I’m a runner.  My running adventures have taken me to off the beaten track, out of the way, nooks and crannies of the Barossa and beyond.  Driving down the road at 100km/hr it’s easy to miss what’s hiding on the road verge, but at my running pace, I get to have a good look around.

What I’ve discovered is that sometimes there are beautiful, native plants, right under our noses that are existing in amazing situations.

Up the road from my place there is an area on the roadside that was once the road.  Since some upgrades and a road realignment it has just become a wider extension of the roadside.  The occasional pile of gravel gets dumped there along with some dumping’s of the illegal garden variety.  It is unnoticed, out of the way and on first glance unremarkable.  Except…for the native plants that grow there.  I often run past this patch, which is a strip, no more than half an acre and there is always something popping up that I haven’t noticed before.

In this little patch, there is a dominant canopy of Peppermint Box (Eucalyptus odorata) and mid story of Golden Wattle (Acacia pygnantha) and Kangaroo Thorn Wattle (Acacia paradoxa).  But I’m particularly interested in the little plants.  The grasses, the groundcovers and the herbaceous understory that are easily unnoticed.  Considering the patch is small and has a star-studded list of invasive weeds, I am amazed at the little natives that are calling this place home.

Amoung the residents are Garland Lilies (Calostemma purpureum) that crop up in autumn and various Vittadinia Daisies (Vittadinia sp.) that has just finished seeding.  But also grasses and groundcovers such as Black-anther Flax Lilies (Dianella revoluta), Iron Grass (Lomandra species), Brush Wire Grass (Aristida behriana), Spear Grass (Austrostipa Sp.) and Wallaby grass (Rytidosperma sp.) that is now a mass of green tufts.

Nothing on the endangered list, but many species that are not abundant in large quantities in the wild.  Many of these little beauties only occur in areas that have been relatively free from grazing, farming, fertilizer application and chemical weed control like national parks, conservation areas and………roadsides.

At the Barossa Bushgardens you will find a section dedicated to one of the largest and most intensive native seed production areas in the Southern Hemisphere.  It’s part of the Grassy Groundcovers Restoration Project. Here plants are grown on poly matting, in sand trenches and in foam boxes.  An artificial environment, all under irrigation to get maximum seed production.   For all intents and purposes it’s a seed orchard.

The reason we have it is because our remnant (original) native vegetation is shrinking.  Like my little patch on the roadside, many of these remnant areas are fragmented, isolated pockets, degraded through total stock pressures, pests, weeds and human development.

Growing native plants in massive seed production areas like the one at the Bushgardens is what we have to do, to firstly gather significant quantities of seed and secondly, start sowing and growing new plants to be planted back into the landscape.

On this seed mat and in the associated intensive nursery are the plants that have largely gone unnoticed.  The wee ones.  The small herbaceous plants that are not easy to gather seed from, nor easy to grow and somewhat unloved.

There are some fine rare examples here like Blue Devil (Erygium vesiculosum). Prickly blighters, destined to draw blood, relatives of the Black-anther Flax Lily found in my patch the Pale Flax Lily (Dianella longafolia var. grandis) and pretty ones like the Coast Daisy (Brachyscome parvula).

Meanwhile, back along the road up from my place, the real world is creeping in.  Surrounded by farming land and with an unhealthy composition of weeds, I doubt the future looks good.  An ecologist would probably describe this patch as a highly disturbed Peppermint Box woodland, with a fairly weak ecological value.

However my point is, even in these disturbed remnants native plant communities and hanging on and in turn so are our native reptiles, invertebrates, mammals and birds.  Our unremarkable roadsides are providing a haven for some remarkable plants, something worthy of noticing, protecting and enhancing.

http://www.torrenslandcare.org/GGRP.html

Species in the roadside patch

Black-anther Flax Lily, Dianella revoluta var. revoluta

Blacks Vittainia, Vittadinia balckii

Brush Wire Grass (Aristida behriana)

Garland Lilies (Calostemma purpureum)

Golden Wattle (Acacia pygnantha)

Kangaroo Thorn Wattle (Acacia paradoxa)

Mount Lofty Irongrass, Lomandra fibrate

Peppermint Box (Eucalyptus odorata)

Small Irongrass, Lomandra sororia

Spear Grass (Austrostipa Sp.)

Wallaby grass (Rytidosperma sp.)

Woolly New Holland Daisy, Vittidinia gracilis