Journal of the Australian Native Plants Society Canberra region (Inc)

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Field Trip to Mt Buffalo

By Jeanette Jeffrey

Feb, 2024

Summer temperatures mean the Field Trips group of ANPS Canberra think about heading up in altitude. Thus, a recent trip among the wildflowers of Mt Buffalo was arranged.

Mt Buffalo National Park is one of the collection of reserves and parks that make up the Australian Alps. We enjoyed huge granite boulders, waterfalls and large vistas, stunted snow gums and frost hollows.

Edge of Dickson Falls; Photo: Gail Ritchie Knight
Edge of the plateau; Photo: Neville Page

Some Geology of the Region

Our Australian Alps were formed by different plate tectonics to the towering European mountains and have been moulded by different weathering agents.

When Australia was taking shape as part of Gondwana along with Antarctica, India and New Zealand, the area where the Alps are now was a flat plain of sedimentary rocks (from being ocean floor). As the land masses of Gondwana moved apart (India moving westward, Antarctica south) it stretched the Earth’s crust to become thinner and weaker. A large plateau started to rise in this thinner crust and hot magna rose up heating the surrounding crust and allowing lighter rocks to also rise. A plateau of nearly two kilometres high was the beginning of the Australian Alps.

The stretching continued causing faults within the plateau and then caused a rift (our own Rift Valley) which allowed in sea water which further expanded the rift (we are now up to 80mya.) New Zealandia sank away to the east and the western side of the plateau became our Eastern coastline. Further uplifts, injections of lava along fault lines, as well as frost, wind and water over the next 60 million years formed valleys and smoothed sharp peaks. The granitic plateau of Mt Buffalo has now become quite isolated and surrounded by beautiful valleys. makes interesting reading.

Enjoying the Environment

The organised walks were:

  • Old Galleries Track — a 1.3km loop walk through huge granite tors and snow gum woodland.
  • Dickson Falls Nature Walk — 4km return through a frost hollow and alpine swamp to granite cliffs, a waterfall and beautiful views.
  • View Point Nature walk — 4km return, through mixed Eucalypt woodland and up boulders to lovely views above the eucalypts into the Buckland Valley.
Among the old galleries; Photo Colin Jeffrey
Gaultheria appressa with fruit; Photo Jeanette Jeffrey
Enjoying the swamp; Photo Colin Jeffrey
Prostanthera monticola; Photo Jeanette Jeffrey
Arthropodium milleflorum; Photo: Jeanette Jeffrey

Bushwalkers were able to go at their own pace as trips were return routes. Others of us turned around when physical limits were being stretched. Those wanting to relax, sketch or write could pick a comfortable spot along the route. Those wanting to enjoy plant identifying had many discussions over the days.

Podolepis robusta; Photo: Jeanette Jeffrey
Hederacea ssp alpestris; Photo: Jeanette Jeffrey
Veronica derwentiana; Photo: Jeanette Jeffrey

Eucalyptus pauciflora was showing slow but strong regrowth from decades-old bushfires. They are taking on their familiar look in all the alpine regions now. Some of us remember them forming a coat of grey-green on hillsides in our childhoods. Lovely wildflowers were: Xerochrysum subundulatum and Podolepis robusta forming fields of deep yellow, Arthropodium milleflorum, Stylidium armeria (and possibly S. montanum), Veronica derwentiana and Wahlenbergia gloriosa flowering in cooler areas, Dianella tasmanica with enormous still-green berries and Goodenia hederacea forming a deep green groundcover. Some interesting shrubs we don’t normally see were: were Prostanthera monticola, Leptospermum micromyrtus (common name of Button teatree aptly describing the leaf shape) and Gaultheria appressa with fruit.

Climbing up for the valley view; Photo: Colin Jeffrey
Watercolour by Lesley Page
Walking along Lake Catani: Photo: Coliin Jeffrey

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