Monday, 21 November 2016

Xanthorrhoeaceae - Grasstrees

Xanthorrhoeaceae, what a splendid name for this splendid plant family. It means 'yellow flow' and refers to their yellow resin. The plants shown here, Balga Xanthorrhoea preisii, are regrowing fresh shoots from their stems, blackened by a recent bush fire in the Perth Hills.

Another species of grasstree, Slender Balga X. gracilis. These are smaller than the more common Balga and do not form the tall columns of the latter. The two are shown here next to one another for comparison.

The flower spikes of the Balga can reach 5 m tall, this one was not much short of that, yet the main stem was only just above ground level. The stems grow about 1.5 cm per year, so this one is already several years old. Tall specimens can be hundreds of years old.

A honey bee zooms around the nectar-bearing flowers on the spike. The air was buzzing with insects as they dashed around the numerous plants that were in flower all at once in this grove.

The flower spikes were used for the buts of spears by aborinal people, as they are light yet strong. Part of that strength comes from the spiral growth pattern, the torsion adding spring to the stems.

Ants crawling over and through the flowers, collecting nectar

Tall Blaga spikes rise up from the bush in the Perth Hills while the spikes of Perth city centre rise from the urbanised plain.  

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