from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: a Black Swan in the Botanic Gardens

August 5. Today, we walked in the Mt Lofty Botanic Gardens in the hills to the east of Adelaide. It was one of our coldest days with the daytime temperature hovering around 3°. But the sun was out and that was enough to make it pleasure.

an early flower

The Mount Lofty Botanic Garden, established in 1857, is a 97 ha area covering native forest as well as sections of European trees and flowers such as rhododendrons, azaleas and daffodils. We were a few weeks early for the spring flowering. It is interesting how the English immigrants wanted to replicate their beautiful home gardens in this new continent. In the nearby suburb of Stirling, if you bought built a new house you were required to plant deciduous European trees such as maple, ash and oak in order to create an autumn show. Adelaide gardens are filled with roses and huge camelia bushes.

the blackbuttt forest

The English also brought their birds because they thought the local birds did not sing well enough or that birds they were familiar with would solve an agriculture problem. Blackbirds, song thrushes, skylarks and goldfinches were introduced. Most of the species died out or are now only found in limited areas. They were not able to adapt to the hardness of the Australian climate. Blackbirds have survived in urban Adelaide gardens: one sings in our valley.

The most catastrophic decision was the introduction of the common starling to Australia in the mid-1800s. The idea was that it would feed on local insect pests. Instead, starlings have attacked fruit crops and have caused significant problems for livestock and poultry farmers. In western South Australia people are employed to shoot starlings to try and stop them migrating to Western Australia. If you spot a starling in West Australia you are required to report it and authorities will destroy the bird as soon as possible.

Since we are birdwatchers, we spent some time in the botanic gardens looking for birds. It is noticeable that most of the bird species were found in the native forest on the fringes of the rhododendron-filled valleys. I noticed that the huge blackbutt eucalypts had old burn marks on their trunks. In 1983, the devastating Ash Wednesday fire destroyed more than half of the botanic garden. Eucalypts grow back, English shrubs do not.

social distancing – Australian style

We had the garden almost to ourselves, although there were many warnings about the necessity of social distancing. It was not an issue. We got lost and could not find another soul to ask for directions.

On one of the smaller lakes a single black swan was half asleep amongst the lily pads. And I thought: Yes, that is appropriate. After all, we are living through a ‘Black Swan’ event: a rare event, with a severe and widespread impact, unexpected, but obvious in hindsight. The Black Swan event reveals our frailty.

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: shoelaces and koalas

I tie the shoelaces on my walking boots as my father taught to me. He said it was his way in the Second WW: when you were in a ‘tight spot’ you did not want to find your boot laces suddenly flapping around. My father was an officer of the King’s African Rifles (KAR) facing Mussolini’s Italians in the remote highlands of Somalia.

KAR troops 1945

You have to double the last loop of the bow into itself so you have a tight double knot. No flapping.

A tennis partner once showed me an alternative way, even more complex. She was from Eastern European and said her method was used by the Russian army. After you have done the normal bow, you thread the two loose ends and the bow loops back under the tight cross hatching of the shoe lace. Takes time to do this, but it’s firm: no tripping on the battlefield.

in Belair National Park, Adelaide, Australia

Today, in mild sunny weather, we went walking in Belair National Park in advance of the arrival of a cold front. There were no Italians stalking us, nor Russians gathering in the eucalypt forest. (However, we do hear that the Chinese are busy attacking our strategic assets). I wanted a first glimpse of spring flowering and native orchids. How glad I am to live in these times: a peace for us built on the wars of the 20th Century.  

Belair National Park is South Australia’s first National Park – dedicated in 1891. It’s big: over 8 square kms and is only 25 minutes from our little city. The history of the park is the story of our state: an early demand for the rearing of stock, the harvesting of hay, the hewing of wood before the realisation that the remaining native forest should be conserved.

The State Flora nursery is located within its boundaries and we regularly buy native plant stock for our property from them. Today we purchased 10 tube stock of Eucalyptus porosa, the native gum tree that is found on our property and is a popular food source for koalas. My husband had read an article saying that the koala is threatened, perhaps even ‘critically endangered’.

https://www.savethekoala.com/about-koalas/koala-endangered-or-not

Our response is to plant 10 more trees for them. There is no shortage of koalas on our property but the trees are looking thin.

Give me at home among the gum trees

We came home to find a small koala sleeping in the large gum, not three metres from the edge of our terrace. It was a good day: I remembered my father’s advice and the koalas will be happy at our home.

And on that note, to amuse you about the strange bush ways of us Australians, and to brighten your day, please enjoy: “Give me a home among the gum trees,” sung by the original singer / co-writer of the song, Bob Brown.