I invite you to visit also my literary blog: Journeys in Creative Writing where I post original fiction including short stories, poetry and 'Paternity', a full length mystery novel.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Of Bush Babies and Big Bad Banksia Men

The Australian bush is filled with excitement, weird shapes and ugly beauty.

Today I wish to share a recent walk in a seaside area which is being regenerated by a bush care group.

These enthusiastic, energetic people are hoping to rid this small section of our land from invasive foreign weeds, and to preserve natural balance for the plants and animals which live here.

This is the 'flower' of an Australian banksia tree. It develops through several stages, each of them beautiful in different ways. Even the pale blue-grey backs of the leaves and the reddish branches of the tree itself have a stunning beauty.

This is a longer view of the same tree. Look closely to see other, woodier stages towards the development from flower to seed. You'll see the finished article below, lying on the ground along with fascinating dead leaves and sticks.

The photograph shows the banksia cone where the little seeds lie before being blown away to find a safe spot to germinate. The cone is the source of the mythical Big Bad Banksia Man, a character of May Gibbs' stories upon which Australian children have been fed for generations.

The Banksia Man was the dreaded dark shadow in the lives of May Gibbs' bush people, including the Bush Babies. Snugglepot and Cuddlepie were inspired by the blossoms of gum trees, and are seen below sitting on a gum leaf.

A May Gibbs illustration

The longer, thinner leaves here are 'gum' or eucalyptus leaves, a species which has both positive and negative properties so far as humans are concerned. It's the source of eucalyptus oil which is used widely for medicinal purposes.

However, that same oil is the demon which explodes, and feeds our bushfires, turning them into monsters riding on the winds of destruction.

Mind you, some Australian trees and shrubs require the heat of fire to activate their seeds, so nature knew what she was doing ...

Many forms of eucalypt trees are found almost throughout Australia.

These delicate tendrils and nuts belong to the Australian Casuarina or She-Oak. They grow close to the shore in sandy areas of bush, and even on the cliff tops. They are one of my favourites.

The nuts are quite lovely in appearance and make great native plant jewellery.

My bloggy mates have met the pandanus tree before - regal in its ugly beauty.

As with nature everywhere, you discover only when you really take time to look. This patch of Australian bush holds secrets that only curiosity and patience will reveal.

Here is a long view of the track I travelled with you today. We'll do it again in our next post, and make more discoveries.

Have you really looked at the natural surroundings near your home? Even a city park will reveal amazing detail. Tell me about what you found in a comment ...


  1. June, I love these tours you take us on. Your land and vegetation are so different from any that I have known.

    Funny that you are talking about seeing details. I just read this quote in Martha Bergland's novel, A Farm Under a Lake, which takes place in the farmlands of Illinois. It is similar to what I think when we go driving out through our High Plains plains country here in eastern New Mexico. The one difference is that our landscape right now is a faded gold with pale blue skies, rather than the grey scene that Bergland speaks of:

    "I was feeding on all the colors in a grey landscape, on all the detail to be seen on flat land, wondering how anyone could call this boring."

    When we first arrived here I didn't bother to look because I was used to hills and trees and water, and I really thought the flat land was boring. Now I truly look and see all kinds of things--the different crops, the shades of soil in newly plowed fields, baby llamas and goats and horses, little trees and bushes in bud, pheasants resting in shady spots, little seasonal ponds... The more I live in this land, the more I learn to see.

  2. Hello, June:

    I'm still trying to name all the plants ('weeds' and others) growing in my back yard.

    Enjoyed the walk with you today!

  3. CLAIR
    Great minds!
    I will never forget driving across the Barclay Tableland - a deserted sparse space in the north of Australia. I had heard so many people describe it as a boring trip.
    However, we stopped our car and walked around, amazed at what we found.

  4. Hi CROW
    What's in a name eh?
    There's something interesting about every one of them ...

  5. Hi June
    your walk is so like the Noosa National park. Beautiful descriptions too.

    When I moved to Au over 30 years ago I desperately missed the natives of NZ and the exotic shade trees, I thought the she oaks were scrappy and wind tossed like straggly old lady's hair.

    It didn't take long for me to see them as sensual beckoning tendrils dancing to the music of the sea...
    I love this country of ours...
    (Still Love NZ too - I'm a two timer!)

  6. Hi DELWYN
    I think I'm also a two-timer. I obviously love Oz. But the month I spent in New Zealand a few years ago has never left me. Your country has such a different beauty to Oz - hasn't it? More gentle and yet more rugged in places too.

  7. Thanks June. That vegetation is totally foreign to me. It was not only educational but gives insight and reminder to making sure we look for the details of everyday things.
    I am slowly getting into photography, and I now look at things much differently because of that too.

    Yes I think we get so much out of the little things in everyday life - if we look for them.
    We also have the obligation to look at the big picture!
    Photography is wonderful isn't it? So much better now with digital cameras ...

  9. Gorgeous images. I adore natives and miss the varieties of my home town on the other side of the country.

  10. That is a heartfelt whine Rhubarb!
    We're almost neighbours aren't we? You'd see a lot of casuarinas et al around your place, and I can understand you'd miss the wildflowers from WA?

  11. Absolutely fascinating! Amazing how much twigs and leaves can tell us about the world we live in! At the moment, I'm fascinated by the deer tracks that I can clearly see in the snow.

  12. Interesting and nice appreciation of nature. In most of ourlives, there is no time to satnd and stare. You seem to see nature at its best. Great.

  13. Deer tracks in the snow - that's certainly exotic where I come from Ladyfi. Wonderful.

  14. Hi NSIYER
    Give it a go occasionally - pause and look and listen. It's a big world out there.

  15. I love your post about bush nature,its beautiful!

  16. Love this post and your beautiful photos! I really enjoy learning more about the plants and trees that grow in Aussie Land, some are so different from those we have here in the northwest. Have a great weekend, June!

  17. What lovely pictures. Your garden is spectactular also! Thank you for sharing. Blessings.

  18. It's a peaceful pastime - walking in the bush Aleksandra ..

  19. I'd love to feel the crunch of northwest US of A leaves and twigs under my feet SYLVIA. Amd chatting to you!

    Thanks for visiting - and I'm pleased you enjoyed the photographs.
    My garden (on the sidebar) has in it some really lovely plants - but it needs some TLC right now - and that's my ambition today.

  21. Hi June, I really enjoyed walking with you today and seeing all the native trees of Australia in their natural habitat. Kentucky has so many wonderful plants and trees and springtime in Kentucky is like a beautiful painting. The dogwoods and redbuds are in bloom right now and our state tree is the tulip tree.

  22. G'day JUDY
    Your grandson Thomas Wyatt would love the Bush Babies and the Big Bad Banksia Men!
    Dogwoods and redbuds sound wonderful. We have tulip trees here too - I wonder if they're the same? Here they are small to large trees with red/orange flowers. Stunning on a golf course but too big for most gardens here because like most plants, they grow so much.

  23. Oh June that was a great journey. Snugglepot and Cuddlepie - takes me back.Cant wait for Easter to go up that way. nto sure I will get to Tweed Heads - I have only ever been through there twice in my life as normally I fly to Qld or only get as far as Byron Bay by car. I was born in Tamworth and lived in Coff Harbour for a long time then Brisbane. I would ultimately love to live near Lismore somewhere. I will keep dreaming. Have a great Sunday and I look forward to the next part of the the journey.

  24. I love the native plants here. We have planted Banksia & Callistemon, plus Grevillea to try to attract the native birds. The Indian Myna birds are taking over, & we dont see many natives now, compared to 10 years ago.
    Interesting post!

  25. Not many Aussie kids don't know Snugglepot and Snugglepie - even the little ones today, I think LILLY.
    You'll really enjoy Easter with your daughter ... and there's no doubt it would be a shame to miss Northern NSW.
    If you need a coffee email me and we'll meet. I will certainly understand if you don't have time ... I'll pass on my phone number.

  26. Hi MEGGIE
    You are doing your bit to keep the native birds happy. Those plants you mention are all native bushes of my childhood and, thankfully, they're still around because we plant them in our gardens.

    Bad luck about flannel flowers and Christmas Bush et al - hard to find now. As are the birds, as you mention.

    I found a good bird ID site for Indian Mynas and the story about the native Noisy Miner which is often mistaken for it. Good stuff.
    Take a look:

  27. I've never seen such a bloom on a tree! The flora in Australia seems to sturdy yet exotic.

    Yes, I do have a park nearby and know the names of trees. There are coastal variety oaks, large eucalyptus and jacaranda trees. The eucalyptus were brought here in the 1900's and adapted well to California. They were planted as windbreaks all up and down the fertile farmlands in the San Joaquin Valley!

  28. Hello KANANI
    We have lots of jacaranda trees here, but it's not a native, coming from Brazil. Very beautiful. I know that eucalypts have been exported to several countries and grown en masse in some.
    I am wondering if eucalypts were involved in the Californian bush fires? If so, that would have exacerbated their ferocity.

  29. We just returned from a visit with my mom in southern California. She lives in a area that has been planted with many varieties of Eucalyptus from Australia. They are very interesting and beautiful trees, but are not native here and have become invasive. I'm not sure balance can ever be restored after all the crazy things we've done with the earth.

  30. Another peeker. Loved the information you gave us about our lovely country but the photos yummy

  31. ROBIN
    You are so right. If only we knew then what we know now. But on ther other hand little may have changed because we are not taking much notice with all of the knowledge we do have.

    I was wondering if the introduced eucalypts affected your bush fires - I bet they did!
    Nature in balance is the trick but we've left the gate open for too long.

  32. CAROL
    With your artistic temperament, you'd love the shapes and textures in the bush ...

  33. CAROL
    I do have a bit of an artistic temperament and it's exciting that you've spotted it. There's LOTS of rein for it in our bush.

  34. wow,
    next time i am in australia, i am coming over to explore it all.

  35. June:
    Stop by my blog today, you have won a blogger's award!


Thanks for your comment. It's good to know who's taking a peek! I will certainly reply to your message.
Maybe you'll also be interested in my other blog