Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Nature of Nature - at the microscopic level

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of watching 2 fully grown adults discover the beauty of the inner world of flowers.

My friends Jim and Songsri and I went into the Carrington Falls Nature Reserve, near the restored quarry (not close to the falls). This is an easy area to access, with a variety of habitats. You start near the road in open forest, with grass and herbs as undergrowth. Then you pass to an area of almost bare sandstone rock, with typical sandstone forest scrub, with dense undergrowth of Tea Trees (Leptospermum sp.) and the endemic Carrington Falls Grevillea, Grevillea rivularis. (Click to go to a good photo of the flower from Plantnet - the Royal Botanic Gardens plant identification website.)

This plant is one of Jim's favourites. It has long flowers, arranged in a "toothbrush" structure. The flowers are varied in colour, in part, white, then green, then purple (in parts). Also, the seed pods are fascinating. They are hairy, and when fresh, they are green with dark patches, almost resembling a caricature of an eye drawn on each side of the fruiting capsule.

Jim has bought himself a 10 power magnifying glass, and he was revelling in introducing Songsri to the inner world of flowers.

I was enjoying myself too, explaing the convoluted pollination system of the Grevilleas (and the related Waratah too). With the lens, one could see the pollen sacs inside the flower, and how the pollen is transferred onto the end of the "pollen presenter", which subsequently develops into its female stage. Some flowers had been successfully pollinated and we could see the ovary starting to swell. Other seed capsules were well developed - those hairy things described previously.

We also examined some Melaleuca squarrosa flowers, and noticed their sweet scent on the warm afternoon air.

The simplest structure of the flowers which we examined was the Leptospermum rotundifolium, which had large (3 cm wide) lilac flowers, with a very clear structure of a ring of 5 petals, an inner ring of stamens, around a prominent central disc with an obvious green colour. Have a look at the ANBG website photo on the preceding link, or this link for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, Plantnet site for this Tea Tree.

The best part for me was watching Jim explaining to his wife how to use the lens. Songsri clearly had not ever looked at a flower through a magnifying lens before. It was very satisfying listening to her squeals of delight, as she "got it right" with the lens.

And then she just fell in love with the inner delights of flowers. This is where a novice can develop her sense of wonder about Nature. All power to Jim, the educator.

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