The dryness and lack of colour made me feel felt quite uninspired about writing the flora notes for this month.
However I have been admiring the protective strategies used by plants to cope with the excessive heat and lack of water. My two favourites are used by the Coast Daisy-bush, Olearia axillaris, and Slender Velvet-bush, Lasiopetalum baueri. The Coast Daisy-bush folds its leaves up and in, very close to the stem, holding in every bit of moisture…rather like we humans cuddling up to keep warm in winter. The leaves of the Slender Velvet-bush droop downwards, also closer to the stem, giving the appearance of sadly waiting for rain.
A stalwart plant which seems to flower through any conditions is Dusty Miller, Spyridium parvifolium. The whitish colour in the centre of the plant is the floral leaves which surround the tiny cream flowers. Dusty Miller track, which runs beside Forest Rd, is a great place to see them, though they are widespread in our district. The one I photographed was at the Allen Noble Sanctuary, definitely my favourite place at this time of year.
Here I found the remains of a number of spring flowers just hanging on, plus my flower of the month, Austral Brooklime, Gratiola peruviana. It is flowering in profusion around the muddy edges of the water. The thick, fleshy stem has paired, succulent, toothed, ovate leaves, with a cluster of smaller leaf-life structures in the axils. The single, five-petalled, white/pink stalkless flowers have notched petals and grow in axils at the end of the stalks. This plant may have been used as a purgative by Aborigines.
In former water-covered areas there are large clumps of incongruous plants with yellow leaves. These are exotic water lilies, bad weeds that have been poisoned by the shire.
Exotic weed waterlily
There are some fine specimens of rushes, Juncus, there, which are in full flower.
The eleven species of rushes in our district are very difficult to tell apart. Two species were identified here on the March nature walk: Tall Rush, Juncus procerus, and Pale Rush, Juncus pallidus. These plants grow in large tussocks and have rounded stems, they follow the common dictum that … ‘sedges have edges and rushes are round’! The clustered straw-coloured or brown flowers grow on, or near, the top of the stem. This is a good time of year for seeing many of our rushes, sedges and grasses in flower.
However, the identification of many of them is a challenge for most of us.
Along Ted’s Track I also saw tiny flower buds on Prickly Broom-heath, Monotoca scoparia, another tricky plant to identify. Maybe more of this next time.