What’s That Stench? (Hint: it’s not carrion)

Exploring one of my favourite local patches of native vegetation, I noticed a pervasive smell on the air, which could be described as a proper pong along the lines of raw effluent. I looked around, but could see nothing obvious, so I carried on photographing small plants, including this one:

It’s a lovely little ground-hugging plant, with leaves like geranium and a subtle flower ball made up of dozens of tubular flowers, that grows in open woodland.

The penny only dropped much later, when I went to my favourite identification book of plants for this area, Birds and Plants of the Little Desert: a photographic guide by Ian Morgan, Graham Goods and Maree Goods (2014), and discovered that this plant’s common name says it all: Stinking Pennywort. I kid you not! 

As I continued to visit areas where this charming little plant (scientific name Hydrocotyle laxiflora) grew over the coming weeks, I realised that the smell was more like rotting vegetation in pond water, and grew accustomed to it, if not actually fond of it.

Olympus EPL7 with Panaleica 45mm macro.

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West Wimmera Wildflowers: spotted sun-orchid

Well, the time of wildflowers is upon us, and I am getting out among them as much as I can manage. This year I’ve been delighted to find so many orchids close to home, including the sun-orchids that I consider among my very favourites. 

Getting back into ‘ Olympus colour’ has also been a joy, and I am particularly enjoying the rendering of the images taken with my newly acquired E-PL7 + Panasonic Leila 45mm macro lens.

Roadside Spider Orchids: how on earth would you see them? 

Can you spot the spider orchids in the main photo? 

Wildflower season in southern Australia is often not as flash as it is in other places (I’m thinking particularly of you, Western Australia), as many of our local species are not very showy in the ways we might expect. 

Since I was a child, I highly prized the spider orchid, but never had so much opportunity to see them as I have in the West Wimmera, where there are many easily-accessible state parks full of beautiful plants. But how do you find them, when some species can be growing quite thickly yet be barely visible? You have to get out of your car (most of the ‘wildflowers’ you’re enjoying seeing from your car round here are either weed species or native shrubs, such as the very pretty, thickly-flowered Fringe-myrtle (Calytrix) in the main photo), and comb the ground, until you realise you nearly stood on one, and you step back and nearly stand on a cluster of them – suddenly, your eye is tuned in and you can see that they’re all around you! 

While showy, with their delicate markings and trailing arms, these spider orchids are also beautifully camouflaged – and they’re really not very big, as the photo with my post box key for reference shows. If I didn’t know where to find them at this spot, I would drive past them every day on my way to work none the wiser. (Thanks to my mum, who happened to find this place and share its location with me.)

Olympus EPL7 with Panasonic 14-140mm lens. 

The Flowers That Bloom In The Spring 

It never really feels like springtime to me until the native wildflowers bloom en masse, which happens only briefly. I am so fortunate to have these amazing specimens growing only a scant mile from my home – some even nearer, in my own nature strip.

Clockwise from top left: Donkey orchid (Diuris pardina); Leptospermum sp.; Purple Beard-orchid (Calochilus robertsonii); One of the many varieties of bush pea; Maroonhood? (Pterostylis pedunculata); Goodenia sp.?; Coarse Twine-rush (Apodasmia brownii); lily species.

Harrow Transport Museum: (almost)the last one out 

Brothers Don and Ray Pyers of Harrow are well known for their love of old cars, and for some time had a number from their own car collection on display at Harrow Transport Museum. With the museum being cleared out over recent months, I was fortunate to be passing by the day the last of their collection was being moved into alternative storage. This 1908 vehicle, restored by Don a few years ago, was put on a trailer and driven away only half an hour later. I’m so glad I didn’t miss this opportunity! 

Leaves Like Fallen: discovering the identity of a native plant 

Say you’re walking around a patch of scrub or remnant vegetation and you see a scattering of green leaves that have fallen onto the ground from somewhere. You’re intrigued, so you kneel down for a closer look and you notice that they’re not fallen, they grew that way. At home you get out your native plant book and learn that they’re the basal leaf of a native orchid, but there’s no flower, so you wonder what will come up. 

The next year, you’re wandering around in that area again and there they are again, but this time there are slugs on them! You kneel down again and see that they’re not slugs at all, they’re the orchid flower and suddenly their identity comes to you: Slaty-helmet orchids! Tricky little doodads. These photos show you how tiny they are – the flower is about the size of my little finger nail. 

I bought a macro lens adapter on Gumtree, and it arrived today, so I rushed up to the amazing nature strip outside my property to investigate properly. The Raynox DCR-250 macro adapter lens did a mighty fine job attached to the zoom lens on my Panasonic Lumix DMC GX7, and has a universal fit so is suitable for many lenses and cameras. 

The lesson is to be watchful, and willing to wait.