Sunday, January 21, 2018

Visiting Australia--A Few Blue Mountain Flowers

broad-leaved drumstick, Isopogon anemonifolius, Proteaceae

Australian plants are justly famous for being diverse and often unique.

Blue Mountains, Australia

On a trip to eastern Australia in 2015, we hiked between overlooks in Australia's Blue Mountain National Park, west of Sydney. Well, the others hiked, I dawdled, distracted by the plants.

It was October, spring in the Southern Hemisphere.

Australian flowers
The plants above are banksias (genus Banksia in the plant family Proteaceae, the proteas). The inflorescence (cluster of flowers) is usually that distinctive shape.

mountain devil, Lambertia formosa, Proteaceae
mountain devil, Lambertia formosa
These two photos are of mountain devil, Lambertia formosa, also in the Proteaceae (more information link), the plants about three feet tall.

mountain devil, Lambertia formosa, Proteaceae
mountain devil
This is in the pea family, Fabacaee, but there are a lot of choices in the Blue Mountains, even given this distinctive color, so I don't know which one

Australian legume

Here the pink pea combines with a white flower. How lovely! The white may be a heath, family Ericaceae, but there are many genera, none of them familiar to me, so I will leave it at that.

This yellow flower is the broad-leaved drumstick, Isopogon anemonifolius, protea family, Proteaceae, same species as at the top of this post.

brand-leaved drumstick, Isopogon anemonifolius
brand-leaved drumstick, Isopogon anemonifolius
The shrub with the bright red flowers is a bottlebrush, genus Callistemon, most likely the crimson bottlebrush, C. citrinus which is native in that general part of Australia but also very widely planted. It was not clear to me if this plant had been planted or had arrived on its own. (Eucalyptus family, Myrtaceae).

bottlebrush, Callistemon sp.
bottlebrush, Callistemon
Eventually I did look out at the view

Blue Mountain National Park, Australia

But look, beautiful gum trees (Eucalyptus)

Eucalyptus Blue Mountain National Park, Australia

The major continents separated north/ south when dinosaurs walked the earth, 200 million years ago. Australia, part of the southern group, became separated from South America, Africa and southern Asia about 180 million years ago. (maps) Consequently, Australia's plants and animals have been isolated  from the other continents for millions and millions of years, long enough to evolve quite different species--kangaroos and koalas, for example. The same is true on the plant side. The Proteaceae, to which three of the plants above belong, is a Southern Hemisphere-only family, believed to have originated in Australia and consequently is most diverse and numerous there. The family Myrtaceae features gums/eucalyptus is also believed to have first evolved in Australia. Gum trees are almost entirely confined to Australia (700 species in Australia, about 15 in surrounding areas). There are lots of other enemic species and genera, the question for native plants is really more: what does Australia share with the rest of the world? than what is unique to Australia? There are over 20,000 plant species native to Australia: I was excited to see easily-recognized, iconic plants in their native land, but I barely began to comprehend the plant diversity there.

Seen in the Red Centre of Australia, Grevellia eriostachya

kangaroo paw?, Australia
Kangaroo paw, native to the far  west of Australia
Giant spear lily, rare eastern Australian plant (see comment)
growing in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne
So many plants, so little time...

Comments and corrections welcome.

Cronin, L. 2008. Cronin's Key Guide: Australian Wildflowers. Jacana Books, Crows Nest, NSW, Australia. 
Hope, C. and S. Parish. 2008. A Wild Australia Guide: Native Plants. Steve Parish Publishing, Archerfield, Queensland, Australia.
Waratah Software. 2018. Plant id: Alan and Diane Present Natural Images of Australia. Blue Mountain Wildflowers Accessed 1/12/18 link

Kathy Keeler, A Wandering Botanist
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You might also like these posts:

Victoria, Australia link
Australian flowers

Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia link
 Northern Territory, Australia


  1. Lovely to read about our native flora. I just wanted to clarify that the image you have labelled a kangaroo paw is actually Doryanthes Palmeri. Thank you for your botanical wanderings :)