Plant of the Month-Feb 2018

SHINY GROUNDBERRY

(Acrotriche patula)

(Photos: E. Cousins, growth habit, close up of leaves and berries)

This bush is one stiff little cookie! You wouldn’t want to fall into it because the branches are rigid and the hard little leaves all end in really sharp points. At Cape Jervis it grows as a rounded shrub, rarely more than knee-high. The leaves are about twice as long as they are broad, at about 16mm long and 8mm wide. It is quite an eye-catching shrub, though: the shiny upper sides of the leaves make the bush look a bit sparkly, and with that built-in rigidity, it never looks wilted even in the harsh summer conditions of Cape Jervis. In Spring, the shiny groundberries make their appearance after the pale greenish flowers. The berries are bright red and fleshy, each encasing a hard brown seed.  Maybe a pretty pincushion for your garden???

Weed of the Month -Feb 2018

CAUSTIC WEED

(Chamaesyce or Euphorbia drummondii)

(Photos: E. Cousins; growth habit, close up of leaf, tap root)

We featured this weed 2 years ago, but thought we would revisit it given a friend’s experience in December. After hand weeding it, her hands were left swollen and burned by an allergic reaction to the sap exuding from the stems. The plant is a short-lived perennial herb with a deep taproot. Smooth, thin red stems, up to 20cm long, fan out from the centre and hug the ground. The oval-shaped leaves are blue-green with a reddish-purple blotch. They grow in pairs with very short stalks, opposite each other along the stems. The inconspicuous flower heads grow in small groups that are composed of one female and several male flowers. Seeds can germinate at any time, with the biggest flush in spring; then the plants grow quickly over summer. So if weeding it out now, wear gloves, and definitely keep your hands away from your eyes!

 

Plant of the Month -Jan 2018

 

SALTWATER COUCH

(Sporobolus virginicus)

(Photos : E. Cousins, growth habit, foliage; at Cape Jervis)

This is a very low-growing tussocky grass at Cape Jervis. It is seldom over shin high; often it is only a few centimetres tall. It can spread over the ground the same way a strawberry does, by producing runners: a new horizontal branch grows from the base of the plant, then a new plant roots from the tip of that new branch. Each plant has many branches or stems, and each of these has many stiff green blades placed alternately (and almost flatly) along the branch. The blades are about 25mm long. There are also numerous non-hairy nodes along a branch. You will find this growing along the foreshore at Cape Jervis, since it likes the saline environment of a coast or sand dunes. So on your next coastal walk, look for a fairly prickly little fellow growing close to the ground, a bit like a miniature fir tree growing as a ground cover!

 

Weed of the Month -Jan 2018

RAT’S TAIL WEED

(Sporobolus africanus)

(Photos : C. Schultz, growth habit and flower spikes,  at Cape Jervis)

A perennial grass of the tussock variety, this weed originated in sub-Saharan Africa. It is quite invasive in our climate, spreading via small brown seeds. Unlike the Sporobolus virginicus (saltwater couch), this plant is erect and up to 60cm tall, with fairly thin but stiff stems. Leaves are also slender, stiff and not hairy. These leaves tend to grow about 18cm long from the base of the plant, and the sides roll in a bit. It is the flower heads that give the plant its common name though. These are spikes, grey-green against the dark green of the leaves. 35mm long and 7mm wide, densely packed with lots of teensy individual branches around the stem… you can understand why they are called rat’s tails!

Plant of the month – Dec 2017

TALL BLUEBELL

(Wahlenbergia stricta)

(Photos: C. Schultz: Left to Right. Single plant with one flower; flower from above, flower from the side)

There are quite a lot of Wahlenbergias, all commonly thought of as bluebells. Nearly every continent has its own varieties! The bluebells at Cape Jervis are only knee high, but flower prolifically over spring and summer. You will notice the pretty purple-blue flowers waving in the breeze, above the low growing grasses and herbs. Stems are thin, with leaves often paired at the bottom but alternating further up towards the flowers. The flowers themselves are 5-petalled, normally with a tube beneath the lobes. The plants produce tubers underground which can be used to produce other plants by division. They also grow from seed or cuttings. In some Wahlenbergias both the flowers and the tubers are edible.

Weed of the month – Dec 2017

CANOLA

(Brassica napus)

   (Photos: C. Schultz; Left to right: large clump of canola plants; flowers with unopened buds; flowers and developing seed pods)

We all know canola because of the edible oil derived from its seeds, making a really good cropping plant. When mature seeds blow into coastal heath, however, this useful plant becomes a weed very quickly! An Agriculture Victoria website[1] advises that “Once established, canola is effective at crowding out weeds.” Given it can crowd out weeds in a cropping situation, it is no wonder it crowds out natives in remnant vegetation. We’ve seen this at Cape Jervis, where canola established itself in one season after weed clearing. You will spot the bright yellow flowers, which can appear even on very young plants. And you will smell them! The brassica family includes broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and turnip… all strong smelling. The plant grows to about 1.5m tall, with an open habit of a central stem and many side branches. It has a central tap root, which with the right amount of moisture can grow 2cm a day! Remove the seed pods well before they ripen; if you just pull out the plant the seeds might after-ripen. 

[1] http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/grains-and-other-crops/crop-production/growing-canola; sighted 10-11-17

Plant of the Month – Nov 2017

THREAD-LEAF WATTLE

(Acacia nematophylla)

(Photos: E. Cousins, shrub in April, flowers in October; Cape Jervis)

We have been eyeing off this dainty acacia at Cape Jervis for a while now, and were pleased to have it identified recently by Martin O’Leary at the State Herbarium. The name is very descriptive, in that ‘nemato’ means thread-like, and ‘phyllon’ means leaf in Greek. The leaves are really phyllodes, about 2-4cm long, and REALLY narrow, at no more than 1.5mm. They are also hairless, grey-green, and fairly straight with a slightly hook at the tip. At about 11cm, the leathery brown seed pods are a lot longer than these short, thin leaves. Another identifier is the flower: the flower ball is always single, attached to the stem by a short little branch. Although the peak flower season is summer, this acacia does flower for most of the year. The specimens we have seen are only knee high yet, but it can grow to 2.5m. A nice small shrub for your garden??

 

Weed of the Month – Nov 2017

UPRIGHT YELLOW FLAX

(Linum strictum)

(Photos: C. Schultz; weed growing with other plants; a stem; close-up of top flower head)

There are heaps of differences between the weedy Upright Yellow Flax and the Native Flax (Linum marginale). One is size: the weed is a good bit smaller, growing to shin high. Also, the Upright Yellow Flax is single stemmed, whereas the native flax branches out. As you can see in the photos above, the ‘yellow’ relates to the 5-petalled flowers clustered around the upper part of the stem, and bunched at the top. These are pollinated by insects. The flowers are less than 1cm across, so you can see this means from the middle photo that the leaves are spaced about half a centimeter apart, spaced alternately around the stem. You can also see it means the leaves are a lot longer than they are wide (up to 25mm long by no more than 5mm wide)! One thing you can’t see in the photo is that the leaves have minute teeth along their edges. You can though see a well-defined central vein. The leaves feel rough to the touch, while the whole plant is quite stiff and erect.

Carolyn’s Corner – Oct 2017

Endangered plant success!

Photos: E. Cousins, Orobanche flower; C. Schultz, Senecio + Orobanche together in one pot.Note the fine white roots of the host plant filling the pot, and the short fat yellowish roots of Orobanche.

Back from the brink of local extinction? …Perhaps a little dramatic, but a very positive sign for the parasitic plant Orobanche cernua var. australiana (Australian broomrape). SA Seedbank’s website says that the only place it grows in the “Southern Lofty” area is Cape Jervis, with only 15 plants recorded. You may remember from our December 2017 Plant of the Month that we found 100s of plants and collected some seed. This year Liz and I both tried germinating Orobanche seed along with its preferred host Senecio odoratus. Imagine my surprise when, sorting Liz’s excess Senecio seedlings for the COOTS September planting at Land’s End, I found an Orobanche poking its asparagus-like head through the potting mix. Only the one so far and it has been carefully planted on one of the sand dunes at the COOTS site, along with another 4 Senecio seedlings that all have Orobanche seed with them. Fingers crossed that more Orobanche plants germinate, including the ones we planted in June at our coastal display garden near the ferry terminal, and several other locations on our site.

Weed of the month – Oct 2017

COMMON GROUNDSEL

(Senecio vulgaris)

(Photos: E.Cousins; weed growing with other weeds; a stem; close-up of flower head)

Senecios come in many forms … from the rare and unusual to the very common, and from trees through to small weedy herbs such as this one. This groundsel grows to about knee high, with clusters of flower heads at the end of the stems. The individual flowers are only about 1cm long, and don’t seem to open properly, probably because of all those bracts surrounding the petals! Only a millimetre or two of the yellow petals show at the top. There are 15 bracts or more, each tipped with black as can be seen in the 3rd photo above. There are also lots of little bracts at the base of the flower head, again edged in black. Eventually the flower head produces a fluffy white ball, with the seed on the inside of the ball, waiting to be blown away like dandelion seed. Although this weed is found along our coastlines and in our national parks, it is more common in urban areas, or disturbed sites.