I have been overseas for two months, and I am now really revelling in walking again in our ‘bush’, with its wonderful diversity of flora and fauna.
There is such a range of plants jostling for supremacy in all our habitats. Also the rain had finally brought fresh green, and new life, after such a long period of dryness…let’s hope the rain keeps coming. At my feet I am enjoying seeing the glistening and swelling of the mosses and lichens, and feeling their delicate softness as they luxuriate in the moist conditions.
And bright colours at long last. Swathes of our wonderful Common Heath Epacris impressa are giving a glow to our heathlands. Indeed, it is the season for floral emblems as Pink heath, also Epacris impressa, is the floral emblem of Victoria, but in the Otways we are blessed with the full range of colours…white, pale-pink, and bright-pink to red.
Australia’s National Floral Emblem Golden Wattle Acacia pycnantha is also brightening up much of our district. The long, dark-green phyllodes contrast so well with the rich clusters of golden balls, and with an aroma to bowl you over.
Varnish Wattle Acacia verniciflua, also has big bright globular flower-heads which are spread along the branches, as they grow singly on short stems in the leaf axils. When they start to shoot with new growth in the spring the phyllodes are shiny and sticky…try feeling them.
You might like to check all the wattles for a hidden characteristic. Instead of having flowers which produce nectar, they have one or more nectary glands on the margins of their leaves or phyllodes, near the stems. These secrete a sugary fluid which is attractive to ants, which in turn may protect the tree by reducing the number of leaf-eating insects.
I would like to finish by highlighting our gorgeous Correas, which are currently in flower, and were the subject of the microscope group last month. The single drooping flowers with fused petals are a favourite with most people. I was particularly fascinated to view the stellate (star-like) hairs on both sides of the leaf of Correa reflexa, and the underneath of Correa alba. A strong hand-lens may show this.
You might also like to check out the flowers of the Common Correas which are red with greenish-yellow tips, as they are very variable. If the two leaves at the base of the flower face towards or clasp the flower they are Correa reflexa var. reflexa. If they face away from the flower and are more erect, then they are most likely another variety of C. reflexa such as var. speciosa.
We are told that the Anglesea species is different and may one day have its own var. name. The green form that grows close to the coast also has attracted botanical interest. Remember to take your ‘Flowers of Anglesea and Aireys Inlet’ to help with plant identification.