Alpine Woodland: Where upon drift and icicle perfect lies its shadow

“It is the snow-gum silently,
In noon’s blue and the silvery
Flowering of light on snow,
Performing its slow miracle
Where upon drift and icicle
perfect lies its shadow”

– From the Snow-Gum by Douglas Stewart.

Now for the first of the plant community, you see at Charlotte Pass Lookout! (See this post for an outline of all the communities). As you park your car at the Charlotte Pass Lookout you are met with the stunning Snow-Gum which is the basis for the Subalpine Woodland.

Eucalyptus pauciflora: The scientific name means ‘few flowers’, but the Snow-Gum flowers just as spectacularly as any other Eucalypt. It’s thought that Sieber who named the species may have been working from a sickly or damaged specimen. I think it is one of the most lovely Eucalypts with its twisted branches and bark that changes colour throughout the year. Even the leaves are striking with grey-green leaves with parallel veins (unusual for a Eucalypt) that shine when the sun hits them.

Acaena novae-zelandiae: This member of the Rose Family wins the prize for the coolest common name. ‘Bidgee widgee’ which was adapted from a New Zealand Anglicisation of the Maori name: Piripiri to bidbid to bidgee-widgee. The genus name Acaena comes from Greek for thorn, referring to the hook-like burs that spread the seeds (as demonstrated by my sock in the photo below). It does look like a weed, but it’s a native, and in fact, it has become a weed in Europe after travelling there in wool.

Oxylobium ellipticum: This member of the Fabaceae (pea) family has pods that are very hairy, giving them the common name “shaggy pea”. The whole shrub gives off a hairy-ness vibe when the fruit are in full swing. The genus name Oxylobium comes from the Greek for ‘sharp pod’. You can see in the photo below that the pods taper to a sharp point. This species is one of the more widespread species found at Charlotte Pass and can be found on other mountain ranges in south-east Australia.

Oreomyrrhis eriopoda: Fragrant mountain woolly foot. This is how the scientific name translates. Like many other alpine species, this species is covered in a fine layer of hair. This hair creates a layer of still air just above the surface of the plant which reduces water loss and heat loss. The heat loss thing makes sense, but the water loss thing is less intuitive. Plants can lose a lot of water when there are high winds and strong sun, both of which are the case on top of a mountain!

Veronica derwentiana subsp. maideniana: The light green soft looking leaves of this species really stand out in amongst the other plants. They also have loads of flowers that attract bees and butterflies. The common name Speedwell refers to how this genus grows really well. Speed used to mean success or prosperity…which makes the phrase “Godspeed” make so much more sense.

Now heading further down the hill the vegetation gets shorter and shrubbier –> Wet Alpine Heathland

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-<current year>) Flora of New Zealand Online – Taxon Profiles. Accessed at http://www.nzflora.info,

Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research, 2010,
Australian National Herbarium,
Australian Government, Canberra, <http://www.cpbr.gov.au/cpbr/herbarium/&gt;

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.

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.

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

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