CHASING FLOWERS IN AUSTRALIA

The first solid clue comes at the caravan park in Mingenew in Western Australia’s wheat belt. Word gets around that the lady at the tourism info in the small town of Marowa, 60 kilometres away, could give details of a possible location of a very special plant. The chase is now on in earnest. From Mingenew it leads to Morawa and then on to Canna. Canna is not more than a grain silo along a train line, a few small houses and a Landmark store. CHASING FLOWERS IN AUSTRALIA 5 CHASING FLOWERS IN AUSTRALIA 6 CHASING FLOWERS IN AUSTRALIA 7 CHASING FLOWERS IN AUSTRALIA 4 There, next to a red telephone box, is a blackboard with the following information: Wreath Flowers – 1.6 + 6km N. on NE Canna Road (see map). Below the blackboard, tucked under an honesty jar, are photocopied mud maps. Thanks to the resident flower enthusiast Paul Offszanka, the search for a very elusive plant is nearing its end. True to the blackboard’s promise, marked by a white plastic barrel on the roadside, there they are: rings of delicate cream coloured flowers with blushed tips growing on the gravel shoulder of the road: wreath flowers or Lechenaultia macrantha. CHASING FLOWERS IN AUSTRALIA 9 CHASING FLOWERS IN AUSTRALIA 11 CHASING FLOWERS IN AUSTRALIA 12 CHASING FLOWERS IN AUSTRALIA 3 The wreath flower is a famous trophy flower, sought after by those who get their kicks by chasing rare and unusual plants. I’m one of them and Western Australia, during the wildflower season, is our heaven. Australia’s largest state boosts more than 12,000 species of wildflowers. More than 60 per cent of these plants are found nowhere else in the world. The elusive ring-shaped Leschenaultia is one of them. The challenge for flower chasers is not just to find one. It is also to get the timing right: Its flowering season varies from just one to at best four weeks. CHASING FLOWERS IN AUSTRALIA 8 The interest in wildflowers, like the interest in birds, is very tribal. Hardcore amateur botanists flock to WA every year during the wildflower season. They tour the countryside in coaches, caravans, 4WDs and campervans in search of rare and unusual wildflowers. At caravan parks, local information centres, pubs and cafes, locations of exciting plant sightings are exchanged, information on the stages of bloom are constantly updated, hot tips are whispered in conspiratorial tones to those who identify themselves as part of the tribe. Welcome to the world of the flower chasers. CHASING FLOWERS IN AUSTRALIA 10 The magic word for flower chasers is biodiversity and Western Australia has some of the world’s most amazing biodiversity hotspots.

The complete story was originally published in Australian Country issue 19.8. Click here to subscribe to our magazine.

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Words and Photography Don Fuchs

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