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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, 25 February 2016

An Alphabet of Red Flowers

Quite some time ago now I had fun compiling an alphabet of yellow flowers, and have been promising myself another indulgence some time by doing the same with red ones. Today it's warm enough - 35 degrees in my study at the moment - to discourage me from anything too enthusiastic, so it seems the right time to take this option. I have talked before about red flowers in general, so don't feel the need to be at all analytical today. 

The aim is to offer one species for each letter of the alphabet, based on the genus name if at all possible. If not, I allow myself to used the species name; I think I've only need to take this option a couple of times, one being for Q. Apart from Y (which doesn't appear in Latin), the only letter I've missed is X, which doesn't seem too unreasonable. Where possible I've gone for less familiar plants, though of course that just depends on what you're used to! So, without further ado, and no further commentary, let's get into it.

Mataguanaco Anarthrophyllum desideratum, a spectacular pea, a spiky cushion-bush endemic to
Patagonia, where it inhabits an arid, rocky, cold and windy world.

Bush Pomegranate Balaustion microphyllum, east of Hyden, Western Australia.
A beautiful ground-hugging member of the family Myrtaceae, found in the rich western sand plains.
There are suggestions that it should be moved into the genus Cheynia, but we needn't let that spoil our fun today.
Cantuta Cantua buxifolia, Colca Canyon, Peruvian Andes; family Polemoniaceae.
This is the national flower of Peru, and co-national flower of Bolivia.
Muchison Darwinia Darwinia virescens, Lesueur National Park, north of Perth.
Another Myrtaceae from the northern sandplains of Western Australia - there really are a lot of them,
many of them red! This species is endemic to a very small area.
Epidendrum ardens, Acjanaco Pass cloud forest at 4000 metres above sea level,
Manu National Park, southern Peru.
This lovely orchid is less common than the equally spectacular E. secundum.
Fuchsia ampliata, Yanacocha Reserve near Quito, Ecuador.
This reserve is one of several run by the wonderful Jocotoco Foundation to protect cloud forests in Ecuador.
This spectacular genus in the family Onagraceae is well-known as a garden special in Australia at least, but I
always delight in seeing such plants in the wild. The 110 species are mostly found in South America, with a few
spilling north as far as Mexico, and others scattered across the Pacific to New Zealand.
Flame Lily Gloriosa superba, near Masindi, Uganda.
This dramatic lily (family Colchicaceae) is found across much of Africa and Asia.
Unfortunately, every part of the plant is highly toxic.
Grass-leaf Hakea Hakea francisiana, Pinkawillinie Conservation Park, South Australia.
(I almost had to include this just for the name of the park!)
Found in sands in western South Australia and southern Western Australia.
Isopogon divergens Kalbarri NP, Western Australia.
You may well object that it is actually pink, but those are the buds - the open flowers at the
bottom of the inflorescence are indeed red, I'd submit.
(And my apologies, but this caption and some subsequent ones refuse to appear in
anything but bold, no matter what I do to them! Life is too short to persist fruitlessly...)

Honeysuckle Grevillea Grevillea juncifolia is found widely across the arid inland.
And yes, there is a fair bit of orange here, but J was tricky!

Running Postman Kennedya prostrata, Ulladulla, New South Wales.
This delightfully named sprawling pea is found across much of southern Australia.

Red Leschenaultia Lechenaultia formosa, Stirling Ranges NP, Western Australia.
Beautiful members of the family Goodeniaceae, mostly confined to Western Australia.
The discrepancy between the common name and genus isn't my error on this occasion -
the great Scottish botanist Robert Brown atypically misspelt the name of French botanist Jean-Baptiste Louis Claude Théodore Leschenault de La Tour - and what splendid name it is!

Chilean Mitre Flower Mitraria coccinea (family Gesneriaceae), Isla de Chiloé, Chile.
A beautiful climbing endemic of the Chilean temperate rainforests.

Nemcia rubra, Stirling Ranges NP, Western Australia. This genus of some 40 pea species is
restricted to the south-west; some would incorporate it into Gastrolobium, but that would make
my current task a bit trickier...


Horned Orchid Orthoceras strictum, Canberra. This may be stretching the friendship slightly,
but there aren't many red Os! A most uncommon orchid locally, but found widely in south-eastern Australia (where
it is the only member of the genus), New Guinea, New Zealand and New Caledonia.
Limestone Mintbush Prostanthera calycina, High Cliffs, Eyre Peninsula, South Australia.
A threatened species, endemic to the limestone sands of Eyre Peninsula.
Grey Mistletoe Amyema quandang, Byrock, New South Wales.
This widespread mistletoe parasitises acacias.
Red Kangaroo Paw Anigozanthus rufus, Stirling Ranges NP, Western Australia.The amazing kangaroo paws surely merit their own posting here one day.
Blood Lily, Scadoxus sp., Mt Cameroon, western Cameroon.
A genus of African lilies in the family Amaryllidaceae.

Thonningia sanguinea, Family Balanophoraceae, Kibale Forest NP, Uganda.
This remarkable plant, the only one of its genus, is found in much of tropical Africa.
It is parasitic, via its tuber, on other plants. The flowering stem emerges from the ground, as here.

Bladderwort, or Fairy Aprons Utricularia multifida, Boyagen Rock, Western Australia.
Yes I know there's not much red here, but U didn't offer many options!
The bladderworts grow in water and are carnivorous, trapping tiny animals in bladder-type traps in the water.

Scarlet Featherflower Verticordia grandis, Gathercole NR, Western Australia.
The featherflowers of WA are some of the loveliest flowers imaginable;
Verticordia means 'heart turner'.

Wickham's Grevillea G. wickhamii, Bladensburg NP, Queensland.
An impressive dryland grevillea found across northern Australia; highly attractive to birds.
Zephyr Lily Zephyranthes sp., Family Amaryllidaceae, below Machu Picchu, Peru.
This is a family of some 70 species from the Americas.

So, our journey is done - I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have.  


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