I recently went for a walk with friends in Livingstone National Park. It protects 2522 ha of temperate woodland and is one of the few large tracts of woodland in the mostly agricultural Riverina and South West Slopes. Being February there wasn’t much flowering, but these are some of the plants we came across!
Acacia paradoxa: Kangaroo thorn (named this for obvious reasons!) is common along the first part of the track and was a good deterrent of straying from the trail. The ‘leaves’ hug the stem and the spines surround them (the inverted commas around leaves is because they aren’t technically leaves but phyllodes, which are flattened leaf stalks). The spines are stipules (little structures at the base of the leaf that can evolve into many different things) and are to discourage grazing by animals. While they weren’t out when we were there, this plant has yellow fluffy spherical flowers standard of the Acacia genus. This species can grow to a rather intimidating 4 meters. It is fairly common across much of Australia and has become a bit of a problem as a weed in Tasmania, Western Australia and California.
It is unclear why paradoxa was chosen as the species name, but it means ‘paradoxical’ or unexpected. It may refer to the fact that in this species the stipules form spines when usually Acacia stipules are small and unassuming. This is actually a very interesting species so if you want more click here.
Acacia buxifolia: Box-leaf Wattle is common along the east coast of Australia. As you can see from the photo it has lovely greyish green leaves. These aren’t in flower but again they have the deep yellow fluffy spherical inflorescences.
Buxifolia comes from the Greek for “box leaves”, and you can see in the photo that the leaves are quite wide but quite short in length (particularly compared to other Acacia species).
Acacia genistifolia: Another spiky Acacia to avoid running into unawares! The flowers are a lighter yellow than the other Acacias we came across on this walk. Its common name is Early Wattle because it is one of the first wattles to flowers in spring. In this species, the phyllodes (‘leaves’) are thick spikes with sharp ends. In this picture, you can see the dried mature seed pods, with the seeds already sent off into the world. There is more about seed dispersal in Acacia here.
The species name gentistifolia refers to another genus in the Fabeaceae family called Genista, which contains some species with spiky leaves as well.
Eucalyptus rossii: Also called the Inland Scribbly Gum or White Gum (both in reference to the striking bark). You’ll notice the scribbles in the bark … the story behind them is pretty cool. Scribbly Bark Moth larvae drill down into the tree. They then start chomping their way back and forth and up and down, always staying below the surface. All the while the tree is growing outwards and trying to repair the damage left in the caterpillar’s wake. Once the caterpillar reaches a certain size it turns around and starts retracing its steps and eating the new scar tissue that the tree has laid down. This new scar tissue is highly nutritious and allows the caterpillar to grow super fast. They then bore their way out of the bark, drop to the ground, make a cocoon and get down to the important business of becoming a moth. More info here.
Brachyloma daphnoides: Daphne Heath was quite common along the track, and is often seen in open forests, woodland and heath in Australia’s south-east.
Brachyloma comes from the Greek for brachys meaning short, and loma meaning a fringe (refers to the fringe of little hairs in the flower). Daphnoides means ‘like Daphne’. Daphne is a genus of plants which looks nothing like our Brachyloma daphnoides … but apparently, they smell similar!
Callitris endlicher: We walked through a Callitris woodland which was a first for me! It was a bit surreal because I’m not used to being surrounded by conifers unless it is a pine plantation. But the Cypress Pine is native and pretty common in the east of New South Wales. This species has spherical cones that stick around on the tree for a while, open and then release seeds onto the wind. These guys don’t deal with fire very well, but they can withstand a degree of drought and frost.
Calli is the Greek for beautiful, but it is not clear why tris was added. Endlicher is for the Viennese botanist Stephan Endlicher who was around in the first half of the 1800s.
Grevillea floribunda: this was one of my favourites from the walk, and when I saw the common name I knew exactly which of the plants it belonged to. It is called the Rusty Spider-flower. Unlike a real spider, it invited touching with its felty leaves. It can flower all year, and you can see in my picture that ours weren’t fully developed yet. Honeyeaters love to slurp up the nectar from the flowers on these approximately 1.5m tall plants.
The genus name Grevillea comes from the Scottish botanist Charles F. Greville. Floribunda is from the Latin for ‘copious flowering’ and refers to the fact that the species has many densely clustered flowers.
Lissanthe strigosa: the Peach Heath is part of the heath family. They have lovely white-pink flowers and develop little pale green fruit. Because it grows close to the ground and is prickly it is a great habitat for little critters like lizards.
The Peach Heath fruit is edible and is said to have a honey flavour. But apparently, it is hard to find mature fruit to eat.
Calytrix tetragona: I love Common Fringe Myrtles. They have the most beautiful flowers. And once they develop into fruit and fall away they leave the bright red calyx behind (like in the pictures on the right). A calyx is the ring of leaf-like structures surrounding a flower. You can see from the pictures that the calyx taper to a point, making a star-like shape.
I also love the name. Caly is for the stunning calyx (calyx comes from the Greek for cup) and thrix (hair) for the hair-like calyces. Tetragona means four angles and refers the leaf shape.
Eucalyptus sideroxylon: Mugga Ironbark or Red Ironbark was very common in the park and their dark bark was very dramatic in contrast to that of the Scribbly Gum. One of the major ways of classifying and identifying Eucs is by their bark. This species is classified as an ‘Iron Bark’. These are Eucalypts with bark all the way up the trunk and on the large branches. The bark is dark in colour, very hard and has deep fissures running up and down the trunk. Like all things in the natural world there are variations on these rules, but knowing them does definitely help with identification.
Xanthorrhoea glauca: The Grass Tree isn’t capable of producing wood, but they have a little trick for growing a trunk-like structure. As they grow and shed their leaves the leaf-base stays behind. This scale-like layer surrounds the softer inner tissue and provides structural integrity for the plants to grow upwards.
The right-most picture is of the Grass Tree inflorescence. They grow on giant spikes. These spikes were used to make spears by Aboriginal people and the flowers were steeped in water to make a sweet drink.
The Greek xanthos means yellow, while rheo means to flow. Xanthorrhoea was given its name for the yellow resin that you find in the trunk of some Xanthorrhoea species. Glauca is derived from the Greek glaukos meaning blue-green or blue-grey, and is given to the species for their blue-grey leaves.
Florabank (1999). Greening Australia, CSIRO Forestry and Australian Government. http://www.florabank.org.au/
Harrington, HD (1957) How to Identify Plants. Swallow Press, Athens.
PlantNET (The NSW Plant Information Network System). Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney. http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/
Robinson, L. (1991) Field Guide to the Native Plants of Sydney. 3rd Edition, Simon and Schuster, Sydney.
Wapstra, M, Wapstra A, Wapstra, H, (2010) Tasmanian Plant Names Unravelled. Fullers Bookshop, Launceston.
Other interesting resources
Birdwatching in Wagga Wagga: https://waggabirds.wordpress.com/category/flora/page/2/
The Flora of Wagga Wagga (Charles Sturt University): http://scci.csu.edu.au/waggaflora/