Bogs and Fens: The reed beds sweep and sway

At the bottom of the valley at Charlotte Pass things get very wet and there are patches of standing water.

Aciphylla glacialis: Dotted about in the bogs and fens you will see clusters of plants with tough feathery looking leaves called Aciphylla glacialis or Mountain Celery. If you look carefully while they are flowering you will see that some plants have a denser cluster of flowers than others. This is because this species have male and female flower clusters on separate plants.

Senecio lautus: The native Variable Groundsel, Fireweed or Senecio lautus is a widespread species that can become weedy in some areas. It has those classic dandelion seeds with white hairs that help it spread so well, which gives its name Senecio which comes from the Latin for ‘old man’. The lautus means handsome. A handsome old man. Not a bad species name.

Empodisma minus: Spreading Roperush or Empodisma minus is a pain in the butt to walk through. It spreads by its roots creating large swards that hide any lumps and bumps. Appropriately Empodisma translates at ‘tangle foot’. Its common in wet swampy areas, from the alpine to sea level. They are one of the major components of peat formation as their roots create mats in the soil and hold lots of water. As a whiskey drinker, I thank it.

Empodisma minus at Charlotte Pass in Feb 2018 (Image: C. Simpson-Young)

Empodisma minus at Charlotte Pass in Feb 2018 (Image: C. Simpson-Young)

Drosera arcturi: Drosera comes from the Greek for dewy which makes perfect sense when you see these amazing plants. Their leaves are covered in long tentacle-like glands with glittering, gooey drops of goop at the tip. They use these glands and goop to attract, trap and digest insects for nutrients. This particular species was first found on Mt Arthur in Tassie, and so was given the name species name arcturi. Eating insects allows them to grow in areas with low nutrients, like where water is always washing away any potential organic matter that roots can absorb (i.e. a bog or fen). These guys can survive being completely frozen over with ice and snow by forming a bud with scale-like leaves around their main growing bud, protecting it from the harsh winter conditions.

Drosera arcturi at Charlotte Pass in Feb 2018 (Image: C. Simpson-Young)

Drosera arcturi at Charlotte Pass in Feb 2018 (Image: C. Simpson-Young)

Epilobium gunnianum: You come across lots of species in the alpine with the species name “gunnianum”. This species like other alpine species is named after the guy who collected the specimen that was used to formally identify the species. Epilobium gunnianum or Gunns Willow Herb has its petals sitting on top of a pod-like ovary, which gives it its genus name: epi meaning upon and lobos meaning pod. After pollination, these ovaries develop into long thin fruits that split open releasing hairy seeds that spread on the wind. It’s quite a sight.

Lycopodium fastigiatum: Little wolf foot! That is how the genus name translates. This little club moss has leaves that look like little wolf claws. Alpine Club Moss or Mountain Club Moss belongs to the Clubmoss family (Lycopodiaceae). This is a very ancient group of plants and use a more primitive way of reproducing than the whole flower, fruit and seed approach. They produce spores, which then develop into a little, simple plant thingy that has a male and female sex organs. It is on this little, simple plant thingy that finally the male cells fertilise the female sex cells, and then a new club moss is born! It is a weird and wonderful system that can be really hard to wrap your head around. The best analogy I can think of is the Alien in the Alien movies. In the picture below you can see the cone-like structure that produces and spreads those initial spores in Lycopodium fastigiatum.

Hypericum japonicum: You may know this genus by its common name of St John’s-Wort. Hypericum is an ancient name, and the species in this genus have a long history of use in ceremonies and medicine. This particular species, Matted St. John’s Wort, is widespread. It was first officially identified from a specimen collected in Japan, hence the species name japonica. Its lovely little yellow flowers attract insect that will pollinate it.

Oschatzia cuneifolia: This species is named for a doctor/botanist (again!) who invented a contraption that cut super thin sections of samples so you can get a good look at them under a microscope. There are only two species in the genus which can be found only in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania.

Psychrophila introloba: Psychrophila introloba or Alpine Marsh Marigold is a super cool species. The genus name means ‘frost loving’. It makes flower buds before the snow sets in so it is all ready to flower once the snow melts. The flowers start to open as the snow melts away, attracting small insects, including ants, who do the pollinating. By the end of the summer the seeds are mature and ready to go. To see the flower click here.

Psychrophila introloba at Charlotte Pass in Feb 2018 (Image: C. Simpson-Young)

Psychrophila introloba at Charlotte Pass in Feb 2018 (Image: C. Simpson-Young)

Wahlenbergia ceracea: This genus is named after another doctor/botanist guy, while ceracea comes from the Latin for waxy referring to the fact that the flowers have a waxy look about them. They are certainly a photogenic species, like so many alpine herbs. In fact, there are studies that show that alpine plants put more resources into making showy flowers than plants from lower altitudes. They put energy into making large, colourful, smelly or highly complex flowers. Why? There are fewer pollinating insects in alpine areas, and so you need to put on your best show if you are going to attract them. The result is that alpine areas have the most spectacular wildflower displays in Spring, and we get to enjoy it.

And that is the last of my posts about the plants at Charlotte Pass in Kosciuszko National Park. Keep an eye out for a post on the plant communities up near Mt Kosciuszko itself.

A huuuugge thanks to Casey Gibson for taking me along on her fieldwork and teaching me about the plants of the alpine region. Check out her amazing instagram, twitter and read about her PhD here.


References

Breitwieser I., Brownsey P.J., Heenan P.B., Nelson W.A., Wilton A.D. eds. (2010-2018) Flora of New Zealand Online – Taxon Profiles. Accessed at http://www.nzflora.info

Central Yukon Species Inventory Project (2011) Lycopodiaceae: Clob-moss Family <http://www.flora.dempstercountry.org/II.1.Lycopodiaceae/Lycopodiaceae.html&gt;

Fabbro, T. & Korner, C. (2003) Altitudinal differences in flower traits and reproductive allocation. Flora 199, 70-81

Hampel, Corinne (2017) Spring flowers: Senecio lautus, a native daisy. Mallee Native Plants Nursery <https://www.malleenativeplants.com.au/spring-flowers-senecio-lautus-native-daisy/&gt;

Hoyle GL, Cordiner H, Good RB, Nicotra AB (2014) Effects of reduced winter duration on seed dormancy and germination in six populations of the alpine herb Aciphyllya glacialis (Apiaceae). Conservation Physiology 2: doi:10.1093/conphys/cou015.

Keith, D. (2004) Ocean Shores to Desert Dunes: The Native Vegetation of New South Wales and the ACT. Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW), Hurstville.

McPherson, S. (2010) Carnivorous Plants and their Habitats: Volume Two. Redfern Natural History Productions, Dorset, England.

New Zealand Plant Conservation Network (2017) Flowering Plants <www.nzpcn.org.nz>

PlantNET  (The NSW Plant Information Network System). Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney. http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/

Totterdell, CJ., Costin AB. & Gray M. (2000) Kosciuszko Alpine Flora: Field Edition. CSIRO Publishing.

Wagner, W.H. & Beitel, J.M. (2004) Lycopodiaceae. Flora of North America. <http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=10527&gt;

Wapstra, M, Wapstra A, Wapstra, H, (2010) Tasmanian Plant Names Unravelled. Fullers Bookshop, Launceston.

 

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