A trip to the Northern Territory. Part 2

Olive Pink Botanic Garden – Alice Spring

We had a list of things to do in Alice Springs which didn’t include a visit to a botanic garden or any garden, a bit odd by my standards.  A friend suggested that I should visit the Olive Pink Botanic Garden which I duly did(thanks again Wendy).  Google maps provided me with an address and directions.  I reached my destination and purchased a guide-book and set off into the Garden.  The following is taken from page 2 and 3 of the guide booklet.

“The Australian Arid Regions Native Flora Reserve, now the Olive Pink Botanic Garden, was founded in 1956 after lobbying by Miss Olive Muriel Pink.  An unconventional anthropologist, an outspoken advocate for Aboriginal rights, a botanical artist and a women ahead of her time in promoting the cultivation of Australia’s native plants, Miss Pink was the Garden’s honarary Curator from 1956 until her death in 1975, aged 91.  Opened to the public in 1985, the Garden has over 600 central Australian plant species, including 33 that are rare or threatened.  It provides important habitat for the Black Footed Rock Wallaby and many other native mammals, frogs and reptiles.  More than 80 bird species can be observed here.”

Unfortunately the garden had been destroyed by what people are calling a one in a hundred year storm.  A hail storm had completely ripped leaves and flowers off everything.

Alice springs hailFortunately there was still a lot of things to look at and enjoy, particularly new species that I had never heard of before and the setting was idyllic, peaceful and quite in the midst of a major city.  I made my way to the top of Annie Myers Hill where there was a fantastic view over Alice springs and the surrounding area.

As I made my way up the hill climb towards the top of Annie Myers Hill I came across a Wattle with a bizarre common name, Dead Finish.  Acacia tetragonophylla apparently is the last species to die in a severe drought i.e.- Dead finish.  This spiky wattle grows to about 3 metres high and is found across inland Australia in a range of habitats.  Very showy when in flower.

Acacia tetragonophylla 3Acacia tetragonophylla Acacia tetragonophylla 2You can see it has quite a twiggy appearance which provides good habitat for birds.  The above photo makes it look dead but it is missing quite a few leaves from the hail storm although the leaves are like needles.  A tree I had never heard of before is pictured below, Atalaya hemiglauca , Whitewood.  This tree grows to 7 metres and has creamy flowers in the warmer months of the year.  Occurs across central and eastern inland regions.  Would look good in a garden setting or Parkland.

Atalaya hemiglaucaAboriginal people harvest witchetty grubs from the roots of this tree.  Soft timber used to make ornaments as well.

IMG_1450Above is Senna artemisiodes subsp. sturtii which is also known as Dense Cassia.  This is a very attractive garden plant particularly while in full flower.  Grows to about 2 metres.  Saw plenty of Cassia’s Dense or Silver coming into flower.  Certainly stand out even on roadsides.  Here’s a few more different Wattles.

Acacia undoolyana Acacia undoolyana 2Acacia undoolyana , Undoolya Wattle has limited distribution in the East MacDonnell Ranges, grows to 15 metres and has a spectacular floral display in August.  This plants status in the wild is Threatened due to hot summer wildfires and that it doesn’t set seed readily.

Acacia stipulosaAcacia stipulosa with small interesting leaves.  Below is Acacia kempeana , Witchetty Bush which is drought and fire tolerant.  Witchetty grubs are harvested from the roots of this  small tree.  The Arrernte people also use the inner bark from the roots to make string.

Acacia kempeana Acacia kempeana 2Below is a bizarre looking Wattle called Waddy Wood.  Acacia peuce is a threatened species known from only three different populations on the edge of the Simpson Desert.  Grows to about 17 metres with immature plants being very spiky compared to mature specimens which have pendulous branches.  Used traditionally for clubs and by early European settlers for fences.

Acacia peuce Acacia peuce 2Acacia desmondii , Des Nelson Wattle is found in the Rodinga Range south of Alice Springs.  Grows to 5 metres on sandstone ridge habitat.

Acacia desmondii Acacia desmondii 2

Below is Acacia aneura , which is commonly called Mulga.  Mulga occurs in red earths in groves and is one of the most widespread Wattles in inland Australia.

Acacia aneura 2 Acacia aneura 3Seed from this plant is an important bush food throughout the region, it also produces Mulga Apples, a gall that forms around insect larvae which is consumed as well.  The timber is widely used as firewood and traditionally for making shields, digging sticks and woomeras.  There also 2 types of mistletoe that co habit this tree. Amyema maidenii and Amyena spathulata(you will see this in a later post).

Acacia aneura

Below we see the native fig, Ficus brachycoda.  I saw this in quite a few different locations in the Macdonnell Ranges and Kata Tjuta National Park(Uluru and The Olga’s).

Ficus platypoda Ficus platypoda 2Now for some Mallee’s.  Mallee’s are multi stemmed tree’s from the genus’s Eucalyptus and Corymbia.  There’s approximately 1000 different species of Eucalypts and Bloodwoods, don’t panic I’ll only show a couple!!

Eucalyptus sessilisAbove is Eucalyptus sessilis the Finke River Mallee which occurs in the ranges south and west of Alice Springs.  This Mallee has smooth bark and large leathery leaves on a small multi trunked tree.  Flowers are creamy yellow.  This Mallee has nice orangey/brown coloured trunks and branches, noticeable when the bark is peeling.  Below we have Eucalyptus oximitra , the Sharp Capped Mallee.

Eucalyptus oxymitra 2This Mallee grows to 6 metres with leathery leaves and large yellow flowers during the summer months.  Can be found on sandy plains or rocky hills in arid parts of Australia, mostly S.A, N.T, and W.A.  Below you can see its capsules.

Eucalyptus oxymitraLast but not least of the Mallee’s is Eucalyptus gamophylla , the Blue Mallee which can be found in many arid parts of Australia.  Growing to about 8 metres with blueish coloured leaves, juvenile leaves are round and creamy white flowers during summer.  Found on rocky hills or red sand country.  Seeds can be eaten and water can be found in the roots if desperate!

Eucalyptus gamophyllaWhat about Erythrina vespertilio another tree I had no idea about.  The Bean Tree or Bats wing Coral tree has extremely light wood which was used for making shields and bowls.

Erythrina vespertilioLooks like there’s a few nests in this one.  Grows up to 15 metres with leaves that are shaped like a bat. it also has quite stunning red/orange flowers.  It also loses its leaves when it flowers in spring and summer.  All in all by visiting the Olive Pink Botanic Garden in Alice Springs I have learnt a great deal about new(to me) varieties of Wattles and Eucalypts and even new species of plants which is very exciting.  Astounding to learn how the Indigenous people use these plants as well.  Next time you’re in Alice Springs, do make sure you drop in and have a look, its well worth it.  To finish up here are some photos of a native conifer, Callitris glaucophylla , White Cypress Pine grows to somewhere between 7 -20 metres with blue-green cypress like foliage usually with a single trunk.  White Cypress Pine is known for being extremely Termite resistant.  Quite a nice conifer that is widespread across the country.

Callitris glaucophylla 2 Callitris glaucophyllaStay tuned for part 3, coming soon!!



A trip to the Northern Territory. Part 1

Hi There,

Having been absent from the world of blogging for quite a while, what better way to get back into it than showcasing our very recent adventure to the Northern Territory.  Alice Springs being the furthest point we would go to and at about 2351km(according to Google maps) from where we live, some planning was required.  particularly if your going to drive.  Now Google Maps tells you it will take 25 hours.  That’s one full day of driving plus one hour, no stops…. Throw in a car load of people(4 kids plus 2 adults), makes for an interesting trip to say the least!  Don’t panic, we didn’t do it in a day +1.  We did it over four days, had a look around, made our way back and ended up clocking about 6250km travelled in just under three weeks.

Hope you enjoy this series of posts, it may take a while but hope you can stick around and enjoy them as much as we enjoyed our little holiday!

A Road not so much less travelled

Saturday Night 18/06

IMG_1199Having ticked of several different lists, scratched my head more than a few times, what else do we need, what have I forgotten, do I need this if this happens?  Time is fast approaching when the road will be calling us and I think we have everything packed, a bit late now if we haven’t!  There is so many little things that you need to think about when your leaving on an extended holiday over what may include rough terrain.  Major items may include bedding, clothing, food, cutlery, plates, cups, toilet paper, shovel.  Did you swap the gas bottle over?  Minor items may include, well what do you class minor, something that’s small?  What about spare nuts and bolts, hose clamps, D shackles, tools, wire?  I’m afraid nothing is small on a big trip like this, many things can go wrong.

Sunday Morning 19/06

I think the alarm went off about 5:30am, hoping to be on the road about 6:30am.  We were planning for a big day to get us on the way.  Morgan in South Australia was the destination 843km away and roughly 9 hours driving time.  Seven o’clock we drove out the gate, a little late but not bad.  Our adventure had started.

IMG_0041Morning tea saw us in Deniliquin for a quick cuppa and a fuel stop.  Everything seemed to be holding together and the bikes were still behind us, always a good sign.

IMG_1201Lunchtime had us in Balranald and it was still cold.  I did have shorts on but always find that more comfortable to drive in than jeans or trousers.  To me car interiors can become quite warm and make one sleepy.  Not a good thing.  We pressed on for Mildura then Cullulleraine for another fuel stop.  By this stage the sun was truly starting to sink in the western sky.  Our dream of reaching Morgan on day 1 was evaporating as I was not willing to risk dusk and night travelling through kangaroo infested territory.  We headed for Renmark and decided to call it a day there.

IMG_1299Camped by the Murray at a free camp site amongst the gum trees, wonderful, plenty of firewood!  Wrong, there was no firewood.  All those pesky campers before us had cleared any fallen wood out of there.  Small twigs and plenty of bark had to suffice, amazingly we made do!

Monday Morning 20/06

Time to pack up and get back on the road and see how far we can get today knowing that we were behind our original schedule by 116km.  Day 2 we originally pencilled in Coober Pedy but from our current location that was 935km away, realistically we knew that we wouldn’t be able to do it so we would push on until the light started to fail.  Every stop takes longer than what you think it will.  Made it to Crystal Brook for Lunch and more fuel, a nice little town.  We then pushed on for Port Augusta.  I had heard stories about this place but was heartened to notice a road sign that said “You have come a long way and so have we”.  We stopped for groceries at about 3 pm here amongst all the army convoys.  There was army stuff every where, then realised Cultana Army Training Reserve was not far from here.  Boys had fun looking at everything!

IMG_1303 IMG_1304Bushmaster, now that’s one solid vehicle and even being in a Pajero ourselves as I pulled up beside one I was still looking up to its drivers window.  We pushed on through Port Augusta, came to a roundabout.  Left was the Eyre Highway and Western Australia, right was the Stuart Highway and the Northern Territory. Right it was and now we were really heading north.  We made it to a destination I like to call “Somewhere on the Stuart Highway about 70km south of Pimba”.

IMG_1210 IMG_1308 IMG_1311 IMG_1317

Beautiful sunset, lovely full moon, soft red sand, fireplace already prepared for us, oh and burr’s!  Boys keep your shoes or thongs on please..Stuart Hwy on one side, Trans Tasman Railway line on the other, lovely and peaceful.  Sort of!IMG_1324You get use to the road trains pretty quick because they go all night long.  Three or Four semi trailer behemoths all joined together rumbling along in the dark getting louder as they approach you.  The other problem was the other type of train,  lights piercing the darkness a rumbling noise getting louder and whoosh, a goods train rolls passed on to some far-flung destination.  Lucky there was only 2 overnight.

Tuesday Morning 21/06

Up early, pack and on the road again.  Decided to get to Pimba for late breakfast at Spuds Roadhouse.


Decided on the Big breakfast and then to forgo lunch, we were trying to reach Coober Pedy for the night and have a look around.  Got their early afternoon and it didn’t seem that appealing to us, so decided to stock up on fuel and supplies and press on to Cadney Homestead which we reached about 5pm.  Cadney Homestead(Park) is a large Roadhouse with Bar, Restaurant, Various accommodation options and fuel of course, as are most road houses out here and across Australia.  Get set up, cook tea, HOT SHOWER!  Now that was nice!

IMG_1319 IMG_1322

 Wednesday Morning 22/06

Final push for Alice Springs today which was still overcast and drizzling now and then.  Reached the border about lunchtime and had a quick toilet break and a power nap.


Pushed on to Kulgera for Lunch


Alice Springs was within our grasp now and about 3pm we rolled into town.  Pulled up to the MacDonell Ranges Big4 caravan park to be greeted with 2 queues of caravans and camper trailers waiting to check in! The person in front of me at the check in counter was a bit bothered since the caravan park had no reference of their internet booking.  Oh no I thought, hope they have mine!  All was well, checked in and made our way to campsite #316.  This would have to be the biggest campground in Australia, there were at least 500 sites I think.  Massive!IMG_1231

So that was our Journey to Alice Springs where we spent 5 days relaxing and seeing the sites!  Stay tuned for part 2.