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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'.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Thinking Pinkly #3 - flowers

Unlike the pink situation with animals, I am almost overwhelmed with choice for pink flowers to share with you. I was going to prune severely and just offer one posting but further thought suggested that we can afford to indulge ourselves and wallow in their beauty for three whole postings!

A couple of years ago a rather silly (though science-based) argument was waged on line based on the premise that pink isn't really a colour (because it's not on the light spectrum, ie in the rainbow). This seems like an argument for someone with too much spare time - ie not me! - but I have a reason in this context for wondering just what pink is. You see, most of the flowers I'll be showcasing in this and forthcoming postings are insect pollinated. As a non-artist if I wanted to create pink from basic paints I'd just combine red with white. However insects don't see well at the red end of the spectrum - their strength is at the blue-violet end, and well beyond into what we poor limited creatures have to vaguely lump as 'ultra-violet'. So what's going on with all these pink flowers? I think the answer lies in other definitions of pink - magenta for instance (which is sometimes used interchangably with pink) is defined as being between red and blue, or violet-red. Presumably the insects (many of which have much better colour resolution than we do) are responding to the violet part of the reflected light; why the red element is so often included is a question worth exploring, but it's beyond me I'm afraid.

We do know that most of them are due to a class of pigments called anthocyanins.

Meantime, let's just enjoy a pink parade.

Pigface Carpobrotus rossii Family Aizoaceae, Lincoln NP, South Australia.
Here the pink 'petals' are in fact sterile stamens, or staminodes.
Gomphrena canescens Family Amaranthaceae, Litchfield NP, south-west of Darwin.
The floor of this tropical woodland was carpeted with pink.
Poison Morning Glory Ipomoea muelleri, Family Convolvulaceae, south-west Queensland.
There are some 40 Australian members of this huge genus which includes sweet potatoes.
River Rose Bauera rubioides Family Cunoniaceae (or Baueraceae), Bundanoon, New South Wales.
A common and lovely shrub along streamlines in sandstone country.
Blueberry Ash Elaeocarpus reticulatus Family Elaeocarpaceae, Meroo NP, New South Wales, a tree of rainforests and wet gullies in moist eucalypt forests of the east coast of Australia.
An ancient Gondwanan family, with members also in Madagascar and South America.
Coopernookia barbata Family Goodeniaceae, Bundanoon, New South Wales.
The odd genus name comes from the small town of Coopernook in northern New South Wales.
Until 1968 it was included in the large genus Goodenia.
Sturt's Desert Rose Gossypium sturtianum Family Malvaceae, Alice Springs, central Australia.
This beautiful member of the cotton family is the floral emblem of the Northern Territory.
Eremophila miniata Family Myoporaceae (or more recently, often included in Scrophulariaceae),
Norseman, Western Australia.
The Eremophilas ('desert lovers') include some of my very favourite flowers and it was not easy choosing just one!
This species comes in both white and pink.
Pale Pink Boronia Boronia floribunda Family Rutacaeae, Bundanoon, New South Wales.
There are many richer pink boronias to choose from but I love the delicacy of this one.
See here for an account of the young Italian for whom it was named.
Eyebright Euphrasia caudata Family Scrophulariaceae, Kosciuszko NP, New South Wales
The eyebrights, named because a concoction was believed to relieve eye inflammation in Europe, have curious
round-the-world distributions at similar latitudes in both hemispheres. They are partially parasitic on the roots
of other plants, so are nearly impossible to cultivate.

Black-eyed Susan Tetratheca thymifolia Family Tremandraceae, Bundanoon, New South Wales.
Named confusingly because the 'other' black-eyed susans from elsewhere in the world are all yellow, as far as I know;
maybe the name just arose spontaneously here?
Collaea sp. Family Fabaceae, Machu Picchu, Peru.
One of a genus of somewhere between 9 and 17 pea species from across South America.

Passiflora trifolia Family Passifloraceae, Sacsayhuaman, Peru.
And with this lovely passionfruit from the Sacred Valley, we'll close this chapter of our tribute to pink flowers.
Note that by the time you read this I'll be in Patagonia (this is 'one I prepared earlier');
this means that I won't be able to respond to any comments you care to make until I get back.

1 comment:

The happy wanderer. said...

An interesting post. Pink certainly dominates in selections of flowering plants in nurseries at the moment. Enjoy your time in Patagonia - it's a great place to visit.