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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.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Considering the Lilies; part 3

This is the penultimate posting of this series on the delightful lilies; see here for the first posting and how we're defining lilies. The second posting follows that one, so will be easy for you to find if you so desire. I'm going to continue with big order Asparagales. As ever I'm using the Australian interpretation of the taxonomy, as defined by the authoritative Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria; this is a work in progress, but the lilies have certainly been covered by them. 

Quite a few Australian lily genera have recently been incorporated into the huge family Asparagaceae, which has recently been greatly expanded to include many smaller families, notably in Australia Anthericaceae, in itself relatively newly in wide use here. It's that family I want to share with you today, though my examples are limited to Australian ones; I'll be happy to read your account of your own local species in due course!

One of the most delightful experiences I know is to walk through a field of the appropriately named Chocolate Lilies - the name is from the scent rather than taste (not that I can comment on the latter).
Chocolate Lily Arthropodium (formerly Dichopogon) fimbriatum, Bigga Cemetery, New South Wales.
To some people (including me) it does smell like dark chocolate, to others it more resembles vanilla.
There are two other members of the genus around here too; Vanilla Lily can be found in open areas around Canberra and high into the Snow Gum meadows. And I can't believe I don't have a newer, better photo of this abundant little plant!
Vanilla Lily Arthropodium milleflorum.This one does smell unequivocally of vanilla, but it was the edible tubers which
caught the attention of Aboriginal People.
The species name 'thousand flowers' does represent a touch of hyperbole!
Small Vanilla Lily Arthropodium minum.
This one is tiny, less than 30cm high with flowers only about 10mm across.
Chamaescilla is another genus of blue lilies, generally known as blue squills, squill being the name used for various European lilies, especially of the genus Scilla; don't ask me why though.
Chamaescilla spiralis, Esperance, Western Australia, growing, as so many western plants do, in pure sand.
As indicated below they can grow in huge colonies.
The spiralis refers to the twisted basal leaves, though they are not particularly obvious in these photos
(unlike the bud in the photo above).



Another small endemic Australian genus is Sowerbaea, named for highly regarded early 19th century English botanical artist James Sowerby. There are just six species, but found collectively in all Australian states.
Rush Lily Sowerbaea juncea, Ulladulla, New South Wales.
This one grows in near-coastal boggy heathland.


Purple Tassels Sowerbaea laxiflora, Perth.
Unusually, Western Australia doesn't have a monopoly on this genus!
An apparently atypical member is the Wombat Berry, the only member of the genus Eustrephus. Eustrephus latifolius is a quite robust climber with stems many metres long, found throughout eastern Australia in moister situations and on many Pacific islands.
Wombat Berry, Deua National Park, New South Wales.
The berries are edible, as are the tubers, as with many other members of this family.
The mat rushes - Lomandra spp. - comprise another lily group in this order which may not meet our expectations of what lilies should look like. At one stage they were incorporated into the Xanthorrhoea family then for some time given their own, Lomandraceae. Now however they have been included in the huge Asparagaceae. There are some 50 species of Lomandra, all Australian though a couple extend a little offshore. All are rush-like clumping plants, some of which can form important forest understoreys.
Lomandra longifolia Canberra.
Note that this is a planting (outside the National Portrait Gallery) - to my surprise my picture library lacked this species -
and for some reason the leaves had been slashed before flowering.
Probably my favourite genus in this family however - and indeed perhaps my favourite lily genus - is Thysanotus, the beautiful fringe lilies. Here Western Australia reasserts its claim to Australian wildflower supremacy, with 45 of the 50 known species living there. A few northern Australian species extend north into Asia too.

Here are a few of them.
Thysanotus manglesianus, Kalbarri National Park, Western Australia.
This one is a twiner, as is the next, common in early spring in Canberra dry forests (and well beyond).
Twining Fringe Lily Thysanotus patersonii, Canberra.
Another local fringe lily however is much more robust and stands erect.
Thysanotus tuberosus flowering post-fire, Morton NP, New South Wales.
As the name suggests it has an edible tuber, valued by Aboriginal People.
It has a huge distribution, from Victoria into the Queensland tropics and across the Torres Strait to New Guinea.
Naturally, this also means that it lives in a wide variety of habitats.
Thysanotus juncifolius, Mareeba, tropical Queensland.
This one has a similarly extensive distribution to the previous one, but isn't found in New Guinea.
The lovely lilies - and still one posting to go, on another large family.

1 comment:

Flabmeister said...

Understanding how the name 'squill' came about looked like an interesting challenge.

As far as I can tell from the Shorter Oxford it is a Middle English form of the Latin "squilla" or "scilla". In turn, according to wiktionary that means 'a plant of the genus scilla'. (That seems like the WW1 marching song "We're here because we're here".)

En route to that wikipedia offered the following "Scilla peruviana is of interest for its name; it is a native of southwest Europe, not of Peru. When Carolus Linnaeus described the species in 1753, he was given specimens imported from Spain aboard a ship named Peru, and was misled into thinking the specimens had come from that country. The rules of botanical naming do not allow a scientific name to be changed merely because it is potentially confusing. ) The last sentence confirms several of my (conspiracy) theories about taxonomy!

Martin