icelandpenny asked me a while back about the signs of autumn in my part of Australia. I passed the question on to J, who is closer to nature than I am. He began compiling a list. Sawfly larvae and processionary caterpillars (aka hairy grubs) cross the road in a huddle. Birds reappear after moulting: Eastern Yellow, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Grey Fantail, Eastern Spinebill; occasional families of young Lorikeets and Crimson Rosellas – they won’t hang round; and Thornbills, Butcherbirds and Bowerbirds, who never really went away. Lyrebirds in the gulleys become more vocal in the misty mornings. Crops of mushrooms pop out of the dirt road.
And burrawangs fruit, although not many this year. They need fire for seed cones to form and luckily (for us) that wasn’t provided this year.
Just above J’s house, glossy green fronds arch gracefully around seed cones with reddish brown nuts just beginning to peep out from their spiky leaflet-cover. The cones take their colour from the background: vivid green against the fronds; a duller sage against the dry orangey leaf litter.
A few kilometres up Bullocky’s Hut Road, on a track off Big Rock Road, a burrawang has spilt some of its fruit onto the ground, but there are still lozenges in the green cone, leaflets curved over them like helmets with pointed nose covers.
Burrawangs are members of the Cycad family, a group of plants closely related to conifers with a fossil record going back more than 150 million years. Judith Wright, in her 1947 poem The cycads captures something of their antiquity.
For a previous post about burrawangs see here.