I seem to be developing a habit of posting each month’s field trip report on the very last day of the month. Knowing what my calendar looks like for March, I suspect next month will be the same. Here’s hoping I manage to be a bit more timely with my posts after March.
Ironically, I actually did my February field visit at the start of the month but decided not to post it so soon after January’s report, then didn’t get the chance to post about it until now.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I visited Narrandera Wetlands for World Wetlands Day. After finishing at the wetlands, I decided to spend the rest of the day exploring some of the other ecosystems Narrandera boasts. Narrandera is interesting to visit, because the town itself is situated in the middle of several very different ecosystems. Within a few minutes drive, or a fairly easy hike if you’re a keen walker, you can find an ephemeral wetland, a permanent lake, remnant Inland Grey Box and Yellow Box grassy woodland, riparian River Red Gum woodland, and hillside scrub dominated by Acacia species and Cypress Pine.
A lot of people are familiar with Narrandera Common, which adjoins the Narrandera Nature Reserve (a precinct of the Murrumbidgee Valley National Park), and is home to the local population of koalas. The current population is descended from several koalas that were released into the reserve in 1972, and an annual headcount is held each autumn to keep track of how the population is progressing.
The Common and Reserve are an area of riparian (aka riverside) woodland, dominated by River Red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis). It’s a grassy woodland, with an understorey that is unfortunately dominated by introduced weeds and annual grasses, due in large part to the fact that it is very heavily grazed by kangaroos, rabbits and abandoned horses. I was therefore quite pleased when I stumbled across this:
Not a large patch of native forbs, nor a particularly diverse one, but a patch of native forbs nevertheless. I love coming across flowering native forbs, because Australia has so many different species of native forbs, many of them with beautiful or downright strange flowers, but they tend to be tiny, hidden amongst the grass, and generally just not seen unless you’re really looking. You need to slow down and pay attention to really appreciate, or even notice, most of our forbs, and it’s always worth it.
And for everyone who just asked what forbs are, basically they’re any flowering herbaceous plant – broadly speaking pretty much anything that isn’t a grass, sedge, rush, shrub or tree. And while I’m explaining things, in case you didn’t already know, you can click on the photos to enlarge them, if you’d like to see them a bit better.
So, now that you’ve clicked on that picture and viewed it larger, you’ll notice that there are two types of flowers visible – star-shaped purple ones, and daisy-like yellow and white ones.
The purple ones are Native Bluebells, Wahlenbergia sp. and I wish I’d included a size reference in these photos to show you how tiny they were. I’ve seen Wahlenbergia with larger flowers than these ones, but they’re never what one might call big, and the ‘green’ parts of the plant (the stems and leaves) are so very fine that they’re easy to miss in amongst other vegetation, especially when they’re not flowering. For such delicate-seeming plants, they’re actually pretty tough. It’s not uncommon to see little Wahlenbergia flowers sticking up in people’s front yards or nature strips, and I saw one growing bravely in a crack in the concrete of a busy main street once, waving its little flower defiantly.
I had to hit my field guides for the daisies, because the best I could do on my own was ‘some sort of burr-daisy’, but there’s a vast array of very different daisies out there, and they deserve to be properly identified. My researches lead me to believe that the daisies in question are in fact the Tufted Burr-daisy, Calotis scapigera – which PlantNET informs me ‘grows chiefly in saltbush and River Red Gum communities, on damp clay soils in flood-prone areas’, which certainly fits where I found them.
In the same general area I also encountered the below two species of yellow-flowered forbs. I think the first is the native Grassland Wood Sorrel (Oxalis perennans) but Oxalis species are hard to tell apart and there are a lot of introduced species. The second plant has flowers that lead me to believe it’s a species of Goodenia, and some poking around on the internet suggests it might be Goodenia heteromera, aka Spreading Goodenia, but I couldn’t swear to it.
Now that I’ve revealed my need to brush up on my common forbs, let’s move along to some plants I am confident in my identification of. In addition to visiting the Wetlands and Common, I also headed up to Bundidgerry Hill, on the east side of the town, overlooking Lake Talbot.
Bundidgerry Hill is rocky, sandy and dry, which means scrub. The hillside is dominated by Acacia species, rather spindly eucalypts, and Cypress Pine, with an understorey of tough, drought-tolerant species.
Speaking of tough, drought-tolerant understorey species – how beautiful are these Sticky Everlastings?
I also found another burr-daisy up on the hill. Purple Burr-daisies this time, Calotis cuneifolia. Compare the leaves and growth habit with the one from the flood-plain, you can tell a lot about a plant’s environment from its leaves.
The same few metres of ground yielded some Mulga Ferns and another Goodenia.