South coast wildflowers – a walk to the beach on the Rainbow Coast, in photos

A bright pink fringed flower about two inches across with a yellow centre. Thick triangular-cross-section succulent leaves. An old flower to the right that is beginning to form into an oddly geometric fruit.

I love the sheer brightness of the Pigface flowers. The fruit are edible too, if you like salty gel kinda stuff.

A walk to the beach on the Rainbow Coast near Albany in late September or early October picks up the early part of the wildflower season down here. The walk begins in well-established coastal bush, and grades through progressively more open and salt-water-exposed areas to the beach itself. So despite being a very short walk there was a range of flowers to see as we passed through the zones.

A few mound-like clusters of small white heath flowers, flowers approximately 6 mm across and slightly fringed in outline. Mound-clusters about three centimetres across, on the ends of stems.

Not sure if this is the same coastal heath (Epacris) found around a lot of Australia’s coastline. If it is, these flowers will mean edible berries in a couple of months.

Bright sunny yellow five-petalled flowers amongst dark green leaves

I love the yellow flowers of Hibbertias. They’re unusually gaudy and comparatively large-petalled for a lot of W.A. wildflowers.

A stream of dark brown water with some white from running over rocks, about two metres wide, fast-running through a tiny green-bushed valley to a white sand beach and blue ocean.

This is where we’re walking. At Perkins Beach in Torbay, as in many spots on the south coast, there is a little stream of tannin-darkened water running down to the ocean. The path to the beach runs along this stream and that’s where all these flower photos are being taken. It’s a very wet landscape this time of year.

Clusters of four different wildflowers growing together - light blue, pink, yellow and dry-looking brown.

A collection of several flowers all growing intertwined – it’s the wildflower season here. Blue is Scaevola, pink a Pelargonium, pale yellow a wattle (Acacia), and I think the brown ones hanging in from the top are from a Soapbush.

Dry-looking pale brown and pale grey flowers about 3-4mm across in multiple branchlets

I think this is a plant I knew as Soapbush, from which a toxin could be extracted for stunning fish in streams. This is the fresh flower – it looks dry and brown, but look closely and you’ll see those flower heads are fresh and blooming.

Many stems of light blue flowers, each five petalled with the petals all to one side of the flower centre like a hand with fingers extended. There are four or five flowers growing around each stem.

A close up of the five-petalled light blue Scaevola. All the flowers in the Goodenaceae have interesting colours. I like the Scaevola’s lopsided resemblance to many hands being held out.

Masses of little pale yellow fluffy pom-poms, each no more than a centimetre across, at least one hundred in the picture set so closely you can barely see the leaves of the bush.

Not sure which of the many wattles this is. You can see how each puffball is in fact multiple flowers growing very closely together, and then there are hundreds of puffballs. This is not a plant that will fail to set seed. It’s also quite prickly, like many of our wattles and other nitrogen-fixing coastal plants.

A five-petalled star-shaped light pink orchid, missing one petal, set amongst beach dune reeds.

This was a surprise. This is a pink fairy orchid, one of the Caladenia genus. I found first this one, and then a whole cluster of them, growing right near the beach end of the path in an area that was otherwise just reeds and beach-sand-loving ephemerals. I’d have thought the dune wasn’t stable and constant enough at that point for these guys to survive, but there they were tucked in amongst the beach-most of the wattle plants. Orchids in the south west of W.A. are unusual because they’re all terrestrial instead of epiphytic, and they rely on very specific mycorrhizal (fungal) associations to survive. They can’t just grow anywhere.

Hot pink daisy with bright yellow centre, about one inch across, lime green jaggedly forked leaves and more flower buds to the side.

Now we’re getting into the real sand lovers. The colour of these daisies always astounds me.

Bright yellow daisies clinging to an eroding sand-bank path edge.

Here’s a different species of dune daisy, a bright yellow one also remarkable for its contrast against the silvery greens and greys of the other dune-edge plants. These are getting right to the very edge of where plants can grow on the approach to the beach.

Pale green stems of leaves, light green and brown rushes, with a silvery hairy large-soft-leaved plant in the middle

These are the beach-most plants, growing right on the edge of the stream and on the edge of where the dunes give way to beach proper. I loved them for their texture and colouring rather than any flowering. Such soft, reflective colours that blend together.

Red feathery seaweed washed up on sand with drying, popping foam across it

One last flower. People tend to think that the wildflowers stop at the dune edge, and it’s true there’s none growing in the intertidal zone, but just beyond where the waves are breaking a whole new group of flowers begin to fill the landscape again. We just don’t see them in-situ as often.

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