Parrot Bush

Parrot Bush is a beautiful plant flowering now in bushland across Perth. I always think the flowers seem like they open with a loud pop! This prickly shrub grows as far north as Geraldton and into the southwest to Albany.

Banksia sessilis

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Banksia littoralis

Swamp Banksia grows in and around wetlands, lakes and rivers throughout the Swan Coastal Plain and the Darling Range. It’s common at Lake Gwelup. Some have been planted in revegetation projects eg. along the boardwalk. Others are original vegetation, like this enormous tree on the east side of the lake which is countless years old.

looking up to Banksia littoralis

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Banksia menziesii

banksia flower

Banksia menziesii is currently painting the bushland in hues of pink and yellow. Flowers range from pink and red through orange and coppery shades to brilliant yellow. [1] Some plants always flower yellow, some always pink, and some start the flowering season yellow and as winter temperatures drop, later opening flowers tend toward pink and red. [2] This tree at Richard Guelfi Reserve (below) always has yellow flowers. Behind it is a pink flowering Banksia menziesii.

yellow Banksia menziesii

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orange splendour

flowers of Banksia prionotes

As autumn turns to winter the flowering season of Saw-tooth Banksia (Banksia prionotes) winds down. The orange flowers were particularly spectacular in the bushland at Lake Gwelup Reserve in the past few weeks.

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Our Black Cockatoos

Carnaby's black cockatoos flying over Herdsman Lake by Ian

Once upon a time, Black Cockatoos flew in vast flocks, bright tail feathers flashing, calling to each other as they gathered to feed and roost. Just 50 years ago, these unique birds were so plentiful their flocks would blacken the sky. But not anymore.

The Cockatoos Need You

I love hearing the raucous cries of black cockatoos as they fly over my house or when I see them laughing at the top of tuarts in the park or ripping pine cones to pieces at Curtin University. With all these sightings of my favourite bird, you might think there are lots of them, but sadly Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus latirostris) are an endangered species [1].

My friends’ bush block is the best place to see black cockatoos. They have a garden of banksias and other native plants surrounding a bird bath. Although there’s more often honey eaters, wattlebirds and blue wrens, every now and then a flock of black cockies comes down for a drink and a chat about the weather. It’s said that black cockies fly over when it’s going to rain [2]. This probably came about because black cockies migrate from the Wheatbelt east of Perth where they breed, to the Swan Coastal Plain in autumn to winter along the coast [3].

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Bushfire in Kings Park

after fire

On Friday it was 41.8°C. It’s not usually quite that hot until February and the extreme weather didn’t help in controlling the fires which burnt in Perth and the south west [1].

The deliberately fire at Kings Park burnt 20ha of the Mt Eliza escarpment. Australia’s bush is resilient in regenerating after fire and the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority (BGPA) is confident the area will return to good cover within four to five years [2], but it might need some help.

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What’s in a name?

This article was first published in the Wildflower Society of WA newsletter, August 2008. Photos by Clare Snow.

You don’t have to call Dryandra Banksia

by Alex George

Dryandra speciosa

In 2007 Austin Mast and Kevin Thiele published a paper combining the genus Dryandra with Banksia, with a further paper in 2008 covering names that they missed in the 2007 paper. The Western Australian Herbarium has now renamed its specimens of Dryandra, the Australian herbaria have adopted the change for their national plant census, and Kevin Thiele has been “marketing” the change to the community. For example, an article on the Department of Environment and Conservation’s website, repeated in the Department’s newsletter Western Wildlife, seeks to explain this change to a wider audience.

Having studied these plants for almost 50 years I am concerned that this change is premature, probably wrong, and is having a profound effect on those using the names of these plants, effects that could have been avoided.

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Another fire at Star Swamp

Last Thursday night there was a fire at Star Swamp.

The blaze only took an hour to control, officers stayed at the scene over night cleaning up debris. [1]

The vegetation was recovering well after the fire in March 2007. On Thursday only 11 hectares was burnt, a much smaller area than in March. News reports on Friday didn’t know the cause of it, but Dayle, a commenter to my blog, told me it was arson. There has been some rain in Perth the weekend before the fire, and temperatures were around 24ºC.

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Fire: Friend or Foe?

a hollow tree burnt in the past

Fire is a way of life in Australia and many endemic species have evolved to benefit from fire. Some species only reproduce after fire, others are given the chance to grow after fires eg. understory plants which may not have enough space or light previously. Problems may occur when the time period between fires is too short, too long, or weed species have taken over and there is too much flammable material available. Fires may burn too quickly and intensely for animal and plant species and cause irreparable damage.

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