Herbs and Sub-Shrubs of Livingstone National Park

I know all my lovely readers have been waiting with bated breath for the next instalment of the plants of Livingstone National Park. Ok…my one reader…my mother…and her breaths weren’t really bated (fun fact: Shakespeare seems to have been the first to use the phrase ‘bated breath’).

Previously on The Little Things Blog … 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! You can find the post of the shrubs and trees of Livingstone National Park here.

Xerochrysum viscosum: These were the stars of the walk for me, even though they were starting to go to seed. They were scattered across the woodland understory; little gold sparks between the trees. This herb’s common name is Sticky Everlasting. The ‘sticky’ is because the leaves feel almost sticky because of the tiny prickles covering them. Their showy displays last a long time because of the tough papery bracts which are the bright yellow petal-like structures you see in the photo.Within those bracts are a group of dark coloured boring looking flowers. The showy bracts help attract insect pollinators including butterflies (a similar flower structure to that of the Flannel Flower).

The scientific name also describes these characteristics. Xerochrysum (Greek) means ‘dry gold’ and viscosus is derived from the latin for sticky.

Xerochrysum viscosum at Livingston National Park (Image: C.Simpson-Young)

Xerochrysum viscosum at Livingston National Park (Image: C.Simpson-Young)

Pomax umbellata: I love these little shrubs. They are very common all across Australia but grow up to about 20cm and so often overlooked. But they deserve our attention! Look at those fantastic circular patterns! These are what are left of the flower heads arranged in what we call an umbel (all the little flowers grow from a single point. The Flannel Flower is also an umbel, but much more tightly packed). This individual has flowered and already dropped its seeds. What is left is a ring of cup-shaped calyces. A calyx is the ring of leaf-like structures surrounding a flower. Technically what is happening in Pomax is each stalk held several flowers and all their associated calyces have fused to make a larger cup-like calyx. These stick around long after the fruit have left the plant and is likely what you are going to see when you are walking around in the bush. The genus name is derived from poma the Greek for ‘cover’ and axon for ‘axis’. This refers to the little roof that the calyx has to protect the fruit. You may have already guessed that the species name refers to the umbel inflorescence (umbella meaning small shadow … same origin as umbrella).

Pomax umbellata at Livingstone National Park (Image: C. Simpson-Young)

Pomax umbellata at Livingstone National Park (Image: C. Simpson-Young)

Opercularia varia: this little guy has the flattering common name Variable Stinkweed because of the stinkiness of the leaves when you crush them and give them a sniff. As you can see in the picture they had well and truly gone to seed. Left behind was the off-white capsules.

If you look closely you can see that the leaves sit opposite each other on the stem and seem to be linked by some brownish tissue. These are stipules that have fused to the bottom of the leaves forming what we call a sheath. Stipules are versatile little organs that grow on either side of the base of the leaf. They can develop into all sorts of things depending on the evolution of the plant species. In this case, they are forming a sheath, but they can also form spines, glands, leaf-like structures or not be there at all! The sheath is probably there to protect the growing point below from damage by herbivores and being bashed by botanically minded bushwalkers.

The genus name Opercularia refers to the fact that the fruit of the genus have opercula. In botany, opercula are lid or cap structures, and in this genus the fruit have lid-like valves which open to let the seeds out into the world.

Opercularia varia Livingstone National Park (C Simpson-Young)

Opercularia varia, Livingstone National Park (Image: C Simpson-Young)

Briza maxima: This cutie is actually an exotic grass from the Mediterranean, but I have included it because I think it looks cool. Its common names include Quaking Grass and Giant Shivery Grass, which make perfect sense when you see the fruit quivering with the slightest breeze.

Briza maxima at Livingstone National Park Near Wagga Wagga Feb 2017

Briza maxima at Livingstone NP (Image: C Simpson-Young)

These are some of the awesome things you can see when you look down on your bushwalk!


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/

Scents of Importance by Alan Gray: https://www.apstas.com/scents.htm