Friday, 6 October 2006

Who are you calling Pigface?

I left work early. (Yes, I felt guilty but it's balanced by all the paperwork I do at home in the evenings and on weekends.) As it was such a mild and sunny day, I drove down to Stony Creek Backwash and then to Sandy Point Rehabilitation Area in Newport.

Neither is huge—we're not talking Kakadu here. Sandy Point was originally a tidal mudflat but dredge spoil from the shipping channel created a spit. This was built up with dumped rubble from demolition sites and cinders from the adjacent Newport power station.

I've mentioned Stony Creek Backwash before as the site of a small (in all senses) population of the mangrove Avicennia marina. Hobsons Bay City Council have planted several mangrove saplings at Sandy Point, where they seems to be making a go of it.

Just about everything is flowering at the moment. The most colourful are the bright pink blooms of the succulents known as noonday flowers or—less picturesquely—pigface.

Disphyma is the more reserved of the two at Sandy Point. (If anything with profuse pinky mauve blossoms could be called reserved. But it's a relative term.) This one is a southern species that usually occurs on saltmarsh and coastal sand dunes, but may pop up far inland, especially along the Murray in NW Victoria. The plump leaves are edible.

You can't miss Carpobrotus. The flowers glow like beacons. They attract nectar feeders of all sizes from birds to ... er ... bees. A botanist friend tells me that the fruit is sweet and worth trying. Inland, that is. Plants on the coast tend to taste salty and, to quote him, 'the combinationof salty and sweet is plain weird.'

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