If only the eyes can see

The flower of Pittosporum bicolor or Banyalla, a native tree growing near the carpark on One Tree Hill.

The flower of Pittosporum bicolor or Banyalla, a native tree growing near the carpark on One Tree Hill.

I was walking along a track in the Dandenong Ranges National Park near Ferntree Gully when I met a couple of guys. They asked me if “there’s anything interesting to see” down the track from where I had just came. They wanted to know if there’s any interesting “scenery”, by which I thought they meant a lookout point. I said no, but there are lots of plants in flower at the moment and they might enjoy the sight. They looked nonplussed for a moment, and then turned to go back to their car.

I encounter many walkers and “tourists” in the national park. For many of them, the plants in the bush are just “background noise”, something they don’t really notice as they march up and down the tracks, seeking exercise and fresh air. They don’t see the tall, very old trees. They don’t notice the flowering wattles – or any sort of flowering plant. The occasionally encountered wallaby or echidna excites them though, but not plants. And that’s a shame.

I never used to appreciate the bush flora until I started photographing plants. Then I start to notice things. Plants growing among the rocks and nowhere else. Tiny plants hidden among the bracken and grass. Plants growing on one side of the hill but not on any other side. Flowers appearing at certain times of the year. On a fine day it’s a joy to walk off the track and wander along a hill slope, enjoying the folds of the landscape, noticing plants I have never seen before and listening to the wind rustling the leaves of the trees.

Can appreciation of the plants in the bush be somehow communicated to others, I wonder.

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