Once (or maybe twice) in a lifetime: Pink Flannel Flower, Actinotus forsythii

This is the rare Pink Flannel Flower, Actinotus forsythii. 

[This post records the first recent recorded sighting of the flower on the NSW south coast escarpment. The sighting has been registered with the iNaturalist website. There have been multiple sightings this year of the flower in the central Blue Mountains and the Gardens of Stone.]

Seed germination is triggered by charcoal drops from heavy smoke and mixes with rain. The flowering of this ephemeral might only occur once or twice in a person's lifetime. When they flower, wilderness area can be covered by vast numbers, that flower in synch, creating a seed bank that might need to survive 50-100 years before the next germination.

One of a small number of bush-fire ephemerals, these are found on mountain ridges about a year after heavy smoke from fire when a mixture of rain, the clearance of heaths and shrubs allow light to penetrate seed banks close to the surface. Research by the University of NSW has identified the smoke-derived chemical karrikinolide mixed with water triggers germination.

Previously identified in NSW in the Blue Mountains, this week, my hiking companion Indya and i found these flowering far to the south on the Tianjara sandstone mesas, through to the locality of Hell Hole.

The locations mentioned in this post. The Tianjara escarpment.


Hell Hole (Parma Creek)


Here is the normal flannel flower, a much larger annual - also flowering at the moment near to the pink flannel flowers.


Julianne said…
The flower and leaves look similar to that of the Michaelmas daisy. A very lucky sighting of of something so precious. The inaturalist site is very helpful in identification. Have used a few times. Happy hunting.😀
Peter Quinton said…
Hi Julianne
Asters are very pretty - down here i am more likely to come across break'o'day daisies but i still come across asters every so often.
I am very impressed with iNaturalist - i put all of my data onto something like that - the Canberra nature Map - but it doesnt have the speed of the iNaturalist identification modules.
Cheers Peter
Jim said…
Nature has so many interesting aspects to her. But those flowers looked pretty enough that she shouldn't hide them the way she does.
Peter Quinton said…
There are a lot of unanswered questions here.
Why evolve a mechanism that requires smoke to trigger germination?
- perhaps, after a fire, there is more clear space and less competition. But, assuming the watchmaker is blind, maybe it is that strange coincidence of circumstances that leads to this mass flowering event.
Have we here really had catastrophic fires here ever 50-100 years for the past 120,000 years?
The 120,000 year basement comes from Lake George sediment studies which identifies significant ash events from about that time to recent time? This period includes lots of minor glaciation events and maybe 2 pole reversals with associated irradiation. I have no doubt about the impact on the water cycle by agricultural practice and short term human impacts of climate - but we might have here an echo of other deep cycles of catastrophe.

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