December 17, 2018

Caroline’s Garden Diaries 18.02.2014: Out of the Ashes

This is not really about gardens at all, more to do with plants in relation to climate. I’ve just returned from a trip to the Blue Mountains where there were terrible fires only 4 months ago; it must have been a very frightening experience to be up there at the time but it was fascinating to see what’s happened since. I knew that the flora of Australia has evolved to cope with fire but to see with my own eyes how life returns so quickly was absolutely amazing – leaves were bursting out of every blackened tree trunk and stump, and all over the burnt forest floor. New growth just pushes out of the trunks (“epicormic growth” – you see it on Judas trees in the garden, and on badly pruned trees) and from the base of ruined plants, and little seedlings spring up everywhere. It’s all so beautiful, the new leaves looking fresh and healthy with lovely colours that normally we’d find only in spring.

Several of the eucalypts have another adaptation to fire that is to drop their bark, leaving the trunks with wonderful patterns made by patches of exposed wood, especially in the “scribbly-gums” whose bark is scribbled on by insects boring tunnels through it.

Lots of the plants actually rely on fire to reproduce. One such we saw a lot of in the bush is called the Old-man Banksia, (of the genus Banksia, named for Banks, the botanist who went with Captain Cook) who waits for fire before shooting seeds everywhere. One plant was completely burnt but its seedpods remained, opened since the fire, and surrounded by beautiful new shoots.

If only the England cricket team and Captain Cook could come back from the Ashes so triumphantly………

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