Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Good Enough Plant

Goodenia grandiflora
Goodenias are very Australian little plants. Of the 179 species, only one (which grows in Java) is not Australian at all, and almost all of them are endemic to Australia (a word meaning that they occur nowhere else). They were named after a botanically-minded British bishop, one Samuel Goodenough.
They are indeed good enough to be grown in gardens, though it’s rarely done.

Perhaps the most popular is this one, the very fragrant “mountain primrose”, which I photographed on the southern slopes of the Bunya Mountains a few weeks ago. The 3cm yellow flowers are larger than those of most goodenias, and come in showy flushes.

It makes a very attractive little sub-shrub for the garden. This photo shows two plants grown close together in a Toowoomba garden. As you can see, they are doing a great job of filling in space and excluding weeds.

A close look at the flower reveals a rather odd spoon-shaped structure inside. It is a pollen presenter (indusium), enclosing the tip of the style,  which is the female bit of the flower. The stamens (those little brown things) shed their pollen before the flower opened, and it was caught in the pollen-presenter at a time when the style was somewhat shorter. As you see it now, the stamens are dying off, and the style has grown to hold the pollen presenter out  in a position where it is the first thing a visiting insect will meet as it enters the flower.

The flowers are sticky. Children can stick them on their earlobes or clothing, for very natural jewellery.

These plants like a semi-shady position. In the garden above they get the morning sun only, and in their favourite site at the Bunya Mountains they are on a steep south-facing slope.
They tolerate light frost and quite a bit of drought.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Very Special Floor

Crows Ash, Flindersia australis
My childhood was spent on a farm near Bowenville on the Darling Downs.
Each week, for months before the annual fancy dress ball, all the children at the Bowenville State School were lined up and marched over the road to the hall, for our dancing lesson. Like many such country halls, it was the heart of the community.
It was built somewhere around 1929, as a memorial to the rather too many young men of the district who had lost their lives on the other side of the world, in the "War to End all Wars". Ever since then the hall had been the venue for dances, CWA meetings, and entertainments such as touring pantomime troupes. I learned important life skills (like how important it was not to bite my fingernails, if I wanted to be mistaken for a lady) at the weekly Brownies' meetings in that hall.

Even as children, we were aware that the dance floor within that somewhat ordinary exterior was special. Woe betide the careless child who carried a bottle of what was my favourite tipple at the time – bright red, fizzy, Cherry Cheer – onto that floor. Much worse betode the child who actually spilled some!

A pastime much indulged in by the local small boys was to run and slide along on the floor. It was great fun because the floor was always beautifully polished with “Pops”, the granulated wax which was scattered  before each dance and distributed by the dancers’ feet. A Pops-polished floor is a very slippery thing, and a well- executed slide could take you the full length of the hall.
They were never able to do it as much as they wanted. The adults disapproved of the activity because sliding small boys travelled with considerable velocity, and could create unappreciated havoc among the dancers.
We Brownies, of course, were too ladylike to do any such thing.
Except, surreptitiously, when we thought the grown-ups weren't looking.

So I was delighted to discover, when I attended an event* there this morning, that the hall still hums with life at the regular Saturday night dances, and a hall committee cares for the precious floor just as well as ever. A list of rules is posted by the door, and it includes the instruction not to spill anything on it. Should you sin, you must clean it up with a dry mop, (NEVER a wet one) and inform a member of the hall committee as soon as possible. The committee, meanwhile, sands the floor annually, and polishes it regularly with Pops and a polishing machine. Spreading Pops during dances is frowned upon, apparently, in this safety-conscious era, but the regular polishing regime is still adding to the 84 years' worth of granules which has accumulated in the little gaps between the boards.
No rubbishy modern plastic varnish, for these well-loved floorboards!
The floor is made of Crows Ash timber, as are all the dance floors in all the ordinary-looking halls in all the tiny towns on the Darling Downs. This hard, strong and durable native timber is naturally oily and so well suited for dancing (and sliding) that it could have been specially created for the purpose.

For more about the Crows Ash tree, one of Australia’s loveliest native plants, enter the term Flindersia australis into the search box at the top left of the screen.

* The event was the launch of “In Stockmen’s footsteps”, the latest book by Jane Grieve, one of Bowenville’s favourite daughters. It tells the story of her life, from a childhood on a Bowenville farm to her involvement in the creation of Longreach’s Stockman’s Hall of Fame. It’s an enjoyable read, and available from any good bookstore near you.