By Ofalia Ho
A few weeks ago, I visited the Granite Belt with the UQ Herpetological Society. While excited to see some unique amphibians and reptiles, I also had two ulterior motives – birds and plants.
Being a hopeless generalist, fielding multiple interests has been an incorrigible struggle. Nonetheless, I was determined to remedy my rather pathetic plant knowledge and what better place to do this than at Girraween National Park – our first stop.
Girraween, meaning “place of flowers”, is known for its granite outcrops and varied landscape of eucalypt forest, sedgeland and heathland. This supports a large floral diversity, with an incredible total of 1,072 species of which 968 are flowering plants.
Being well into January, we had missed the renowned Spring wildflower show but I was hopeful that some species might still be in blossom. We arrived in the late afternoon and went for a hike around Bald Creek circuit.
I had visited Girraween before, but the sight of trees growing out of granite was still mind-boggling. The tenacity of plant life added to the impressive rocky landscape.
I was pleased to see some stands of Actinotus helianthi (Flannel Flower) and Isotoma anethifolia (Narrow-leaved Isotoma) before the sun began to set for a night of herping.
We had more time to explore the next day and after an early morning bird walk, I returned to my botanising campaign. After spotting more familiar plants such as Xanthorrhoea johnsonii (Johnson’s Grass Tree), Petrophile canescens (Conesticks) and Leptospermum polygalifolium (Common Tea-tree), it was a delight to find some new species in flower.
Hibbertia linearis var. obtusifolia (Grey Guinea Flower), Trachymene incisa (Native Parsnip) and Dampiera purpurea (Mountain Dampiera) were quite abundant around the trails. Wahlenbergia graniticola (Granite Bluebell) was also present, but unfortunately not in flower.
My favourite though was Stylidium graminifolium (Grass Trigger-plant). Not an uncommon plant by any means, but the pollination mechanism is fascinating…really, it’s just plain cool. It has a floral column (fused stamens and style) which is triggered by probing insects, springing upwards and giving the pollinator a pat on the head – ensuring pollen is deposited and delivered to another flower. How neat is that?!
Later in the day, we drove to Underground Creek and I was excited to see a photo of Caleana major (Flying Duck Orchid) on the information sign. I had wanted to see one since reading about it in Mangroves to Mountains and crossed my fingers for luck.
The vegetation was distinctly different here – much wetter and heath-like. Within minutes, I spotted Calochilus gracillimus (Slender Beard Orchid), a very exciting find! Thysanotus tuberosus (Fringed Lily) was abundant here and not much further along, we encountered Dipodium variegatum (Slender Hyacinth Orchid) and Dipodium roseum (Rosy Hyacinth Orchid). Both beautiful spotted pink flowers in full bloom. The sign had not exaggerated– this was a great spot for orchids indeed. Unfortunately, we finished our hike without sighting C. major.
This brought our time at Girraween to an end, as we had to move onto our next herping location. Invigorated by the beautiful plant life, I am already planning for a (less distracted) trip in the coming Spring, to greet the wildflowers and hopefully find more orchids.
Slowly but surely, discovering the subtle charms of the botanical world.
Girraween National Park (2016), Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing <https://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/girraween/>
Leiper, G, Glazebrook, J., Cox, D. & Rathie, K. (2008), Mangroves to Mountains 2nd Ed. Logan River, Queensland: Society for Growing Australian Plants.
Ryan, V & Ryan, C. (2013), Caleana major, Girraween National Park, accessed Feb 2018 <http://www.rymich.com/girraween/index.php?section=plants&sub=flowering&d1=orchidaceae&d2=caleana_major&page=gi_caleana_major_001>
Stylidium graminifolium (2016), Australian Native Plant Society, accessed Feb 2018 <http://anpsa.org.au/s-gra.html>