9 October 2008

Eggs and Bacon on the Central Coast.

Don’t think the gold of the wattles has gone – it hasn’t yet, but flowering alongside and adding to the golden glow are many varieties of plants collectively known as Eggs and Bacon.

Why Eggs and Bacon? I don’t know, maybe because the flowers are yellow and brown? Many plants contribute to the Eggs and Bacon look; the common link is that they are all pea-shaped flowers, in varying shades of yellow and brick red, and belonging to the Fabaceae family. In each local area the Eggs and Bacon look is comprised of different indigenous plants.

On the Central Coast of New South Wales our Eggs and Bacon include; Daviesias, Podolobiums, Pultenaeas and Dillwynnias. Along the middle of the highways and on the edges of the road during September and October there are masses of yellow and brown Eggs and Bacon brightening everyone’s day.

If you visit the bush at this time of year you will surely have been scratched by these plants. The fire trails on the Central Coast are often edged with them, which tells us that they like disturbed soil or that they are one of the first to come back when bush has been cleared; or even that they like a bit more sunshine than they would receive in a close canopied forest. They enjoy their place in the sun while they can, before being replaced by slower, but eventually larger growing shrubs or trees.

In past years I used to ride my horse along the trails, and so I learnt to recognize the plants by the ouch factor, as many Eggs and Bacon score very highly on that score. My horse wasn’t too fond of the plants either, she was a sensitive soul and they are generally quite prickly and can cause nasty scratches if you get too close.

Daviesia ulicifolia is one that comes to mind.

The flowers are quite tiny, but look at the spines! And yes they are as sharp as they look. You do not want to be dragged through these bushes; making you dog come back, for example. Yes, been there too.

Enmasse they are quite beautiful. Very eggs and bacony.

All Daviesia have very unusual triangular seedpods, and as no other pea-flowers on the Central Coast have such distinctive pods these are very useful for identifying the genus.

As they ripen they turn quite a pretty brown and look almost as attractive as the flowers for a few more weeks.

Another Daviesia adding to the Eggs and Bacon look is Daviesia squarrosa. These are undergoing some name division at the moment, so all is not yet clear in the name department.

Daviesia squarrosa is a small shrub with delightful heart shaped leaves -topped with vicious spines. Pretty but don’t touch!

Different shades of flowers exist within the family, but basically still yellow and red.

The leaves and flowers are very tiny, both perhaps 6mm long but when there is a tiny flower in each leaf axil you have a very beautiful massed effect. Again triangular pods.

Continuing the eggs and bacon theme and jump to Podolobium aciculiferum previously known as Oxylobium aciculiferum.
This not only has pointy heart shaped leaves like Daviesia squarrosa but also sharp spines like Daviesia ulicifolia. The best of both. Have a look.

The whole shrub is a pretty fresh green early in the season, and appealingly graceful in form, but beware falling into this plant.

A close relative and more prickles are found in Podolobium ilicifolium, formerly Oxylobium ilicifolium, commonly called Native Holly or Prickly Shaggy Pea - and you can see why when you look at the leaves of this plant.
Very Holly like indeed, and each point is viciously sharp. Note the stick insect in the middle.

This one is a much taller grower than the others and can reach up to 3m of prickly plant. The leaves are 2 to 4 cm long, strongly veined, with 3 or more lobes each ending in a prickly point. The leaves change depending on the habitat, there can be more lobes or less, and the size of the leaf alters too. The only thing that doesn’t change is the prickles.

The flowers are generally yellow with red (or reddish brown) keel. The flowers are much larger than the other flowers I have discussed. The shrub in flower is very handsome indeed.

There is no mis-diagnosing the seedpods on this one, though small they are typically pea shaped.

Group all the plants together and you have a very pretty effect.

Podolobium ilicifolium is available from time to time in native nurseries. It is a great plant to attract little birds to your garden as the spiny leaves gives them some protection. It needs good drainage and some shade. It is often not very long lived though.

And finally one without spines, Pultenea villosa. Looking very pretty on the Central Coast right now (October)

This one forms a graceful weeping shrub, 2 m high by 3 m across so I am told, but I’ve never seen it grow to that size in my neck of the woods. It is many branched and spreading with flowering occurring quite heavily along the whole branch with the weight of the flowers contributing to the weeping appearance.

Fabaceae in general support various Australia butterflies.

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