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…

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!

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.

Reacquainting

While I’ve been away, there has been a great deal of rain, and the swamp that this dirt road aims to bisect is reasserting itself.

Of course the swollen swamp needs to flow across the road, and has succeeded in closing that road while the water follows its natural course.

The road leads to the beach, so my feet are wet before I get there, but what a lovely set of early morning reflections!

The sun is already up when I reach the sandhills… and a 4WD has already despoiled the night’s tide marks on the sand.

This beach rarely has shells washed up, and it is only in a small stretch that today I see them scattered like tiny treasures for me to find.

Walking home, wading through the reasserted swamp, I see two trees are newly flowering since I was away. This small wattle (Acacia suaveolens) has blossoms of a pretty creamy white, not the yellow we are used to. It is one of the earliest flowering wattles.

Equally sparkling white are the flowers of this Broad-leaved Paperbark tree, Melaleuca quinquinervia, common on this stretch. Being a swamp dweller, it does not mind wet feet.

Purple protector

This handsome, vividly coloured bird was very active and evident round my campsite at Ganguddy/Dunns Swamp in the Wollemi National Park.

I knew it was a Purple Swamphen, with that very distinctive red front shield and beak.

It kept strutting about on those extremely long feet and making short screeches. It seemed agitated.

At first I thought this log was the cause, looking so like a reptile, and then I spotted the real one.

And yet the goanna did seem to be on the run from the bird’s harrying screeches.

‘Safe to come out’, the purple protector must have signalled, as soon the rest of the family emerged.

Later I saw the mother and chicks down by the water and the reeds they must love. Dad was off ahead… checking for goannas, no doubt.

Dunns Swamp is actually a dammed river, and has vast stretches of reeds, where those Swamphens likely nest.

Walking by the water, I can see by the incredible number of picnic tables and fireplaces that this is a popular place. Kayaking tours were offered. It would be unbearable for me in holiday times, but campsites were tucked amongst trees and there were few campers in such damp weather.

I only managed brief walks between showers, so was delighted to see quite a few colonies of this mauve Fringed Lily (Thysanotus tuberosus) in the boggy riverside walk. I hate giving it the full Common name, as ‘Common’ implies less than the fragile beauty it is.

Wildlife welcome

House-sitting for a week on a property that is designed to welcome wildlife, I was treated there to the songs of some of our most melodious birds, like this Pied Butcher Bird, whose young was heading to join it.

The other glorious songs came from possibly my favourite songster, the Grey Shrike-Thrush.

All day honeyeaters jostled and swung as they fed in the native small trees and shrubs planted to attract them.

To my great nostalgic delight, a family of Eastern Red-necked Wallabies grazed unconcernedly below.

On the young banksia tree one bloom stood out, demanding attention in its rich green amongst the creams and browns.

On the verandah a large skink sunned itself. I had thought it to be one I was used to, an Eastern Water Skink, but the colours were too dull. Perhaps at a different stage of its life? I’d appreciate any further clues…

So I had my wildlife  treats… as well as reminders of how very slow young kookaburras are to get their adult laugh right, and how very repetitive are their efforts!

Bridal whites

These gorgeous bouquets of fragrant white flowers, with their four seductively waving stamens, belong to a small isolated sample of the native tree called Hairy lollybush or Clerodendrum tomentosum. The developing fruit you can see here is green now but will become strikingly bright with a black-dark blue centre surrounded by red calyxes… hence the lolly looks?

This particular tree had a most unusual trunk, like a periscope, with viewing holes. How did it come by them? It is in a public park, so perhaps man-made…

Not at all isolated, this smallish tree, Blueberry Ash or Eleocarpus reticulatus is evidently common here, as its dainty flowers are so eyecatchingly abundant.

A rainforest tree, it is also commonly called Fairy Petticoats or Prima Donna, referring to the pretty fringed bell skirts of flowers. These scented flowers do indeed develop blue berries, much loved by birds.

(As these two local trees were unfamiliar to me, I thank local Robyn for her identification help.)

And not at all white, but eyecatching for me, was this bark slope of flowering moss (?), like a miniature forest in perfect profile.

I love equally the minutiae and the grandeur of Nature… all on free show for us to marvel at.

Coast walk surprises

The Coast Walk from North Haven near Laurieton to Grants Head near Bonny Hills can be done in sections, quite varied, and not always well signposted.

It was only because we got a bit lost that we found this wonderful avenue of flannel flowers through low banksia forest. It was an unmarked sandy sideways trail that did reconnect with the Coast Walk and its much taller forest.

There were few other plants in bloom at this late stage of Spring, so those that were, like this melaleuca(?) or callistemon (?) were even more appreciated.

The track leads one to the beach before Grants Head, where this seemingly man-made rock mirrored its slope in reverse.

To avoid retracing our beach steps — plus the tide was coming in — we walked up through a low heath.

Here candles of creamy blossoms were out in profusion amongst windswept low banksias.

My new plant guru Robyn tells me this bountiful and hardy plant is Hakea teretifolia.

The walk winds back down to take you back past peaceful paperbark swamps, now mostly dry but with healthy reed carpets.

This coastal area is a paperbark paradise… !

Warm colour curiosities

This is a totally unfamiliar plant, with its stem-hugging clusters of fleshy orange ‘flowers’ … or are they fruit? ‘Mistletoe’ crossed my mind but there are no accompanying copycat leaves. What is this?

Orange is common enough in the fungi world, here forming bright stepping platters up this stump.

Often it will be seen glowing brightly as new leaves amongst the green, as so prettily done by this vine.

Many of the pea flowering shrubs sport orange in their yellow hearts, as in what I assume is a Dillwynia, noted as very plentiful at Kattang. Any such flowers we used to call ‘Bacon and eggs.’

Others have no orange in their yellow pea centres. I have now bought some secondhand wildflower books but none are arranged so that I can look up, say, ‘all yellow flowers’.

So I am even more confused. Is this a Pultenaea?

And then I see a single tall leggy shrub with clusters of golden flowers and long thin leaves… nothing like the dense low ones.  Help! I need a friendly local botanist…

One familiar sunny face was the Twining Guinea Flower (Hibbertia scandens) that I first met at my Mountain.

Leaving the sunny colours, but staying on the warm side of the spectrum, I am relieved to see a plant I do know: the purple Hardenbergia, one of my favourite native climbers, also with pea-shaped blooms. No idea what the white flowering shrub is that it is threading its way through, but a pretty sight altogether!

And flowering fairy-like amongst the grasses were lots of these Blue Flax Lilies (Dianella revoluta). Tiny but stunning, dangling purple stars with golden centres. A fittingly royal purple end to this wildflower walk… 

The weird and the white

I am hoping somebody can tell me what these strange extra-terrestrial looking clumps are, congregating under the graceful weeping branches of the Horsetail She-oak, Casuarina equisetifolia.

With that grey-green colour, from afar I thought they may have been immature Flannel Flower (Actinotus helianthi) plants, not yet leggy and stretching skyward.  But hardly likely…

Yet a few weeks later, those weird clumps on the stony headland, where little else grew, had bloomed… indisputably with Flannel Flowers, though small and still unlike the usual ones, now also in bloom in sandier soil.

These open foliaged, taller Flannel Flowers are the norm… 

There’s a lot of white flowers now, although much of the Spring show has finished.

And is this an Isopogon???

But the most mysterious of all to me was this shrub or small tree that a few weeks ago was to be seen in profuse white blossom in much of the Reserve. So widespread and numerous was it that I expected it to be touted, like the Flannel Flowers, as one of the sights to be seen here.

Any clues?

Pretty and profuse, and equally unidentified.

As for weird, the nubbly bark of this Banksia tree takes the cake!

Known bush blooms

There are few wildflowers I can identify in Kattang Nature Reserve. It is coastal bush, and I have not lived with that before.

I do recognise this Boronia, which is not the highly scented Brown Boronia.

My wildflower books were amongst those ruined in the flood; I had bought them over 45 years ago…

This lavishly blooming Pandorea pandorana, or Wonga Wonga vine, here spilling over a stump, had no need to climb.

For scent it is hard to go past this familiar Sweet Pittosporum, Pittosporum undulatum. It was native to my Mountain too.

It made me recall that on a riverside walk nearby I had seen, but not then recognised, the Yellow Pittosporum, Pittosporum revolutum.

The dainty Caladenia pink ground orchids were a welcome Spring sight. Their white or blue cousins are often seen too.

 This one I did not know, but I have asked Dr Google and it is a Native Iris or Flag, a Patersonia species.

I do miss my wildflower reference books; will seek to replace them when bookshop visits are permissible again…

Banksias and bijous

On such an exposed part of the Connors Track, the banksias grew low, their golden candles safe from being extinguished by the wind.

On the walk up to that headland other banksia species grew tall and woody, covered in an enormous number of dark seed cones like hairy hand grenades.

Other banksias in that coastal woodland were sized in between, sporting slim pale new candle flowers, older lemon and amber and woody ones all at once.

It is truly a banksia garden, all growing virtually on sand.

Around the Hungry Gate campground, hoary old paperbarks and strangely grown figs dominated, all reaching great heights just in sand.

On the walk, many tiny dainties graced the sandy banks, often making just one appearance. I had to be sharp to spot them; I am sure I missed many such jewels, as I only saw some on the way back.

On some it was the seed pods that caught my eye more than the flowers.

Others, like this vine, literally stepped in front of me, flaunting its curlicues and brilliant colours.

These Isopogons, also called Coneflowers or Drumsticks, are relatives of the banksia and also have woody seed heads.

This solitary large sample turned out to be a fungus, not a flower at all.

And these three were the only sundews I saw, boldly flashing their sticky red rosettes to lure insects.

The trackside bank held many surprises, from the tiniest mosses and flowers to virtual hedges of lilli-pilli.

But the whole walk was full of surprises. Next time I’ll go the whole way and be prepared for more…