Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Australia 2. The Southwestern Corner

Kangaroo paws (Anigosanthus) pop up amongst
Rhodanthe chlorocephala (Asteraceae) in an area
that was recently burned.  Frequent natural fires 
remove dead wood, litter, and undergrowth.  
From Perth, I set out toward the southwestern corner of the Australian continent.  This is an area of chaparral vegetation, similar to that of southern California, the Cape Province of South Africa, or the Mediterranean region.  Rains come in the winter, leading to fantastic displays of flowers in the spring, which in Australia arrives in September.  Wild fires are common here, and a natural part of the chaparral's life cycle.  This returns nutrients to the soil and prevents more catastrophic fires. The plants native to such regions are adapted to survive and resprout quickly.

Many of the plant families represented are familiar, but the genera are often strange to those of us from the northern hemisphere.  Myrtceae, Fabaceae, Orchidaceae, and Asteraceae abound, along with the peculiar southern hemisphere family Proteaceae.  A really good guide can be found on-line at Florabase, a database of Western Australian wildflowers.

I stayed close to the coast for most of the trip.  The rocky cliffs and dunes here are covered with a lush cover of evergreen shrubs.  The cold southern ocean pounds away nearby.  We face the southern Indian Ocean on the way down, but as we round the bend of the continent, we face straight toward Antarctica.
Winter rain and coastal fog maintain an evergreen elfin forest along the
southwestern coast. 
A species of Carissa hugs a granite crest along the
Kunzea pulchella
There are few people in the countryside, and at every roadside stop I had to step carefully in order to avoid crushing sundews and orchids. I established my headquarters at a motel in the town of Albany and spent the next several days exploring the bush that was all around.  One highlight of the trip was the many carnivorous sundews in the area.  They were in fact so numerous that they will get a whole posting devoted mainly to them.  Enjoy the pictures and stay tuned!

Thysanotus patersonii, one of many species 
of fringe lily in the family Asparagaceae.  
This one is a vine.
Lavandula stoechas (Lamiaceae)
Pattersonia occidentalis
Pattersonia umbrosa

A species of Adenanthos, possibly A. barbigerus (Proteaceae)
found in Western Australia

The forests of southwestern Australia are dominated by Eucalyptus trees, as the are
in most parts of the continent.  Here the ground cover is dominated by large ferns
and a vining legume with orange flowers.

A member of the genus Euphorbia, so common in South Africa,
thrives here as well.

Caladenia latifolia, one of the many 
ground orchids in the woods of the southwest.

Calla lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) is one of many
 plants native to South Africa that has become a weed in

Adenanthos obovatus has a denser spike of flowers.

Scaevola aemula, in the family Goodeniaceae
creates lively patches of blue in the
spring landscape.
A close-up of Scaevola aemula flowers.

Dampiera is also in the Goodeniaceae, and easily confused with

One of the many legumes to be found in Western Australia.

Banksia coccinea is the most spectacular member of the Proteaceae in Australia. The flower heads consist of many tiny

Despite its compact flower heads, Actinodium 
cunninghamii is not a member of the sunflower family, 
but rather or the ubiquitous Myrtaceae. 

The yellow blossoms of Chamaexeros rise from the base of the fan-shaped cluster
of leaves. 

The various Australian species of Hibbertia superficially resembles our evening
primroses. but are members of  the family Dilleniaceae.

A species of Banksia overlooks the cold southern Ocean.

Another member of the Proteaceae, probably Adenanthos sericeus,
forms a conifer-like shrub.

The seed capsules of Banksia form from
the fusion of a number of separate flowers,
and only open after a fire.

Caladenia longicauda was common in the woods.
An unidentified member of the Myrtaceae, possibly
a Kunzea.

Verticordia grandiflora (Myrtaceae)
A species of Boronia (Rutaceae) grows in white
sand along the coast.
Another Boronia.