Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Friday, October 02, 2009

Grass Trees on the cliff tops.

I recently wrote about what I referred to as an uncommon Grass Tree in the Robertson area. Well, a few days ago, I stumbled across a bunch of these plants, living in a highly specific environment, right on tops of the rocky cliff edges of the Upper Kangaroo Valley, near Carrington Falls. This is less than 2 kilometres from Robertson, in a direct line, but some 15 kms away by road, as one has to detour around the edge of the Upper Kangaroo Valley, past Carrington Falls, to get here.

This plant is, I believe, Xanthorrhoea australis

Their habitat of choice is an unbelievably harsh environment, right on the cliff top, exposed to all the extremes of wind which Mother nature can (and did) throw at these plants. You can see the wind whipping the leaves of this plant around, as part of the gale force winds blowing on Sunday, 27 September. Not only was the Grass Tree being whipped around, so were both my friend Jim, and I buffeted around. Fortunately, the wind was coming from up out of the Valley, and so did not threaten to blow us off the cliff - or else there is no way I would have taken this photograph.

The noise of the wind, on the cliff tops was extraordinary - reminiscence of the bad old days of Boeing 707s taking off at old airports, prior to the introduction of noise dampening. It was unbearable being on that cliff top, exposed to that noise of the wind, for more than a few moments.

Here is an amazingly large full Grass Tree plant, with flowering scape (the hard wooden stem of the flowering part) and the flower spike (with a dense mat of fibrous material, and including the flowers). In this case the flowers have finished, but not yet dispersed their seeds.
My friend Jim is posing beside the plant (barely able to reach over the huge tuft of leaves, to grasp the flowering scape, as I had requested him to, for "scale" - in order to show the true dimensions of the entire plant - the leaves, scape and flower spike. The spike curves up into the air, and it is at least four times as high as Jim, at its tip.
This is the tuft of leaves of this plant.
Look above to see, when Jim was standing there, how large this leaf tuft is.
Here is my gloved hand, for scale, shown against the "scape"
That is the hard woody part of the flowering stem.
I shall show another species of Grass Tree in a few days time,
for comparison of the thickness (or narrowness) of its scape.
And here, seen from below, is the entire flowering stem
the "scape" and the "spike".
The previous Grass Tree about which I wrote was the same species, I believe, but a juvenile plant, with no "trunk" - the woody part below the tuft of leaves.

These are very slow growing plants and such a large plant as this one might well be over 100 years of age.


mick said...

Those are really great photos of the grass trees. Definitely different from the ones we have right around here. The most common ones here are X fulva, and X johnsonii - neither of which have the very large flowering part that yours shows. The photo of the cliff top is amazing - glad the wind was blowing up it!

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick

I didn't have time to publish, last night, the photos of the view from the cliff top. But re the wind, I was scared enough. No way would i have stood on the edge, with the wind pushing me from behind.
One seldom gets a still shot to show "movement", but that seems to work, at least people familiar with these plants - as you obviously are.