Category Archives: Australia NSW

Heading West

The Barrier Highway heads across the Western Plains to Broken Hill and the deserts of South Australia. Leaving the Warrumbunbles shrinking in the rear view mirror the landscape opened out with big skies and the road tapering to a point on the horizon.
Wild flowers along the road side.
The Dry grassland to the far west of New South Wales.
One of few plants in flower, the flowers tough and waxy to the touch, presumably to guard against desiccation.
The smart and tidy Post Office building in the tiny town of Wilcannia half way along the Barrier Highway. This is the only smart building in the otherwise dilapidated and dying ex-mining town now left by the way side.

A few of the empty dilapidated buildings along the high street.

The Warrumbungles

Some of the spectacular granite bluffs known as ‘The Warrumbungles’ formed by volcanoes 13 to 17 million years ago, of which 90% have eroded away leaving only the toughest remnants standing sentinel over the predominantly flat landscape.
After to many months working in the orchards I’ve finally saved what I need to continue my travels. I finished working in September and went on a whistle stop road trip around a small portion of Australia, and still clocked over 10,000km. I’m now in Ushuaia at the southern tip of Argentina wait for for my Antarctica cruise to depart.
From Stanthorpe in South East Queensland I headed south west through out back rural New South Wales to the deserts of South Australia. I then turned north on the Stuart Highway to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. I hadn’t the funds or time to make it all the way up to Darwin, so turned east back into Queensland to the tropical coast and the Great Barrier Reef. Finally heading south down the east coast to catch a flight out of Sydney to South America.
In the centre of the north eastern quarter of New South Wales is the Warrumbungle National Park. Here a group of precipitous rocky bluffs, remnants of past volcanic activity, rise dramatically out of the flat savannah grassland that predominated the surrounding landscape. The park is reputed to be incredibly diverse in flora and fauna owing to its varying elevations and its location between the dry grassland inland to the west and the wetter forest stretching off to the east coast.
Looking down on one of the most distinguished features of the park ‘The Bread Knife’.
Views across the peeks of the park and looking out across the western plains, flat to the horizon and where I was headed.

Some of the plants growing on the bright, exposed, rocky parts of the park.

And flowering in the dappled light of the cooler forested valleys floor.
Clematis sp.
Acacia sp.
Black snake soaking up the rays in a dry creek bed.
Beautiful patterns created by the many Lichens.

The Second Biggest Rock in Oz.

For the next few months my time will be spent in Stanthorpe, southern Queensland while I’m buissy picking apples to fund my travels. Finally the rain has stoped and at last I had a day off when the sun was shining, so I took a second trip to Bald Rock national park. This time I was able to see the rock in its entirety as it was previously shrouded in cloud.
The smoothe granite face of Bald Rock striped with lichens and moss.
The mass of Bald Rock is second only to Ularu in Australia. Precariously balanced on top of the rock and strewn throught the surrounding gum forest are many large, weathered rounded boulders, stacked up as if purposfully. Some seem as if one good push could role them away, I had to fight the inner devil in me.
The balancing rocks, the emblem of Stanthorpe.
The rock nesteles in tall white barked Eucalyptus trees. The view from the summit across the canopy is particularly green as the trees are covered with fresh green growth following the wet weather and have yet to age to their charastic glaucus blue. Strips of bark metres long dangel from the trunks, peeling away revealing the fresh white beneath.
Peeling Eucalyptus bark.

Crevices in the rock provide foot holds for wild flowers to take hold. Eventually trees take root and combined with rain and frosts eventually break down the rock into the smaller bolders arround its base. The spiny sead heas is from Lomandra longifolia.

Lomandra longifolia.
Cracks in the rockd provide warm homes for lizards with luxury views.
Dipodium punctatum a paracitic orchid drawing its nurrishment from the roots of Eucalyptus trees.

Bald Rock National Park

Kangaroo and Joe shelter from the sun
 A kangaroo and joe sheltering from the sun under a Grevellia tree on on of the few and far between sunny days of late.
When you think of Australia you would usually associate it with drought, though that is not the case at the moment. Since the hiking in the Blue Mountains Alex and Ale (friends I’m travelling with) and myself headed inland to Young the self proclaimed ‘Cherry capital’ of Australia and were greeted by dark rain clouds. This was in the first week of December and not much has changed since then. The ripening cherries, the best crop in years, were just about to split open and go to ruin due to the persistent rain. Grain farmers have also faced an equally bleek year. Fearing a shortage of work decided to drive two days north through the rain to Stanthorpe just across the boarder of Queensland. We are now buissy thinning apples when the rain allows.
Standing stone on Bald Rock and minature landscape creater in one of the many shallow gullies.
Stanthorpe is 900m up on a range of hills called the Granite Belt. These range of hills are the remnants of massive underground magma chambers that cooled to form coarse grained granite boulders that have been exposed over millions of years by errosion. The largest of these is so big it is second only to Ularu. Mysterious balancing rocks and precarious gum trees clinging to cracks in the rocks appeared through the mist. As my few days off are dictated to when ever it rains for now I just have to put on the rain gear and get out there. All though I couldnt see Bald Rock in its intirety as it was shrouded in cloud, the rain creats an eery atmosphere. Cracks and gullies in the rock allow plants to get a purchase and formed wini landscapes, and the colours of the granite cristals shon in the wet and were animated by cascading water across its face.
An orderly row of ferns and Dendrobium speciosum Growing ontop of rounded granite boulders.
In the dripping Gum forest that surround Bald Rock are strewn many rounded balders toped with tough waxy orchids Dendrobium speciosum which unfotunately i missed the flowering of by a few weeks. Cracks between the rocks bring order out of cayos, such as this row of ferns.
Tiny mushrooms at the summit
As the spectacular sceenery was enveloped in a wall of grey, my attention was turned to the smaller details. This tiny group of mushrooms were only bigenough to tupport one raindrop each growing out of a root no thicker than a piece of spaghetti. The boulders in the fore ground are rabbit droppings.
Acacia sp.
Solanun sp.
Bedraggled Acacia flowers were one of the few trees in flower and among the stands of Eucalyptus grew a spiny Solanum species, quite incongurus with the other sclerophyll (tough leaved) plants.
Hail storm
Found my car parked in a raging torrent after more heavy rain.
A few days we have been sen home from work early due to storm warnings for fear of the risk of lightening and being pelted by hail stones. Many of the orchards are covered by nets byt this only limits the damage. The region is on the tropic of capricorn but 900m above sealevle so the air is relativly cool resulting in spectacular weather, un less of course you are an apple, peach, strawberry or a farmer that grows them. I gought cought out in one on the highway, the sound on the car was deafenning. Luckilly it skirted the orchard and caused minimal damage to the fruit.
Distant storm clouds and naturalised Verbena bonariensis
The storms do make fore some spectacular sunsets. In the foreground is Verbena bonariensis, an escaped garden plant naturalised along the road side.
The road home, oh deer!
I have also fornd out there is a reason why they advise you not to travel during heavy rain as i found myself the rong side of a flooded gridge after another rainy hike. Some locals in the same predicament as me watching trees float by told me the road round to the north was also cut and to the south was a 300km round trip the may also be cut. So a night in the car it was to be. The water had subsided enough to drive through by five o’clock the next morning after a while spent clearing piled up branches and trees.
I’ll take another hike up the rock one sunny evening to get some pics of it in it’s entirety.

Ruined Castel Rocks

On an early morning hike out to the Ruined Castel Rocks, before the coach loads of day tourists spoil the silence. In the cool forest on the floor of the canyon I came across a male Liar bird, the master of mimicry. They are like a small brown pheasant with an airy peacock tail all in sepia tone. Not being the most birds they woo the mates with elaborate and quick-fire impressions of all the other bird sounds in the forest. They even mimic man made sounds though this one has no camera shutters and chainsaws in his repertoire it was non the les impressive.
Video of Liar Bird
The Snake Orchid, Cymbidium suave, was growing in a Eucalyptus tree in the hollow left by a fallen bow.
Snake Orchid, Cymbidium Suave ORCHIDACEAE
The Ruined Castel Rocks reach up just above the tree line conveniently arranged like a giant spiral staircase. Sitting atop of a rise in the middle of the canyon floor they offer a 360o view of the surrounding cliff faces that are other wise reduced to fleeting glimpses through the canopy.
Around the rocks and up on top of the cliffs where the conditiond are hotter and dried grows the Scribbly Gum Eucalyptus sclerophylla. It is called the Scribbly gum due to markings left on the bark by browsing moth larvae.
Scribbly Gum, Eucalyptis sclerophylla MYRTACEAE
In amongst the greener the large, bright yellow, buttercup shape flowers of a shrubby twining, Hibbertia dentate shone out advertising their wares and a bright clearing left by a fallen tree was full of Senecio linearifolius, making though most of the available light.

DILLENIACEAE and Senecio linearifolius ASTERACEAE

Hibbertia dentate
Two lizards spotted on the walk were the Leura Water Skink Eulamprus Leureansisand the as yet un-identified by me little bearded dragon like lizard. The Leura lizard was amongst the foliage in the cool damp forest and the little bearded dragon was sunning himself up on the hot castle rocks.
Leura Water Skink Eulamprus leuraensis and the as yet un-identified lizard.


View of the forest under-story.

Katoomba in The Blue Mountains

Katoomba, a small town in the Blue Mountains renowned for its hiking, rock-climbing and caving is a short train ride, 120 west of Sydney. I had expected, given the name ‘Blue Mountains’ to be greeted by spectacular alpine scenery on arrival. I was some what disappointed when there wasn’t so much as a rolling hill on the horizon. I turns out that Katoomba is on top of the mountain, and geologically speaking the region isn’t mountainous but a high plato and network of steep canyons and valleys. A short walk from the hostel in the centre of town reveals the spectacular scenery, which doesn’t tower above you but drops away vertically beneath your feet.
The Three Sisters sandstone rock formations and the Jamison valley.
The vast canyons have eroded more than 500m down through layers of sandstone, shale and clay. The cliff edges drop vertically more than 100m down to the forests blanketing the valley floor. Looking down there are distinct changes in vegetation from rain forest at the bottom of the valleys, supported by plentiful ground water rather that abundant rain fall, which is dark green and has a notable absence of Eucaliptus, of which there are over 100specied in the Blue Mountains alone. Rising up the slopes are the wet sclerophyll forests dominated by tall open stands of Eucalyptus with open canopies more that 60m in height, with an under story of soft leaved trees, climbers and grasses. Following layers of clay within the sandstone cliffs are hanging swamps where the ground water peculates out above the clay forming bands of  mosses and ferns that eventually drop from the cliff faces under their own weight. Finally the top of the plato consists of dry sclerophyll forests of open shorter, stands of Eucalyptus with a shrubby under story of flowering shrubs with small, tough spiny leaves.
One of the smaller tree species forming the under story of the forest in the botom of the canyon. I’ll let you know what it is when I find out.
The blue colouration of the mountains is down to the glaucus colour of the Eucalyptus leaves through the haze. Dropping down into the canyons down steep flights of steps carved into the rocks the atmosphere becomes noticeably cooler as you enter the humidity of the forest. Two trees dominate this part of the reserve, the Blue Mountain Gum Eucalyptus deanei with id towering smooth white bark and the Turpentine tree Syncarpia glomulifera with depictured bark, many of the trees burnt out completely in the core of the trunk by past fire storms and still supporting lush canopies. Tall tree ferns Cyathea australis lined the paths along with shorter squatter Dicksonia antarctica.
Blue Mountain Gum Eucalyptus deanei
Turpentine tree Suncarpia glomulifera
It was my first impulse to head straight down into the rainforests, however it turned out to be the high open forests on the tops of the canyons that support the most diverse range of flowers.  Here the soil is much drier and nutrient poor as they are leached to the valley floor. The scrub consists of many different varieties of  Acacia, Boronia, Grevellia, Hakea and pea plants (family FABACEAE) according to my book on wild flowers. There were many Banksias with remnants of past flowers and tough woody seed capsules that guard against fire, that unfortunately had finished flowering. There were other members of PROTEACEAE in flower along with many other wild flowers.
Isopogon anemonifolius PROTEACEAE
Banksia Eric folia PROTEACEAE
Telopia speciosa PROTEACEA
Lambertia Formosa PROTEACEAE
As is always the way I took pictures until the battery in my camera could carry on no more. Literally minuets after I rounded a corner and discovered not one but two different orchids in full bloom. My camera mustered up enough strength to take a quick snap or each. Fortunately they were not too far out so I hiked back up to the early the next morning, when the light was much more amenable of photography to take some more. The pale pink, butterfly shaped orchid has a mechanical anther which when the flower is genteelly touched, flicks suddenly like the arm of a catapult delivering a sticky package of pollen onto the back of an unsuspecting insect.
Haven’t been able to name these yet either, sorry!

Sydney Botanic Gardens

After a long flight to Sydney and the chores of sorting visas, bank accounts and accommodation I made a bee line for the botanic gardens. Not having adjusted to the time difference I was wide awake at 3am, tossing and turning restlessly for a while I decided it was best to get up, head out and walk down to the Sydney Opera House to watch the sun come up over the harbour. The gardens are next to the Opera House and I snuck early enjoying the parkland and plantings, lit by warm hazy early morning sun all to my self, bar a few eager joggers. Its immediately clear that Sydney rarely if ever gets a frost as everything that I’ve spent the last few weeks digging up and lugging under cover is beaded out on mass.
Wandering around with my little compact camera it was frustrating looking up into sprawling fig trees with broad buttresses and branches propped up bur aerial roots, with shafts of light beaming through and not being to cram the image into my tiny lens. I wished I could zoom in on the fruit bats, wondered what a picture staring straight up into a grove of massive Washingtonia robustas would look like through a fish eye lens and the details I could pick up if only I had a macro. Well I have done the best I can for now and better find some fruit to pick soon so I can afford a camera that will do the job. You can’t have a good blog without good pics!
Ficus species.
There were several large plantings of Bromeliads, which once established with pups on pups make a fantastic ground cover, not bad considering their loft origins. Bearing their origin in mind they would take perfectly to vertical gardening and were displayed as such on a wall entering into the pyramidal tropical glasshouse. The planting had become a bit sparse in places and unfortunately it had been planted using aluminium mesh to retain the plants, had this have been sprayed green or black the wall would have looked more complete. At the very top the wall was toped with large yellow bromeliads which created a stark contrast with the sky. ‘The Rainforest Garden’ has recently posted an article on planting a vertical picture garden and Urban Jungles blog ‘Jungle Drums’ shows how I built a 12 foot high DIY herbaceous wall emulating the rather expensive hydroponics techniques pioneered by Patric Blanc.
The garden is inhabited by some rather noisy fruit bats hanging from bare branches like withered leaves. They are recognised for their role in pollinating and seed dispersal but do in great numbers cause considerable damage to the trees. Several trees had been completely killed. As a result a sign informed that the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service has granted a licence for non-harmful relocation of the bats, but didn’t specify how.
Whilst travelling through the suburbs of Sydney are great views across endless rooftops splotched with the canopies of Jacaranda in full bloom. Here is a Jacaranda in bloom with bright yellow Furcaria.
Frustratingly it always seems to be the most interesting plants that are lacking their labels. Here’s a few natives that caught my eye, labels intact. Alloxylon flammeum ‘Red Silk Oak’ from the Atherton tablelands in Queensland. Ephedra tweediana, forming a tangled ball of lime green twining stems. It belongs to a genus that is said to share characteristic with both that of modern flowering plants and more ancient carboniferous species.  Whatever its makeup it’s got great character. The sparsely Podocarpus smithii, from North East Queensland, which looked wilted from a distance but on closer inspection produces silvery pink soft new foliage among clusters of pale yellow catkins. Nearly opened Banksia serrata found all up the east coast far as South Queensland. Acacia calimifolia from the South East with small sulphur yellow pompoms amid silvery, fine, flowing foliage.
Alloxylon flammeum
Ephedra tweediana
Podocarpus smithii
Banksia serrata
Acacia calimifolia
Here’s one last picture of he flower of Neomarica caerulea against the foliage of Canna ‘Durban‘, the outer petals contrasting spectacularly with the orange/russets of the Canna leaves which match beautifully with the markings of the centre of the flower.
Neomarica caerulea and Canna ‘Durban’