Saturday, January 11, 2014

Von den Blauen Bergen kommen wir...

The last two days I was on a field trip to the Blue Mountains with a colleague and several students. We were mostly searching for the rare and remote 'pagoda daisy' Leucochrysum graminifolium (Asteraceae), a habitat specialist and local endemic of the area north of Lithgow.

This is the habitat: twisted and weirdly shaped sandstone rocks sticking out of the forest. The place was unexpectedly awesome; I came there expecting simply rocky mountain slopes along the road.

Many of the rocks are clearly layered, and often a higher layer is wider than the layer immediately below it. Together with the stair-like appearance of the rock formations this invites a comparison with Asian pagoda style buildings. At any rate, a nearby national park is called Garden of Stones, surely because the strange rock formations are its major attraction.

And we found it! The paper daisy we were searching for grows directly on the rocks, sometimes in cracks, sometimes on a minimal layer of decomposing leaf litter. The individual specimens often have many dead leaves and substantial rootstocks, indicating that once they have managed to occupy one of the few suitable sites on the rocks they do not carelessly give it up again by having a short life cycle. These plants are much more long-lived than most of their congeners.

This is, of course, the more typical kind of Blue Mountains landscape, seen here from Echo Point Lookout in Katoomba, where we stayed the night.

And finally, another Blue Mountain endemic, Grevillea laurifolia (Proteaceae). It is very easy to recognize because it is prostrate, and other prostrate Grevilleas generally have divided leaves.

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