Little Fella details

In the Big Fella Gum Forest Reserve, whose mighty trees I admired last post, I was also intrigued by many of its small details.

Like the beautifully delineated shield-like leaves of this young Prickly Supplejack (Ripogonum discolor) which starts out looking as if it’s a shrub then becomes a strong climber. The sailors/Jack Tars on early voyages called it Supple Jack because of its climbing ability, and many parts of the plant are useful.

The few bright new leaves of this tree, Maiden’s Blush, (Sloanea australis) caught my eye several times. The name refers to the colour of its heartwood as well as its young leaves.

Even brighter were these very, very tiny red fungi hiding amongst the deep leaf litter. The water-logged ground beneath was soft, especially near the creek, and I sank several times… but I only attracted one leech.

Other fungi were larger and in the less-noticeable shades of brown.

Although this shelf fungus was so large that it drew attention without vivid colouring except for its white underside.

The extended roots of the big Turpentine were mostly buried under leaves, but this noticeable hump in its progress is clearly being used as shelter.

Unusual shapes and patterns in Nature always fascinate me, as did this small ladder of bark mouths or kisses, the origin of which nobody knew.

And if one tree was puckering up, another was choosing to send its green passenger growing sideways.

This palm chose to cascade its moss from a slit in its decorative lichen-splotched trunk.

And as a final show, in the unbroken depths of this rainforest pocket, a fallen giant lay shrouded in rich green velvet, decaying in beauty while nourishing the earth beneath.

No wonder my spirit itself feels nourished after such an excursion, fed with new sights and understandings, enlightened by others who know so much about our flora.

Stony surprises

On a very stony headland the profusion of spring flowers is surprising. Flannel flowers en masse of course, as everywhere here on the mid north coast right now, but many others too.

These mini flannel flowers manage to survive, if not exactly thrive, on almost nothing but stones.

On Diamond Head, the sight of a single flowering Xanthorrhoea was heartening, rising tall and proud amongst the still very evident carnage from the bushfires that had raged through here.

Less dramatic were the dainty five-petalled purple blooms of Scaevola ramosissima, looking as fragile as ground orchids.

A double treat presented where the purple Dampiera was growing amongst the woolly pink-budded Xanthosia pilosa.

There were only a few of these straggly shrubs of Kunzea capitata with their fluffy pink blooms.

One I did recognise was this clump of cheery yellow paper daisies or everlastings. They at least seemed tough enough to cope with the stony seaside ground in which they were growing.

Resurrection reds

In many Australian trees and shrubs, new growth is heralded by reds, from pinkish red to orangey red.

Often these fresh leaves are more colourful or noticeable than the flowers, and are usually softer than the older leaves.

Red is even implied in the common name of this Bleeding Heart tree (Omalanthus). I loved that the small flower spikes were all curving as if posing for a Leunig cartoon.

In the areas devastated by bushfire two years ago, any new growth is welcome, but so is seeing the repurposing of trees burnt beyond resurrection as they host healthy fungi.

This one has become an arresting sculpture, while also nurturing small ferns in its hollow and a series of fungi steps on a limb.

Nature wastes nothing.

Discovering the new

I know well the glory of flannel flowers (Actinotus helianthi) in bloom, especially en masse, as they are here, forming a guard of honour, contrasting gaily with the greys and duller greens of the ti-tree bush, dead and alive.

But on this walk, I saw plenty that was new to me.

Like this pretty lilac-flowered small bush, likely Kunzea capitata.  I only saw two examples on the whole walk. And spot the ubiquitous pink boronia in the background on the upper right?

A sole orchid declared its presence with one red flower out and several in waiting above: the Large-tongued Orchid, or Duck-billed Orchid, Crystostylis subulata. I will have to return to see the cluster above when open. My first sighting of this orchid!

Not pretty, but certainly notable and new to me, was this young tree, bearing the toughtest, most leathery leaves I have ever felt. Their edges were very stiffly serrated.

I am told it is a common small rainforest tree, Veiny Wilkeia or Wilkiea huegeliana.

As always, I am agog at how much the NSW Native Plant Facebook group members know… and how much I have to learn!

Spring stunners

My second masked venture into sunshine and Spring, this time at coastal Kattang Nature Reserve. And look at this surprise!

Never seen before, and the only one visible to me on the walk.  It did look a bit like a grass tree or Xanthorrhoea, but the flower spike was too fluffy and there was no trunk. There are none of the common Xanthorrhoeas in the reserve, or none that I have seen.

But I am told by the always amazing Facebook group for NSW Plant Identification that this is Xanthorrhoea macronema, or bottlebrush grass plant, and the trunk is below the ground.

What a special solo Spring surprise!

Also new to me was this shrub, where the yellow flowers cluster at the ends of the branches, many with a green cone above their modestly folded golden skirts. The Facebook boffins tell me it’s Phyllota phylicoides, or Common Phyllota. Only it’s not common here, and amongst the thousands of other different yellow-pea-flowering bushes here, its other common name of Yellow Peabush has me laughing aloud.

Another less common shrub here, with most un-pea-like flowers, was partly familiar, as I could see it was an Isopogon, but which one? Could be anemonilfolius or petiolaris, the experts say. With so little information, I am always surprised any identification is possible.

Of course there were many other flowers out, as well as the masses of yellow pea shrubs like Dillwynias, but it seemed that whatever other shy flowers apeared, a pink boronia was nearby.

Their vivid deep pinks were in such profusion amongst all the greys of fallen timber and dead bracken that it was almost an embarrassment of boronias. Such beauty, freely offered…

Several clumps of our dainty Native Iris or Flag, a Patersonia, seemed to be preferring the sunnier open track edges, serenely showing their yellow centres from each three-petalled purple bloom.

And a boronia not far away…

Glory days

Having finally got out in the bush to catch up on Spring (nose duly covered by a mask), I have been treated to a glorious shower of yellow flowering shrubs, from lemon to orange-tinged.

This pale beauty is aptly named the Golden Glory Pea, or Gompholobium latifolia.

It grows on the prettiest arching shrub, very different from the stiffer majority.

And now that the wattles are done, the job of carrying the gold throughout this coastal bushland is being borne by a variety of pea-flowering shrubs, too many for me to suss out, like Dilwynias.

In lesser numbers, the Hop Bushes or Dodoneas are flaunting their bunches of soft green flowers.

But the winner for dominance is a shrub or small tree called Satinwood (Nematolepis squamea), whose starry white flowers formally stud its branches throughout the bush, at all different heights.

Spring hits

Confined as I am to my place, unable to see what is flowering in the bush, it is a great treat to have Spring come to me.

Some of these plants are having their first Spring as residents, so I am glad to see them not only survive their potted lives, but burst into bloom!

This is a native, Philoteca myoporoides, flowering above the Bacopa ground cover.

Planted at the same time last year, this Ruby Belle variant on the native climber, Pandorea pandorana, quickly climbed right up the lattice to the top floor and has proved really too vigorous for comfortable control, but it is pretty foliage anyway, so I won’t be pulling it out. These are the first flowers I have had on it.

In the back garden strip, inherited pots of orchids were put to shelter under a tree fern. Their current starry flowers are a surprise gift!

Not a flower, but green at least, and a symbol of why I am not out bushwalking. My personal mask has been my daily companion/jailor during my month’s radiation treatment, and I now have it at home.

I am told some people grow strawberries in theirs! But I will keep it as a sculptural memento of the time: of fighting down panic as it is placed over your face and clamped down firmly to the table beneath you.

I know it is so the radiation is targeting precisely the right spots on my nose/face each time, and I appreciate that.

But as your nostrils are plugged with wet cotton wool, you must breathe through your mouth. And stay calm…

The team at Port Macquarie Cancer Unit are great and do their very best to help, but it is a fact that radiation burns the good cells as well as the cancerous ones, so my burnt face must now undergo about 10 days of escalating side effects before it can begin to heal.

I only hope it has done the intended job, as that cannot be determined.

But the lesson I learnt there was that, as my Dad used to say, ‘There are always others worse off then you, Sha!’.

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.