Another month – another Blitz!

October sees the State Herbarium participating in another ‘blitz’ – this time a BioBlitz!

bioblitz-logo-02A BioBlitz involves a team of scientists and naturalists working with the public to discover and record the life of a park or reserve, normally close to or within a city. BioBlitz events are usually run over a day and evening and include activities for all ages, experienced and novice naturalists, and anyone who wants to contribute and learn. In South Australia, Dr Philip Roetman from the University of South Australia has embraced the BioBlitz concept and, in collaboration with the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (which includes the State Herbarium of South Australia), the City of Marion and the City of Salisbury, formed a group called the Discovery Circle, which supports local BioBlitzes and other citizen science projects.

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Warriparinga Wetland offers habitat and safe breeding grounds to native birds and fauna. Photo: Discovery Circle.

The October BioBlitzes will be held on Saturday 8 October: Cobbler Creek (see our forthcoming October Plant of the Month and Good Living’s Park of the Month for more information on Cobbler Creek Recreation Park) and on Saturday 29 October: Warriparinga Wetlands. The State Herbarium will be leading groups interested in discovering the reserve’s vegetation.

The Cobbler Creek BioBlitz will run from 9.00am – 9.30pm and will feature wildlife on display, searches for birds, wildflowers and mammals, plus spotlighting, nature play, nature poetry, nature art, kids sessions and bat detecting. The event is free but bookings are essential.

A full program and bookings are available online through “Eventbrite

Cobbler Creek BioBlitz – BOOK NOW

A full program and on-line booking for Warriparinga was not available at the time of writing, but check out the Discovery Circle website for more information: http://www.discoverycircle.org.au/projects/bioblitzes/

Contributed by State Herbarium Manager Peter Canty.

Plant of the month: Oct. 2016

One out of the boxes

The Plant of the Month for October 2016 is Eucalyptus porosa F.Muell. ex Miq. (mallee box), the dominant eucalypt in DEWNR’s Park of the Month, Cobbler Creek Recreation Park.

Mallee box, Eucalyptus porosa, dominates the hillsides of Cobbler Creek Recreation Park, with red gum, E. camaldulensis, growing along the creekline. Photo: Peripitus (CC BY-SA 4.0) from Wikipedia.

Mallee box is part box (a general name for a Eucalypt with rough flaky bark) and part mallee due to its well-developed lignotuber and frequent multi-stemmed habit. Under optimal conditions though, it is often a single-trunked, rather twisty and spreading tree. Mallee box can be distinguished from other boxes in SA by the colour of its foliage: a fresh “yellow-ochre green” rather than grey-green.

Eucalyptus porosa foliage. Photo: Clive M. Chesson.

Eucalyptus porosa mostly occurs within South Australia, and although sometimes overlooked, it is a very characteristic feature of many of our landscapes, particularly on the sheet limestone soils of Eyre and Yorke Peninsulas. It also grows in clay-loam depressions in the Murray Mallee and upper South-East regions, on rocky hillslopes in the Flinders Ranges, and confined along drainage lines in more arid areas. In the Adelaide region it is localized on dryer sites of the hills-face escarpment from Cobblers Creek to Skye and further south near Marino. Several remnant trees also persist on the edge of Adelaide city in the West Terrace Cemetery.

Eucalyptus porosa flowers, buds and fruit. Photo: Clive M. Chesson

The variety of its habitats has probably contributed to the plethora of common names: mallee box, black (or South Australian) mallee box, water (or Quorn or lerp) mallee and swamp box.

Brooker (2000) classified Eucalyptus porosa as being closely related to other boxes such as peppermint box (Eucalyptus odorata) and grey box (E. microcarpa). However, recent unpublished molecular studies by Herbarium Molecular Botanist Ed Biffin show that it is most closely related to the South Australian blue gum (E. leucoxylon) in a different group comprising species that are remarkably diverse in their bark type – smooth-barked gums, boxes and ironbarks. Significantly, hybrids between E. porosa and E. leucoxylon are frequently encountered.

Descriptions of these and other South Australian eucalypts are available in the new Flora of South Australia (5th edition) eucalypt treatment (32MB pdf file) by Dean Nicolle.

Contributed by State Herbarium botanists Peter J. Lang.

Life at the sea: A winter wonder

Laver – a delicate red alga favoured as the wrapping around rice for sushi has appeared in a distinct, dark band of growth on boulders of the artificial breakwater of the Sea Rescue Marina(Barcoo Inlet), near West Beach, Adelaide.

Growth zone of Porphyra on a boulder at West Beach, South Australia. Photo: B. Baldock.

The species is Porphyra lucasii Levring. Uninspiring at first glance, a sheer, purple, frilly blade about 50 mm long can be seen if the alga is floated out in water.

Porphyra lucasii. Photo: B. Baldock.

It is more spectacular under the microscope – one cell thick with dazzling patterns of cells and a toothed blade edge. It clings to the rocks by a patch of cells (a “holdfast”) with snake-like projections that squeeze into minute crevices in the rock surface.

In southern seas, we see Porphyra only in winter. At the State Herbarium of South Australia, we have metropolitan Adelaide specimens from Port Stanvac and Brighton jetty piles, and Witton Bluff, Port Noarlunga.

Pophyra lucasii. Microscopic view of a blade edge (top) and holdfast cells with thread-like “tails” (bottom). Photo: B. Baldock.

But Porphyra has a secret life, not yet detected locally in the wild: a microscopic, thread-like spore phase. This is called a Conchocelis stage and gets its name because the tips of its threads penetrate shells of molluscs (“concho” meaning something to do with shells). – The discovery of this lifecycle in another species of Porphyra by British phycologist Kathleen Mary Drew-Baker in 1949 revolutionised seaweed production in Japan.

An unusual feature of the West Beach plants is their high position in the intertidal – merely in the “splash” zone, or “supra-littoral”, above high tide. Do they survive because seas have been so rough recently and they occasionally get splashed? In some places, the plants sit on a mat of seagrass fibres about 5 mm thick. Could this act like a sponge and sustain the alga with water at low tide and during calmer conditions?

Unfortunately, the band will disappear with the coming of summer, the conditions drying and shrivelling the delicate plants. Next winter, will they return?

Contributed by Bob Baldock and Carolyn Ricci, Phycology Lab., State Herbarium.

Bush Blitz Lake Torrens (2)

During the last two weeks, State Herbarium of South Australia staff participated at the Bush Blitz expedition to Lake Torrens. For the second week of the survey, Helen Vonow and Jürgen Kellermann joined the Bush Blitz team, replacing Chelsea Tothill and Chris Brodie who returned to Adelaide. Peter Lang and Dave Armstrong stayed for the full two weeks of the trip. In addition, mycologist Teresa Lebel from the National Herbarium of Victoria joined the expedition.

Botanist Peter Lang with plant presses full of collections, waiting to board the helicopter to be taken to another site. Photo: J. Kellermann.

Fieldwork was taken to another level in this second week, by the availability of two helicopters. The botany team took full advantage of this and used them to reach sites that were inaccessible by car, or particularly remote.

A field of Polycalymma stuartii (poached egg daisy) near Andamooka Homestead. Photo: J. Kellermann.

Due to the good season with much winter rain, conditions in the area were excellent. Green was the predominant colour in this “desert”. Red sand dunes boasted displays of flowering shrubs and daisies, while gibber plains were clothed with small ephemeral daisies and peas.

State Herbarium botanists filled their presses every day with plants to document the flora of the Bush Blitz expedition area. The collections are currently drying and will be examined in due course.

Bush Blitz is an innovative partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities and Earthwatch Australia. It is the world’s first continent-scale biodiversity survey, providing the knowledge needed to help us protect Australia’s unique animals and plants for generations to come.

 

13th Australian Bryophyte Workshop

Held every two to three years since 1988, the Australian Bryophyte Workshops aim to present opportunities for those researching, or just interested in learning about, bryophytes (mosses, liverworts and hornworts) to meet and exchange knowledge of these plants in different environments. The 13th Workshop has just taken place, for the first time in South Australia (see also announcement in the Australasian Bryological Newsletter). This presented participants with a different challenge from some other workshops — the need to search for the small and sometimes obscure in an environment not obviously favourable for bryophytes, which require free water to reproduce.

The Workshop was held from 20–26 August, the main part being based at Pichi Richi Park, near Quorn in the Flinders Ranges, and the last two days based at The University of Adelaide. On 20 August, most of the group investigated Spring Gully Conservation Park near Clare, and a half-day field trip was also held on 25 August to the Nature Trail / Spring Gully portion of Mount Lofty Botanic Garden. On 26 August, several information sessions were run by experts in particular bryophyte groups, in between time spent starting to identify some of the plants found during the previous days. Sites investigated in the Flinders Ranges included the Quorn area, Alligator Gorge, Mambray Creek, Winninowie and Melrose.

Participants of the 13th Australian Bryophyte Workshop

The 16 official participants came from South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, Tasmania, Great Britain and the United States. Three members of the Friends of Spring Gully Park joined with the group on 20 August and three adults and two children from the lower Flinders area joined with some of the fieldwork there. Their interest and local knowledge were both helpful and encouraging.

Full identification of all the collected plants will involve detailed work and will take time, but it is already known that the Herbarium’s collections of some species have been greatly enriched. For example, co-organiser and State Herbarium staff member Graham Bell found the rarely-collected tiny moss Bryobartramia novaevalesiae (G.Roth) I.G.Stone & G.A.M.Scott, previously represented in the State Herbarium of South Australia by only one SA specimen. The rarely collected salt-marsh liverwort Monocarpus sphaerocarpus D.J.Carr was found in two sites during the Workshop.

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Monocarpus sphaerocarpus. Photo: Bruce Fuhrer (ANBG web-site).

Contributed by State Herbarium botanist Graham Bell.