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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, 10 March 2016

The Great Western Woodlands; a botanical cornucopia. Part 2.

In my last post, I introduced this wonderful vast area of semi-arid woodland, apparently the largest such tract of near-pristine Mediterranean climate woodland in the world - 160,000 square kilometres of it. You can find its location on the rough map in that posting. As promised there, I am going to dedicate this entire post to some wildflowers of the region - though with over 3,300 flowering plant species so far recorded, you will appreciate that this is just a very tiny sampler!

This selection is really a random lucky-dip, determined by what was flowering on my last couple of visits, and where I chanced to stop.

The family Myrtaceae is a very important one in Australia - big genera such as Eucalyptus, Callistemon (bottlebrushes), Leptospermum (tea-trees) and Melaleuca (paperbarks) are very well-known, but there are over 1600 species in some 85 genera in Australia alone, both figures representing more than half of the world totals. Very many of those are limited to the south-west of Western Australia (WA hereafter) - indeed 30 of the 85 Australian genera are endemic to the west! That warrants its own posting one day. And some of what follows I cannot fully identify; with such vast numbers it is obvious that there cannot be comprehensive field guides.

Native Pomegranate Balaustion microphyllum, Granite and Woodlands Discovery Track (see last posting).
This is a WA endemic genus with just one species (a former second species has been moved to another genus).
One-sided Bottlebrush, Calothamnus sp., north of Norseman.
This is another endemic genus, but with more than 40 species.

Baeckea sp., north of Norseman. I may well be wrong even with regard to genus here -
please feel very free to enlighten me if you know otherwise.
And for this beautiful shrub, at Newman Rocks near Balladonia, I can only say that it is Myrtaceous!
I asked a botanist friend in Perth - he threw his hands in the air, so I don't feel too badly about it.
But again I'd welcome your assistance.
Proteaceae is another major Australian family, but with far fewer endemic WA genera. Here are a couple of very handsome endemic species, of much more widespread genera. 
Orange Flame Grevillea Grevillea excelsior, Granite and Woodlands Discovery Track.
In flower a spectacular large shrub to 8 metres high.
Grass Leaf Hakea Hakea multilineata, Goldfields Woodlands NP.
Another large spectacular shrub; here in the east we generally expect our hakeas to be demurely white or cream,
but the west tends to be utterly shameless in such things!
Orchids are a highlight of the west too (though there are those who would just observe that "well, he would say that, wouldn't he?"), though again while there are numerous endemic species, the genera are familiar. It is surprisingly difficult to get figures for the west, though the rapidly changing face of orchid taxonomy is doubtless a contributor. I have opted to go with the current general flow and use the older, 'lumping' approach to orchid genera - I admit it's easier, though may not well reflect the diversity and subtlety of the orchid world. However for those interested, I've indicated the Jones and Clements genera in brackets. The following orchids are endemic to the south-west except where otherwise indicated.
Common Spider Orchid Caladenia (Jonesiopsis) vulgata, Granite and Woodlands Discovery Track.
Common and widespread (and always lovely).
Clown Orchid Caladenia (Jonesiopsis) roei, Hyden.
Same comments apply.
Snail Orchid Pterostylis sp. aff. nana 'hairy', Granite and Woodlands Discovery Track.
It is fair to say that there is a fair bit of work to be done on the taxonomy of this group of tiny greenhoods!
Western Wheatbelt Donkey Orchid Diuris porrifolia, Goldfields Woodlands NP.
Blue Fairies Pheladenia deformis, Goldfields Woodlands NP.
This one is found widely across southern Australia.

Eremophilas (the 'desert lovers') form a genus of 220 arid land species, in my opinion some of the loveliest flowers in Australia. Until recently they were included in Myoporaceae, but now they are regarded as belonging in the (perhaps inelegantly named) Scrophulariaceae. Group names include emu bush, for the (largely mistaken) belief that seeds must pass through an emu for germination to occur, poverty bush, for the often harsh habitats, or turkey bush, for reasons that evade me. We found an impressive array (in the rain!) in the immediate vicinity of Norseman.
Turpentine Bush Eremophila clarkei, Norseman.
Silver Emu Bush Eremophila scoparia, Norseman.
A very widespread species.
Crimson Turkey Bush Eremophila latrobei, Norseman.
Two colour forms of Kopi Poverty Bush Eremophila miniata, Norseman, above and below.
This one is a western endemic, but I cannot determine the significance of Kopi.


Boronias are almost synonymous with Western Australia, though there are many eastern species too; Phebalium is another in the aromatic family Rubiaceae (including citrus fruit) which occurs in the south-west and south-east.
Blue Boronia Boronia coerulescens, Granite and Woodlands Discovery Track.
Despite its names, this one can be mauve, though I suspect my camera was having trouble seeing
the blue here, as it sometimes wont to do.
Phebalium sp., north of Norseman.


Lamiaceae is another widespread family of aromatic herbs and shrubs, including most of the garden herbs. 
Snakebush Hemiandra sp. (I'm almost sure!), Norseman.

Lachnostachys coolgardiensis west of Balladonia.
This species, and the other five in the genus, are endemic to WA.
Keraudrenia integrifolia, family Malvaceae, north of Norseman.
Scaevola sp. Family Goodeniaceae (again, I'm almost certain), Norseman.

Western Candles Stackhousia muricata Family Stackhousiaceae (or Celastraceae), Norseman.

And I'm sure that's quite enough for you - though I'm equally sure that it wouldn't be enough if you were there. And I really hope that one day you will be; it's a very special area.

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1 comment:

Marita Macrae said...

Wonderful. Let me know when you are gong there again and I'll come along!