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.

Plant of the month – Oct 2017

BLADDER SALTBUSH

(Atriplex vesicaria)

(Photos: C. Schultz, sprawling bushes in the foreground; close up of leaves and male flowers)

As their name suggests, saltbushes have a high salt content. They can survive in harsh saline environments. Their ability to survive in a variety of conditions has lead to their becoming part of the diet of many animals…including lamb! Sheep and cattle will graze bladder saltbush readily. This small shrub will grow less than 1 metre tall, but can sprawl. The leaves are quite fleshy unless growing conditions are dry, when leaves might be shed. The grey-green appearance of the oval-shaped, short stemmed leaves is often a give-away for this (and other) saltbushes; leaf margins can be wavy. When you go looking for this one, you will need to look for two versions: the male and the female! The bushes are the same, but the flowers are different. Look for slender but dense spikes of tiny flowers on the newest branches of the male; on the female form, the flowers look more leaf-like, and are about 5mm across.

Carolyn’s Corner – Sept 2017

Return of the pretties! Since the group started in 2012, our aim has been to re-plant the small pretty plants not just gums, she-oaks and wattles. Our June tree planting weekend is in reality shrub, grass and herb planting. Herbs are non-woody plants and many of the local herbaceous “small pretties” are summer dormant which means they die down after flowering and setting seed. Planting these ‘herbs’ is a challenge because they have a short growing season and therefore they are very susceptible to snails and slugs. Annual herbs such as Senecio pinnatifolius must be planted in the season they are grown, but summer dormant perennials such as satin everlasting (Helichrysum leucopsideum) can be allowed to die back in pots and planted out in the following year. We hedged our bets this year with satin everlasting and planted some in August and will let others dry out it their pots till 2018. Thanks to SA seedbank for the hint to collect satin everlasting seed before they mature and leave them in a paper bag to after-ripen. Look out for these and other pretties on the nature trail on Flinders Drive and on the lower loop near the Ferry Terminal.

Photos (C. Schultz): Satin everlasting (Helichrysum leucopsideum); August planting of satin everlastings and other small pretties; pink bindweed (Convolvulus  angustissimus).

Plant of the Month – Sept 2017

CLIMBING SUNDEW

(Drosera macrantha)

(Photos: E. Cousins, Cape Jervis; growth habit, single flower)

Macrantha comes from the Greek ‘macros’ for large and ‘anthos’ for flower, but the ‘large flowers’ here have 5 petals each only 10mm long! However, among the varieties of sundews growing at Cape Jervis, these are pretty large! There are normally only a couple of flowers per plant, clustered on the top of the long, twining stems. In the first picture, they aren’t flowers you can see along the stem, but the leaves! These leaves are cup-shaped, and placed opposite each other. They are covered in fine, soft hairs, with a fringe of longer hairs around the rim of the cup. Sundews are insectivorous; they attract and devour insects using a gooey substance that is exuded by the hairs. This goo glistens, hence ‘drosera’, for dewy!

Weed of the Month- Sept 2017

COMMON CHICKWEED

(Stellaria media)

(Photos: E.Cousins; chickweed growing with other weeds; close-up of one stem)

Chickweed grows in a wide variety of soil types and habitats. It definitely prefers cool, moist conditions so is mostly seen as a winter annual. The slender branched stems intertwine to produce a large mat of foliage, from 5-50 cm tall. The bright green plant is distinguishable by a line of fine hairs on one side of the stems only, between nodes. Leaves are oval in shape, with pointed tips. Lower leaves have no stalk (sessile) but upper ones do (petiolate). The small white flowers are star-shaped (as stellaria would suggest) with 5 petals, each just 3-4mm long. These grow from the tip of the plant, or from joints along the stem.
This weed can be used as a cooling herbal remedy, to ease itchy skin. It is also grown as a food for humans and poultry because of its nutritional value. The plant does contain toxins called saponins, which are poorly absorbed by humans and break down if thoroughly cooked; however they can be harmful to some creatures or if consumed in large quantities. Plants can normally be removed easily after rain by hand-pulling…then maybe feed it to your chickens!