Tag Archives: Orchids

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!