Late summer brings several highlights near the coast and, in particular, swathes of flowers on our iconic Moonahs, Melaleuca lanceolata.
The creamy-white bottlebrush flowers are loved by bees, and the picturesque, twisting branches provide wonderful climbing opportunities for children. One of the pleasures of arriving in Anglesea is sighting the small copse on the river bank near the information centre. These trees were reputedly saved by one of our early founders, Edna Bowman, who lay down in the path of the bulldozers to prevent their destruction. Angair members are much more law-abiding these days!
On the cliff tops, Sea-Box, Alyxia buxifolia, bushes with their small dark green leaves, have been sporting their unusual, small, fragrant white, twisted flowers for some time. These are now being replaced by single, showy, orange-red berries.
Look out for Coast Sword-sedge, Lepidosperma gladiatum, a very hardy dune plant. I love its common and botanical names as they are such a graphic depiction of its robust, strap-like leaves. The flowers are plain and brown like most sedges, but the fresh flowers look interesting.
I just love the delightful blue, swaying flowers on the small herbs of the Bluebells species, Wahlenbergia. These delicate five-petalled blue flowers with long slender stems can be found in a range of habitats, including coastal reserves, and seem to have been flowering somewhere all year, but especially in late spring and summer.
A summer feature has to be the tall shrubs of Sweet Bursaria, B. spinosa, bearing masses of pretty, white, daisy-like, fragrant flowers, and attendant bees and butterflies. These are now developing large clusters of pale pink/green seed capsules, turning rich brown as they age, and resembling a bosun’s purse, hence their name. The sharp spikes on the branches also provide a safe habitat for birds, which is an extra advantage in a garden plant, but be careful to keep the sharp spikes away from pathways and play spaces!
At this time of year, I always try to make time to visit Ixodia Track. Its name reflects the abundance of the upright coastal shrubs Ixodia, Ixodia achillaeoides subsp.alata. Their white clusters of small white papery flowers are always a delight to see.
Not far away, near the corner of Forest Rd and the Great Ocean Road, a taller shrub, Dusty Miller, Spyridium parvifolium, grows abundantly. It has greyish-white floral leaves mimicking flowers, and is metaphorically dusted in flour. The actual flowers are small white gems clustered in the centre.
A close relative, also in flower, the Propellor Plant, Spyridium vexilliferum var. vexilliferurum, grows to about one metre, and the three smaller white floral leaves surrounding the tiny flowers give rise to the common name. This has been planted very successfully in the coastal reserve just above the Anglesea Surf Lifesaving Club. How fortunate that our coastal areas have the most interesting plants over the summer!