Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pink Beard-heath - Leucopogon ericoides

Firstly, this is the general habitat of the Budderoo Plateau. We are looking from "heathland" (not visible because of the long-lens image) out over a lower section of Eucalypt forest. Clearly this is part of a sandstone plateau. In the medium distance you can see the one of the bluffs in the Barren Grounds (to the centre left), and to the right is Broughton Head, a free-standing ridge which is an ancient remnant of the Illawarra Escarpment.
You are looking through Broughton Pass. Broughton Head is an isolated outcrop of rock which separates Kangaroo Valley from the coastal strip. It is the dominant mountain located behind the village of Berry, on the Pacific Highway. In the far distance, one can just make out a flat coastal stretch of land, with the Pacific Ocean just visible as a light blue line below the horizon. From the map, this would be where Gerringong is located, south from Kiama.

You can see that while the Budderoo Plateau area is quite high (approx 740 metres), the climate is definitely influenced by its proximity to the Ocean. It is cool and very high in rainfall, and subject to sudden fogs, especially in summer.

Leucopogon ericoides (Pink Beard-heath) is a very dense-growing heath plant from out on the sandstone country on the Budderoo Plateau. It has a quite strong perfume, which is noticeable as you walk along the road, close to where these plants are growing.
In this photo you can see the flowers, the buds (with a red sepals, from which the white flowers can be seen to be emerging- see the buds at centre right of image). The narrow, dark leaves are visible, and on the far left one can clearly see the striped and slightly recurved underside of a leaf. All these features are diagnostic of this species.

Below is a photo of a stem with pink buds and the pointed leaves. The fact that these flowers appear in groups, in the leaf axils is also diagnostic. Most of the colour actually comes from the sepals through which the flowers emerge, as they open. The tips of the flowers, when in bud, are pink, but they open white.
Below is a close-up of a single flower. You can see the woolly surface of the inside of the flower from which this plant genus gets its name - meaning "white beard". These woolly flowers distinguish Leucopogon from other related plants, such as Epacris. This species holds its flower widely reflexed when fully opened. The width of this flower is approx 5mm. The stamens, which in this genus are said to be held deep within the corolla tube, in fact are quite clearly visible, because of the way the flower opens itself so widely. The parts of the flower are in "fives" - 5 "lobes" (in layman's speak - petals), 5 stamens.
This image will open to full screen size. It is worth clicking on the image, to open it up to its full size, to see the flower in full detail.


mick said...

Lovely photos of the flower. I like the description and photo of the area. There is a similar flower just coming into bloom up here right now - Leucopogon pimeleoides - and it has a beautiful perfume too.

Mosura said...

LOL - I was thinking yesterday that I'll have to post a plant on the blog soon and the Leucopogon up the backyard/hill is about to flower so I thought that would be a good choice :-)

I love their flowers as to the naked eye ( mine at least) they seem so insignificant and yet close up they are really spectacular.

Tsun-Thai Chai said...

The flower in the last photo - is that even real!?

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Chai
Well might you ask if it is real! I have to admit to being pretty pleased with that photo. It did come out nicely.
From the two other comments you will see people from Tasmania to Queensland love their Leucopogons.
Pretty and scented.
Just a shame they are sharp, twiggy little plants, with small flowers.
But when you look inside these tiny flowers, a whole other world opens up.
I recommend getting a 10 power magnifying lens (a "Hand Lens") - and start investigating the small things around us all. You can get them from optometrists shops, and some "outdoors" shops. Expect to pay about $30, from memory.
If stuck out in the bush, with something tiny but fascinating to look at, and a pair of binoculars, you can reverse the binoculars, by looking through the large lens, and holding the object very close to the eye piece. It is a bit rough, and hard to control, but it does work.
There is a whole world awaiting you, Chai. And, of course, there is another world beyond that, in proper microscopes, but you probably know about that, from laboratory work.

Jarrett said...

Hmm. Leucopogon ericoides? I wonder why someone thought that this one especially resembled an Erica (old-world heather).

I had the same thought encountering Grevillea oleiodes, which has resemblence to an olive that I could discern. I wondered if early botanists, after three months on the boat, had largely forgotten what European plants looked like, in their despair to pretend that something here was familiar.

Wonderful photos.

Denis Wilson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Denis Wilson said...

Hi Jarrett.
Interesting point you raise about the naming of Australian flora and fauna. Early settlers were massively homesick, and looked for signs of anything which seemed familiar.
Everything seemed alien
to them - a feeling you obviously appreciate, judging by your story about the Petrophile.
Magpies, Cuckoo-Shrikes, Shrike-thrush, Wrens, etc ... the list of creatures which vaguely resemble other creatures, but which are totally unrelated to those whose names they share - is almost endless.
As for the Leucopogon ericoides, the whole related group of plants are known as "heaths", in fact there is a class of habitat known as "heathlands". Not a "heather" in sight.
This species is in fact atypical of the genus because it opens its flower so wide. Most are small tubular flowers, which do in fact resemble Ericas. Perhaps it was named from a specimen in the bud stage.
Do visit again.