Botanic Art Plants Travels

What a good season for Cullens!

As you know, I have an interest, maybe even a passion for, a genus of plants called Cullens. The species I have painted grow in outback New South Wales, where the rainfall can be very variable. Like all semi-arid plants they are very opportunistic when it comes to water. I am not sure what the rainfall has been this year, but it must have suited the Cullens, because they are at their showy best.

I mentioned in the last post how Cullen australasicum grows on the side of the road. C. discolor is not as showy, but grows determinedly along the ground. Small plants were growing in lots of places.


But the most amazing were the C. pallidum plants.

These lush bushes were growing at the boat launching ramp at Sunset Strip, a little cluster of houses at one end of Lake Menindee. There is very little water in the lake this year, so there is no way that boats could be launched. The sandy beach extends way out, and it is in this sand that C. pallidum loves to grow. It is flourishing here, with more little ones on the way.


The boat launching ramp at Sunset Strip

The lack of water was quite a shock. I have not seen it so low. According to the locals the water has been taken out for use further down stream, some say for wetlands in South Australia.
Those of you outside of Australia may not know that the question of water in the Murray/Darling Basin, the main water system in Australia, and one that crosses through four of our States, is a very vexed one. It is used for irrigation and other agricultural purposes, as well as water for many towns and cities, and, often at the bottom of the list, wetland preservation. There have been many attempts to work out equatable usage, but I fear that there is just too little and that a drop of water can only be stretched so far. Is our environment having to pay the price for our unsustainable practises?

Plants Travels

East to Menindee

I want to leave the Flinders Ranges now and head almost due east for about 500 km, to Menindee. It is a small town, about an hour south-east of Broken Hill, on the Darling River and right on the edge of the Menindee Lakes system and Kinchega National Park. It is big sky country — it is so flat that the sky arches from horizon to horizon. And it is red dirt country, semi-arid. So, why there?

Well, it is fascinating. The lakes and the river attract birds from far away. The habitats away from the water are full of secret treasures — plants, insects, reptiles. (Fortunately I didn’t see any snakes, but I know they are there.) Secret because driving past in the car it all looks like boring saltbush. But stop and investigate and a world opens up.

Once you start to explore you can see the diversity, and begin to appreciate how plants can survive in such harsh environments.

But also because it is an area that features in the Burke and Wills story. For Australians those names are legendary. For others I will explain in the next few posts who they were and why their story sent me and other botanical artists to Menindee. For now, enjoy some of the beauty of Copi Hollow, and the caravan park where we stayed.

We saw this view of the lake, Copi Hollow, every time we went outside the caravan.
Looking back to the caravan park, evening light
The beautiful evening light