About Me

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I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation. In January 2018 I was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for 'service to conservation and the environment'.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Spring Wildflowers (5); herbs

As spring slowly warms up here in the Bush Capital, various herbs, especially orchids and lilies, are starting to become more prominent. Today I want to focus on some of them; I hope you don't think this blog is becoming too wildflower-oriented, but remember that for much of the year there's not much flowering here to report on! Here is the link to the last Spring Wildflowers posting; previous postings are linked there.

I thought too I should show you a little of the habitat I've been reporting from; mostly I've been on Black Mountain, in the centre of Canberra, but today I also went out to Gungahlin Hill, until recently on the northern outskirts of suburbia, but with recent development now well within suburbia, though well-buffered so far by farmland.
Red Box (Eucalyptus polyanthemos) forest, northern slopes Black Mountain.
View east from Black Mountain, across the city to Mount Ainslie.

View south from Black Mountain, across Lake Burley Griffin; the dead trees are
legacies of previous intense fires.
Open Brittle Gum (E. mannifera) forest, Gungahlin Hill Nature Reserve.

A highlight of Black Mountain yesterday for me was my first sun orchid of the season; these orchids - Thelymitra spp. - tend to only open on hot and often humid days. This one initially fooled me; most of them are bluish, but there are a couple of pink ones and I assumed I had one of these - except that it wasn't 'right'. I realised that it was in fact an uncommon pink form of the usually blue Slender Sun Orchid; in the picture the brushy tips to the forward-pointing column arms are the giveaway.
Pink form of Thelymitra pauciflora.
Two similar 'white-finger' orchids are now flowering, becoming common in some areas.
Musky Caps, Stegastyla (or Caladenia) moschata; see how the rear of the labellum,
the fringed 'landing platform' petal in the middle of the flower, is smooth and humped, compared
to the non-humped, fringed nature of the same part of the labellum in the next species.

Brown Caps (where do they get these names?), Stegostyla ustulata.
In addition to the Black Mountain Donkey Orchid I reported last time from Black Mountain, a similar, more strongly-marked one is now abundant on Gungahlin Hill.
Leopard Orchid, Diuris pardina.
Curiously Early Nancy Lilies were still common in grassy areas of Gungahlin Hill; as the name suggests, they are one of the first to flower and would normally be finished by now. Don't tell these... The species name tells us that they are dioecious - ie have separate male and female plants.
Wurmbea dioica; female (above) and male (below).

Finally, another lily, the Bulbine Lily; this one is in the Aloe family, Asphodelacae, much better represented in South Africa.
Bulbine bulbosa.
Daisies are starting to make an appearance too, but I'll be giving them their own stage in due course.


Flabmeister said...

To quote Messrs Slaven and Nelson "Too many wildflowers are never enough!"

To quote Professor Sumner Miller "Why is this so?"

1) Flowers are a large part of what attracts insects and insects are a large part of what attacts birds.
2) Flowers are a good indicator of the change of seasons. The heaths kick off Spring then come the early orchids and lilies, then the beans ....


Ian Fraser said...

Well, if only for your sake F/M, I shall floralise on... Thanks for that!