Discovering a hidden haven in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia

Posts tagged ‘Australian native plants’

Killer Snails and Lying Birds

I’ve been meaning to share with you a walk we went on recently. It was up to a place called ‘Mushroom Rocks’ about an hour or so north of where we live.

The walk will give you a little peek at some of the indigenous plants on the mountains and hills that border the valley where I live. The valley itself has few stands of bushland left, let alone ones containing indigenous plant life.

We’ll also get to see some of the local wildlife…best to look but not touch!

The Mushroom Rocks walk forms part of the Australian Alps Walking Track in Baw Baw National Park that can take you 650 kms and nearly to Canberra if you are really keen. We walked the 1.5 km Mushroom Rocks section.

My daughter was a little worried when I said we could walk all the way to Canberra if we hurried.

Fair go. I hadn’t packed lunch.

The lower section of the walk winds through damp ferny gullies dominated by giant tree ferns.

We hadn’t gone far along the ferny gully beneath the Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) canopy when we found this lurking by the side of the path, possibly waiting for unsuspecting hikers to sit down beside him for a rest…

Sure he looks harmless enough, but this is Victaphanta atramentaria, a carnivorous snail.

I think he is actually quite attractive and textural. But it is true, he is carnivorous. But you can relax a little, as he is not going to bite your hand off.  According to Museum Victoria his prefered diet is worms, other molluscs and insect larvae. Just don’t wiggle your finger like a worm.

Look at all the different plants clinging to this granite...I wish I'd taken the time for some individual photos.

As we moved into the more open Snow Gum (eucalyptus pauciflora) forest there were new things to see.

Bright purple seems such a weird colour amongst the subtle hues of the Australian bush. I think this is the fruit of Dianella caerulea, the blue flax lily.

See anything interesting in this photo..?

look a little closer…it’s a…

Tiger snake!

Tiger snakes (Notechis scutatus) can inflict a bite that can kill, but they generally don’t like to hang around for an argument. If disturbed they will tend to do what this one is doing and slither away to find a quieter place to sun themselves.

A variant of Correa Reflexa - Mountain Correa I think (Correas are sometimes referred to as Native Fuchsia)

On the return journey we were stopped in our tracks by the sound of a male Lyrebird in the scrub just off to one side.

Lyrebirds are great imitators and this one was merrily running through his range of calls. We heard him accurately imitate a Kookaburra, a Black Cockatoo an Australian Magpie, a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo and a Crimson Rosella, all in quick succession. He also make another weird electronic sound that my daughter thought sounded like a submarine, but was probably the ring tone of a park ranger’s mobile phone.

These guys are incredible mimics and can easily reproduce the ‘brrring-brrring’ of an old-fashioned telephone or the buzz of a chainsaw, which can be quite disconcerting.

Lyrebirds are usually shy and I have only been fortunate enough to get a good look at a lyrebird in the wild once – and of course I was without my camera! If you are interested in finding out more about  Lyrebirds, who are named for their lyre shaped tail feathers, not their mimicking habits – you can find out more here.

All I was able to manage by way of a photo this time is below. You will have to look hard to see the ‘tall chicken’ like shape roughly in the middle of the photo…

Do you see him?

Most often, you will find a Lyrebird with your ears not your eyes!

It was one of those days where we came home feeling exhilarated because we saw and heard so much more than we expected to. Can’t wait to visit again!

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On a slightly different note, I have been considering the layout of my blog and have a few questions to ask over the coming few entries. First up is about photos. Do you find a post like this one, where I have used larger (but still compressed) photos takes a long time to download or is it quite manageable?

cheers,

Heidi

Pretty Parasite

I spotted this pretty flower while walking with my family at some managed wetlands about an hour to the East of where I live. At first thought I’d stumbled across an intricate new eucalypt flower that I hadn’t seen before.

Then I saw another and another…and then I realised I was seeing them peeking out from acacias and other plants too.

Hmm. Time for a closer look.

What do we have here? One plant attached to another?

Aha.  We were now pretty certain that what we were looking at was an Australian mistletoe, but I have to admit that I was only able to confirm it when we returned home to the wonder of the internet and the Australian National Botanic Gardens Mistletoe page. Here I found out that this was most likely Amyema miquelii and that the photo above shows the plant’s haustoria attached to the host acacia.   You can clearly see the different bark of the two plants with the mistletoe leading downwards.

It seems quite a lot of plants around the world are thrown under the common name ‘Mistletoe’. We have several different types that are native to Australia and from what I can glean, we don’t have any that are introduced. I don’t think we are in the habit of kissing beneath them either.

Australian mistletoes often kill the branch they attach to and sometimes damage the tree enough to kill the whole thing. But recent studies (see  ‘Misunderstood Mistletoe‘ article) suggest that a tree dying is not necessarily caused by the mistletoe and it may only be weak or diseased plants that cannot accommodate the parasite. This and other research also points out that it is a valuable food source for many insects and birds (but this of course is also how it is helped to get around!)

On the other hand there is now more mistletoe around than ever before, so I think the jury is still out on the debate of mistletoe pros and cons.

Thinking about what we saw at the wetlands, there was mistletoe on every third or fourth tree, so that did seem a little worrying. But it might just be the case that we only spotted it because it was in flower and that these plants have happily co-existed for some time.

Time to change the subject as I’m starting to talk myself around in circles. Have you ever seen an Australian black swan? These two were also snapped at the Sale wetlands gliding over to see if we had brought food. We hadn’t. They soon glided off again!

The Black Swan (Cygnus atratus)

A Walk in the Bush – Early Autumn

I thought I might share with you the seasonal changes in a piece of Southern Australian bushland not far from where I live. So pop your walking shoes on, it’s not far to go!

Australian plants, as you probably know, are almost all evergreen and the landscape does not have the dramatic seasonal changes seen elsewhere in the world.

Fern fronds unfurling.

But changes do happen. Sometimes they are ‘shout it out loud’ changes, like acacias all in flower for miles around and sometimes they are little whispered changes like the emergence of a tiny delicate ground orchid.

Banksias are out at this time of year

It’s early autumn here and a few things are flowering or in bud right now.

These buds are on a eucalypt that had fallen in the recent storms, but is still hanging on enough to survive.

Tree fern in a partly shaded gully.

This bushland is far from pristine. It is on the edge of my semi rural / industrial town and has to put up with a lot of bad treatment from people who think it is a great place to dump rubbish and garden waste. However it is cared for by a very dedicated band of volunteers who keep the damage to a minimum and give the indigenous plants room to move.

My bane the blackberry makes itself very much at home in the more open parts of Southern Australian forest.

Here's a familiar thistle flower that also shouldn't be here!

Anyone know what this is? I think its an exotic garden escapee, but not sure.

As I wandered about with my family taking photos my true ignorance of Australian plants really began to sink in. I could tell you a tree is a eucalypt, but which of the hundreds of different eucalypts…or maybe it’s a corymbia…well, your guess is as good as mine and quite possibly better!

Same goes for acacia. I’m pretty much stumped even for names of acacias after ‘golden’ or ‘silver’ wattle and there are hundreds of them! Same for banksias and grevillias.

This is 'I Thought It Was An Acacia, But Now I Think It's a Grevillia' ... but it is pretty in it's own spiky way isn't it?

Oh dear. Looks like this seasonal update is going to turn into yet another research project. But all the better really – I’ll start to gain a better appreciation of what is born to do well in my area (other than blackberry that is)!

Australian Native Botanical Garden Visit – Part 2

As promised, here are a few photos of the Australian native plants we did manage to snap during yesterday’s ill-fated trip to the Royal Botanical Gardens – Cranbourne Australian Garden.

Corymbia Summer Glory

It turns out that this Corymbia is a grafted hybrid, which was a surprise. I’m not used to thinking of our native plants as the sort of thing that gets grafted!

Banksia spinulosa 'Birthday Candles'

Don’t these Banksia ‘Birthday Candles’ look great in this tub? Like they were no trouble to grow? Banksia is one of the many Australian native plants I have killed with great efficiency. I’ll come back to my lack of success with native plants another time, but something tells me it’s time I learnt about phosphorus!

A closer look at Banksia 'Birthday Candles'

unlabeled prostrate Banksia

Acacia cognata - 'Lime Magik'

I don’t want too much grey-green for my – so far – imaginary native garden.  I was very taken with this soft looking acacia cognata. It is a pretty lime green that the photos don’t quite capture.

A closer look at Acacia cognata - Lime Magik

Eremophila Longiflolia - sorry about the poor photo, the wind was shaking the flowers!

I am not familiar with Eremophilas and have since learnt that they are arid region plants, which might explain my ignorance. I did like the look of this red one and a white one we looked at. The flowers are pretty and the plant has a lovely soft look. My reading so far suggests that they cope ok with a temperate region, so I might try my hand with it if I can find one to kill grow.

Eremophila longifolia

Grass Trees 2010

I don’t think my garden will ever be sculptural enough to accommodate  Xanthorrhoeagrass trees. But we did enjoy looking at them in this setting and if you have a look at the link, you will see they are a plant our community has not cared for well in recent years.

Don't touch, you'll get a paper cut!

Freak storms aside, now was probably not the ideal time to visit this garden. It was opened to the public in 2006, but is effectively only half its eventual size. The garden is undergoing major earth works in preparation for a mid 2011 opening of stage two, as you will see below.

Things to come...if you click on this you can read more.

Stage two of the garden will be very muddy today!

So, best plan your visit for 2012 to get the most our of this emerging Botanic garden!