Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Turning into Gold 2 – At Mt. Field

 
Deciduous Beech and Snowgums near Lake Fenton
 


With its easily accessible waterfalls, glacier -carved tarns, mosses, ferns, tall trees and wildlife, Mount Field is delightful at any time of year. In summer it’s a sea of wildflowers. In winter there’s skiing, but I especially love it when the deciduous beech is turning.  Nothofagus Gunnii is endemic to Tasmania and is Australia’s only native deciduous tree. It is however related to similar species in New Zealand, South America, New Caledonia and New Guinea. All are part of the evidence of the theory of continental drift and the fact that they were once connected, even if that was around 180 million years ago. The tiny leaves and bonsaied branches of the Tasmanian species attest to survival under harsh and changing climatic conditions. Let’s hope they survive the next one because there is nowhere else for them to go. 

 

Not so striking perhaps if you are familiar with the mixed forests of Europe or North America, but in a landscape dominated by seemingly unchanging eucalypts, the deciduous beech is quite stunning

Here in Tasmania the ‘fagus as the locals call it, exists only at high elevations and among the rocks. On the Central Plateau they seldom become more than tangled, stunted shrubs amid the rocky landscapes left behind by retreating ice sheets. While one of the most extensive displays in the season can be seen at Crater Lake in the Cradle Mountain National Park, those here tend to grow taller because they are somewhat more sheltered and have more soil to get their roots into. They are also a lot more accessible.

 

In transition

  The Tasmanian Snowgum is another survivor and another plant which is unique to Tasmania. With its colourful branches and spreading habit it’s quite different to the tall swamp gums lower down. Their trunks look painted with splashes of grey and orange yet these eventually yield to  mosses, grasses, shrubs and colourful berries as the track climbs higher and higher. The abundance, variety and luminosity of the berries in this area always amazes me. What a pity they aren’t more edible, though I’m sure birds and small herbivores enjoy them. At last there are only dolerite boulders but they too carry forward the colour scheme with their splashes of orange lichen. There are also excellent views of the surrounding ranges and far to the south. 
 
 
Start of the boulder field - the rocks wear orange too

This is Seager’s Lookout, a two hour uphill walk from Lake Fenton.  That’s another thing which I like about Mt. Field. Even though I’ve been there many times before, there are still walks I haven’t done and new things to discover. My plan today was to do this short walk on the way to Mount Field East which would take me past the ‘fagus and then go in search of fungi, which, going by Facebook posts, also seem to be pretty spectacular this year. Alas, I must have stayed at the market too long and with the days now getting very short – official sunset is 4.58 pm and even earlier in the mountains, the pictures aren’t great and I didn’t have time to do anything else. 

It being Saturday, there were quite a few people about including a two week old baby being carried up the mountain. Good to see the next generation of bushwalkers getting a taste for wild places.

 

A glimpse from the top of Seager's Lookout

 It was almost dark when I came down from the mountain, yet there was still something I wanted to see...

 


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