Eidothea hardeniana and other rare trees in Nightcap National Park, north-east New South Wales

Scientist standing in front of a fallen treeScientists Dr Maurizio Rossetto and Dr Robert Kooyman next to a fallen tree in The Big Scrub, from a recent trip to Nightcap National Park to make the video below. The video production consisted of a crew of one – me! A beautiful place and hopefully an interesting story.

What is the video about?

The National Herbarium NSW of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney has been doing interesting scientific research into rainforest tree distribution and rarity in Northern NSW. They have found links between rarity and the relatively recent local extinctions of large fauna such as the Cassowary. This video features scientists Dr Maurizio Rossetto and Dr Robert Kooyman. As well, it features the recently discovered and extremely rare tree Eidothea hardeniana as well as trees from the Gondwanan family Elaeocarpaceae.


Snowy River, Balley Hooley Campground near Buchan, Victoria


“Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze”

The Man From Snowy River – Banjo Patterson

Banjo Patterson’s poem has contributed to the iconic status of the Snowy River. The Snowy Mountains Hydro electric scheme and ideas around nation building added to it but recent debate the lack of water flowing into the river has tempered this.  My visit to it was loaded with these ideas and concerns.

A summer trip by 4WD to Tasmania via the Snowy Mountains provides a load of opportunities to camp beside the Snowy. Far too briefly, a friend and I drove from Jindabyne to Buchan along the Snowy River, it is an incredible trip. There was plenty of snow melt and there seemed to be adequate water in the river. The Snowy flows mostly through National Parks, so it is many ways an intact and evocative reminder of the country that Patterson described.


Balley Hooley campground where these images are taken, isn’t great as far as campgrounds go but the river and scenery there are exceptional.

SnowyRiverMist-0859This was February 2014 and there were bushfires around, the weather was hot and the river itself seemed warm. These conditions contributed to produce a mist that we awoke to which you can see in the video below.

More information

Good tourist information on the Snowy River and things to see can be found at http://www.gippslandinpicture.com/locations/snowy_river_np/home.html



Getting to know plant families, Lamiaceae

Prostanthera striatiflora near Broken Hill
Lamiaceae family member, the species – Prostanthera striatiflora, near Broken Hill

I like it when I understand enough about a plant family to recognise a plant as belonging to it.

Lamiaceae is one family that I get. There are a few reasons.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus) a genus in Lamiaceae

Lamiaceae is also known as the ‘Mint-family’. Mint (Mentha) is a member and like mint most of Lamiaceae’s species have aromatic leaves. And what aromas! Rosemary (Rosmarinus), Thyme (Thymus), Sage (Salvia), Basil (Ocimum) and Oregano (Origanumare all Lamiaceae plants.

The labiate flowers of thyme are typical Lamiaceae

Lavender (Lavandula) you ask? Yes, most definitely Lamiaceae.


But, there are more than 7000 Lamiaceae species worldwide, making it the 7th largest plant family.

One of Lamiaceae’s 44 Australian genera is the native genus Prostanthera or Mint-Bush which has an unbelievably wonderful aroma.  It is a fantastic plant for gardens. Enjoy the smell as you rub up against it or crush some leaves. Prostanthera occurs widely from alpine to arid areas.

Prostanthera striatiflora near Broken Hill
Prostanthera lasianthos near Thredbo
Prostanthera lasianthos near Thredbo

A well known native is Westringia fruticosa which is often used in landscaping, but is naturally found hanging on rocks exposed to the sea in the harshest conditions. Its common name is Coastal Rosemary but unlike Rosemary and most other Lamiaceae species, Westringia fruticosa has no aroma.

Westringia fruticosa
Westringia fruticosa at Wreck Beach, Shoal Bay

The family is quite recognisable. The plant below is growing in coastal heath in Yuraygir National Park on the NSW north coast. It looked to me like Lamiaceae, but I didn’t know the genus or species. I asked Trevor Wilson from the Botanic Gardens in Sydney who is studying the genus Prostanthera and he identified it as Chloanthes parviflora. Chloanthes is a genus of Lamiaceae.

Chloanthes parvifliora - in coastal heathland, Yuraygir National Park
Chloanthes parvifliora – in coastal heathland, Yuraygir National Park

Or in the arid zone another species from a different genus Teucrium occurs – but again the flowers look like Lamiaceae.

Teucrium albicaule cccurs in arid chenopod grasslands
Teucrium albicaule cccurs in arid chenopod shrublands

Lamiaceae flowers are quite distinctive. They are zygomorphic (bilaterally symmetrical) and they are labiate. Labiate means that one or more petals can form a lip (Clarke and Lee, 2002). They have 2 or 4 stamen.

Lamiaceae stems are usually square shaped. If you run your fingers along a stem of Rosemary or Westringia for example you can feel the ridges.

The leaves are usually opposite.

So when I see labiate flowers, I grab some leaves and take in the aroma. I rub the stems – feeling the square shape and think Lamiaceae! 

Prostanthera plant
My favourite – Prostanthera


Some resources

A website with plenty of pictures of Lamiaceae in Australia both exotic and native as well as the butterflies and moths found feeding on them is Don Herbison-Evan’s Butterfly (Lepidoptera) site.

PlantNet, an online reference to Plants of News South Wales http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/

Clarke, I and Lee, H (2003) Name That Flower: The Identification of Flowering Plants,  Melbourne Univ. Publishing, 2003 is fantastic for its descriptions of flowers and flower parts.

Trevor Wilson at the Botanic Gardens Sydney is doing a postdoc research on Prostanthera and was very helpful with IDs of plants from photographs.

Other Getting to know Plant Family pages – Rutaceae, Myrtaceae and more are on their way…