I’m in Perth, admiring Western Australia’s wildflowers, posing beside century-old grass trees (I think the species pictured here is Xanthorrhoea acanthostachys) and saying no to endless offers of free champagne. (It’s a tough life, I tell you, being pregnant on an all-expenses paid media jaunt. How many non-alcoholic cocktails can a girl take?)
I’m here on a tour with Air New Zealand, and yesterday we spent the day trekking through some of the city’s off-the-beaten-track wildflower areas. Now when I think of wildflowers, I usually think of the cheerful annual meadows we sow at home, but Western Australia’s wildflowers are quite different. They have evolved in some of the most inhospitable situations: hot, dry, dusty soils lacking in fertility. I was ready to wilt after a few hours admiring these rugged blooms; how they survive is a miracle, especially when you factor in all those kangaroos waiting to nibble off their tender new foliage.
Our guide yesterday was Eddy Wajon, author of the Colour Guide to Spring Wildflowers of Western Australia. Eddy’s nuts about wildflowers. He can spot a hairy yellow pea or a hidden featherflower at a hundred paces, which made him the perfect chap to have on hand as we explored the urban bush.
I’d like to think of myself as a bit of a botanical boffin, but aside from the ubiquitous kangaroo paw and several banksias, I don’t think I recognised a single species all day.
So, now for a quiz: the first person who can match the names and numbers of the plants pictured (click on the photo to enlarge if need be) win will a copy of my new book, Back to the Land. And to get you started, No 1. is Anigozanthos manglesii, the Mangles kangaroo paw. You can buy a hybrid version of this groovy plant in garden centres as Anigozanthos ‘Bush Dance’.
The other nine are (in jumbled order):
Mouse ears (Calothamnus rupestris)
Pink enamel orchid (Elythranthera emarginata)
Dunsborough donkey orchid (Diuris aff. amplissima)
Grey cottonheads (Conostylis candicans)
Prickly dryandra (Dryandra falcata)
Blue devils (Eryngium pinnatifolium – this one should be a doddle!)
Some tiny fluffy-headed thing (my notes failed me high, which could be because we’d just spotted a snake slithering past)
A native carnivorous sundew (Drosera)
Star of Bethlehem (Calectasia narragara)
Start Googling! I’m off to explore the city of Perth before we fly off here for two nights of pure luxury. As I said, it’s a tough life…