I recently went bushwalking in the Monadnock National Park, named for the huge granite rocks that have resisted erosion and now stand isolated and proud of the surrounding land. The walk was a 16km round trip between two of these outcrops – Sullivan Rock and Mt Cooke. The route we took is part of the Bibbulmun Track, a walk of nearly 1000km from the hills near Perth to Albany on the south coast. Our starting point for the walk was the Sullivan Rock car park, about 40km south east of Perth on the Albany Hwy.
Being the end of April, after a long hot summer, I thought that the bush may look a bit tired but the rain we’d had overnight had revitalised the vegetation. In particular the Banksia grandis with their large saw toothed leaves created a very fresh green impression.
The huge sheet of rock that forms Sullivan Rock was dotted with islands of lichens and mosses and the glowing, coral coloured autumn foliage of Borya constricta. There were a few tiny white Triggerplants (Stylidium) in flower but I didn’t stop to take a good look at them as I was scurrying to catch up with the others after photographing the Borya. I’m just getting used to a new camera and it is slowing me down. The “others” are my husband Craig and friends Kim and Dave. Kim is co-author of a very useful field guide entitled “Wildflowers of the Northern Bibbulmun Track and Jarrah Forests”. Since the guide was published there have been a couple of changes to the scientific names but it’s an excellent starting point which can then be easily checked on the WA Herbarium’s searchable website Florabase. It’s great that Kim can identify any plants that I’m not familiar with – of which there are quite a few!
There were lots of plants blooming but only from a very limited number of species. The most prominent and prolific were Andersonia aristata and Leucopogon nutans, both attractive small shrubs with white tubular flowers. The delicate flowers of the Leucopogon hang down while the flowers of the Andersonia face upwards. The small climber Marianthus drummondianus was also prolific, adorning many shrubs. Clambering up through dead shrubs where it seemed to flower best, the china blue flowers and bright green foliage contrasted with the bleached skeletonised branches.
It was a good opportunity to see members of the Ericaceae family in flower because in addition to the Andersonia and the Leucopogon there were two species of Astroloma blooming. Both Astroloma ciliatum and Astroloma glaucescens have firecracker red flowers exploding from bluish green foliage. All four would make lovely garden plants.
At the beginning of the walk there were quite a few Banksia (formerly Dryandra) sessilis in flower – their cream flowers wreathed with prickly leaves.
With so few species flowering, my attention was drawn to the shapes, colours and textures of the bush – the blue grey of the unfurling zamia leaves, the purple tinge of the upper leaves of the Lemon scented Darwinia (Darwinia citriodora), the unusual leaf shape of the Synaphea acutiloba, the red zigzag stems and geometric leaves of the Hakea trifurcata, the brilliant green of the drooping leaves of the straggly snottygobble (Persoonia longifolia) and the rough black and smooth white bark of the wandoo.
The wandoo (Eucalyptus wandoo) were most visible on the slopes of Mt Cooke while the jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) was common on both the flat land and the slopes. Both the jarrah and the balga (Xanthorrhoea preissii) are so familiar that I almost forgot to mention them. There were also thickets of Allocasuarina on the lower land which possibly colonised areas exposed by the severe bush fires in 2003.
Although it is named Mt Cooke it is actually less than 600m above sea level at its highest point and only about 250m above the surrounding country. Never the less there are quite nice views from Mt Cooke across to some of the other Monadnocks. There were a couple of showers while we were on the track and we were lucky enough to be able to shelter at the Mt Cooke campsite on one occasion where we decided to have lunch.
As is usually the way the return trip seemed to take longer than the outward trip, even though it was downhill. I did see a few plants that I hadn’t noticed earlier including occasional clumps of Christmas Trees (Nuytsia floribunda) looking dark and brooding without the bright orange flowers that the trees are famous for, and a stand of magnificent Kingia australis, no doubt survivors of many bushfires over their lifetimes.
After nearly 6 very enjoyable hours on the track we were all looking forward to jumping in our cars and heading home for a hot shower. Sadly the trip home wasn’t very pleasant because both of our cars had been vandalised and had their windows smashed. Fortunately we hadn’t left any valuables in the cars but needless to say we weren’t happy little walkers.