Having spent the three days prior in pandemic lockdown, I was keen to kick off my Easter weekend with a few hours spent in a forest. I also wanted to be able to sleep in a little on Good Friday, so I picked a place less than half an hour’s drive away to visit: Redlands Track Park in Alexandra Hills. Also known by the much better name of Scribbly Gums Conservation Area, this place is large and its trails are many! Though there were also many mountain-bikers, dog-walkers and other users of the park there during my visit, there were hour-long stretches where I didn’t see another soul, which is just how I like my forest time!
It was that kind of day where the forest washes over me, lulling me into a mood so tranquil that I don’t so much as walk among the trees, but rather glide through them. I see so much when I feel this way. There is treasure everywhere.
On this walk, it came in the form of a gorgeous pair of shaggy caps (Boletellus emodensis), emerging from the base of a dead goliath near a flowing stream. This and other Boletellus species are very common in the Redlands. Although they are purported to by mycorrhizal (which refers to them having a symbiotic relationship with trees), I only ever see them either growing out of the base of tree trunks, or amongst dead timber, implying saprophytic tendencies.
Later, treasure appeared as large, concerned eyes staring at me from a she-oak thicket. I had paused beneath a scribbly gum (Eucalyptus racemosa) to photograph some skinks when I noticed a brown bird fly from above into nearby trees.
It was a boobook owl (Ninox boobook) and it had probably been in one of the hollows so numerous in all the mature scribbly gums until I had disturbed it. I spent a few minutes taking photographs and admiring the gorgeous bird with my binoculars, then left the area so it could return to its roost.
There was even treasure hidden away in the sedges! Plants have to get creative to thrive in the sandy, nutrient-free soils by the coast; while some get by with a little help from their fungal friends as mentioned above, others develop more sinister survival techniques. This plant is a tall sundew (Drosera lunata) and it is carnivorous!
If you look closely at the little disc-shaped leaves, you’ll see they are covered in gel-tipped stalks. These create a sticky trap for tiny insects that land on them, which are then digested by the plant’s powerful enzymes.
I had such a great time in this wonderful place that four hours passed by before I even knew it. My best days in the bush are when it feels like every butterfly, every bird and every tree has a tale to tell, and I have all the time in the world to listen.