latifolia) looks about as unlike the banksias as you can get, but it is still one of the Proteaceae. Its stems grow underground, as woody tubers. Odddly enough, according to Wikipedia, "The common name Blueboy refers to the fact that wall plaster made using sand taken from where S. latifolia occurs turns blue".
Blueboy has distinctive, fluffy seedheads, and may be even more decorative after it flowers.
We have already met Conospermum boreale, one of the smokebushes, but I include it again to show how diverse the protea family can be.
The globular flower heads of petrophiles and coneflowers are, perphaps, more typical of what we expect protea flower displays to look like. This is Needle-Leaved Petrophile (Petrophile brevifolia).
Pixie Mops (Petrophile linearis) grows from the Lesueur area southwards. Its English name, I suppose, is self-explanatory.
Pincushion Coneflower (Isopogon dubius), no doubt named for its spiky leaves, ranges from the Kwongan at Lesueur south to the Jarrah forest south of Perth.
Sickle-leaved Coneflower (Isopogon linearis) is a more localized species, endemic to the Kwongan between Geraldton and Perth.
The 56 species of Synaphea (some of which we met in earlier posts) look, at first, quite unlike the banksias, coneflowers and their kin, but they are proteas nonetheless. They are endemic to Western Australia, and are confined almost entirely to the southwest. Spiny Synaphea (Synaphea spinulosa subsp. spinulosa) (whose spiky leaves do look rather like those of Parrot Bush and Pincushion Coneflower) is the Kwongan form of a widespread southwestern species.
Quite different again are the native honeysuckles (Lambertia), proteas despite their common name. This is Many-flowered Honeysuckle (Lambertia multiflora).
Lambertia is a good, if small-scale, example of the floral diversity of Australia's southwest. There is one species in eastern Australia, the Mountain Devil (L. formosa), which I saw in the Blue Mountains near Sydney. The other nine species are all found only in the southwest. That is a story that can be told for many plant genera. The southwest is harsher country than the east, and, strangely, that may be the reason for its richness of plant life - isolated in tiny pockets, adapting to narrow ecological niches, plants in the west speciated over and over again. It is evolution at its most flamboyant.