In search of Melbourne's grasslands

November 13, 2008 08:21 by Kate Phillips

Featherheads Ptilotus macrocephalus, Photographer: Kate Phillips, Source: Museum Victoria

I was not expecting to see a dead dog, three dead armchairs and nine dead mattresses when searching for native grassland plants. Tracey-Ann Hooley and I went out this afternoon in search of the best looking native grassland in Melbourne for close-up photography.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, native grasslands are viewed as dumping grounds or empty space by many people. Once they become weedy and full of rubbish, it is even harder to appreciate them. Even I, who was trying hard to find and photograph the delicate and diverse plants, could not help being distracted by the piles of rubbish and general air of desolation.

Needless to say, that grassland did not get our vote for the ‘Melbourne Grassland Idol’. However, I did have genuine moment of appreciation as a gusty wind blew through the Tussock grass. The noise was delightful and the grass showed subtle shades of pink, purple yellow and green as the wind rippled through it. I could actually see the wind change direction, ebb and flow.

Other grasslands in western Melbourne are much better cared for. We visited several with a diversity of native grasses and other native plants many which are in flower now. It is generally a case of getting down on hands and knees to get a good view. My favourite flower would have to be the featherheads Ptilotus macrocephalus which feel downy soft.

So there are good grasslands out there – not that many. They are small and faragmented. They are surrounded by houses, roads and industry. But they are still there, and blooming.