…. and Tasmania

March 23, 2023

Pushing the boundaries of speed botany close to its limits, Logan and I visited Tasmania for two days at the end of last week, of which one fragment has already been recounted in the preceding journal entry.

I have grown accustomed to rapid forays into wild landscapes over the years, as work trips around NZ frequently present opportunities for an additional day or two of exploration – which of course also contributes towards research for projects.

Logan is a willing accomplice for such ventures, and therefore required no sales pitch to add 2 days in Tasmania to a conference in Melbourne that we attended last weekend. As noted in the previous journal article, Trent Hicks (who worked for several years at O2) moved to Tasmania at the start of last year – providing us with a local informant for figuring out places to go.

Our first destination was fairly obvious, as Kunanyi is the elephant in the room within Hobart’s surrounding landscape (and natural history) – a hulking dome possessing a multitude of habitats, including dolerite cliffs, gum forest and montane vegetation.

One of the most unusual associations that we noticed on Kunanyi’s flanks (from a New Zealand perspective) was the sight of southern beech (Nothofagus cunninghamii) growing as a natural understorey within Eucalyptus woodland (as shown above, left). The familiar genus of Astelia is a significant component of montane vegetation near the top of the mountain – where Astelia alpina grows in broad, low, silver masses that can dominate damp areas (as pictured on the righthand side above).

Seeing relatives of our own flora responding to a differing climate and conditions is interesting, but we were naturally even more interested in observing genera and species that are completely exotic to us.

Gum trees are the most conspicuous of these (being totally absent from NZ’s native flora). From a design point of view, the detail and depth that Tasmanian snow gum’s trunks (Eucalyptus coccifera, pictured above) introduce to the landscape was a worthwhile observation – and one that is relevant to the way in which Lagerstroemia species or Acer griseum are sometimes deployed in our designs.

Richea pandanifolia was mentioned briefly in our journal entry about Tasmannia lanceolata, but a species as spectacular as this bears returning to with the image shown above – if only for the benefit of a friend, Ross Palmer, who holds a fanatical reverence for our Dracophyllum species (and Richea by association).

To conclude this short introduction to some of Tasmania’s landscapes, I’ll divert my attention away from plants for a moment. When we drove to Tasman Peninsula, I was particularly focussed on (perhaps obsessed by) an unusual geological phenomenon that occurs on the coast southeast of Hobart. Tessellated pavement (pictured above) will be the subject of a future journal article, so that we can present this bizarrely ‘regular’ series of platforms (which look like they have been constructed) in more detail.

We really did practice speed botany on the track out to Cape Hauy, running around one third of its length so that we would have enough time to look at things on the way back. Having reached the Cape in half the allotted time, we felt more at ease taking in the remarkable dolerite bluffs (pictured below) and an impressive example of coastal vegetation on the return leg.