Saturday, 19 October 2013

Local Plants: Pin-cushions in the long paddock

Whether we like it or not many exotics have naturalised in our area. One cheerful immigrant is the Pin-cushion flower (Scabiosa atropurpurea), a plant that's become a common site on local road verges during late spring and summer. This annual or short lived perennial has many flowering varieties and in our area is most commonly seen in its lilac-mauve or dark red forms. This plant grows to about 30-40 cm high and is highly attractive to bees, butterfly's and other insects that feed from its daisy-like flowers. The plant reproduces by seed which are easily spread by the strong winds found on road edges.

The lilac-mauve forms of 
this plant seem the most common

Pin-cushion plants originate from south-west Europe and North Africa and seem to have arrived in our area as a garden escape. The plant enjoys the climatic conditions of the central tablelands. Extremely hardy these plants can take temperatures of -20 C as well as scorching summer heat. They prefer a neutral pH soil so enjoy the less acidic conditions found in the villages of our region, especially near the the town of Portland which is famous for its lime deposits.

The dark red form of this plant
is sometimes known as the Egyptian Rose

While the pin-cushion plant has found a place along many local roadsides there is little evidence of the plant encroaching into bushland. The green roadside strip, sometimes known as the long paddock, is a fertile place to grow for some plants as water regularly runs off the gentle camber of the highway while the granite road base below the thin soil provides valuable minerals not usually found elsewhere. The plants toughness may account for the Scabiosa becoming a common weed around the world.

So next time you drive along the highway lookout for these charming exotic world traveller.

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