Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hairy Anchor Plant

Discaria pubescens

I was delighted to find a group of these plants, flowering their little hearts out, in the Allora Mountain Flora and Fauna Reserve today.

I had not seen the plant in the wild before, so it was a treat to have found it looking its annual best, smothered in exquisite little flowers.

The name “anchor plant” comes from its neatly paired anchor-like thorns, which make the species a rather unfriendly one! A specimen growing in Peacehaven Botanic Park at Highfields demonstrates that it can be an attractive, well-shaped plant, nonetheless.

Though somewhat more common down south, this is a rare plant in Queensland and has been classified as “near threatened”, a listing which means it has declined in the wild to the point where it relies on conservation measures to ensure its survival here.

This group of plants, which I believe to be the only plants in this flora and fauna reserve, seemed to consist only of old specimens, most containing a significant proportion of dead wood. The reserve showed signs of being heavily grazed by cattle, and the conclusion that they might be preventing regeneration of new anchor plant seedlings was unavoidable. Conservation can only be effective if the targeted plants are able to produce a new generation. That the reserve might be failing to achieve one of the purposes for which it was declared certainly seemed to be a possibility there.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Lance-leafed Hovea

Hovea lanceolata
August is purple and gold time, for our local wildflowers. Wattles are everywhere, and the hovea are painting the countryside with patches of purple. I found these growing on a hillside at Gowrie Junction.

The flowers are tiny, but so many are produced that they make a great show.

Despite its name,  this plant’s leaves are often strap-shaped (lorate) rather than lanceolate (a word which means shaped like a lance – wider near the base of the leaf and coming to a point at the tip).
They have the rusty-furry backs which are found in so many species of hovea.

Like most hoveas, they are rather wispy plants, looking their best if grouped in multiples. For gardeners, more plants are easy to create from seed collected in early summer. It needs pre-sowing treatment to break the hard seedcoats. Putting the seeds in a coffee cup and pouring boiling water over them, then leaving them to soak overnight usually does the trick.

Early Nancy

Wurmbea biglandulosa
I found a large patch of these delightful little lilies in grassy woodland, in the well-watered soil of a creek bed at Gowrie Junction last week.

The purple markings were stronger on some flowers than on others.

A patch can be expected to flower for a period of about three weeks. The plants will produce seed capsules which ripen in November or December, after which they will die back to their underground corms until next winter.
There's not much to the plants - just a few wispy leaves and the flower stem. When not flowering they are very easy to overlook.
 They are frost hardy, but like to be fairly well-watered. This means they are not often seen in our district, with its degraded stream beds.
They can be grown from seed, but it is rarely done, as it takes three years for new little plants to flower for the first time. Before white settlement, the bulbs were an important food plant for the people of the Downs.