After returning home from Europe recently I have been delighting in our plant diversity, the delicate grey/green colours, and, of course, the eucalyptus smell.
It is also nice to see well-watered plants, mosses and lichens springing to life, and all the fungi. I always love August as it is a month of the unexpected, a lucky dip of plants. Which species will burst into bloom as weather conditions seesaw between hot and cold? Wattles are one of our most iconic plants and, as Philippa wrote in June, the creamy flowers of Sweet Wattle, Acacia suaveolens, have been brightening up the winter bush.
In early July I was surprised to see signs of brighter spring wattles starting to flower. At Fraser Avenue it was the globular flower-heads of Myrtle Wattle, Acacia myrtifolia, and in several places our Australian floral emblem, the bright yellow balls of Golden Wattle, Acacia pycnantha.
I always keep a close eye on Varnish Wattle, Acacia verliciflua, as one grows near my back door, but its pairs of fluffballs always seem to take forever to actually burst into bloom. Out the back of Moggs Creek be on the lookout for Spreading Wattle, Acacia genistifolia, but beware of its spiky foliage.
All these wattle species have leaf-like phyllodes (modified leaf stalks), only retaining the feathery leaves when seedlings. An early wattle, which does retain its leaves, is Silver Wattle, Acacia dealbata subs. dealbata. Swathes of these maybe found just outside Lorne, and there are nice specimens near the Painkalac dam. The attractive silver-grey leaves contrast well with the large, clustered globular flowers.
An August staple in heathlands and woodlands are the delicate blue pea-flowers growing in swaying racemes on the small shrubs of Common Hovea, Hovea heterophylla, always a pleasure to see.
Walking along the track to Soapy Rocks I saw a large healthy Sticky Boobialla, Myoporum petiolatum, in full flower. A less common and robust plant than Common Boobialla, Myoporum insulare, its clusters of small, fragrant, pinky-white spotted, five-petalled flowers are often overlooked when walking along the coastal trails.
In the heathlands I will be on the lookout for the Small Sheoak, Allocasuarina misera. It’s a case of looking down for a low bush instead of looking up at a tree, as is the norm with all our other sheoaks. The male plant has masses of long orange spikes, while the female has orange-red globular flowers.
Small Sheoak (male)
Small Sheoak (male)
My favourite is always the sudden appearance of the gorgeous small, salmon-pink pea-flowers on the stiff, bare, sculpted stems of the Leafless Bitter-pea, Daviesia brevifolia.
It is such an interesting time to be out walking, and you will really need your copy of Flowers of Anglesea and Aireys Inlet.