There are seven different species of the fern genus Blechnum (Water Ferns) in Tarra Bulga National Park and with a bit of background knowledge it is relatively easy to tell them apart. This post will focus on the identification of Blechnum nudum (Fishbone Water-fern) and Blechnum cartiliagineum(Gristle Fern), which unlike the other 5 species both have leaflets (pinna) being directly attached to the regular fronds by a broad base. The easiest way to tell them apart is by their fertile fronds.
Blechnum nudum (Fishbone Water-fern) is usually found in clumps in wet forest and gullies, it is reasonably common around Tarra Bulga.
Blechnum nudum – Fishbone water-fern, Showing the finer fertile fronds at the front and regular (Barren fronds) behind.
Blechnum nudum – Fishbone Water-fern, showing the underside of the leaflets (pinnae) which are a paler green and are attached to the frond by a broad base. The shaft of the frond (rachis) is often a shiny black colour.
Blechnum nudum – Fishbone water-fern, showing fertile fronds which are different to the barren ones (which don’t carry spores)
Blechnum nudum – Fishbone water-fern
Blechnum nudum – Fishbone water-fern
Blechnum cartiliagineum(Gristle Fern) is less common in Tarra Bulga and is more commonly found in gullies or sheltered spots at lower elevations downstream from the park.
Blechnum cartilagineum – Gristle-fern, Underside of a fertile frond showing bands of sori either side of the mid-vein.
Blechnum cartilagineum – Gristle-fern, The paired pinnae (leaflets) towards the base are separate and point downwards.
Blechnum cartilagineum – Gristle-fern
Blechnum cartilagineum – Gristle-fern, also has leaflets attached to the rachis by their broad base.
Blechnum cartilagineum – Gristle-fern, showing the lower stem (Stipe) which is grooved and has black scales.
Despite having weed as part of their common name and belonging to the same genus as the much maligned Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea), there are several species of Senecio in Tarra Bulga National Park that are locally indigenous and very much desirable. They are most commonly found in open and disturbed areas, usually where there is a break in the canopy or on the side of roads and tracks. Their ability to quickly colonise an area like this means they can compete against real weeds that may potentially invade these sites.
Senecio linearfolius (Fireweed Groundsel) grows to about 1.5 metres high and usually has smooth narrow lance shaped leaves with regularly spaced teeth. When in flower it can be identified by the 5 yellow ray florets (like petals) on each flower head. The flowers heads are clearly different from the other species that exist in the park (described below).
The underside of the leaf is smooth.
Can usually be identified when if flower by the 5 yellow ray florets (that look like petals) on the individual flower heads.
Narrow shiny leaf with toothed margins.
The base of the leaves taper to a point at the base.
Senecio pinnatifolius(Variable Groundsel) is an amazingly variable species with huge differences in the size and form of the plant possible. What is consistent however is the attractive flower heads which are wider than the other species (up to 15 mm across) and have up to 14 yellow (petal like) ray florets, The unopened flower buds are bell shaped. The foliage is so variable that it is not useful for identification apart from the fact that the leaves are sessile (which means they are connected to the stems without a stalk) and it is usually hairless.
With is attractive flower heads, not it has up to 14 yellow ray florets (like petals) while Senecio linearfolius usually only has 5.
Attachment of the leaf to the stem.
An example of the amazing difference in the foliage, this one was photographed only metres away from the one photographed above.
The unopened flower buds are bell shaped and look like this one the flower has opened up.
The leaf shape and size is very variable, it is usually hairless and always attached directly to the stem without a stalk (petiole).
Senecio minimus(Shrubby Fireweed) has more consistent leaf characteristics so you can usually easily identify it without seeing its flowers. The leaves are lance shaped and have evenly spaces small raspy teeth on the margins. Where the leaf base is attached to the stem there are two lobes (auricles). The stems themselves have vertical ridges and are usually quite purple. The flowers heads are clearly different from the other two species. There are large clusters of them at the end of flower stalks but they do not have any petal like ray florets.
Has consistently the same shaped leaves with small raspy teeth all the way along the margins.
Close up of the flower heads.
Underside of the leaf
The stem is purplish and has prominent ridgelines.
The base of the leaf where it attaches to the stem with the pair of toothed lobes called auricles.
Senecio jacobaea (Ragwort) is a noxious weed, sometimes found in disturbed sites in Tarra Bulga, but it is far more common in in cleared farming areas nearby. It has similar looking but smaller flowers when compared with Senecio pinnatifolius, but it has distinctive deeply lobed leaves which make it clearly identifiable.
When cyclists from the Great Victorian Bike Ride “ascend” on Tarra Bulga next week they will notice along with the many native plants in flower some attractive looking flowering plants that are in fact not so desirable. One of the most obvious they will see is Creeping Buttercup – (Ranunculus repens). Although there are native Buttercup species this one comes from the Northern hemisphere. As can be seen by the sea of yellow along the roadsides at this time of the year, it has been well established for a long time and has also penetrate to some moist areas deeper in the park resulting in the displacement of native species.
Another weed that is threatening to take over and become more of a pest is Myosotis sylvatica or Wood forget-me-not. There are also native relatives of this plant in existence, but this species is native to Europe and has been introduced to Tarra Bulga from garden escapes. It is popping up all over the roadsides and is threatening to penetrate deeper into the park. Park staff and volunteers are vigilant in trying to remove seedlings whenever they are encountered but the task seems to be getting more difficult.
Tarra Bulga National Park has three different species of Olearia which are members of the daisy family. Two of them can be a little tricky to tell apart, however one is clearly different to the others. From casual observation all of them have similar looking flowers and the best way to tell them apart is by examining the leaves.
Olearia lirata – (Snowy daisy-bush) is a very common species in the park, although it is not usually present in the rainforest gullies; it is a dominant shrub in the wet sclerophyll forest areas (which is the most common vegetation type in the park). It is a small to medium sized shrub and its medium sized leaves are lance shaped and usually green and shiny above and grey and hairy underneath.
After flowering the fluffy seed is nearly ready to be released.
A more typical looking flowering display.
This plant is growing in ideal conditions and it has massive clumps of flowers, They are usually not crowded together quite so much.
The leaves are relatively shiny and green and do note have regularly space teeth like the Dusty daisy-bush.
With new flower buds.
Olearia phlogopappa – (Dusty daisy-bush) is less common in the park than Olearia lirata and is and mostly found in the more disturbed areas; it is also a small to medium sized shrub. It has narrower leaves, that are more greyish and not shiny (hence dusty) with tiny hairs on the underside. The leaves also usually have blunt teeth along their margins.
Leaves note the greyish colour and small teeth on the leaf margins.
With new flower buds.
Olearia argophylla – (Musk daisy-bush)is the third species. It is a large shrub almost to the size of a small tree. Its leaves are much broader and larger than the other two species, they are green on the top and whitish or silvery underneath. It can occur in all forest types within Tarra Bulga, including the rainforest gullies.
The large broad shiny leaves make it easy to tell apart from the other Olearia species.
Showing the underside of the leaf which is usually a silvery white colour.
Taller than the other Olearia species it can be grow to be a small tree.
This is the time of year when most of the daisy species in Tarra Bulga are in flower. A number of species look quite similar and a bit of knowledge is often needed to tell one from another.They are all medium shrubs with narrow linear leaves and similar looking cauliflower like flower-heads.
One group are the Cassinias’ there are three separate species and all of them occur in the more open and exposed sections of the park rather in the shaded and protected gullies
Cassinia aculeata – (Common Cassina or Dogwood) has the the shortest and narrowest leaves of the three. If you look underneath the leaves you can see that they are curled over at the edges. Another distinguishing feature is that the new flowers are sometimes pink rather that white.
Flower head, in this case showing the Pink Form
Showing the underside of the narrow leaves that are hair below with recurved margins.
Showing white flowerheads this time.
Cassinia longifolia – (Shiny Cassinia) has broader and longer leaves and the new leaves are noticeably shiny and sticky to touch. The underside of the leaves are covered in short dense hairs and the vein down the middle is very prominent.
Showing the Shiny upper-side of the leaf which can be sticky and has a prominent mid-vein.
Showing the underside of the leaf with dense hairs and the mid vein.
Typical shiny leaves
Cassinia trinerva – (Three-veined Cassinia)Has leaves that are also broader and longer than Common Cassina, they are quite soft and not shiny or sticky. They have a big vein running down the middle of the leaf and two smaller veins that run a millimetre or two inside the leaf margins.
Underside of leaves showing the 3 veins that give the species its name.
Cassinia trinerva – Three-nerved Cassinia
Flowerhead which again looks very similar the the other 2 species in the park.
Cassinia trinerva – Three-veined Cassinia
Ozothamnus ferrugineus (Tree Everlasting) is a fourth species that can be confused with the Cassinia’s as it is a similar size and has similar leaves. It’s leaves are around the same size as Cassinia longifolia (Shiny Cassinia) but its leaf margins are usually a little wavy. With close examination the flowers are clearly different to Cassinias, they have little bracts around the individual florets.
Leaves look fairly similar to Shiny Cassinia but the edges tend to be a little undulating.
Underside of the leaves has a creamy white – felty texture.
Side view of flowers, which can be identified by the separate mini florets.
Another view of the flowers, Note the difference to Cassinias.
They also have a woody trunk, Which is probably the source of their common name.
There are two species of Clematis that occur in Tarra Bulga National Park and surrounding forest areas, Forest Clematis (Clematis glycinoides) and Mountain Clematis (Clematis aristata) and it can be very difficult to tell the difference between them. They are climbing plants that can climb high into trees and produce a mass of attractive white flowers in Spring. Both of them have leaves in groups of three of a similar size, Clematis aristata commonly has teeth or serrations on the leaf margins but both species show variation.
There are two main ways to tell the difference between the two out in the field. The first is flowering time. Clematis glycinoides tends to flower in early spring, with most of its flowering finished by mid-October, then Clematis aristata seems to take over to be the dominant flowering species for a month or so, although locally it is less common. The other way is a key but subtle difference in the flowers. If you look carefully at a flower the tips of the anthers have little appendages, In Clematis glycinoides they are very short <1mm or even absent. In Clematis aristata they are clearly longer usually around 2 or 3mm long.
There are four main species of tree ferns found in Tarra Bulga National Park, (along with many other fern species) The two most common you will see are Cyathea australis (Rough tree-fern) and Dicksonia antarctica (Soft tree-fern). The Soft Tree-fern is more common in the moister areas including the rainforest gullies while the Rough tree-fern is more dominant on the slopes. Once you get you eye in it is fairly simple to tell the difference between these two, the most obvious being by comparing the trunks. The Rough tree-fern has much of its trunk covered by the remains of broken off stems (Stipes) Which are rough to the touch, while the Smooth tree-fern is soft to the touch and is covered by masses of soft hairs which are actually roots. On this soft trunk other species of plants will often grow including tree and shrub seedlings, epiphytes and other ferns.