Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Qualup Bell - Pimelea physodes

From qualup bell
Some things that we love about our park are not at all "of" our park.  Such is the Qualup Bell which naturally grows on the south coast of Western Australia and really struggles in hotter and especially in more humid climates.  But it is such a beautiful plant and so unusual, that backyard botanists and the genuine versions have both pursued, and largely succeeded in grafting the Qualup Bell to root stock that can tolerate a wider range of climates.  That's how we get them to grow in the park and other areas have also succeeded.

This is one of the plants that will just stop you in your tracks when it blooms, but it is not the bloom that you notice.   The large bells start out about the color of a green apple and gradually turn to the plum colors that you see here. But  the bells are NOT the flower.  They are made of bracts which are modified leaves that protect the actual flower inside.  Just another case of Australian flora being completely unwilling to follow any generally accepted rules of conduct.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Conostephium pendulum

From Conostephium pendulum
Sources: Perth Plants pg 74
Australian Journal of Botany

I love this little flower.  It looks to all the world like a weed until it bursts into bloom usually from March to October.  Even after it displays it's tiny purple tipped white flowers it is easy to overlook because it grows low to the ground and is far from spectacular.  Still, it is tiny and pretty and unusual in color and form.  Maybe that's why I like it.  It's easy to overlook, but rewarding to remember.

This plant can only be pollinated by bees because the pollen is released internally by the anthers and must be shaken out by the buzzing of the bees.  If you see a bee on this flower, look closely because it is likely to be a native (stingless) bee and also because it is rare to see a pollinator visit.  The flower has no nectar, just pollen so the bee has to visit other plants to acquire nectar.

We are right in the middle of its endemic region which extends from just South of Geraldton down to the Cape.  You will find it all along the Law Walk these days.  Usually on the escarpment side of the track.  It is also all over the bushland area so walk slowly and enjoy our park.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Nematolepis phebalioides

Sources: Australian National Botanical Gardens

From Nematolepis phebalioides
This flower catches my attention every time I walk through the park.  It can be found in several places, but is most easily found (with a sign to confirm its name) on the dirt path above the Acacia Steps.

I have been watching these flowers and every time I saw them I'd vainly try to remember their names.  Normally when I have trouble with a plant name I just revert to the common name and call it even, but the Nematolepis has no common name so I was stuck. The entire genus is made up of this single species and it grows nowhere else in the world besides Western Australia.  It's endemic region is a small area of the South Coast, East of Albany to Israelite Bay, but we are lucky to have them in the park.

It grows to about 3 ft high and produces 5 petaled flowers that merge into a tiny elongated bell with a green tip that is bird pollinated.



From Everlastings
White and pink, both with a yellow center are the most common colors for these beautiful blooms.  They erupt in spring anywhere that they grew the year before or were sewn.  The blossoms atop a long slender stem attract bees and make a wonderful display of color.  The flowers can be dried for use in arrangements indoors and the plant itself is water friendly and happy in our poor Perth soil, but they can be grown pretty much anywhere.

P. Wilshaw tells us that the yellow center turns dark after the flower has been pollinated thus saving the bees extra work.


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Pterostylis sp. (Greenhoods)

From Orchids
Source:  Orchids of Western Australia; Brown, Dundas, Dixon & Hoppper
Photos: M. Taylor

As orchids go, these seem pretty bland, at least as they compare to the beautiful orchids in Asia and even some of the other ground orchids here in Australia.  Yep, GROUND ORCHIDS.  Last year during spring I kept seeing some beautiful flowers growing on long slender stems from the ground.  They looked a lot like orchids to me, but orchids growing from the ground instead of nesting in a tree like they were supposed to?  It turns out that all the orchids here in AU are ground orchids and most are much more spectacular than greenhoods, but greenhoods are blooming now so here they are.

There are 300 species of Pterostylis, most of which are in Australia, with a few in New Zealand, New Guinea, and New Caledonia.  Eighty-two species are endemic to Western Australia and two in particular are common.  The genus is divided up into sections for the greenhoods, shell orchids & snail orchids.

The Banded Greenhood (P. vittata) has an all green flower on which the dorsal sepal and petal are joined together to form a hood overtop the column.  The Dark Banded Greenhood (P. sanguinea) is similar except for darker petals.

Both of these and the other greenhoods have a sensitive "door" formed by the lower sepals that slams shut when a gnat or mosquito lands on it.  The door traps the insect up against the stigma where pollen is collected.  After about a half hour, the door opens again and if the bug has not found an escape it is released to continue about its business and hopefully pollinate another flower.

I tried unsuccessfully to trip the door with a grass leaf, but while I tried one of the flowers opened and a gnat flew out.  I guess it works.

Both of these orchids are common to the bush area of Kings Park in Perth and they prefer to grow beneath our sheok trees (Casurinaceae)