‘Four seasons in one day’ – every day – plus a plethora of wonderful wildflowers – kept the adrenalin running among the hardy bunch of botanists, ecologists and keen amateurs who participated in this year’s flora surveys on Hamelin Station Reserve.
After many months of (mostly) dry weather, which resulted in last year’s survey results being a bit ‘thin on the ground’, the reserve was in fantastic shape this year (after a much better winter) – resulting in many new additions to the flora lists for each of the 20 sites that the teams surveyed across the length and breadth of the 202,644 hectare reserve.
The immediate visual impact, in just about every direction, was the seemingly endless carpets of wildflowers – mainly yellow Pom-Pom Everlastings (Cephalipterum Drummondii), interspersed with splashes of bright pink of Parakeelya (Calandrinia spp.), purple of Shark Bay Daisies (Pembertonia latisquamea) and Flannel Flowers (Solanum lasiophyllum), and shades of white of various species of Mulla Mulla (Ptilotis spp.).
Everyone had their own particular favourites – with some championing the hot-pink Calandrinias, while others extolled the floristic virtues of a gorgeous ‘native jasmine’, the striking Shark Bay Daisy, the ubiquitous fluffy-looking Cotton Bush (Ptilotus obovatus), and (for me) a beautiful and rare ‘Priority Species’ endemic to Hamelin Reserve and the Shark Bay peninsula – called Abutilon sp. Hamelin.
For Western Rangelands Healthy Landscapes Manager Lis McLellan, it was the overall health of the bush across the reserve, especially the rangeland country now recovering from a long history of grazing pressure, which cheered her up the most.
“It was great to see so much new growth, and so much regeneration – especially the re-emergence of native grasses and small seedlings – after many, many months of drought and past grazing pressure,” she said.
Lis said that everyone is now looking forward to the results of the survey being finalized – once all of the species have been verified at the WA Herbarium by survey team members from the WA Wildflower Society. The results are sure to add lots of new data to the flora survey lists (encompassing more than 350 species of plants) for the reserve.
Typical of many field-work expeditions, the flora survey team experienced what could only be called ‘Murphy’s Law weather’ – with beautiful ‘fine’ weather, bathing the landscape in glorious sunshine, immediately before and after … while the scheduled survey days were predominantly overcast, and punctuated with wind squalls, intermittent showers, and even the odd torrential downpour – that sent everyone scurrying for the shelter of their vehicles, clutching cameras, notepads, samples, and other equipment.
Despite the challenging weather conditions, all team members remained in high spirits, charging through their daily work schedule, and enjoying many hours of camaraderie – both in the field and (in the evenings) at the expedition base in the old station homestead.
Bush Heritage Community Engagement Officer Sarah Luxton, who helped coordinate the event, expressed sincere gratitude on behalf of Bush Heritage to all of the WA Wildflower Society members who travelled to Hamelin to help with the survey.
“It’s a great partnership that we have with the WA Wildflower Society, adding invaluable information to our Reserve database to inform our management actions,” she said. “It’s a really meaningful collaboration.”
Richard McLellan is a passionate Bush Heritage volunteer (and member of our Volunteer Advisory Committee), and regular contributor to the ‘Bushie Blog’. You can follow Richard on Twitter: @RichardMcLellan.