Today, I went for a walk in Greater Bendigo National Park. It was the first day of my Bush focus area.
I learnt that three trees make the forest that is Box-Ironbark. The forest, therefore, could be described as a triculture; as opposed, for example, to the monoculture of River Red Gums that line the banks of the Murray River.
- Red Box has a fluid trunk that likes to meander. Its bark is bareish at the ends of its limbs. Its leaves are very blue and very round, like that of a juvenile Grey Box (not the similar looking when developed Black Box).
- Grey Box typically stands in a ‘y’ shape, with slender, sickle, green leaves. Its bark is very grey – very not Red Box, very not Ironbark.
- Red Ironbark (s.sp. tricarpa), is black like a burnt trunk… but it’s not, it just is. Its bark is black and as the ‘Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forest’ describe it, “deeply furrowed”.
The two shrubs I was able to identify by eye were Kangaroo Thorn and Cherry Ballart. Mistletoe is present but not disturbingly dominant, and there’s one moss – I suspect a variety of Hypnum cupressiforme (lacunosum?) or Sematophyllum homomallum, that is most visible from our height.
Beneath the patchy covering of dust, the soil is sun-baked – impenetrable without an implement. Rocks look shades of yellow, orange, red and maroon. One of the many faces of these rocks tend to be flat, where the others are jagged or bumpy.
Fingernail and finger-thick strata are both exposed, the latter in quarries man dug.
Quartz litters the ground in many places. We picked a piece up that coexisted with a navy-blue rock, their shared seam so precisely divisive. The change in texture felt when dragging our finger across a whole face was puzzling and satisfying.
We heard a lot more birds than we saw. I identified none, just enjoyed their calls.
My thoughts and follow-up questions on today:
- What more makes a Red Box a Red Box, a Grey Box a Grey Box and a Red Ironbark a Red Ironbark? I heard somewhere that there are two subspecies of Red Ironbark, is this true?
- What other shrubs can I find in Box-Ironbark forest? My friend showed me a short list she has highlighted in her Costermans. I should revisit it and find the specimens listed.
- What IS that obvious moss? I should get my hand lens out from wherever it has forsakenly been stored, take a spray bottle and my field guide, and ID the little buggers.
- I need to revisit what we were shown in First Year about the geology, geography and geomorphology of the Greater Bendigo Region. The textures, consistencies and colours beneath my feet are an ununderstood beauty that I am always in contact with.
- Birds take time. The beauty of birds is realised when you get a proper look at them. We watched a coddle of Musk Lorikeets feed on a bottlebrush species by the roadside as we finished our walk back in town. Within two metres these ‘common’ birds were stunning.
- The bush is relaxing, calming, questioning what you’re worried about.
- Box-Ironbark forest is stunted, but it is remnant vegetation of sorts, and it is my neighbour. It is my sky and my sea, and I should learn it like a sailor.