Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Sandstone springwatch 2020, Wollombi Valley

Patersonia sericea©AP

People often ask about our place in the Australian bush in the Wollombi Valley. In contrast to my beloved English cottage garden, this wide treescape with its soaring sandstone ridges and deep valleys is a little harder to explain, especially when I talk about the plants.

Sandstone cliffs, our place. ©AP

While the wider view is fabulous, hidden here in the woods are treasures that are often hard to spot. I've been cataloguing the native plants and wildlife here since we came in the 1990s, always particularly excited about orchids and the beautiful carpets of Patersonia (flag irises) that appear in spring.  I have a ton of reference books, but some of the plants come in many varieties ... !

The irises like certain parts of the property and knowing if they are flowering takes a little guesswork – they like a warm sunny morning so it's not hard to harness the energy and take off for the 30-minute walk around the ridge to see if they are flowering. I thought the anomalies between one area and another were solely the shade or the soil, then I realised there were two varieties. The first to show is Patersonia glabrata, usually standing shoulder-to-shoulder on tufted stems, but razed to the ground by a very hot fire (aided and abetted by the dropping of incendiaries!) three years ago this spring. While the ground is still barren, the irises have re-appeared and I hope will thicken out to cover the hillside as before. This is the first of the 2020 season - a little early?  They are on a very sheltered, north-facing sandy slope. I don't think it is Patersonia fragilis as that's rare.

Patersonia glabrata, Leafy Purple Flag. ©AP

The top block is flat and the irises bloom later there. On closer inspection in other years I found that they are a different type, patersonia sericea. These aren't out yet, but hopefully soon. Note the tufted stem:

Patersonia sericea.  Photo: October 2016. ©AP

Meanwhile  I've seen tiny Pterostylis – greenhood orchids again for the first time since our fire. Over the years I've seen several different varieties and they are notoriously similar so difficult to pin down. As a friend said, they resemble little triffids and it's hard to think of them as orchids. These have little 'waists' and are green and white.

Pterostylis, Greenhoods, July 2020. ©AP

Next to erupt throughout the bush has been the Hardenbergia vine, a vivid purple people pleaser, seen here blooming over a burnt area that's still struggling to recover even after three years.

Hardenbergia. ©AP
There are more plants in bud and the birds are gathering. So thrilled to have seen the white goshawk again today for the first time for years! Also spied this Wonga vine, Pandorea pandorana:

Pandorea pandorana, Wonga vine. August 2020. ©AP

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