Assets with Eyes

Flowering plants of Sydney Olympic Park

08 Oct 2020

September is Biodiversity Month, a month of celebration of all living things for their intrinsic value and the wonder and awe they inspire in us. This month, Sydney Olympic Park is awash with colour; flowering plants from groundcovers, shrubs to vines are blooming, providing a feast for the eyes and for insect and bird pollinators alike.

 

Flowering plants first appeared more than 100 million years ago, and undoubtedly provided a food source to some plant-eating dinosaurs. The flower is the reproductive part of the plant, and reproduction occurs through pollen transfer between the flowers of compatible plants, called pollination. The first flowering plants reproduced by casting pollen to the wind.  Over evolutionary time, a partnership developed between flowering plants and insects has led to the diversity in flower colours, scent and shape we see today, as well as nutritious nectar to attract pollinators to provide direct pollen transfer. Today, other nectar-feeding animals such as birds and flying-foxes also undertake the important role of pollination.

 

The flowering plant group numbers some 235,000 species today, and over 20,000 species call Australia home. Sydney Olympic Park supports over 400 plant species and three Endangered Ecological Communities, including large numbers of flowering plants that support the web of life in the Park. One example is the Hakeas, a group of native plants endemic to Australia; the Silky Hakea or Needlebush (Hakea sericea) has beautiful flowers that produce nectar for pollinators including insects that attract insect-eating birds; it also provides shelter for small birds and seeds for wildlife. Other flowering plants may be less showy but no less interesting. The terrestrial greenhood orchid (Pterostylis sp.) emits a scent to attract and trap tiny fungus gnats only 3-4mm in size. The insect must crawl through a narrow passage, collecting pollen along the way, before it can escape.

 

Sydney Olympic Park also supports threatened flowering plants. The Park contains the largest remnant Coastal Saltmarsh community on the Parramatta River, which is listed as an endangered ecological community due to widespread loss. The saltmarsh plant, Narrow-leafed Wilsonia (Wilsonia backhousei) is listed as 'vulnerable' under NSW legislation. This is a small, matted shrub to 15cm tall, and like other low vegetation, is vulnerable to trampling. All native plants are protected, so please admire them and leave them for wildlife, and not pick or step on them.

 

Flowering plants have a long fascinating history, and form the bedrock of biodiversity. Next time you’re in the Park, or elsewhere in nature, keep your eye out for flowering plants at all levels – you never know what you may find!

Silky Hakea or Needlebrush Assets with Eyes
Terrestrial Greenhood Orchids Assets with Eyes
Narrow Leafed Wilsonia Assets with Eyes

Silky Hakea or Needlebush © Jen O'Meara

 Terrestrial Greenhood orchids

Narrow-leafed Wilsonia