Plants never cease to surprise and confuse me. Last month I discussed Allocasuarina verticillata Drooping She-oak, which has our coastal areas ablaze with the autumn colours of the male flowers.
I said it was dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are on different plants. At the microscope group in May we learned many interesting things about the Allocasuarinas, including that they can be monoecious, meaning that, as Marilyn Bull states in Flora of Melbourne, ‘… individuals in some species …. may have both male and female flowers.’
Female Cone on Female She-oak
Lo and behold, on my return home, there appeared to be one such Drooping She-oak in my garden – how had I never noticed this before? Then I met an expert, who was adamant that this species was ALWAYS dioecious, and the numerous ‘nuts’ on the male plants were in fact insect galls. Later, I found that the ‘nuts’ on my male tree definitely were galls, doing a wonderful job of deception by mimicking female nuts. Since then I’ve seen many more galls on other male She-oaks.
Gall on Male Drooping She-oak
Eucalyptus tricarpa Red Ironbark is the highlight of this month, and my ‘Flower of the Month.’ The copious, cream to pale pink flowers can carpet the ground at this time of year (thanks to our industrious cockatoos and parrots).
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 feast. The delightful flowers are usually in threes, and the thick, corrugated bark is a permanent feature, which remains black forever, once burnt.
Pink Ironbark flowers (photo by Margaret Lacey)
In the heathlands the pale, creamy flowers of Sweet Wattle Acacia sauveolens are vying for attention amongst the bright colours of our Common Heath Epacris impressa, which I wrote about last month. This is always the first of our common 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.
Look out for tiny, tubular, clustered flowers on Crytandra tomentosa Prickly Cryptandra. 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. This small, compact shrub seems to me to be misnamed, as the small stiff, cylindrical leaves feel rough, rather than prickly – what do you think?
Olearia axillaris Coast Daisy has been flowering profusely along the coast. I love this plant, as it has so many appealing elements: tactile, silky- grey foliage, which stands out amongst the surrounding, greener vegetation, and an interesting fragrance when crushed. The creamy-yellow flowers are quite small and inconspicuous, but there are masses of them, all now going to seed.
Remember to take Flowers of Anglesea and Aireys Inlet on your winter walks.