May is bringing some bright colour back into the bush with two widespread Heaths from the Ericaceae family in flower.
The iconic Epacris impressa Common Heath, or Pink Heath, as the state floral emblem is called, is a standout in the heathland and my ‘Flower of the Month’. It has massed, tubular flowers along the stem, often on one side, among prickly, crowded, small leaves.
Common Heath pink
We are very fortunate in this area, as we can see it in a full range of colour, from white and shades of pink to deep red.
Common Heath white
Much harder to see but just as bright, are the single flowers of Astroloma humifusum Cranberry Heath. This ground-hugging, mat-like plant, with bluish-green, lance-shaped leaves, has the flowers growing in leaf axils, scattered through the foliage.
Along the coast, the dioecious Allocasuarina verticillata Drooping Sheoak has been displaying its male and female flowers on separate shrubs. I am quite entranced by the long, hanging, orange tassels on the branchlets of the male plants – much more interesting than the modest, orange-red, globular female flowers.
Drooping Sheoak male
Drooping Sheoak female
In dryer woodlands and coastal heaths, look out for Thomasia petalocalyx Paper Flower, which has been in flower for some time. The pale mauve/pink drooping flowers hang down and hide the attractive purple filaments curved around the ovary. It is really worth looking through a magnifier at the stellate, or star-shaped, hairs that cover much of the plant.
What else is there to see? At the back of Anglesea, I found a late spring plant Brunonia australis Blue Pincushion, displaying one bright blue flower with its yellow ‘pins’. Along the coast, one bush of the spring flowering Leucopogon parviflorus Coast Beard-heath was covered in small fluffy flowers.
Maybe our changeable weather is confusing some plants. Remember to carry your field guide, Flowers of Anglesea and Aireys Inlet.
Freesia refracta and Freesia alba X F. leichtlinii are declared weeds in the Surf Coast Shire because they spread easily and threaten to invade bushland. Freesias are perennial herbs that die back in summer and produce new foliage in winter. The highly fragrant trumpet-shaped flowers appearing in spring are white to cream and pink with yellow markings, shaded purple on outer surface. Each plant has at least two corms, one below the other, thus requiring deep digging to remove them.
More details about how to control this weed can be found in the archive of Weeds of the Month.
There are a number of wonderful local Friends Groups that provide ANGAIR members and the community with opportunities for involvement.