Sydney wildflowers – a walk amongst locals in spring

I love spring. It is my favourite season. An explosion of life, colours, smells and light. Every year it is a relief to finally feel spring in the air!

In Sydney, things are a little different. Most plants are evergreen and we get spoilt with many warm winter days. Yet spring doesn’t really happen until the blooming festival of wildflowers in the local forests herald its arrival.

∼ Er ist’s ∼

Frühling läßt sein blaues Band
Wieder flattern durch die Lüfte;
Süße, wohlbekannte Düfte
Streifen ahnungsvoll das Land.
Veilchen träumen schon,
Wollen balde kommen.
– Horch, von fern ein leiser Harfenton!
Frühling, ja du bist’s!
Dich hab ich vernommen!

Eduard Mörike (1804 – 1875)

The sweet, familiar scents of spring! In the days when waratahs and other wildflowers were abundant in Sydney’s forests, the spring aromas wafted to sea in such dense clouds that sailors reported smelling the wildflowers many miles away, so I heard from a National Parks Ranger.

In our times of a disappearing natural world, fewer wildflowers remain. Yet, fortunately, those who are left can be found not far from Sydney’s suburbs. On a little stroll around the Perimeter Walk near Terry Hills there were yolky Dillwynia yellows, cool Dampiera blues, and many different wattles out basking in the afternoon sun. A symphony of smells, a tapestry of colour! I hope you enjoy the photos – I certainly enjoyed taking them.

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Dillwynia spec. – yummy yellow and a beautiful red zigzag crown

If I had taken my Les Robinson Field Guide to the Native Plants of Sydney I would have known to better pay attention to the LEAVES of Dillwynias. Their shape and arrangement can give the final species clue. It’s hard to tell from this picture how exactly the leaves are arranged. It was quite a tall shrub, at least 1.5 meters; and (as you can see) abundant with yummy Eggs and Bacon flowers!

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Red spider flower – Grevillea speciosa

The red spider flower – one of my favourites. Yes, I have plenty of favourites ;-). I’d like for a crafty jeweler to make brilliant red replica earrings , please!

grevillea-buxifolia-ssp-buxifolia

Grey spider flower – Grevillea buxifolia ssp. buxifolia

So pretty, yet so hairy! A true local, the grey spider flower’s native range is restricted to sandstone soils in the Sydney region.

grevillea-linearifolia
White spider flower – Grevillea linearifolia

As all good things, Grevilleas came in threes.

Also in threes, but (even) more difficult to classify than the different Grevilleas were the wattles.

wattle-cropped
Acacia ulicifolia – aka Prickly Moses (I think)

Les Robinson describes those Acacia species with with leathery dry leaves (or rather “phyllodes” as they are morphologically speaking not true leaves) as “easy to classify”. Well, I disagree! To me, there are still too many look-alikes .

yellow-acacia
So many tiny flowers on this cylindrical inflorescence!
wattle-sky
The skies were yellow with wattle flowers

As promised, a cool blue Dampiera:

dampiera
Dampiera stricta

So blue! No wonder the dainty flowers caught William Dampier’s attention when visiting Australia’s west coast in the 17th century. Dampiera species are more abundant along Australia’s western coast, but there are three species listed in Les Robinson to occur in Sydney as well.

Finally, some pics from two members of the Rutaceae. They contain some beautifully showy wildflowers:

eriostemon
Eriostemon australasius with visiting bee
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 Eriostemon australasius close-up
boronia
Now this is pink! A beautiful Boronia with flowers galore! 

The plant guide – “bible” as I have heard it often being referred to – I used to prepare this post is Les Robinsons’s Field guide to the native plants of Sydney in its revised 3rd edition published by Kangaroo Press.

I also used this illustrated PDF guide http://www.marklucock.com/Wildflower_pdf_document_V1.pdf  and this website http://www.waratahsoftware.com.au/wpr-flora-lanecove.shtml

My Toastmasters Ice Breaker speech – one for plants

My Toastmasters Ice Breaker speech only took me about one hour to write. You certainly don’t have to twist my arm to get me started on plants 😉 So here it is – Curtains up for “Nuts about Plants” the speech:
 
“Chances are, that after my speech today, you will think I’m nuts.
But to use this ice breaker speech to share something about myself and not to address what I am about to talk about would mean to not tell you about something very important to me.

So let me get it off my chest and confess: I have an obsession with plants. Much of my time is devoted to thinking, reading, speaking and writing about plants. Once in a while I also get my hands dirty trying to grow them. Above all though, I feel I have to tell the world just how amazing plants are.

Where does this urge stem from, you might wonder? To be honest, I don’t really know. It might have something to do with my upbringing in a small village surrounded by nature. My grand-parents and parents have always had a big, wild garden and they taught me a deep appreciation of plants.

But what is it that makes plants so special? Oh, there are so many things, but these are my top 3:

  1. First of all, they are green.
    Well, that might not strike you as too special.. Responsible for the green colour are biologic powerhouses, the chloroplasts. Chloroplasts harness light energy and in the presence of water produce oxygen. This process is called photosynthesis. Not that the name matters all that much. What really matters is the oxygen. We can’t survive without oxygen. Try holding your breath, and see how quickly your body will revolt, trying to overcome the situation and you’ll be gasping for fresh air. Our lives depend on oxygen. And every breath we take is a celebration of life – life made possible by plants.
  2.  

  3. Plants provide for us in many other ways, too. Food is the obvious one: Fruit, vegetables, nuts, spices – the colour and flavour they add! – grains ground to flour and baked into bread. Even the animals we eat at some stage fed on plants. And there is more: Think about the clothing you wear – the cotton and linen fabrics -, the timber boards you walk on, the many plant-derived medicine there is – from calming chamomile tea to powerful anti-cancer drugs. Plants produce a massive array of useful resources.
  4.  

  5. And if all this isn’t yet enough to make a really strong case for plants, for me, there is one more: Plants make me happy. Seriously, I feel better when I am surrounded by plants. That’s why I enjoy bushwalking, visiting parks and Botanic Gardens. I also keep plants at home, and even have a plant on my desk at work.

 
Looking at the expression on your faces makes me think I might have succeeded in convincing you that I am indeed nuts about plants?

On a more serious note though I hope you agree that plants really have a lot going for them. And given the many aspects of our lives they touch this might very well be not the last of my speeches about plants.

Thank you.”