Monday, 17 January 2011

Fling Me In That Briar Patch!


Red and pink forms of scoparia between Shadow Lake and Mt Rufus

Den Brer Rabbit said "I don't keer w'at you do wid me, Brer Fox, ...but don't fling me in dat brier-patch." (from the Uncle Remus stories)

The Tasmanian wilderness is the only place in the world you’ll find the ferociously prickly plant known as scoparia (Richea scoparia). It forms dense thickets that few bushwalkers would want to be flung into.

Yet this January I do believe I began to develop some Brer Rabbit characteristics (given that he actually DID want to be thrown into the bushes in order to escape from Brer Fox). Because on seeing the flowering scoparia surrounding Mt Rufus in the Cradle Mt-Lk St Clair National Park, I gladly spent hours wandering among - and occasionally flinging myself into - this stunning vegetation just to get a closer look.

A meandering, slowly ascending track approaches Mt Rufus from the Shadow Lake side. The first hint of what was ahead came when we met a pair of walkers in a deep green patch of rainforest between Mts Hugel and Rufus. On their return from the top of Rufus, the two were breathless for reasons other than exertion. After all they were descending, not climbing.

We exchanged pleasantries, but they very quickly moved the talk onto wildflowers. One of them, a gardener in NSW, told us he was simply overawed by the garden of flowers they'd just walked through. "I could only wish to design anything so superb!"

We took his rave with a pinch of salt - these mainlanders can be easily impressed - and walked on in the direction they'd come from. When we started to see flowers, they were pleasant patches of bauera and lemon boronia: lovely enough, but nothing to blog home about. Then we turned a corner and began to walk through broad acres of flowering scoparia: red and deep pink first, but eventually gold, white, crimson, cream, ochre and most colours in between.

Scoparia gardens with Mt Rufus in the background

I have seen plenty of scoparia before, far too much on occasion. The foliage of this plant is a Swiss Army kit for inflicting pain on human skin. It can spike, gouge, cleave, scratch, rasp, pierce and shred both skin and clothing if you're unfortunate enough - or foolish enough - to be exposed to it for any length of time.

Of course I will admit that I have seen some delightful patches of it in flower. But never have I seen such a concentration of its beauty over such an extended period. For literally four of the seven hours we spent walking up, around and down from Mt Rufus, we were among flowering scoparia.

I know roses have their fans, and I can appreciate a good rose. I've even been to, and enjoyed, the National Rose Garden at Woolmers Estate near Longford in northern Tasmania. I also appreciate the notion of forgiving roses their thorns. But no rose gardener could come close to creating a garden that would hold me enraptured in the way the "roses" around Rufus did earlier in January.

It may sound magnanimous of me to say that I can now forgive scoparia its barbs. But I doubt I get the final say in this. There is no innoculation against beauty, and it can pierce far more deeply than any thorn. My exposure to that scoparian rapture now leaves an insatiable desire to be lifted bodily and flung again into that beautiful briar. Where are you Brer Fox?

Close-up of the white form of scoparia, Cradle Mt-Lk St Clair  National Park


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