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: 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!
(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!