Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Snowdrops, Stylidium and Sand dunes

I went snow-dropping, albeit electronically (sighing over beautiful images of Galanthus) on Saturday. Us Galanthophiles must reclaim the word, debased by knicker-nickers, for lovers of this sweet white bulb of winter (below).
My garden club, the AGS (Alpine Garden Society, Victorian Chapter) flew in British botanist John Grimshaw for a lecture about Galanthus (Snowdrops, and bloody good) but his particular passion is for trees. Half a dozen of us explored the Cranbourne Botanic Garden (above) on Friday where John was interested in anything vegetative that Australia could throw at him, which was, of course, the provenance of all the plant material there. After pointing out a Melia: `our only deciduous tree’...response: `oh yes, they are widespread’ (I’d gnash my teeth if I thought the fillings wouldn’t pour out like sands through the hour-glass); I stayed quiet. I was seriously out of my depth horticulturally, but having a nice time. Cranbourne’s design, following the journey of water, and with its deep red lunettes, is sublime; it touches deep in the bronzed aussie’s breast. Many plants were at their peak too.

Then I spied some Stylidium (Trigger Plants) and as they were going over I first checked that they could still `trigger’: the touch-sensitive column gives quite a thwack while depositing pollen onto (usually) a visiting insect. After asking our visitor if he was interested, I showed him how...just as Mum (another British botanist) showed me long ago. Like most people new to this unusual vegetative and fun phenomenon, he enthusiastically examined the plant. High 5!
(See below: the flowers on the left are untrigged (or have reset) while the flower on the right has its trigger (column) over the flower after an insect has landed upon it.)
Seriously, this cool wet spring seems to be having last year’s effect on Stylidium gramnifolium: they are still enthusiastically flowering late in spring, bright-pink flowers still fresh on tall stalks, and, most excitingly, several shades of pink within the drift above our drive way. I’ve seen white Grassy Trigger Plants west of Melbourne and deep pink ones in the alps but I’m fondest of our own; always a happy (if rare) sentiment.

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