Sunday, August 10, 2014

Jervis Bay

Over the weekend I was on a field trip to Jervis Bay with students of the Australian National University. Jervis Bay is on the eastern coast of the continent, in New South Wales, although through an accident of history the southern part of the land around the bay is part of the Australian Capital Territory. When Canberra was founded, it was apparently thought that every decent capital city needed a harbour (even if the city itself was far inland), and so this area was assigned to the ACT. The harbour never happened except for a marine base of the Australian defence forces, and so most of it is now a national park.

The purpose of the trip was to learn about the rich local flora, and to give the students the opportunity to collect specimens for their herbarium project. Each of them has to hand in six mounted specimens so they know how to collect and prepare plant specimens for research.

There are several distinct types of vegetation in the area depending on the shallowness of the soil and how well it is drained. The above picture shows the wet sclerophyll forest in which we started our walk on Saturday. It is dominated by Eucalyptus with a rich Proteaceae and Ericaceae understorey.

This picture taken on the coastal heathland shows Jervis Bay to the left and the Pacific Ocean to the right. The little island left of the centre is a breeding ground for penguins but access is obviously restricted so that the birds are not disturbed.

And this shows the beach at Green Patch, with two students braving the cold waters during a well-deserved lunch break. Of seventeen students on the trip they were the only ones who jumped into the ocean. Although certainly not as chilly as in Canberra, it is still winter after all.

On the way back we stopped at this alleged waterfall which, however, does not really have any significant amount of water at this particular moment. It seems as if there has been little rain in the area recently. Still, the view was well worth a stop.

Note to self: Next time, perhaps don't mention that the green drupes of Persoonia (Proteaceae) are edible and were consumed by Aboriginals. Because after hearing it, a few adventurous students went and picked the superficially similar green fruits of a completely different plant, above Leptomeria acida (Santalaceae) instead, giving me a bit of a shock because I did not immediately know if they were also edible or, for example, poisonous to humans.

Fortuitously it turns out that they are not only edible but actually very healthy, long known to constitute a good source of vitamin C (we checked in a book on bush tucker by wife bought some time ago). Still, perhaps the students should have looked a bit closer and realised that in contrast to Persoonia this plant does not have conspicuous leaves...


  1. Why, that's me in the water! What are the chances of stumbling upon that while you're studying about the genotypic cluster species concept! I'm flattered. :)

  2. Unfortunately, I was one of the students who partook in tasting the Leptomeria acida. In my defense though, another supervisor assured us that they were edible.

  3. Well, that's okay then, isn't it? The thing was more that my group wasn't told that Leptomeria acida was edible because I didn't know that myself at the time.

    See you on Monday!