Blossom bounty

A recent walk in Kattang Nature Reserve to check on the arrival of ‘Spring’ brought some surprises.

Like this common vine, Smilax australis, which I had never seen in flower.With true Aussie cynicism, it is often called ‘Lawyer vine’, due to its prickles… ‘once they get their hooks into you’…etc.

I am told that the photo also includes the smaller-leaved vine with black berries that is Smilax glyciphylla, the non-prickly relative.

This climber caught my eye but it seemed out of place and not quite right to be the Sturt’s Desert Pea that immediately came to mind. That’s because it’s not: it is Dusky Coral Pea, Kennedia rubicunda, say the wonderfully generous and informed people of the NSW Native Plant Identification FB group. They are very tolerant of the uninformed like me; I am learning a lot.

So a second surprise!

A much more familiar plant was this blooming Twining Guinea Flower, Hibbertia scandens, known as Snake vine at my Mountain, because when the clumps were ground trailing rather than climbing they often hid black snakes. I love the simple sunniness of these flowers. Large native buttercups!

The pink boronia flowers have been coming out for a while, but now bearing more blooms than buds.

Equally pretty, and about as scattered, were the sprawling patches of starry Wedding Bush, Ricinocarpos pinifolia.

No surprise, but exceedingly welcome, were the dominant many bushes/small trees of wattle. I have assumed this is Sydney Wattle, Acacia longifolia, but hope someone will tell me if not. Locals always know better than I do…

Palm rule

This Queensland rainforest surprised me by really being a palm forest. Their numbers impressed, as did their grass skirts of roots, mossed green.

This one had chosen to double up, to lead the fashion with a midriff top as well as peplum and skirt bottom.

The younger trees kept their roots well grounded; very wise on these soggy slopes.

There were a few other trees in the midst of the palms, like this large eucalypt with upper level hollow accommodation.

But as the walk was called the Booyong Track, it was not surprising to see several of these very large buttressed trees. At first I had mistaken them for the Strangler Figs with which I was familiar from my walks in Wingham Brush.

But I soon realised there were no other trees being harmed in the growth of these… and they were comfortable giving support and a leg up to such vigorous vines as this one.

And then I saw my Strangler Fig, lacing up around its host tree as tightly as any Victorian lady’s corset. Nature can’t be called cruel, but this does look rather murderous…

Green world

Some rainforests are so totally green that you’d swear there’s been a Photoshop filter applied. This one near Mount Tamborine was no different. Green moss, green light under the covering tree canopy.

Whether tree roots and buttresses or accompanying boulders, all were mossed green.

Some roots went underground and reappeared as shy knees and thighs, modestly mossed.

In some places tree roots embraced boulders as closely as if netted.

Vines as thick as my arms were doing a lot of embracing too, hitching a lift up to the light. This one was unusual in that several birds’ nest ferns, perhaps mistaking them for trees, had settled on them.

Other vines, as thick as many of the trees, astonished me with their girth and height… and likely age.

As the track was muddy, my eyes were carefully cast down, so the canopy was not much observed. Just as well, or I might have missed these fungi, bravely breaking the green dominance with their fluted and flared cinnamon rays.

Beyond bark

The day was wild and windy, the foliage being whipped about, so would not stand still for photos, but their sturdy trunks did.

And, focusing my eyes like that, the variety of patterns and textures was stunning.

Old, grey and knobbly; a bit like how I feel these days…

Or the same tree when young, looking like popcorn overly dusted with salt… or mistakenly, with icing sugar.

The higher, drier parts of this forest are full of fallen and dead ti-tree types, as well as leaning live ones, their shaggy grey bark almost an invitation to fire.

Others just as fibrous twist in less vertical paths to the sky, bearing memorial scars of lost limbs.

The more patchily shaggy paperbarks are often in damper areas, so do not invoke bushfire images as much.

The smoother barked trees sport subtle shades of lichen, pink and grey and cream and soft green…

Their more daring cousins add dramatic black highlights.

Other trees play it straight and go for flecks, but allow the adornment of twining wines for interest.

When texture fails to catch the eye, shape does. Why, when not apparently wind-formed?

Tangled limbs, whole meandering branches, clinging to cliffside meagre soil.

What’s not to wonder at with trees, wherever and however they grow?

Luminous lake

Queens Lake is large, and to walk around its shores is an ever-changing feast for the eyes. On this day the return walk was late, and the setting sun threw an especially vivid display of fiery gold across the water.

A little further on, and a hazard reduction burn far off across the lake punctuated the oyster leases with its plume of dark smoke.

Then the smoke became a cloud of its own, joining the mackerel sky in the water.

So many swift and ephemeral visual treats; fit for a Queen indeed!

Freshwater fans

I love the patterns moving water makes, on the surface below and on itself, and in its reflections.

At this beach, usually my eye is taken by those made the receding tide. But today this little stream of fresh water is coming from the land above, and it is one of many, although not all so vividly coloured. Croissants topped with apricot jam, anyone?

Kattang Nature Reserve rises above this beach, and today joins it with water.

As it makes its way to the salt sea, its ripples remind me of the cooling ‘skin’ when you test your homemade toffee or jam for setting.

I can hear water trickling further along from my amber stream, and see that there is is a steady veil of droplets from the bank onto the rocks.

This becomes a most beautiful series of convoluted fans of pebbles and sand and rutile, like layers of drapery, some creamily sheer, some bejewelled.

In other places, where no pebbles can contribute to the richness, the sand simply swirls with fine black traceries, fanning out to be lost on the smooth wet beach.

I feel so lucky to have seen these further examples of the extraordinary complexity of design and colour in nature., especially as they may not be there when next I visit this beach.

A forest for birds

Before entering this forest of the Henry Kendall Reserve I am bemused by the sparkles of sunshine beside opposing calm, the mysteriously varying ways of water movements.

The forest itself is equally varied, with many large and imposing spreading trees.

Others rise tall and straight limbed.  By the busy chatter of birds, darting tantalisingly close and away, too swift to photograph, the forest is a rich residence for wildlife.

It’s the sort of forest walk where you more often than not find yourself craning upwards to see what’s going on up there. A lot, from the noise!

But lower and nearer details occasionally catch my eye, like this textured casuarina bark…

Or this mossy hidey-hole, a dark refuge into which I do not intrude. Thankfully, this whole forest has life of its own, from birds to whatever lives here!

Forest gifts

After all the wet weather the swamps are still holding water… and reflections. Part of the coast walk here runs beside such swamps.

Large paperbarks make sinuous shapes as they stretch across the water.

Smaller ones stand straight and double up so seamlessly in the swamp below that the eye is deceived.

But there are many tree species in this forest, and some of the eucalypts are very large… and also sinuous. They must be in flower way up high, as the forest was alive with the chirping and chittering of multiple unseen happy honeyeaters.

It is winter so only a few blossoms are to be seen, like this wattle, but the flannel flowers are getting ready, beautifully backlit in a small clearing.

The territory in between tree tops and ground is well used, like this webbed hammock.

Some plants make use of the whole tree, securely latched on, climbing from ground to canopy.

This young fig tree grew upwards, but also chooses to send down roots to anchor itself to the ground. A bet both ways, to take advantage of all this forest can offer.

It certainly offers me more gifts than my eye can take in.

Tree flowers

Camden Haven’s Kattang Nature Reserve is full of flowers right now, but they are not the expected wildflowers of Spring, and they are mostly seen looking up.

Like this Casuarina, catching the eye with bunches of rusty red amongst the green.

But these flowers won’t produce any fruit or seeds, as they are the male flowers, growing at the end of the needle-like jointed branchlets we often mistake for leaves. Casuarina leaves are actually tiny scales at each joint.

The female trees are flowering too now, but much less conspicuously, hugging the branches in small red clusters.

It is they which will develop the woody seed pods, much beloved by cockatoos. In fact, I could hear one cracking them open for the seeds; I could see it too, but it was too well-hidden and backlit for a decent photo.

Banksias are the other trees in prolific flower now. Several varieties, with flowers and seed pods large and small. The honeyeaters were having a picnic.

May Gibbs’ wicked and hairy Banksia Men still lurk as large as ever in my imagination, but the bright flower candles eclipse them here.

The banksia trees dominate the skyline here and it is hard to stop looking up, to watch where I am walking. Too early for snakes, I tell myself.

But nearing the small paperbark swamp, now flowing under the track, I do, and am startled by bright red, not tea-brown. As if in step with the Casuarina flowers of both sexes.

To complement the reds, the wet weather has favoured the banks of mosses to delight me with green while I am looking down.

No need to wait for Spring when so much is happening in Winter!

Sea changes

I am looking down on the same rocks where my ‘Wild edge’ images were taken. But oh, what a difference in the sea at that edge today!

Gently lapping, not crashing; small frills of white instead of furious frothing breakers.  Even a few surfers paddling.

I have walked to the Charles Hamey Lookout in Kattang Nature Reserve and it does offer a view beyond my sea edge, a view of this amazing coastal complex of waterways, right up to brooding North Brother Mountain and beyond.

It is the combination of mountain and sea that appeals to me here so strongly.

But any tourist postcard can show scenic views; I am more attracted by details, often ephemeral.

If I look the other way from here, today it is the sea itself that takes my eye.

Peacefully rippling all the way to the horizon; not a whale in sight, but endless permutations of colour.

In the shallower waters near the land edge it is crystal clear and green. I have never been to the Mediterranean, but now I wonder how it could better this.

Then it deepens to blue-green, secretive of the ocean world beneath, and then to blue watered silk moiré, growing paler as it recedes to the sky edge.

As I retrace my steps I have to admire this rugged coast and its changeable neighbour, today deceptively gentle in its blues and greens beneath the equally unpredictable sky.

But if I look further north, the sea has turned silver, sparkling in sunshine.

What a visual treat it is to be witness to such free shows on offer from Nature!

Wild edge

This wintry weather comes with warnings of dangerous surf conditions — not that I’m likely to be trying! But I did want to look at such a sea.

And it was impressive. An awesomely powerful and persistent pounding.

The waves seemed to be doing their best to demolish the coastal rocks, rising like leviathans and crashing down in a lather of white and stormy brown.

On the horizon a chorus line of clouds meekly kept its distance from all this fury.

Each rock formation offered different resistance, allowing waterfalls of varying shapes to be created by the smashed waves. There was always another coming…

The rocks always won, directing the white flows to follow their lead, with no more choice than bridal trains.

It is a testament to the hardness of these edging rocks that they are not worn down but also an explanation of how the channels in between have been created.

Surviving the Big Wet

Many of the plants in my low garden, in ground or in pots, are turning up their toes at the seemingly endless rain, like this lavender.

Yet other things, like these fungi, can take advantage of it.

My garden is flat, and the swamp it must have once been is evidenced by the next door property, still pools of brown water. The ducks and water hens don’t mind, as they can wade and swim at ease; even the kookaburrras like to fly down and splash about.

But I realise now I ought to have raised the whole area before installing these garden beds or placing large pots down there, so bad is the waterlogging.

So I depend on pots up on my decks, like these surprisingly generous cacti. Formerly called Zygocactus truncata, they now bear the fabulous name of Schlumbergera truncata.

Having survived being inundated at my old house, where again the deck was their home, they have now burst forth into delicate yet showy blooms.

Hardy and beautiful! My sort of flowering plant.