Flowers are in short supply at the moment, but there is real gem to be found if you are prepared for a hunt on your hands and knees.
For in amongst the sharp-tipped foliage of the mat-like Cranberry Heath Astroloma humifusum you will find delightful bright-red tubular flowers. I would be interested to know which little low-flying/creeping creature is their pollinator.
You may also notice Dusty Miller Spyridium parvifolium, normally a spring flowering plant, with tiny heads of flowers surrounded by downy greyish floral leaves standing out in the green foliage.
However I think it is the many plants with interesting seed pods which are the stars of May. Common Reed Phragmites australis, a tall bamboo-like perennial, is abundant along many of our water courses.There is a fine display to be seen of their delightful, fluffy, plume-like seed-heads, and I like the sensation of running their silky plumes through my fingers.
They are also worth a close visual examination to distinguish the many pale colours which gradually turn brown. This plant is found all over Victoria and is called Tark-korn by the local aborigines. The roots, which taste rather like Bamboo shoots, were eaten by them. The stems were used spear-shafts, bags, baskets, and necklaces.
Sweet Bursaria Bursaria spinosa subsp. spinosa is looking quite striking in the final stage of seed dispersal, displaying its rich bronze-brown, bisected seed pods.
Outside our back door a female plant of Small-leaved Clematis Clematis microphylla is living up to its other common name of Old Man’s Beard, though it currently looks more like a white carpet, glistening in the sunlight.
I don’t like it so well on windy days when all the seeds on their feathery parachutes try and blow into our house…a very effective seed dispersal mechanism!
A common large wattle in our area and much of the wetter parts of Victoria, Blackwood Acacia melanoxylon has had stunning displays of its gorgeous, brown, twisted seed pods. Inside the pods the black seeds stand out due to a conspicuous pink-to-red surround called an ‘aril’.
I have been excited to find a beautiful coloured drawing of this in Enid Mayfield’s new book ‘Flora of the Otway Plain & Ranges 2’, and in the glossary another fine drawing and description stating the aril is ‘the swelling of the stalk that attaches the seed to the wall of the fruit’ … ‘aril’ is my new word for the month!
On your autumn rambles remember to carry the Flowers of Anglesea and Aireys Inlet to help with your identification of plants.