In coastal areas I have been enjoying the soft autumn hues of the massed flowers on the male Drooping Sheoaks, Allocasuarina verticillata. The long, pale, orange/tan tassels droop appealingly like strings of beads.
The leaf-like branchlets can also be worth a closer look, as breaking one of the many nodes will reveal a circle of tiny tooth-like leaves.
Drooping Sheoak male tassels
Winter may provide many unexpected delights to brighten up our brisk walks. Last month Philippa wrote about the colourful flowers of our Common Heath, Epacris impressa. Ted’s Track at Aireys Inlet is sporting lovely pink specimens, and Fraser Avenue in Anglesea has white ones as well. I just love their bright spots of colour in the sea of winter greenery.
Common Heath (pink form)
Common Heath (white form)
Often the same locations have tall bushes of Sweet Wattle, Acacia suaveolens, the creamy aromatic balls forming a delicate contrast, and well worth smelling. This is always the first of our wattles to flower, and it lasts for several months until all the other wattles overtake it at the end of winter. The plant has an open look, because of the widely-spaced, stiff, flattened, bluish-green phyllodes.
At the entrance to Ted’s Track look out for small compact bushes Prickly Cryptandra, Crytandra tomentosa, with masses of tiny, tubular, clustered flowers. The attractive flowers start white, but later turn a beautiful pink. They appear to have five small pointed petals but they are in fact sepals—the tiny petals may be seen through a magnifier, hooding the anthers. I have never understood why it is called Prickly as the small, stiff leaves feel rough rather than prickly.
Recently on a walk along the track I saw spots of red on the ground which turned out to be unseasonal red pea flowers on a prostrate Running Postman, Kennedia prostrata … so expect the unexpected.
Distillery Creek, Moggs Creek and the Ironbark Basin near Point Addis are home to the dramatic tall trees of the Red Ironbark, Eucalyptus tricarpa, with their thick, corrugated bark, mostly permanently blackened due to fire. During the winter, raucous calls of multitudes of honeyeaters, plus copious cream to pale-pink flowers carpeting the ground may alert you to their flowering.
Ironbark flowers (pink form)
Ironbark flowers (white form)
A walk amongst the trees is sure to be accompanied by the continuous calls of the many species of honeyeaters chasing each other away from their share of the bounty. The delightful dangling flowers are usually in threes, with long stalks and conical caps.
Later in the winter Honeypots, Acrotriche serrulata, can be worth a close look. The developing terminal ‘flowers’ are actually bundles of new leaves, and the real reward is at the base of the hard stems. It is here that clustered buds will open to produce delicious nectar for a range of appreciative fauna such as ants and birds.
But beware of the prickly small pointed mature leaves. I hope you find some nice surprises on your winter walks.