Clusters of tiny white flowers with furry petals provide a clue to the beard-heath's name.
Each of the five petals is "bearded" on the inside with crowded fine hairs.
Not seen clearly in the photo, they can be better appreciated with the aid of a magnifying glass.
The purpose of the bearded petals is not obvious. Hairy leaves and stems are thought to be an adaptation to prevent small insects moving, but, in the beard-heath's case, the hairy covering seems to prevent entry of an insect for pollination.
Other heaths have "unbearded" petals.
Bees, flies, wasps, butterflies and moths are thought to be the main pollinators of beard-heath, just as they are for most other wildflowers. The bearded petals do not seem to hinder such visitation or pollination.
Common beard-heath lives up to its name by being common in many bushland parts of the Ballarat region. Canadian, Mt Beckworth, Beaufort, Enfield and Creswick are a few examples.
The clean white of common beard-heath flowers makes a nice contrast with the rich mauve-pink of pink-bells where the two grow together- as they are in many places now. Some other species of beard-heaths have longer, more tubular flowers than our local one. Others have strong perfumes, presumably to attract insect pollinators.
Like a lot of native heaths, the beard-heaths are difficult to grow from either seed or cuttings. Many of them - including ours - would make attractive garden specimens. Common beard-heath seldom grows taller than 30 or 40 cm, but coastal beard-heath grows to small tree size.
As part of Bird Week, a community bird walk will be held at Lake Wendouree, this Sunday, October 27.
All are welcome to take part to learn more about the lake's birds, under the guidance of members of Birdlife Ballarat.
The walk commences at 9am on Sunday at the cannons near the restaurant opposite the Botanical Gardens. It will cover the west side of the lake only, and can take nearly three hours, but participants are free to depart from the group when they wish.
The best of Ballarat's native flowers will be displayed this weekend at the Robert Clark Centre in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens. Wattles, grevilleas, mint-bushes, daisy-bushes and many more plants will be on display from 10am to 4.30pm on both Saturday and Sunday, October 26 and 27. All plants are from gardens in the Ballarat district. A range of native plants will be for sale. There is a $5 entry fee, which includes free tea and coffee.
NATURE QUERIES ANSWERED
What is the identity of this climbing plant? It has quite an attractive little pink/mauve flower. I would like to know if it is a native, a weed or both.
This is fumitory, probably the one known as wall fumitory. It is an introduced annual weed that grows quickly in spring, then dies off when the soil dries.
Larger plants tend to scramble through and over other plants, smothering them for a short while.
Fumitory favours shaded places in gardens, waste places and other disturbed ground, but it sometimes appears in open places and on the edges of bushland as well.
There are a few similar species, including one with dark-tipped white flowers. All are introduced weeds.
They were once classified in their own family, but more recently they have been placed in the poppy family, despite there being no obvious resemblance in the flowers.
- Questions and photos are welcome. Send to Roger Thomas at The Courier, PO Box 21, Ballarat, 3353, or email to email@example.com