“a spectacular native floriade is now showing, behind the curtain of tree and grass cover in the Canberra Nature Park”
I do quite like going to Floriade once each year, and marveling at the abundance and colour of the exotic flowers. You are certain to see an array of mostly-European flowers arranged in different patterns each year.
However, a much more exciting floriade unfolds at the same time, to nature’s choreography.
It happens quietly behind the curtains of tree and grass cover in the Canberra Nature Park. We are blessed in the nation’s capital to have a wealth of high quality woodland and grasslands, where the wonder of our own native flowers can be readily exposed.
In a short 20 minute sojourn into our nature park this afternoon, I encountered 7 of our local treasures, each as beautiful as anything at the formal Floriade. It took me about 3 minutes to ride to the spot, and then 20 minutes rambling across an area the size of half a football field scouting for the cryptic creatures.
And I uncovered some real gems too (clockwise on the image):
- Golden moths – an orchid
- Sundew – a carnivorous plant
- Blue caladenia – another orchid
- Bulbine lily – its underground bits can be eaten, its above ground bits shouldn’t
- Creamy candles – a stunning native and my pick-of-the-day
- Early nancy – just the boys here
- Yam daisy – it’s tubers can be eaten
What are you looking at?
One thing is for certain, if you don’t get off the concrete path and start looking, you won’t find anything. Another thing is for certain, if you do go looking at this time of the year you will find something special.
If you want to know what you are looking at, a good starting guide is the ‘Flowers of the ACT and Region’ by Don and Betty Wood. For those that are not botanically trained it is particularly useful – the chapters are arranged in colour-codes by the colour of the flower you are looking at. The easiest place to source this would probably be the botanic gardens bookshop.
There is also a great tool to help know what to look for and where your observations can add to the scientific record – Canberra Nature Map. Casual observations can go toward building our knowledge of plants in the region – every observation is useful, and experts will identify species if you can’t. A very cool element of this platform is that you don’t need to record where your photo is taken, the meta-data on your phone attaches to the image and travels with it (assuming you are using a location-enabled smart-phone).
Less planned, more discovery
An extra excitement of discovery is experienced when entering our woodlands – you don’t ever know exactly what you will encounter – a different sense of excitement and expectation to that which Floriade evokes each year. Another key difference of these two flower shows, is that each time when you return to the woodlands over the Spring and early Summer you are guaranteed to encounter flowers of new colours and shapes, but you just don’t know which ones or where…
Another benefit of this natural floriade is that it unfolds across Canberra and the region, no need to get in the car, no need to park, no need to push through crowds. Pick your quality woodland or grassland spot and get there, again and again. The key thing is to go, and get on your hands and knees, and explore the ground – where our native gems hide protected from tussocky grasses and shrubs – protected from drying out, protected from grazing and protected from picking fingers.
Finally, one of the best bits is that you don’t need to get dressed up!
I wonder what I will find next weekend…