Splendour in the grass

This afternoon, on my way home from a friend’s in Malmsbury, I decided to stop in Sunbury to have a look at one of Melbourne’s best native grasslands.  I first saw this grassland when I started my PhD in 2005.  But it’s been a few years since I’ve seen it at this time of the year, and I wanted to see how it was looking.

What a good idea!  I was completely blown away by what I saw…

Common everlasting (Chrysocephalum apiculatum) and Blue grass-lilies (Caesia calliantha).
Blue pincushions (Brunonia australis) and Blue grass-lilies, with Common everlasting in the background.
A diverse patch, including Lemon beauty-heads (Calocephalus citreus), Scaly buttons (Leptorhynchos squamatus), Curved rice-flower (Pimelea curviflora), Kangaroo grass (Themeda triandra), and Blue devil (Eryngium ovinum).

I started this post thinking it was a good excuse just to put up some pretty grassland pictures.  But it’s turned into something a little more than that – for me, at least.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about grasslands, why they’re important and the role they play in our city.  This afternoon’s visit involved a bit of a detour – not much, but it felt like an effort after a weekend away.  It would have been pretty easy to drive past the turn-off and head straight home.  I’ve done that before.  Just decided that it didn’t seem worth the effort on that particular day.  But today I was determined.

So, was it worth the effort?

Absolutely.  I got a real kick out of seeing this urban grassland in such good condition.  I felt a sense of satisfaction from detecting and identifying the many beautiful plant species that I see so rarely in my day-to-day life.  And spending an hour wandering around the grassland provided a sense of calm and time-out that is hard to find in the inner north.  So, while I don’t get there often enough, it is important to me to know that these places exist.

It’s no secret that Melbourne’s grasslands have taken a hammering.  There’s now less than 1% of the original grasslands of the Victorian volcanic plain remaining.  And only about 10% of that is in good condition.  More grasslands are certain to be lost under recently approved plans to further expand the city.  To offset this loss, 15,000 hectares have been set aside to the west of Melbourne for the Western Grassland Reserves.  Much of the grassland in the new reserves is not in great condition.  Significant investment in restoration and research is required.  In my books, this is not a great outcome – yet.  We shouldn’t be trading certain losses of remnant grasslands now for uncertain future gains.  But it has the potential to be great.  Large areas of diverse native grassland would be a significant achievement.

But we should remember that small grasslands in urban environments are worth protecting too.  And just in case you need some more convincing … here are a few more photos:

Yellow rush-lily (Tricoryne elatior) with Blue devil (Eryngium ovinum)
Slender speedwell (Veronica gracilis)
Common rice-flower (Pimelea humilis)
A sea of colour. Common everlasting, Blue pincushions and Chocolate lilies (Arthropodium strictum).
Blue pincushions and common everlasting. Late afternoon, Sunbury.


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