In mid-March I felt quite despondent about writing these flora notes after such a long period with so little rain and so much heat.
I had walked along the clifftops and seen Coast Daisy-bush Olearia axillaris hiding greyish buds in the leaf axils which will develop into small creamy/yellow flowers.
I enjoyed seeing, feeling and smelling its silky, aromatic greyish foliage.
In my garden the succulent Ruby Salt-bush Enchylaena tomentosa was scrambling everywhere, enjoying the heat and dryness.
It was bearing small yellow berries (which can also be red), but what else was there to write about?
I decided to go for a walk in nearby bushland, and there was my inspiration…a sea of green. How do our plants manage to look so robust after such extreme weather conditions? Top of my ‘green’ list was Grass-trees Xanthorrhoea with their graceful arching leaves, as beautiful and tough as ballerinas! The leaves are long, resilient, narrow, and I wonder if their curved shape growing from a central point shape, may encourage water to run down into the centre of the plant. The roots are very deep which is a common characteristic of Australian trees, which increases their access to water.
Next was Prickly Moses Acacia verticillata standing up straight and firm with masses of short narrow, pointed phyllodes, again with reduced surface area for the sun to heat up.
Sedges and Rushes were everywhere with their long, narrow upright, hardy leaves, and dense root systems which store water. And there was Honey-pots Acrotriche serrulata, bearing new leaves in flower-like bundles, with only some of the more exposed ones showing signs of drooping.
Again the leaves are slender and tough, but also have hairs on them which prevent moisture loss.
Leafless Bitter-pea Daviesia brevifolia has gone one step further with stiff spiny, sculptural stems, and maybe some tiny leaf-like structures. Finally, a plant in flower, our only Banksia, the Silver B. marginata.
The flower-spikes showed no sign of heat stress, but maybe they will be smaller than usual. This plant has bigger leaves than many others, but they are toothed and leathery.
The only plant showing real signs of heat exposure was Large-leaf Bush-pea Pultenaea daphnoides, which held its leaves close to the stems to avoid exposure to the sun, and to hold in any moisture.
Regularly interspersed were Eucalypts conveniently dropping excess leaves to provide nourishment and water retention for the soil. Their tough leaves drooping down to limit sun exposure, and their dappled shade providing some protection from the sun to all the smaller plants. Gums, like all trees, create a drip zone… an area beyond the leaf canopy to which rain is channelled from the foliage above, also providing for the under-storey plants.
And, at last in the midst of this sea of tough, and often sharp and prickly foliage, some signs of petaloid flowers. On Prickly Broom-heath Monotoca scoparia, small buds soon to be small white flowers, were appearing in the axils of the stiff, pointed leaves.
Then, the highlight of my walk, bright-pink tubular buds on a tough little Common Heath Epacris impressa, standing out like a beacon in the sea of green.
During my ramble I was also entranced by a glimpse of a very handsome small black and white spider, a cricket jumping ahead of me and disappearing into foliage, and several dancing butterflies. I went home feeling hot, tired, and re-inspired…and went for a swim.
Remember to take ‘Flowers of Anglesea and Aireys Inlet’ … just in case!