It may seem a little odd putting up snowflake and icicle decorations at Christmas time during the Australian summer. Though Australians are lucky to celebrate Christmas this time of year when we can enjoy delicious cold food, seasonal fruit and fresh seafood. It’s also a great time to explore the bush because many of our native plants are now flowering. Some of them are very ‘Christmassy’ in their colours or shapes. Take the Ooline tree (Cadellia pentastylis), which has glossy green leaves all year round. During wet years the flowering can be extremely heavy causing the whole tree to turn red and look ablaze. They usually flower in spring but the odd tree may be still in bloom now.
The obvious choice of native Christmas tree would be the White Cypress Pine (Callitris glaucophylla), however these are easily outshone by the colourful Smooth-barked Apple (Angophora leiocarpa). In summer, they shed their bark revealing bright orange trunks which are stunning in the morning sun. Soon this will be enhanced by masses of cream flowers, creating a snow-in-summer effect.
Mistletoe has traditionally been hung in homes since the time of ancient Druids to bring good luck, ward off evil spirits or a sign of love and
friendship. The standard mistletoe had simple white flowers and fleshy leaves. Australian mistletoes are much showier than the northern hemisphere species with vibrant red, orange, yellow, pink or green flowers. In summer the Harlequin Mistletoe (Lysiana exocarpi subsp. tenuis) has striking red and green flowers and Fleshy Mistletoe (Amyema miraculosa subsp. boormanii) bright red flowers appear during the year, peaking in December.
From this time of year to autumn, the Crinum or Darling Lillies (Crinum flaccidum) put on their display of white star-shaped flowers. They can be found in abundance though their colonies are localised and create an impressive display when in peak flowering. Make sure you take time to stop and smell the flowers, their fragrance is divine, particularly during the evenings.
For those wishing to ‘deck the halls with boughs of holly’, have you tried a native holly? Holly Bush or Scrub Boonaree (Alectryon diversifolius) is a shrub or tree that grows in bottle tree/softwood scrub and brigalow, belah woodlands. Younger plants have holly-shaped leaves, which become less toothed as they slowly grow into small trees. Flushes of bright new leaves follow rain and in summer its berries produce shiny black seeds surrounded by a fleshy bright red aril that attracts birds.
Many native plants will flower opportunistically after rain, so keep an eye out for other wildflowers over the holiday season.
Wishing you a safe and Merry Christmas from all of us here at Boobook Ecotours.