HOPS, PEAS AND PEACHES

 

WILD HOPS or Sticky Hop Bush

Wild hop is not an Australian native flower. Reports indicate that it was introduced in the early to mid-1800s by Afghan camel drivers who came to Australia. They provided much needed transport, carrying mail and supplies to remote communities, outstations and railway sidings through South Australia and the Northern Territory. Wild hops were used by the Afghan cameleers to pad out their saddle-bags. Once in Australia the seed was spread far and wide when it shed from the padding  as they travelled over the excessively long distances.

There are 69 hop species and 60 are endemic to Australia. They are commonly called ‘hop bushes’ because the colourful fruits resemble the fruits used in brewing. Early settlers used the wild hops to brew beer. The bush has green, shiny leaves that have a slightly sticky texture. The flowers are very small and hard to see but they soon develop into masses of reddish/purple hop like fruits with ‘four wings’. The fruit begins to split when ripe and contains a small black round seed.

Unlike Salvation Jane or Patterson’s Curse as it is sometimes known, wild hops have not become a pest and add a welcome splash of colour to the landscape. On a visit to the Flinders Ranges, when near Leigh Creek, we were treated to a wonderful vivid pink hop display in and around a dry creek bed.

An interesting link was sent to me by a friend from overseas who has a love for Australia –

http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/blogs/wild-journey/2016/02/the-aussie-bush-that-hopped?adbsc=social_20160204_57929816&adbid=10153381847013339&adbpl=fb&adbpr=100614418338

When reading the above article I noted a comment ‘it’s not photogenic’. 

My comment is – ‘When dense drifts are seen during Spring in the Australian outback the display is quite spectacular.’

STURT’S DESERT PEA

Swainsona formosa, Sturt’s Desert Pea, is an Australian plant, named after English botanist Isaac Swainson, famous for its distinctive blood-red flowers, each with a bulbous black centre, or “boss”. The Desert Pea is an enduring slow growing, creeping plant with silky grey-green foliage arising from low stems. The leaves and stems are covered with downy hairs. They were first collected by William Dampier when he visited in 1699.

The common name honours Captain Charles Sturt who recorded seeing large numbers of them on his central Australia trip in 1844 to 1845.

From Sturt’s Journal – “We saw that beautiful flower the Clianthus formosa [sic] in splendid blossom on the plains. It was growing amid barrenness and decay, but its long runners were covered with flowers that gave a crimson tint to the ground”.

It is one of Australia’s best known wildflowers and thrives in the arid regions of central and north-western Australia. It can be found in all States except Victoria. The Sturt Desert Pea flowers from spring to summer and mostly grows in red sandy soil in outback sand dune country but needs good rains to be seen in drifts when they can cover a large expanse of ground. The plant is picturesque and most attractive on the many prostrate stems often up to l – l.5 m in length. Flowers are produced every 10-15 cm along these stems.

This spectacular red flower with a remarkable outline, shape, startling colour and distinctive black centre is the State emblem of South Australia.

DESERT QUANDONG OR NATIVE PEACH (sandalwood family)

What is a quandong tree? Quandong fruit trees are native to Australia and vary in size from 7 to 25 feet in height. They are found in the semi-arid regions of Southern Australia and are tolerant of both drought and salinity. Trees have drooping leathery light grey-green foliage. Insignificant greenish blossoms appear in clusters from October to March. Prized by the native Aboriginals for the bright red round fruit, quandong is an ancient specimen which is said to date back at least 40 million years.

The fruit is rich in Vitamin C and was used to treat scurvy. It has more Vitamin C than oranges. Fruit is picked and then dried (for up to 8 years) or peeled and used to make delicacies such as jam, chutney, pies and even ice cream. The fruit doesn’t lose its flavour even though dried. There are uses for quandong fruit other than as a food source. Indigenous people also dried the fruit to use as ornamentation, for necklaces or buttons, as well as gaming pieces, especially for Chinese Checkers.

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