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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.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

An Alphabet of Yellow Flowers

This is another in a periodic series on colours in nature, though it's now a while since I promised to wrap up the mini-series on yellow with a posting on yellow flowers. It seems that not a lot of work has been done on flower pigments (compared with pigments in fruits and vegetables for instance) but it seems agreed that flavonoids are the most important class of yellow-causing pigments in flowers. Yellow is a good colour for insects - they see better at the blue-yellow end of the visible spectrum than at the red end. Today however I just want to have a bit of fun, and parade some of my favourite yellow flowers, beginning with A and ending with Z! 

My intention was to keep it simple, and to show a yellow-flowering species from one genus for every letter of the alphabet. It almost worked too. Y was never a starter, as there is no Y in Latin; other than that the two letters I couldn't come up with anything for were Q, perhaps unsurprisingly, and K, a little more surprising. Lastly, and surprisingly, I failed on F too, though here at least I could offer you a species name instead! Enough blathering, let's start the journey.
A
Alstroemeria patagonica, in the cold and windy Torres del Paine NP, Chilean Patagonia.
The family, Alstroemeriaceae, is limited to South America.
B
Bossiaea foliosa, Buccleuch State Forest, west of Canberra.
This lovely pea shrub lights up the entire Snow Gum understorey in early summer in a good season.

C
Calceolaria biflora, again from Torres del Paine NP.
Current thinking takes it out of Scrophulariaceae and puts it into its own family, Calceolariaceae.
One of several unrelated plants called 'Lady's Slippers' for obvious reasons.
D
Dillwynia sericea, Silky Parrot Pea, Canberra
A common and distinctive shrub in the dry forests that are my 'back yard'.
E
Eremophila maculata, south-west Queensland. Family Myoporaceae (or Scrophulariaceae).
A yellow form of a generally red flowering shrub, widespread in inland Australia.
F
Arbutilon fraseri, western south Northern Territory. This is the one where I had to fall back onto the species name, though you might think I'm biased. This Fraser though was Charles, first colonial botanist of New South Wales.
Family Malvaceae; most of this big genus is South American, though there are some 30 inland Australian species.
G
Gavilea lutea, Torres del P aine NP, Chile.
A spectacular big orchid from grassy areas of the far south of South America.
Hypoxis sp., Ngaoundaba Ranch, central Cameroon.  This is a huge genus of some 150 species found in damp grassy places right across the southern hemisphere, including 10 in Australia. Family Hypoxidaceae.
I
Isopogon anethifolius, Bundanoon, New South Wales. Family Proteaceae.
An important component, as a genus, of sandy and sandstone heathlands in south-west and south-east Australia.
J
Jonesiopsi roei, north-east of Perth. And I agree, it's not very yellow, but I was struggling a bit for J.
This one's for the eminent (and some might suggest maverick) Australian orchidologist David Jones.
L
Labichea lanceolata, Kalbarri NP, Western Australia. Family Caesalpinaceae.
An endemic genus of 14 species found across inland northern Australia.
M
Microseris lanceolata, Canberra. A widespread, but now uncommon, species of daisy, whose story I told here last yeat.
N
Nuytsia floribunda, Western Australian Christmas Tree, Cape le Grande National Park, family Loranthaceae.
A mistletoe that grows as a tree, drawing water and nutrients from the roots of nearby plants.
Odontoglossum mystacimum, Manu National Park cloud forest, Peru.
A huge orchid genus, with some truly spectacular species;
this is one of my favourites, growing at 4000 metres above sea level.
P
Podolepis jaceoides, Namadgi National Park near Canberra.
I love the 'frayed ends' of the ray florets of these big high country daisies.
Ranunculus sp., Tallong, New South Wales.
The surface cell structure of these buttercups acts as a mirror to attract pollinating insects.

S
Senna coriacea, Caralue Bluff Conservation Park, South Australia. Family Caesalpinaceae.
The sennas are found throughout inland Australia, brightening entire landscapes sometimes.
Tricoryne elatior, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve near Canberra. Family Anthericaceae (or Phormiaceae).
A summer-flowering lily of grasslands, one of seven Australian members of the genus
(one of which extends to New Guinea).
U
Utrichularia odorata, Fogg Dam near Darwin, Northern Territory. Family Lentibulariaceae.
The bladderworts grow in water, trapping tiny animals in senstive 'bags' on the roots.
Viola maculata, Chilean Patagonia.
Was it so unreasonable to expect that violets should be violet - even in South America? Apparently yes.
W
Waitzia nitida, Kalbarri NP, Western Australia.
An attractive widespread group of about five dryland Australian paper daisies.


Xyris operculata, Morton National Park, New South Wales.
An enormous genus of wetland plants found mostly in northern South America.
(I bet you didn't think I coud do an X...)
Zygophyllum auranticum, Lake Gilles Conservation Park, South Australia.
Twin-leaves - the direct translation of the genus name - grow naturally from Africa,
via the Mediterranean, to Asia and Australia.


I hope you've had fun, thanks for coming along.

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2 comments:

Susan said...

Fun, and I suspect quite a few hours of work! I can offer you Fennel Foeniculum vulgare, and Sharp-leaved Fluellen Kickxia elantine, a tiny but beautiful little ground hugger from the sandy heaths here, in Scrophulariaceae.

Ian Fraser said...

Thanks Susan - Kickxia, how fabulous (I've just discovered he was Belgian)! I didn't think of Foeniculum, but I couldn't have illustrated it anyway. You're right about the time it took; ironic because I was looking for a relatively easy one for a busy week! That didn't happen... But it was fun, and I'm glad you enjoyed it.