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In the Hartz Mountains 2 – Lake Esperance

The views get better as we ascend

Since our first walk finished fairly early and the weather was still kind, we decided to walk to Lake Esperance as well. This is South West of the first walk and on the way to Hartz Peak. It takes about an hour and a half and starts beside the shelter at the same picnic area at the end of the road in the Hartz Mountains National Park. 

The plant communities grow more compact at higher altitude

Although this lake is a product of the same glacial processes, it lies somewhat higher in the mountains and the vegetation is noticeably different. Before we go in we sign the register – only two groups have done so before us, though we encounter several couples and a family group on this walk. If you need more incentive to do so, one of the first things you notice along the track is the prominent memorial to two members of the Geeves Family who perished after being overtaken by a blizzard, despite knowing this bush well and, as I write, searchers are still looking for an elderly man who disappeared from the not too distant Duck Hole Lake Track a couple of weeks ago - a short well marked track you couldn’t possibly get lost on unless stricken by illness, injury, bad weather or nightfall.  In other words, sign the register, even if it doesn’t look like you need it. It never does.
Memorial to two members of  the Geeves family who perished here serves as a warning to bushwalkers

The second thing you must do, is wash your boots on the way in for the reasons explained in previous posts. It stops the root rot fungus and dieback affecting this very fragile ecosystem. The process is very easy here as there are brushes and an automatic washing system at the start of the track which you virtually have to go through, so you may as well do it properly by doing it twice.

Not an implement of torture or a midwifery aid but a semi automated boot washing station

Nagging done, the path ascends to the first level of a saddle or plateau and then goes to the right if you don’t want to proceed to Hartz Peak - a much more challenging walk which takes about 4 hours return. The glimpses  of serried ranks of peaks reaching southwards, does make the longer walk tempting on a day like this, but not having done much walking lately, I don’t want to push my luck.
The Lake Esperance Route proves rewarding enough. The vegetation is shorter here, reflecting the higher elevation, greater exposure to winds and possibly poorer soils than those which have been able to  accumulate on the valley floor. Here you can see dwarf Pandani with pink tops and the beginning of cushion plant communities. In sheltered spots below the ridgeline, you can see larger Pandani and also several species of eucalyptus, many of which are also unique to Tasmania.

At this altitude we begin to encounter cushion plants. These are individual plants from several species which grow close together in a bolster form which protects them from severe winds and ice. All but one species is endemic to Tasmania
The cushions look like they would make a lovely seat or save you from stepping into marshy ground, but they are in fact very delicate and easily damaged

It is this wide range and strange assemblage of nature’s experiments which makes this a World Heritage Area and Tasmania a floating ark, a sort Galapagos of the South.  The cushion plants have developed an interesting survival strategy, clustering together for internal warmth and keeping a low profile to deflect the cold winds, but like coral, they are easily damaged by careless feet. It takes around thirty years for them to recover from so much as a bootprint.

Richea Pandanifolia- Nine out of eleven species of Richea, the world's tallest heath plant, are endemic to Tasmania

On days like this, looking into the clear waters of the lake and breathing the fresh air, you forgive Tasmania its dark days and long wet winters. In fact, although there is no air monitoring station here, I am fairly certain that with uninterrupted airflow from the Southern Ocean and Antarctica and the Roaring Forties from the west, this area would have cleaner air than that in the North West which is billed as having the cleanest air in the world.

R's favourite plant - one of many unique alpine species

In this ancient and seemingly timeless landscape the daily cares of upstart humans seem trivial.  Reluctantly we start to retrace our steps towards our everyday lives, but not without a wistful look back at the track towards Hartz Peak.  Who knows, my walking buddy may make a peak bagger out of me yet.

Coral Ferns getting ready to unfurl -Gleichenia Alpina
P.S. If you can’t make it to the Hartz Mountains National Park, or Mt Field or Cradle Mountain, there are several other places where you can see many of these plants:
  1.  The Botanic Gardens right in the City has a small section of Alpine and Subalpine plants as well as the deliciously cool sub Antarctic house which is full of cushion plants. Admission is free but donations are appreciated.     
  2.  The Plants of Tasmania Nursery, at Ridgeway just near Mt. Wellington has a wide range for sale and will even send them interstate. As the blurb says, they are "specialist growers of Tasmania native plants. An astounding range of Tasmanian plants from alpine, rainforest, heathland and coastal plants, including Huon pine, Leatherwood, Myrtle, Sassafras and hundreds of other species! Stroll through our display garden. Peak flowering Oct-Dec. Mail order available." 

Open daily 9:00am-5:00pm (4:00pm in winter).
65 Hall St, Ridgeway 7054. P: (03) 6239 1583
E: W:

I haven’t been to the following but they could be of interest too:

3. Inverawe Native Gardens at Margate in the Huon Valley, specialises in Tasmanian Plants

“Thousands of colourful native plants in a garden setting.
Stunning views, history, poetry, sculpture and interpretive signs.
Take tea on the terrace, be entertained by the extraordinary variety of
birds. “
Entry $12/Concession $10 Open 7 days September-May, 9.00am-
6.00pm Last entry 5.00pm. 1565 Channel Highway, behind the
Margate Train. 15 minutes south of Hobart. P: (03) 6267 2020.

 4. Inala Jurassic Garden, Bruny Island

“A comprehensive collection of over 500 species and subspecies of
plants with a Gondwanan distribution gives insight into the flora that
was part of the ancient supercontinent.
Enjoy 5 acres of winding garden full of interpretation panels and
explore the museum full of shells, fossils, minerals & fascinating
artefacts of the natural world.”
Open Daily: 9.00am-5.00pm Adults $10.00/Child $5.00
P: (03) 6293 1217 E:

5. Tasmanian Bushland Garden - Buckland (South)

“2ha display gardens featuring indigenous plants of SE Tasmania, in a
20ha reserve with peaceful walking tracks, enhanced by sculptures
and a landscaped quarry with waterfall. A delightful, natural
experience. Picnic tables, toilets, barbeque available.
Free entry. Open daily - daylight hours. Tasman Highway,”
Buckland. P: (03) 6239 1688

6. Tasmanian Arboretum – Devonport (North)

“Tasmanian Arboretum, Devonport Walk among extensive labelled collections of Tasmanian plants,
southern hemisphere conifers and deciduous trees from temperate
areas of the world on 66ha. Wildlife, landscape and our Limestone
Heritage make the site interesting and enchanting in all seasons.
Entry $5. Kiosk hours may vary. 46 Old Tramway Road (off C146),”
Eugenana, near Devonport. P: (03) 6427 2690

7. Crawleighwood Nursery and Garden - Nicholls
Rivulet (South)

“A delightful 3.5ha garden featuring rhododendrons, maple woodlands,
Gondwanan rainforests species, rare and unusual plants. Brilliant
spring and autumn colours. Great for weddings and family picnics..
Wide variety of plants for sale.”
Entry $8.00. Open 10.00am - 4.30pm on Open Garden Days
4th-5th November 2017, 22nd -25th April , 27th-28th October 2018
Also open any time by appointment.
51 Underwoods Road, Nicholls Rivulet. P: (03) 6295 0269

Most of this information comes from the delightful BloomingTasmania brochure, which also has information on other gardens – secret gardens, historic gardens etc.  and related events such as floral festivals and open days.