There aren’t too many places in the world where you can see over 50 species of wildflowers in flower during the course of a 2hr bush walk. One of these places is the south west of Western Australia where I am lucky enough to live. The area is an international biodiversity hot spot covering 300,000 square kilometres and although some spots within this area are “hotter” than others you don’t have to travel very far to get an idea of the botanical diversity we have on our “doorstep”.
Earlier this month (October) I went for a walk in the hills just 20km from the Perth CBD. As with the last walk which I blogged about I walked with my husband Craig and friends Kim and Dave. We left one car at the end of Spring St, Kalamunda and then drove to the Camel Farm on Paulls Valley Rd. From there we walked back to Spring St via the Bibbulmun Track, a distance of 5 or 6 km. As soon as we crossed the road, heading west, we saw large patches of three types of gorgeous little triggerplants growing in the red gravel.
Triggerplants, botanical name Stylidium, come in a variety of shapes and sizes – they can have grass like leaves, rosettes of rounded leaves or tufts of wiry leaves and various variations in between. The flowers can be white, cream, yellow, orange, mauve, violet or various shades of pink, some with contrasting blotches or spots but two things the flowers all have in common are that they have 4 petals and a central hammer-like column which is triggered by insects to aid in pollination and which gives the plant its common name. I remember as a child being intrigued by the flowers and without fail I would always lightly touch the flower to set the trigger off.
These three were Stylidium bulbiferum (circus triggerplant) which has orangey pink flowers, Stylidium brunonianum (pink fountain triggerplant) which has mid pink flowers and Stylidium ciliatum (golden triggerplant) which is named for the golden hairs on the stems, not the flower colour which is creamy white. Further along the track, growing in the leaf litter of jarrah, banksia and she-oak we came across four more species – Stylidium amoenum (lovely triggerplant) which can have flowers in shades of pale purplish blue but these had white flowers, Stylidium affine (queen triggerplant) with large pink flowers, Stylidium schoenoides (cow-kicks) with cream flowers and Stylidium canaliculatum (delicate triggerplant) with pale yellow-orange petals with red markings.
Many Western Australian wildflowers don’t have common names but triggerplants and orchids are among those that do and they evoke a bygone era with their simple and often rather romantic names. We only saw two types of orchids, a few cowslips with their brilliant yellow star shaped flowers and maybe a couple of dozen blue lady orchids. We searched the whole length of the track looking for a blue lady that was fully open but we couldn’t find a single one.
The first part of the walk was a bit of a blur, dashing from one find to another – me taking photos and Kim, who co-authored “Wildflowers of the Northern Bibbulmun Track and Jarrah Forests” coming up with the botanical names of the less common species and any that I didn’t know. Meanwhile the guys kept us on the right track and generally waited patiently for us to catch up but we did receive one “Where are you?” phone call.
A number of other tracks intersect with the Bibbulmun and at one of these open sunny intersections Western Australia’s floral emblem, the kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos manglesii) with its unusual red and green flowers was blooming. A little further on, next to a gravel road there was a riot of colour created by the flowers of a mixture of sunloving plants, thriving in the disturbed soil where there was more available light and less root competition.
The phrase “Nature’s garden” came to mind as I took in the scene. The hot pink of the Melaleuca parviceps contrasted with the dark purple of the purple flag (Patersonia occidentalis) and the vibrant yellow of the various buttercups (Hibbertia) while the mauve of the many-flowered fringed lily (Thysanotus multiflorus) and the clear white of the Helichrysum macranthumwith their papery flowers softened the composition.
There was a sprinkling of pea flowers which we didn’t really take note of at the time. The real attention grabbers though were the magnificent variegated featherflowers (Verticordia huegelii) with their beautiful fluffy flowers which age from white to a deep plum colour. Further along the track Kim pointed out drifts of them perched on top of a huge sheet of granite, finding purchase in just a few centimetres of soil.
Not all of the flowers we saw could be described as beautiful – striking maybe or just weird. For example the acid yellow flowers of the Triptococcus brunonis are different to say the least. The flowers of the Hakea stenocarpaaren’t unusual for members of the hakea genus but the spiral shaped leaves have an unusual shape and are very beautiful.
Thinking about what flowers have an unusual form it has occurred to me that some plants seen on the walk that I consider rather common would in fact be viewed as weird by people outside of Australia, for example the kangaroo paw, the lemon-scented darwinia (Darwinia citriodora) and the one-sided bottlebrush (Calothamnus quadrifidus) to name a few. These three and many of the plants with pretty flowers have been in cultivation for many years and are sold by garden nurseries.
The track winds through terrain which is varied and scenic but the walk is generally easy going. There is one short fairly steep climb and it was here that we saw an old kangaroo – at least I think he was old because it looked as though his bushy eyebrows had turned white with age.
Right to the very end of the walk we were discovering flowers that we hadn’t seen earlier in the day. We didn’t set out to identify every flower that we saw and indeed there were a few that we only noticed when we looked at the photos but we still managed to identify 55 different species that were blooming which are listed below.
We rounded off what had been a very enjoyable morning with a delicious lunch at the Kalamunda Pub.