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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, 20 July 2017

Tasmania's Dove Lake; an exquisite stroll

Say 'bushwalk' and 'Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park', and the response is likely to be something like "oh, the Overland Track!". This six to seven day walk from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair is truly among the world's great wild walks, but clearly it's not for everyone. There is however another great walk in the park, one of my favourite day walks in Australia, and one accessible to anyone of even moderate fitness and mobility. 
Looking across Dove Lake to Cradle Mountain.
The six-kilometre lake circuit mostly keeps us at lake level, with sections of boardwalk, so we can
concentrate on the magnificent scenery around us, rather than on our feet!
Much of the park is wilderness, so of course no roads, but Dove Lake at the end of the road is readily accessed by car; the carpark is not far past the excellent parks visitors' centre. 
The end of the arrow indicates Dove Lake - the mass of Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair NP
to the south of it is evident (160,000 hectares), and is contiguous with the even larger
Franklin Gordon Wild Rivers and Southwest NPs.
Your chances of enjoying the views without the intervention of clouds at some stage are not high, but on our most recent visit we were lucky.

Cradle Mountain is the souvenir of one of the most significant events in Australia's story. Around 55 million years ago Antarctica began to 'unzip' from the southern margins of what is now Australia, starting from the west. As the rift opened, vast quantities of subterranean molten material flowed into it, including an estimated 5,000 cubic kilometres beneath Tasmania! The dolerites of Cradle Mountain derived from the final disintegration of Gondwana and the isolation of Australian.
A slightly misty view of the Cradle Mountain dolerite towers.
A more distant view of the rugged dolerites.
The lake itself is of much more recent origin, being gouged out of the landscape over the past couple of million years by glacial action; Tasmania has been affected much more dramatically than the mainland by the current cycle of glaciations.
Glacier Rock. While they are not as obvious as I'd like, the horizontal scores in the rock were gouged out
by glacial action as the valley was being formed.

The lake is hard to photograph as a whole from ground level, being some two kilometres long and about 600 metres wide at its widest point. Here are some perspectives of it from various vantage points around the walk. (And while it's true that the views were never hidden from us by cloud, neither was there a lot of sun in evidence.)
As you can see from these two photos, there are sections of the walk which climb onto
ridges, which provide excellent views.
The brown stain in the water is the result of tannins from vegetation, especially tea trees, Leptospermum spp.

A stand of flowering tea trees.
Perhaps the most striking habitat that we pass through is the extensive area of cool temperate rainforest, dominated (like most Tasmanian rainforest) by Myrtle Beech Nothofagus cunninghamii (though I've just learnt that some would now prefer to use the genus name Lophozonia). This is a relic straight from Gondwana, and is eerily reminiscent of such forests in Patagonia and New Zealand.
Entering the rainforest.
Myrtle Beech trunks.
Here the darker trunks belong to Sassafras Atherosperma moschatum Family Atherospermataceae.
This is, as you'd expect, another old Gondwanan, and is an important co-dominant in many of these forests.
Very old Sassafras trunk.
At the end of this post I'll share a couple more rainforest scenes from nearby walks in the park, but for now we'll stay with Dove Lake.

Another striking plant is the giant heath known locally as Pandanus (which name is more usually used for the family Pandanaceae, of warm climate lily-relations).
Pandanus Richea pandanifolia, Family Epacridacaeae (or Ericaceae as it is increasingly known,
at least for now), in the landscape along the track, above and below.

Pandanus really is imposing, and can be found in both rainforest and eucalypt forest.
Yet another significant group of Tasmanian endemics is that of the ancient pines, and a couple of them are evident along our route.
Pencil Pines Athrotaxis cupressoides, Family Cupressaceae, against Cradle Mountain.
Pencil Pine foliage.

Very old Pencil Pine, which has been there for centuries.
While the cypress family to which the Pencil Pine belongs is widespread, Family Podocarpaceae
is Gondwanan. Here are a couple of shots of Celerytop Pine Phyllocladus aspleniifolius along the way.

The Gondwanan pines will feature in a future post, but for now we'll move on to some other endemic plants.

Pink Mountain Berry Leptecophylla (Cyathodes) juniperina, Family Epacridaceae (or Ericaceae if you'd rather).
Baeckia gunniana, Family Myrtaceae.
This one is actually also found in the mainland mountains, but it was named for a Tasmanian,
landowner and naturalist Ronald Gunn who collected for von Mueller.

Another species named for Gunn is certainly an endemic; it is a beech which grows as a shrub, and which unlike the Myrtle Beech is deciduous. We were there in February however, so it was still in full leaf.
Deciduous Beech N. gunnii, above and below.

The concertina leaves are very characteristic.

The beautifully aromatic Lemon-scented Boronia B. citriodora, Family Rutaceae,
is also an endemic.
Another habitat which the track traverses is Button Grass plain, which covers large areas of south-western Tasmania in particular, where the ground is water-logged or low in nutrient. There isn't a lot along the track, but there is some.

Button Grass Gymnoschoenus sphaerocephalus - which is not a grass at all, but a sedge, Family Cyperaceae.

Button Grass flower.
Another very impressive sedge growing in these boggy areas is the aptly-named Cutting Grass (well, the 'grass' isn't appropriate of course) Gahnia grandis, which can grow to over three metres high.

Cutting Grass in flower.
Yes, I know it's not a plant, but this slime mould is too magnificent not to share!
As  mentioned earlier, there are a couple of other, shorter walks in the immediate vicinity: Weindorfer's Forest Walk is between Dove Lake and the entrance, while Pencil Pines Falls Walk is at the entrance station. Both are worth it for the beautiful rainforest alone.

Beech forest; Weindorfer's Forest above,
Pencil Pine Falls, below.

Leatherwood Eucryphia lucida, Pencil Pine Falls. The Family Eucryphiaceae is an ancient
Gondwanan one, with the genus also present in South America.

However it is probably best known as the origin of the magnificent and distinctive leatherwood honey!
We might as well finish with the Pencil Pine Falls themselves, a very pretty little cascade.

I can't imagine you visiting Tasmania without going to Dove Lake, but I hope this has given you extra incentive. However if it were me I'd be waiting until the end of winter...

(And remember that you can get a reminder when the next post appears by putting your email address in the Follow by Email box in the top right of this screen.)


Flabmeister said...

On my (unfortunately only) visit to Tasmania, when we did the Dove Lake walk it was over 30C in the middle of a huge thunderstorm. As we walked along the area below the rocky ridge I checked the interval between the frequent flashes and bangs. About 1 second, which meant the strike was about 1/5th of a mile (ie 1000 feet) away. Sorry I haven't converted that one to metric yet, but I then checked the height of the ridge on a topo map. Hmmm: 1000 feet. We didn't pause for photos (and won't need to now as you've done it for us!).

That was Christmas Eve and on Boxing Day the whole plateau was covered with snow!

Ian Fraser said...

All sounds very Tassie!!! But, you really must get back you know....

Flabmeister said...

But the trouble is there are other bits I have never been to (SW Queensland, Alice Springs and the Kimberly for starters)! We hope to sort the first of those next Winter.

KayePea said...

A beautiful post on a beautiful area - and a reminder of a trip my husband and I did too many years ago now to think about! Loved all the photos thanks Ian.

Ian Fraser said...

Thanks KayePea, glad it brought back some good memories.

Susan said...

Some fab plants featured there! Very tempting indeed.

Ian Fraser said...

Don't just be tempted - yield!

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