Learning how to look closely in the bush
We went looking for orchids, on our regular first of the month Sunday. Andrew Dilley has been our guide for the last year. His GPS device holds all the records of orchids ever found in Barrm Birrm, where and when, and that gives us a clue as to where to head and what to look for.
Out in Barrm Birrm, looking for orchids
But it’s faint clue. Orchids are difficult to find, and it’s taken us a while to get our eye in for the telltale signs – a stem of a certain thickness amongst the grasses, the shape of a green leaf pressed close to the ground. And the seasons vary. Last year, the orchids and lilies were abundant; this year with its dry later winter, they have held back. We search for the few that are there.
But the point of isn’t how much we find but to be there and to keep the records going. Orchids are an indicator of the health of this hillside we call Barrm Birrm. Each orchid has its specific fungi underground and its specific pollinator insects above ground. Each pollinator needs specific shrubs and grasses to feed on. It all hangs together.
If that’s the science of it, there’s also a lot of conversation. Lynley has returned from Brazil with tales from wetlands and regenerating farms. Jen has been walking in local parks, and Julie’s block on Dry Creek further down in Riddell has a seasonal cycle quite like but slightly different to what’s happening in Barrm Birrm. The differences we are each seeing make for interesting comparisons, and raise questions.
For example below are the Bird Orchids we found in Barrm Birrm. The leaves are small and a little chewed over. Further down is a Bird Orchid from two weeks earlier flowering, just over the hill in Conglomerate Gully. Why the difference? Did the specific location of the plant on the right suit it more, allowing it grow, or have conditions been different right through Conglomerate Gully?
The conversations aren't incidental - they are part of the science. Knowledge grows through talk, and talk that happens out in the field, looking closely at a landscape, builds an understanding of how plants are living in their immediate locale, and of the way conditions shift and change from ridge to gully, from low down the slope to higher up.
The deal with Andrew Dilley is that would train us up to keep observations, and we would keep going under our own steam. Having done 12 months together, we will now continue.
If you are plant enthusiast, you’re invited to join us. Check our What's on page for the next walk.
Riddells Creek Landcare