The Waterfall Way, east of Armidale leads to three interesting national parks. Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, New England National Park and Cathedral Rocks National Park, as well as having stunning scenery and extensive walking tracks, are home to a bewildering range of native plants.
Some plant species are common to all three parks, while others are unique to individual parks.
This time, we will concentrate on some of the plants that call New England National Park home.
Just inside the park entrance, there is a track that leads to Wright’s Lookout and the depths of the park. Near the start of the track there is a tall mint bush. Prostanthera iasianthos is known as the Victorian Christmas bush and has large glossy, very aromatic leaves.
During summer, this attractive shrub bursts into bloom and is covered with clusters of large white, lobed flowers.
The Victorian Christmas bush has adapted well to cultivation and survives, thrives and blooms bounteously in local gardens.
The road to Point Lookout passes though an area dominated by large eucalypts. These are Eucalyptus pauciflora, the snow gum. This tree may reach a height of 20 metres. The bark is smooth and white. The veins on the leaves are nearly parallel to the margins. This is a distinctive feature as the majority of eucalypts have veins at an angle to the margins. The flowers are white, in clusters of from seven to 30 and appear in spring and summer. The snow gum is also common in alpine regions.
Eucalyptus pauciflora is probably too large for a suburban garden but would be at home on rural properties. Shelterbelts and windbreaks would benefit from the inclusion of snow gums.
Melaleuca tortifolia is a very rare species and only occurs in one area of New England National Park. This tall shrub may reach a height of four metres. The flowers are in clusters, two centimetres long, white, sometimes pink and carried on the ends of branches. Late spring is the main flowering period.
This would be useful in hedges and windbreaks. The dense foliage may be used as safe nesting sites by small native birds.
Melaleuca tortifolia has taken to life in local gardens and has proved to be hardy and fast growing.
Billardiera scandens, the apple berry or apple dumplings, is a climber that will scramble among other, more upright plants. The flowers are tubular and yellow green and appear in spring. They are followed by berries that are two centimetres long and edible. This species has potential as a bush tucker plant.
This is just a small sample of the rich flora of New England National Park.