Fireweeds are a group of fast-growing plants in the daisy family.
There are many species. One of the scarcer species is the floodplain fireweed.
As its name suggests, it grows in damp places, often where water sits during winter and spring.
The floodplain fireweed is a relatively newly-described plant, officially named in 2004. At this stage, it is still not well-known.
It rather resembles one of the more common members of the group - the cotton fireweed - but is has larger leaves, and it often has a more sprawling habit.
The cotton fireweed has a silvery tone to its leaves and stems, and this is a feature of the floodplain fireweed too.
Neither species has proper daisy flowers, but merely small "heads" without petals, as shown in the photo.
The photographed plant is in "full bloom", and it is similar in this respect to most of the fireweeds.
Such flowerheads are not readily recognised as being complete. In this case, they are 9mm or 10mm tall.
The floodplain fireweed is sometimes known as the bulging fireweed, but its seeds are not more noticeably bulging than those of others in the group, so "floodplain fireweed" - as used in the Flora of Melbourne book - seems a more useful and appropriate name. Its botanical name is Senecio campylocarpus.
It grows at such places as Mullawallah Wetlands, Flax Mill Swamp, Lake Wendouree and the reservoir country to the north-east of Ballarat.
While it remains little-known, it is probably not rare here in its preferred creekline, lakeside and marshy habitat.
One of our district's more common fireweeds is the annual fireweed, with rather oak-like leaves.
It is a fast-growing plant to knee-high or more, found in many natural places as well as roadsides.
Fireweed seeds are carried by small "parachutes", rather like tiny versions of the well-known "parachutes" of thistle or dandelion seeds.
The fireweeds belong to the Senecio genus. Australia has about 95 native species.
Their fast growth, and appearance in disturbed sites, results in them often being mistakenly considered as weeds.
Many species of fungi have appeared this month.
These include the clumping inky-caps at Lake Wendouree, luminous ghost fungus and bristly small brown puffballs at Clunes and Creswick, and dull red Russula toadstools with white stems at Ross Creek.
The red one with white spots, known as fly agaric, has appeared in several places near exotic trees such as pines and birches.
NATURE QUERIES ANSWERED
Do you know what type of beetle this is? It has exquisite contrast of camouflage and iridescent colour. The photo was taken at Mount Eccles last weekend.
J.D., Soldier's Hill.
This is a mountain katydid female.
Despite its appearance, it is in the grasshopper family.
The male resembles the common green garden katydid in shape, but is similar in colour to the female, with remarkable "dry gumleaf" camouflage colour, and striking coloured bands on his abdomen.
If you had disturbed it a little more, it would have raised its wings further, displaying alternating bright blue and red bands on its abdomen. It cannot fly.
I'm not aware of sightings of this large insect in the Ballarat district, although it appears to be within its normal range.
Mt Eccles, however, is close to its western limit.
- Questions and photos are welcome. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send to Roger Thomas at The Courier, PO Box 21, Ballarat, 3353.