Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Under the Grotto

Down along the Belmore Falls Road there is a rough Fire Trail through the State Forest which leads to a favourite spot for Robertson locals. There is sandstone rock shelf there, where the Barrengarry Creek was forded by the early settlers. This ford is no longer passable, and trees have fallen, blocking the route.

Up stream from the ford is a broad pool. It looks like a great spot for Platypus and Azure Kingfishers, but I have never seen either of them in this pool, alas. I have seen the wonderful small Kingfisher at Belmore Falls road crossing (once). Anyway, today I went to explore the wonderful Grotto which is about 200 metres downriver from the old ford. It is a shallow waterfall, dropping about 3 metres over a curved rock shelf. There is a shallow pool below the falls, then the creek runs over more flat rocks, before resuming its quiet flow through deep pools. The creek is surrounded by rainforest plants, and masses of ferns .I had hoped to find some plants of Diplodium pulchellum, the Illawarra Greenhood, but alas I did not. However, I did find the Waterfall looking very photogenic (and the morning was pleasantly warm), and so I crawled in under the overhang of the water to achieve these few shots. It took some experimentation to get the exposure right for this shot to "work". As it is, the water is overexposed, but it is the best I could manage this morning. I wanted you to be able to see the underhang (the cavern behind the falls), and more importantly, the mosses and ferns and the "Rainforest Spinach" growing in under this "room".
I was also pleased to photograph the flowers of Fieldia australis. This plant is not uncommon, but it is a wet area specialist. But this is seen to advantage here. The plant is growing on a vertical rock wall, immediately behind the cascade of water. Normally it is seen in wet rainforest gullies, growing on moss-covered rocks or tree fern trunks, in places like Knight's Hill, or in the deep gullies of Upper Kangaroo Valley. Forgive me for only photographing this plant with my long lens. I was not that dedicated that I was going to walk right out into the flow of the Falls, to get closer. The long cream tubular flowers are clearly visible, and are unmistakable. Habitat, and flower shape make this a complete identification "fit". Apart from ferns and mosses, the other local plant which grows in this situation is the so-called "Rainforest Spinach". Its leaves and flowers are very different. The Native Spinach is growing closer to the lip of the falls, actually growing in the stream of water, whereas the Fieldia is growing behind the wall of water. It is interesting to note that Fieldia is related to the Gesneriad family, which includes many well-known "indoor plants", Gesneriads and also "African Violets".

When I see this plant growing, I am always reminded of those old-fashioned Butchers Shop windows which were cooled by running water. If only old butchers had known about this plant their shop windows would have been so interesting.

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