Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Benjeroop Wildlife reserve

About 30 years ago Cliff Beauglehole surveyed the area north of Kerang to record the vascular plants growing in reserves and public land. (In fact he surveyed the whole of Victoria but this particular area is pertinent to this post.)

Benjeroop Wildlife Reserve (Victorian Biodiversity Atlas)
The Loddon River flows north to join the Little Murray and the Murray near Benjeroop, as does the Barr Creek and one of the reserves that Cliff surveyed in the area borders the Barr Creek and is called Benjeroop Wildlife Reserve. Cliff recorded 246 native vascular plants between Benjeroop and Cohuna but devoted a whole paragraph to the Benjeroop Reserve.

The author was most impressed with Benjeroop State Forest and recommends that the area be given top priority as a Biological Reserve - suggest Wildlife Reserve.(a) there are several large worthwhile and important communities.(b) at least 8 native vascular plant species which are not known from any other Murray Valley Study Area reserve, some of which are in abundance.(c) when fully investigated in all seasons would yield other worthwhile species. Several roadsides deserve consideration as potential Roadside Conservation i.e. protection of rare communities.(1) the roads adjoining S(outh) end of Benjeroop State Forest, such would form important buffer zones
Last week I tried to visit the reserve.

The first afternoon we drove down one road that turned out to be a 'no through road' - but we stopped to ask directions from a local farmer who was parked half way along checking out new lambs. That was the end of the exploration that afternoon because it turned out my husband and she had a lot of mutual acquaintances from 50 years ago having both attended Kerang schools.

The second afternoon, with my 90-year-old mother-in-law in the passenger seat, I had another go following directions from the aforesaid farmer. We drove down Heffer Road but unfortunately there are no signs to indicate reserve or private land so I stopped at a likely spot to photograph some plants ...  and the only passing vehicle stopped to ask (in a friendly way with serious intent) what we were up to. I explained and was rewarded with more directions. By then a storm had arrived so we went home.

Next time I am in the area I will drive down Benjeroop Forest Road that leads off Rabbit Point Road but I have been told by the above informants that the road could be in bad condition.

The Reserve (I believe) is open forest of Black Box Eucalyptus largiflorens with a chenopod understory. There are River Red Gums and Tanged Lignum along the Barr Creek. The bits I did see looked interesting but I was just a week or so early I think. Painted Lady butterflies were out in some numbers and there were some day-flying moths. Babblers, choughs, Striated Pardalotes and butcherbirds were calling.

Painted Lady
Possibly Beauty Buttons Leptorhynchos tetrachaetus.Or Leoicarpa (Leptorhynchos) panaetioides. 
Also Fruit Fly spp?

Cotula about to flower
Rhodanthe corymbiflora Paper Sunray in bud

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Gold Dust Wattle

In recognition of Wattle Day I'm posting about a plant in my garden.

We had been away from home for a month or so and when we returned the first thing I saw in my garden was the Gold Dust Wattle Acacia acinacea in full bloom.

Gold Dust Wattle Acacia acinacea
Gold Dust Wattle grows naturally north of Geelong in the Brisbane Ranges National Park but I bought my plant in a nursery and I don't know its provenance. The flowers are balls of yellow, the stems angled and flattened and many of the phyllodes (leaves) have a beak set to one side of the point. My plant is growing next to a driveway in sandy loam but the foliage is quite soft and it can be pruned back without harming the plant. It is about a metre high and I think it will grow a bit higher yet. Apparently they live for several decades.

Angled stems and beaked phyllodes

Insect on branchlet

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Caiguna Blowhole

I thought a blowhole was on a rocky cliff where ocean waves pressurise and erode a hole though to the surface inland just far enough that you could see ocean spray or hear the waves thumping through the cave.

But, I have been educated. There is a rest stop on the Eyre Highway where a small hole in the ground about 15km inland from the cliffs and waves along Great Australian Bight called Caiguna Blowhole.

Caiguna Blowhole
The Nullarbor is flat, it is huge and it is limestone. Cave systems throughout the Nullarbor have been formed for millennia by rainfall weathering even though it is one of the driest limestone areas in the world. Some of the caves have collapsed to form large depressions, some like Caiguna have just a vent leading to the surface. And all caves breathe due to air pressure. When air pressure is high the caves breathe out and when air pressure is low they breathe in.

When we were at Caiguna the cave was breathing out. the breeze was cool and strong so we tied a handkerchief onto a piece of cotton to demonstrate. Family visited the cave a few years ago on an extremely hot day and saw numerous birds flying in and out of the blowhole to take advantage of the cool air.

I also took the opportunity to photograph the plants around the carpark area. So, these are my final photos of our truncated trip to the west. (See previous blogpost.)

Emu Bush Eremophila sp.



Wednesday, 24 August 2016

For dad

Last summer there was a large bushfire north of Esperance in Western Australia. As we drove north to Norseman from Esperance yesterday we drove through areas that were burnt in that fire and near Grass Patch we stopped to have a closer look.

Burnt mallee at Grass Patch
It was a reserve of mallee - mallee eucalypt trees, banksias and other small shrubs. The regrowth was just starting and because the trees are mallee they regrow from the base rather than epicormic shoots along the branches. It would be an ideal time to identify species of eucalypt because the juvenile growth is distinctly different.

I was somewhat surprised to see that a number of small shrubs and forbs were flowering and I found three different orchids as well. All of these were found within fifty metres of our parked car.

Curry Flower Lysinema ciliatum

As I wandered through the blackened landscape I had my father in my thoughts. We were south of Perth on our holiday in Western Australia, visiting a cousin, when we had word that my father, Angus Wyllie, had died after a short illness. After considering alternatives we decided to immediately drive back to Victoria with the van. Those of you who are regular readers of this blog will know that we don't usually travel quickly but we put our running shoes on and, apart from short lunch and coffee stops, just kept going.

I was thinking about dad because one of the many good things he did in his ninety-five years was to volunteer as a firefighter in his local brigade at Homerton. Sometimes he was captain of the brigade. Every summer the truck was called out to various fires. In the days when dad was involved, in the 1950s and 1960s, There weren't as many rules and regulations as there are now so the brigade was a bit like 'Dad's Army' but they got the job done.

I also got to thinking about life and death, growth and regrowth, how fire in the Australian bush doesn't usually kill. Many plants need the heat and the smoke in order to generate from seed and many trees, like the mallees, have developed survival techniques. Dad was a farmer and a thinker and a lay preacher and he enjoyed using a metaphor in his sermons so I think he would approve of me thinking about him in a burnt forest. Especially so because he has chosen to be cremated. He has lived a very good life and his genes continue in many children, grandchildren and  great-grandchildren who all loved him.

Western Australia, we will be back.