My first ‘big’ outing in almost five months and it was off to Cradle Mountain. It was the second day of autumn, a perfect day with clear blue skies and bright sunshine. We travelled the West Coast route to the Cradle Mountain turn-off, where our first stop was at the Rocky Mount Lookout, where views across the Vale of Belvoir were breathtaking, the panorama crystal clear to the peaks of both Cradle Mountain and Barn Bluff.
Cradle Mountain: Vale of Belvoir and Native Flora
If you have a love of native flora, then this route is a must! The Cradle Valley of today has evolved slowly, and favouring the high rainfall of 2800 millimetres per year, the most obvious plant community here is Buttongrass moorland. There are many other species of plantlife to be found here, many of them rare and threatened. Botanists the world over have travelled to this diverse Tasmanian valley to study our native flora.
Vale of Belvoir Conservation Area
The Vale of Belvoir is a limestone valley of sub-alpine character, the only sub-alpine limestone valley in the state, and lies at an average altitude of 800m. The Vale of Belvoir was named in 1827 by Joseph Fossey, after the valley of that name in Leicestershire, England. On a surveying expedition for the VDL Company, Fossey was looking for a stock route from Mole Creek to their holdings at Surrey Hills, south of Burnie. The route drawn up by Fossey and Henry Hellyer, via the Middlesex Plains and Vale of Belvoir, became known as the ‘Western Road’ or ‘VDL Road’, and was used for both general access and to drive cattle herds for about 30 years.
The ‘Vale’, 10km long by 2km wide, has an open grassy floor and is surrounded by areas of both ancient rainforest and eucalypt forest. Today owned by the Tasmanian Land Conservancy, the Vale of Belvoir has many important botanical, geological, geomorphological, historical and cultural aspects. Cattle have been summer-grazed at ‘the Vale’ for over a century, a practice which will continue due to the beneficial effects on the floral communities. Botanically, the Vale of Belvoir is an extremely rich area, where it is home to many rare and threatened species of plants. It is now recognised that the Vale provides one of the most spectacular flowerings of mountain daisies anywhere in the state, where during flowering time in late January – early March many areas of the valley become a magical carpet of yellow and white.
Alpine Everlasting Daisy (Xerochrysum Subundulatum)
Commonly called the Alpine Everlasting or Orange Everlasting, this bright yellow ‘paper daisy’ is native to Australia and found most commonly in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania. It is an ascending or erect annual. The plant normally grows to about 60 cm in height, and is usually simple or few-branched, though here in the sub-alpine region of Tasmania it only grows to around 8cms. Flowers are papery and golden-yellow in colour. The Alpine Everlasting will regenerate by both seed and ‘sprout’ after fires. On this day the Vale of Belvoir was a carpet of yellow, swathes of these bright yellow everlasting daisies blazed across the valley.
Mountain Rocket (Bellendena Montana)
As we left the Vale of Belvoir for Cradle Mountain, the roadsides were also ablaze with colour. Bright reds and oranges of the mountain rocket now past flowering with seedpods formed. An endemic native, mountain rocket is confined to Tasmania. Mountain rocket is restricted to alpine areas, a very sensitive environment. It is a slow growing plant, growing best at higher altitudes, but extremely slow growing nearer the sea.
A very hardy plant, it is able to tolerate exposed rocky sites as well as windy, damp, frosty and snowy conditions. Mountain rocket grows in poor soils, preferably well-drained. Flowering from December to January with small clusters of white to pale pink flowers, it then produces colourful bright red or orange seed pods from late summer to autumn.
Pandani (Richea Pandanifolia)
Endemic to and only found in Tasmania, the Richea Pandafolia is the largest heath plant in the world. The name Richea Pandafolia is derived from Richea, named after Claude Riche, an 18th century Botanist and Pandafolia which means with leaves like the genus Pandanus. Closely resembling its near name-sake, the pandanus palms of tropical Australia and South-east Asia, the pandani is in no way related to it.
Pandanis are found in our Tasmanian rainforests and also occur in sub-alpine communities. Pandani is a palm like tree growing to between 2 and 12 metres tall with tapering leaves which grow from .3 metre to 1.5 metres long. Normally pandani has only one stem but can grow branches on occasions. It has white or deep pink flowers which grow in clusters, often hidden amongst the leaves. As they die off, the long, sharp-edged leaves are retained on the trunk to provide insulation.
Fairies Aprons (Utricularia Dichotoma)
Having arrived at Cradle Mountain, a short walk to Dove Lake had me finding a surprise, a beautiful patch of Fairies’ Aprons in full bloom. Also commonly known as ‘bladderwort’, Fairies’ Aprons are a herb found in damp depressions and the edges of swampy heathland. Native to Eastern Australia, they are only noticed when flowering through January to March. Bright pink/purple in colour, the flowers measure about 1.5cms wide at the top of a leafless stem. This flower is a carnivorous herb, trapping and digesting minute aquatic or soil animals, (such as water fleas and insect larvae), in small ‘bladders’ attached to thin roots lying at or just below the surface of the soil.
Cradle Mountain: Native Flora and Other Magic
Cradle Mountain this day was nothing short of magnificent… there she towered surrounded by blue, not a cloud in the sky. It is said “only 16 days in every year does Cradle Mountain stand beneath a cloudless bright blue sky”, and as a regular visitor I can testify to that. Though no matter what the weather, Cradle Mountain always displays her mood to perfection… and there is always ‘magic’ to be found within Cradle Mountain National Park.
All photos strictly ©Carol Haberle, H&H Photography.
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Carol writes feature articles for this website about all things Tasmanian.
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