Christmas Collection, Wooli Dune Wildflowers

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Sunrise over the North Solitary Islands from Roger's verandah at Wooli.
Sunrise over the North Solitary Islands from Roger’s verandah at Wooli.

“Whalesong”,  my beach house at Wooli perches on the top of the sand dune, and faces east to look out onto the expanses of the Pacific Ocean.  From this vantage point, as you gaze slightly south of east are the North Solitary Islands, home of many underwater wonders that I have written about and posted galleries of images.  As I write this note, I look out over the ocean and see a dawn  sky  with a radiant sun over the Islands.

Readers will be aware of my involvement with local organizations (Wooli Coastal Communities Protection Alliance) that are committed to the preservation of Wooli, despite the efforts of certain of the ideologues within the reigning national and state political establishments who would tear it down under the guise of the “Retreat” policy, about which I have written previously.

Preservation of the beach, and sand dune is necessary in order to protect not only the beachfront houses, but also the village of this iconic coastal hamlet.  Over the last year, I have as a DuneCare member been following established guidelines for the planting of native plants into the dune, and with this, the clearing of rubbish and non native plants in the area.  This has been hard work, and a slow process, which was  also hampered by drought over 2012.  Plants are available from the Minnie Waters Community Nursery.  Basically, what you do is this:  plant Wattle along the top, then Pigface and Native Morning Glory from the top down, Spinifex grass wherever you can, and Servisium in the lower reaches of the dune and out onto the beach.   I have also put in some Pandanus on the beach, and one has survived.  With this process, Bitou, Singapore Daisy, Drezina and other non natives are removed as new plants go in.

I was privileged on December 23, 2012 to be joined by the Botanist from the Minnie Waters Community Nursery, of whom I have previously written.  Together we inspected the dune, and in a general walk about I learned more about dunal plants. For this latest edition to the gallery please see www.wildflowersyuraygirnationalpark.com. I have photographed new flowers in my dune and along the low-lying areas of the Wooli Peninsula. There is much to see and learn about in this “Christmas Collection”.

With the benefit of his trained eye, we found the following:

Sea Purslane,
Sea Purslane, “Sesuvium portulacastrum”

Sea Purslane, “Sesuvium portulacastrum” currently in flower. A succulent, mat-forming herb.  I have been planting these at the dune base and out onto the beach with good result. They will grow as a transplanted stem, and are good for sand binding.  They are found in clumps along the beach.

Crinum pedunculatum“, the Beach Lily.  These are now coming to the end of flowering and are producing globular fruit known locally as “dog’s balls”.  The seed capsule can be harvested once it turns an orange-yellow colour, and the segmented pale green seeds planted just into sand.

New Zealand Spinach
New Zealand Spinach “Tetragonia tetragonioides” being enjoyed by Popeye the Native Bee. Note triangular slightly hairy leaves. Said to have edible Spring flowers.

New Zealand Spinach, “Tetragonia tetragonioides“.  It is just incredible how much is growing near the house.  Look for the older stems and find the dark scaly seeds.  Sprinkle them on the top of the dune and they should grow.

Glycine.  This tiny rambling pea has multi coloured flowers and spreads as a mat. It is probably the “Glycine tormentalla” which we have previously photographed in the Minnie Waters area.

Angular Pigface, “Carpobrotus glaucescens” a hardy plant with sand binding properties.  Now in fruit, quite tasty but dry and salty.

Pigface,
Pigface, “Carpobrotus glaucescens”, also called Angular Pigface. This is a stunning flower of dunal areas. Note succulent leaves, thickened and triangular in cross section. Derivation, carpo–finger; brotus–thick; glaucescens, blue in colour.

Beach Morning Glory, “Ipomoea pes-caprae subsp. brasiliensis.  Roots arise segmentally along the stem of this plant.  I have been planting it in the top and face of the dune, along with Pigface.

Leucopogon“.  There is a “Leucopogon ? parviflorus” just south of my house on the dune top, a tough plant that is standing up to the winds of the dune-top.

Pandanus tectorius” I have not yet photographed the flower, but am growing plants from seed for planting along the dune base.  The Botanist showed me how to plant the seed, with the brown end up, just buried in the sand just out from the dune base.

Canavalia rosea“.  Photos in gallery, the Sword Bean.  Lovely soft pastel colour.

Beach Bean, or Coastal Jack Bean,
Beach Bean, or Coastal Jack Bean, “Canavalia rosea” A lovely flower, seen most of the year. From high water mark to dune top.

Mangroves.  Admittedly, I am not well versed in Mangroves, but do note some flowers along the river.  Amongst many New Year’s resolutions, will be Project Mangroves for 2013.

Dianella congesta“; there are two “Dianella” this and the “D. crinoides“.  I just learned today that the “D. congesta” has flowers on spikes shorter than the leaves and the purplish fruit are now present. There is also the “D. caerulea” and I have difficult in distinguishing it from the “D. crinoides“.

Spinifex sericeus“. Beach spinifex.  This forms the tumbleweed type of seeds that we have been gathering and planting in the sand. It sends long shoots which head towards the sea and is an excellent sand aggregator. I am waiting to get some photos of the flowers next spring. There has been a good crop of seed this year, and many have been gathered for planting along the base of the dune, and in the adjacent beach.

“Stackhousia spathulata”. This plant is growing at the dune base. It has alternate fleshy leaves. I have not yet seen flowers which occur winter to summer.

Beach Stackhousia, “Stackhousia spathulata“.  There is a clump of this growing not far from the house, down in the beach. This “Stackhousia” does look quite different from the others we have photographed, “S. Nuda” and “S. viminea” each with tiny flowers.

Fan flower,  the Beach Scaevola, “Scaevola calendulacea.  A rather subdued clump along the beach track with flattened leaves with turned down edges.  I will look for the blue to purplish flowers, but not currently in flower.  I have walked past this plant for several years without appreciating its existence.  A “Scaevola sp. Mt. Ernest” grows on Mt. Ernest and Mt. Barney (see bush walking articles).

Kangaroo Grass. “Themeda triandra. There is the odd clump of this Aussie Grass mixed in with the Spinifex along the dune base. It has a distinctive head of spikelets with long bristles.

Club Rush, a grass, grows along the dune base, “Isolepis nodosa” (also there is a form “I. inundata” on creek banks).  This plant has tiny flowers at the moment…please see the gallery for images: 1. 2.

White dunal flower with distinctive leaf, called a Sea Rocket,
White dunal flower with distinctive leaf, called a Sea Rocket, “Cakile maritima”.

Similarly, while there, refer to the mid December collection for the Sea Rocket, actually the European Sea Rocket, “Cakile maritima“.  There is also an American Sea Rocket, “Cakile edentula”  I had thought it was named for the shape (and maybe taste of the leaves, a la Rocket Lettuce) but actually it is the name for the fruit, the European one having a “two stage” configuration; the American, one. It sports a light purple flower, and is said to flower all year, though most apparent to me at Christmas.

The mystery plant for the collection, is what I call the Black Pea, growing opposite the house on the river side near where I launch my kayak.  It has a name like “Sataria” and I will have to consult the brains trust on this one.

Myoporum montanum“, or simply Boobialla. There is a solitary patch along the river’s edge.  According to the Botanist there is also a more prostrate form the “Myoporum boninense sp. australe“. These  are a different Boobialla than the one we have seen further up the river which has larger white flowers with purple dots, “Myoporum acuminatum”  or Coastal  Boobialla (see gallery for image).

Painted spurge, considered a weed, with its orange poinsiettia-like flower just coming bloom.  I generally pull these out at my other place at New Brighton to make way for more desired plants.  Personally, I am not keen on the use of herbicide in the dunes as I believe while it may knock out the Bitou early on, it can persist in the soil and do damage to other plants; so for me, it’s good ole fashioned toil, pull it out by hand, but plant new plants in as you go. It is a matter of achieving a balance of helping the natives get re-established.

Sophora tomentosa“.  Here is the prize winner for the most interesting, and stunning plant.  This is an uncommon shrub, but found along the river’s edge.  It has striking yellow pea flowers, and is covered in seed pods containing a hard dark brown seed. With the abundance of seed why are there so few plants?  Our Botanist has a theory that a certain type of parrot is required to eat and spread the seed, but the parrot may be no longer in the area.  We opened and spread around some seed.

“Sophora tomentosa”. Uncommon, but has prolific seed. Another pea iteration.

I hope the reader has enjoyed the Christmas Gallery of Wooli Dune Wildflowers.  The moral of the story: in life, often the best things are right in front of you!

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