The lilies of the valley

I recently was blessed to visit a remnant grassland in a little valley on the plains of western Victoria during a mass spring blooming of various lilies, orchids and other wildflowers. This site was once a sheoak and banksia woodland/savannah (I’m told) but most of them are gone, having been cleared. The derived grassland is, nevertheless, spectacular in its own right. This mass flowering is something not many people in modern Australia would have seen, although it would have once been typical of our temperate plains and grassy woodlands. A few photos might at least start rectifying the sad state of public appreciation.

*as I was there to work (mainly) I wasn’t stopping to do thorough identification on every plant – so some photos have a question mark if I wasn’t entirely sure.

The grasses haven’t yet greened up after winter, so the flowers stand out perhaps even more.Since we’re talking ground-hugging forbs in a meadow, not rhododendrons or roses or whatever, you really have to get down to their level – but it’s worth it. Some of these are quite inobtrusive, like the Twining Fringe-lily (Thysanotus patersoni): less than a centimeter across the flower, and virtually leafless. Grassland Candles, Stackhousia monogyna (not a lily) are easy to ignore except when in flower, when clusters of them appear across the plain.

This grassland has a number of heath species as well, perhaps an indicator of the kind of dominant vegetation when the site was a woodland. It’s on a sandy rather than basalt clay soil, which is more typical of heath. Peach Heath Lissanthe strigosa and Cranberry Heath Astroloma humifusum are scattered here and there. Various bush-peas (Dillwynia and Pultenea species) are also present. Carnivorous plants are also doing well: at least three species of Sundews (Drosera peltata and others) and a bladderwort (Utricularia species).

A few tall Silver Banksia, Banksia marginata persist as well, unusually for the western grasslands.

It’s cheering to know that this kind of grassland is still with us. It’s equally depressing when you realise how little like it is left (and developers are continuing to remove more).

The profusion of lilies made me remember the song referenced in the title of this blog post. I looked it up and was reminded that it’s a pious gospel piece. A nice tune, for all that. My most excellent high school music teacher explained to our class that soul music was basically gospel with the lyrics secularised, to sing about lovers and earthly troubles rather than about God and the bible. If you played around with the words to this song, I’m sure it could be about the inspiration of a beautiful grassland in the spring with a carpet of lilies.

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