At Easter I was delighted to be in the Box/Ironbark forests near Nagambie, and see our mat-like Cranberry Heath, Astroloma humifusum, in flower.
The delightful bright-red tubular flowers were hiding amongst the bluish-green, fine pointed foliage.
I am now on the lookout for it in our heath and woodlands. It will also be nice to see some strong colour after the mostly pale colours of recent months. I find it frustratingly difficult to photograph these half-buried flowers.
Last month I mentioned Prickly Broom-heath, Monotoca scoparia. Ted’s Track is a great place find this rigid, erect shrub with its small cream flowers. If you look carefully with a magnifier you may distinguish whether it is a male or female plant.
Prickly Broom-heath male
The male has several visible brownish stamens, and the female has one pale green ovary with stigma, but be careful of the foliage, as it is aptly named!
Prickly Broom-heath female
On coastal cliffs and dunes, and in my garden, Coast Daisy-bush, Olearia axillaris, is in full flower. However, though there are masses of flowers, they may not be obvious as they are small, pale-yellow, and grow close to the stem. I always enjoy this bush with or without flowers, as the silky grey foliage is nice to see and feel, and also has an interesting smell when crushed.
An autumn treat for me is walking near the ocean under Drooping Sheoaks, Allocasuarina verticillata, my plant of the month. The male trees have an appealing autumnal look with dangling pale-orange tassels or catkins.
Drooping Sheoak male
However be warned, do not plant them over clothes lines, as I have found that the catkins stick to washing and pegs. It is worth giving the ‘leaves’ a close look as they are not continuous like pine needles, but actually jointed branchlets. These separate easily, and display the whorl of tiny, tooth-like leaves around each node. The female plants have inconspicuous orange-red globular flowers, plus masses of old woody cones.
Drooping Sheoak female
Last month I wrote about Dusty Miller, Spyridium parvifolium, and this month a close relative, the Propeller Plant, Spyridium vexilliferum var. vexilliferum. The area above the Anglesea Surf Club has some excellent examples still in full flower. As with Dusty Miller, this plant deceives the eye, as the most obvious part of the white flower is actually three floral leaves which look as if they could fly away, hence the name. The tiny flowers are in tight clusters in the centre.
On your autumn rambles remember to carry a copy of Flowers of Anglesea and Aireys Inlet. Be on the lookout for bright colours as our most iconic small plant is about to burst into bloom. Philippa Hesterman will tell you more about it, and other plants, next month.