Saturday, September 14, 2013

Carpets of everlastings

I have just come back from a few days of field work in the western plains of New South Wales. The purpose of the trip was to collect samples of daisies, and although I did not get all I wanted it was quite successful.

The arid and semi-arid areas of Australia are characterized by highly variable rainfall. When you have a bad year, there is nothing but dust and shriveled up dead plants. When you have good summer rain, the grasses grow and you get increased risk of bushfires. But when you have good winter and spring rains, you get magnificent carpets of ephemeral wildflowers, and many of them are everlasting paper daisies (tribe Gnaphalieae). While the past few weeks were too dry in the farthest west, the weather must have been near perfect in the more central parts of the state. Check out a few samples of what we saw:

Leucochrysum molle west of Jerilderie. Sampling this species was one of my two most important objectives.

Large stands of Pycnosorus pleiocephalus north of Wentworth.

We wondered whether this area between Menindee and Ivanhoe could still be called 'grassland' because it consists nearly entirely of Rhodanthe floribunda.

Mostly Hyalosperma semisterile (and several other species of daisies) near Narrandera.

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