Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Fooled again

It was marked on my map as Sheoak Hill, in Annya State Forest. I'd been through the area but couldn't recall seeing any sheoaks. The Drooping Sheoak is a tree that's hard to miss, its beautiful drooping branches and distinctive 'foliage' are easy to recognise. I thought that maybe the timber cutters had cleaned them all out, but they usually leave the sheoaks in favour of the eucalypts.

So I went to have a look...and found Scrub Sheoaks Allocasuarina paludosa. In amongst the Silver Banksias Banksia marginata and the Beaked Hakeas Hakea rostrata were little sheoak shrubs scarcely a metre high.

The species name paludosa means 'swamp growing', and I do find them growing in very damp sandy areas east of Heywood but in the Annya forest they grow in dampish sand. Mostly they are dioecious, the male and female plants separate. And the female plants are absolutely covered in cones. You need a good hand lens with you to identify the species sometimes, and the thing to look at is the leaf pattern - the tiny whorls of points at the intersections of the branches. In the second photo below you can see the leaves, in the blurry background. The name Allocasuarina is because the branchlets are supposed to resemble Cassowary feathers. OK. I've met a Cassowary but didn't study it's feathers too closely - I was more concerned that it didn't attack me with its feet.

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