Australian Trip 2

From: R. E. Jones (
Date: Mon Dec 06 1999 - 05:13:09 PST

Date: Mon, 6 Dec 1999 13:13:09 -0000
From: "R. E. Jones" <>
Message-Id: <aabcdefg4072$foo@default>
Subject: Australian Trip 2

My next foray into CP\222s came when we reached the north, the Kimberly. We
flew, in a little plane to a campsite on the Mitchell Plateau. As we came
in to land I could see the Airfield Swamp, as dry as a bone below us, so
Lowrie\222s type locality for Drosera kenneallyi was probably not going to give
up its secrets this time. When we landed the temperature was about forty
degrees C.. I was beginning to understand why the northern Drosera\222s shut
down for the dry season. It seemed impossible that the dry and dusty
"swamp" would soon, come the wet, be an area of standing water! I had come
for the Black Grasswren and the thoughts of out of season CP\222s rapidly

However when we had settled in the camp a quick look around provided
Utricularia uliginosa growing in the creek nearby, its blue and white
flowers and its bracts making it easily identified. It was growing on the
bank of the creek.

The Mitchell Plateau is covered in Laterite. We were told that it was
surveyed in the 1960\222s by carving a half mile grid all over it with
bulldozers and sampling it at intervals! You can see the grid as you fly
into the airfield. The laterite is rich in aluminum but, just as the
mining company was ready to mine it, the bottom dropped out of aluminum
market and it was left for the time being. However in the future they may
want to mine it! Be ready for a "Save the Mitchell Plateau" bandwagon in
the future! There is an endemic fan palm (Livistona eastonii) that grows
all over the plateau but it has not regrown on the cleared grid lines in the
20 odd years that they have been there. Something ecologically delicate has
been tampered with. If they strip mined the plateau they would ruin the

Next day we drove to the Mitchell River and walked from Merten\222s Falls to
the Mitchell Falls. When I say we walked it was more like scrambled, over
rocks and trees, but the scenery was worth it.. After five miles of hiking
over rocks in over forty degrees of heat and still not having seen the wren
I called it a day and, while the others pressed on, I made my way back to
the start. Stopping for a rest and an orange (boy was that good) I saw a
floating Utricularia in a drying up pool in a stream. I looked around me
at the rain forest vegetation and thought "Wow, this will be good". I
pulled a bit out of the water and it was immediately obvious what it was.
It was something that I can\222t keep and keep killing for some inexplicable
reason, yes, you probably guessed it, U. gibba.

We made one last look for the Black Grasswren and found it within one
hundred and fifty meters of the bus! What was doubly memorable was the
fact that I found a Drosera clump that was just beginning to come out of its
dormancy at my feet at the same time. I am not one hundred percent sure
but I think it was D. dilatato-petiolaris.

The next day I went for a look around airfield swamp. Perhaps there would
be some Drosera\222s that were coming out of dormancy, after all Lowrie shows
an October D. kenneally in his book. I looked everywhere but alas in vain.
It was too dry and hot. I realised that it was hotter than my greenhouse
has got on the few times when the sun is strong and for some reason I have
not opened the windows! I knew theoretically about dormancy in the dry
period but there is nothing like experiencing it yourself.

When I had packed and was ready to go I wandered down to the creek to say
farewell to the U. uliginosa. Crossing the creek I wandered through some
vegetation that I had not looked in before, not far from the bank. There I
found not only D. dilatato-petiolaris in some abundance but also D. burmanni
in flower. I was pretty chuffed, and wonder if I had the time, what else
could I have found. We left in another small plane, circled around, looked
at the swamp for the last time and flew back to Kununurra. I think I shall
have to go to the Kimberly again.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Tue Jan 02 2001 - 17:32:08 PST