Spectacular Displays of Alpine Flowers

January 11, 2000 Tumut & Adelong Times

Visitors to the Snowy Mountains are enjoying one of the best displays of alpine wildflowers for some years thanks to a relatively wet spring in the Kosciuszko alpine area.

National Parks and Wildlife Service soil conservation officer Stuart Johnston said the cool and wet conditions, combined with relatively few hard frosts, have resulted in a spectacular flowering display by native wildflowers, shrubs and trees.

In the northern end of the park, the treeless plains are carpeted by fields of yellow billy buttons.

"The displays of flowers will be absolutely spectacular for the next couple of weeks, with large displays of flowers likely to continue until the end of January," said Mr Johnston.

"A feature of the flower displays this year is the mass flowering of species such as silver snow daisy and billy buttons. "The silver snow daisy is particularly attractive, with its silver foliage and white flowers. It forms extensive mats, sometimes as large as 150 square metres and is a distinctive part of the alpine landscape. Combined with the yellow flowers of the billy buttons and purple and pink eyebrights, it's a spectacular sight.

"These mass displays simply didn't happen last year. Species such as billy buttons didn't flower at all or in very low numbers. They were still recovering from the drought of the previous summer and it appeared they put all their efforts into vegetation growth and colonising areas that were bare due to the drought.

"The alpine celery flowers every year, but this year they look very healthy, with multiple flower heads of creamy white flowers against the bright green leaves. "With the right combination of rain and few frosts this spring, they've now recovered to put on this attractive display."

Mr Johnston said the flowering displays aren't limited to the alpine area. "The flowering shrubs of the lower elevations are also spectacular and the snow gums are covered in masses of flowers.

"It should be quite spectacular for at least two weeks, with many flowers lasting until the end of January. The plants will then start to set seed, which means a bumper year of seed collection and that's good news for our revegetation program."

The Kosciuszko alpine area (above about 1800 metres) supports about 200 plant species, of which 21 occur only in Kosciuszko National Park. The relatively short growing season means some plants begin flowering while still under snow, while others flower late in the summer season.