A Western Australian spring

posted in: Life and things | 2

Spring is a huge event in colder climates when the soil warms up, the frosts are past and the bulbs peak out of the ground to face the sun. Bluebells fill the English woods and tulips, irises, and daffodils are arrayed in spectacular gardens like Keukenhof in the Netherlands. And displays like that happen in Australia, too in Tasmania, Victoria, Toowoomba, cooler parts of Western Australia – and others.

But while that’s all wonderful, among the very best spring displays happens on the west coast of the continent when the Australian natives gear up for the annual costume party. Especially when there has been some good winter rains. Spring starts earlier in the north of the state and then rolls to the south in a wave, brightening the tough grey-green foliage of the local plants.

Sturt’s desert pea out in its desert home. These were in the Pilbara.
Sturt’s desert, a brilliant annual
Wildflowers brighten the Pilbara landscape

The flowers bloom, set seed, and die, waiting in the soil for next winter’s rains to prepare for next year’s fashion show.

Some bushes are covered with blossom, like these leptospermums.
This is arid country around Kalbarri
A close-up of the flower on the red bush. European honey bees like the pollen as much as the local bees
Flowers will settle into any crevice in the rock

Further south a traveller will encounter vast meadows of paper daisies. Many years ago, my brother Fred and I went on a two-week road trip with Dad. That year the flowers were awesome – but I don’t have the photos we took, so you’ll have to settle for the ABC’s video. It shows you so much more than a photo, anyway.

Although the meadows of paper daisies are spectacular, many of the wildflowers are small and apparently insignificant

Several of these are orchids found on the rocky outcrops in the WA bush
Here’s a close-up of a type of spider orchid
A donkey orchid
A fringed lily

Visitors can go into the bush and spot these beauties on their own, but there’s an easier way. Every year at about this time there’s a flower show held in King’s Park, the sprawling park covering the slopes of Mt Eliza that rises above the banks of the Swan River and overlooks the city of Perth. It’s a great place to catch a glimpse of what’s out there in the wild.

The displays in King’s Park are curated, of course, but the gardeners work hard to create natural landscapes. Here are a few examples.

It’s illegal to pick wildflowers in the bush. That way, future generations will be able to enjoy them. Most are not hard to grow (in Perth, anyway). Kangaroo paws and related species (and quite a few others) need fire to germinate. I grew some from seed once. I had to put the seeds down and burn leaf litter to trigger germination. From then on, they survived on winter rain. And that says a lot about how the Australian bush works.

WA’s iconic kangaroo paw. When I was a child we’d see them growing in their thousands in the hills around Perth.

Western Australia’s wildflowers are understandably a wonderful attraction. When the world opens up again it’ll be possible to go on a tour specifically aimed at the wildflowers. There’s a selection here. Of course, that would be August/September of 2021. Always assuming that tourism is possible then.

2 Responses

  1. Karin

    Thank you for the beautiful pictures.
    I enjoyd it.
    Spring is my favourite season.
    Now in the northern hemisphere we are going into winter.
    Greetings from Belgium.
    Karin Van der Rol

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