Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Oolines and orchids at Wylpena: Mitchell outback Qld

Time spent with Heather and Bob Bowen at their cattle property Wylpena (a 30 minute drive west of Mitchell) is always rich in friendship and shared interests.

While Doug and Bob looked at cattle, pastures, dams and machinery, Heather and I roamed the arid hills where the oolines and orchids were flowering. It was late afternoon following a hot day. The air was still and the sky overcast with the temperature hovering around 28°C -- perfect for a walk in the ooline hills.

Heather and I share a love of native plants, birds, animals and rocks. Also, we share an interest in photography and teaching. As we wandered through the arid hills, following no particular track, Heather pointed out in the various trees and shrubs, giving them names. A new one for me was False Sandalwood (Eremophila mitchellii), a small tree covered with tiny bell-shaped, cream-coloured flowers with a strong perfume. But it was the oolines and orchids that were our prime focus.

Ooline flowers are like stars, with five tiny petals. These Gondwanan trees are a reminder of a past age when the climate was much wetter and colder in Australia. Oolines (Cadellia pentastylis) are large trees and relatively rare, occurring only in north- western New South Wales and south-west Queensland.

Back home in Heather and Bob's garden, Heather showed us a straggly nest belonging to a pair of tawny frogmouth owls. Heather's extensive garden is well-known for its grove of young ooline trees (grown by Heather from seed she collected from their property) and large selection of eucalypts and other native plants. Consequently, it's a haven for birds, butterflies and bees.

The conversations we have with Heather and Bob are full of interest and always we come away feeling richer for the experience -- and warm inside.

In the photos of the orchids you can see long green pods which have formed after flowering and which contain developing seed.

The photos of the ooline flowers show the five-pointed star-like flowers.

The young ooline trees were propagated by Heather.

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