The Eco Gardener
in Molonglo Gorge,
20 km from Canberra.
I'm back from Australia, where I had a wonderful time seeing friends, taking part in the Agri-Food Research Network conference, and (of course) spending lots of time looking at plants, both domestic and wild. It was a great time of year to be seeing wildflowers, and eastern Australia has been getting so much rain lately it was the greenest I have ever seen it. That was good for the flowers as well.
On December 4th I was taken for a walk up a beautiful gorge near Canberra, the Molonglo Gorge. It is quite high up (for Australia) – nearly 600 metres above sea level – and I was surprised how many of the small herbaceous plants I saw were cousins to New Zealand plants growing at lower altitudes (and latitudes).
A view of Molonglo Gorge
These included the Wahlenbergia genus (one species of which is named the Australian bluebell and another the NZ bluebell, and they are indeed in the the same family – Campanulaceae – as the European bluebells, although their blue flowers are much more open and not bell-shaped), Dianella, Helichrysum, Craspedia, Mazus, Pratia and Cotula.
The Australian Bugle,
An Australian hebe - no idea
which one - please help!
A manuka or Leptospermum
- possibly grandiflorum -
but I'm happy to corrected on that.
A Dianella or flax lily -
probably D. revoluta
Flowering shrubs with NZ relations included Hebe and Leptospermum (the manuka genus). I also saw a wattle which displayed a habit which quite a few New Zealand shrubs have – radically different juvenile and adult foliage.
A red-stemmed wattle
displaying juvenile and
Wandering near the coast at Thirroul on December 9th I saw Hibiscus trionum growing wild at the beach, as it does in northern New Zealand. I always thought this was New Zealand's native hibiscus, so was surprised to see it there, but with a little research when I got home I discovered that the experts now think it is not native at all, although how it got to Aotearoa is unclear. As it is found in Europe, its Australian lineage may also be doubtful. A more authentically Down Under seaside plant is what is known as New Zealand spinach here and Warrigal Greens there. Either way its scientific name is Tetragonia tetragonioides and it makes good eating.
NZ Spinach or
My coastal wildflower walk was crowned by finding a tall ground orchid flowering freely across a hill of spoil covering a long-abandoned mine site. The bush had grown back, and so had these beautiful little freckled flowers. New Zealand has ground orchids too, which grow in some challenging alpine places, but they are very tiny and obscure compared to the Hyacinth Orchid.
Dipodium punctatum,the Hyacinth Orchid.