Other people’s words about … settlement

It is no wonder that most Adelaide inhabitants have little idea of what the pre-European vegetation of the Adelaide Plains looked like, because over vast swathes of suburbia, unless one knows exactly where to look, it is basically all gone and has been for over a hundred years. Add to this the interest in recent decades in planting Australian natives that may have been sourced from regions over a thousand kilometres away and there is little wonder that confusion exists about the identity of the truly indigenous plants of the Adelaide Plains.

from ‘The Native Plants of Adelaide
by Phil Bagust and Lynda Tout-Smith

We bought our house south of Adelaide almost twenty years ago, back when house prices were still affordable along the coast, if you went far enough away from the city. I didn’t know the area of Aldinga very well before we moved there: when I was a child, it was still a little coastal country town within driving distance of Adelaide. City people spent their summer holidays there each year. That was all I knew about it.

Guinea flower (hibbertia)
Guinea flower (hibbertia)
Smooth riceflower (pimelea glauca)
Smooth riceflower (pimelea glauca)

Aldinga isn’t a small country town anymore: since we’ve moved there, it’s been swallowed up in the growing suburban sprawl — those vast swathes of suburbia — along the coast north and south of Adelaide. It’s no longer a holiday town, either. People travel farther afield these days for their holidays, mostly overseas. Many of the beach shacks have been knocked down, but some (like ours) still stand.

Pink fairy, a spider orchid (caladenia latifolia)
Pink fairy, a spider orchid (caladenia latifolia)
Old man's beard (clematis microphylla)
Old man’s beard (clematis microphylla)
Flame heath (astraloma conostephioides)
Flame heath (astraloma conostephioides)

Aldinga Scrub is a patch of native coastal vegetation growing just inland of the beach: an environment of dense, bushy vegetation growing on low sandy dunes. I had never heard of it before we moved here. It is, in fact, the only patch of remnant (pre-European) coastal vegetation left in South Australia. It’s not pristine — there are many weeds growing in it. The climate within the Scrub itself has changed, too, due to the diversion of natural stormwater by farmers onto encroaching farmland.

And yet, wandering through — listening to the songs of the shrike-thrushes and whistlers and magpies and fantails; stumbling across a lone echidna trundling through the undergrowth; standing back to allow a kangaroo with a joey in her pouch bound past — I feel as though I get a hint of what the place was like before European settlement. Hence the photographs on today’s post, which I took in mid-September, as spring took hold of the Scrub.

Paper-flower (thomasia petalocalyx)
Paper-flower (thomasia petalocalyx)
Variable groundsel (senecio lotus)
Variable groundsel (senecio lotus)

I’ve never named the Scrub explicitly on my blog before, though I’ve posted many photographs of it. I feel fiercely protective of the place — because of its unique status; because I discovered it late in life; because I know that the more that we encroach upon it, the more it disappears. Because, because, because.

Meanwhile, I am still teaching myself the names of the native birds and animals and plants and insects who inhabit the Scrub. I wander about, learning and wondering. I may never really know its original nature, but I plan to go on teaching myself about it until the day I die.


5 thoughts on “Because

  1. Pingback: Words unfurled | twenty-one words

  2. Pingback: Inhabitant | twenty-one words

  3. Pingback: Differentiation | twenty-one words

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