A new book has combined art and science to tell the story of trees endemic to the Hunter Region.
The book, Flora of the Hunter Region - Endemic Trees and Larger Shrubs, describes 54 trees and shrubs with botanical illustrations produced by graduates of the University of Newcastle's Bachelor of Natural History Illustration program.
"The goal of the project was to raise awareness of those species that only occur in our region," co-author and botanist Stephen Bell said.
Stephen said all the plants in the book were interesting in different ways.
"There are a lot of species that many people will know about and recognise, such as the 19 eucalypts and eight wattles," he said.
"But there are others that most people will never have heard of. There are two species - Mount Dangar wattle and Broken Back phebalium - that are known only from single populations. Both are listed as critically endangered."
Some species exist in only a handful of populations. Others have all but vanished.
"Two shrubs - Story's everlasting and Rylstone everlasting were both named after Robert Story, an ecologist who worked in the region in the 1960s.
"At present, neither species has been seen for around 60 years and may well be extinct."
Over the course of the project, three species new to science have been formally described - Wollar wattle, prickly-fruited stringybark and Broken Back phebalium. There may be others, too, but they're still being studied.
Asked for his thoughts on the Hunter's most beautiful plant, Stephen said: "It is difficult to go past the Wollemi homoranthus, with its intricate paired and hanging flowers, or the showy mauve to purple flowers of tranquility mintbush, Singleton mintbush or Goulburn River mintbush.
"In full bloom, any of the wattles can be quite spectacular. The newly-described Wollar wattle would make a magnificent planting in a park."
An Inverted Octopus
Stephen named Baerami bertya as one of the Hunter's strangest plants.
"This is a very insignificant and indistinct green shrub with short narrow leaves, but under the microscope it possesses impressive and intricate floral features that are difficult to appreciate with the naked eye," he said.
"This plant has separate male and female flowers - the male almost resembling a type of coral, while the female looks like an inverted octopus that has lost a few legs and been stuffed in a sock."
He said the Hunter had 100 endemic species that occur "principally only in our region".
While the new book features about half of those species, a further 50-odd smaller shrubs and orchids will appear in a second volume.
"The Hunter also boasts an impressive list of eucalypts (about 130), which is more than the 97 documented for the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area," he said.
The book documents 21 threatened trees and larger shrubs in the Hunter - three critically endangered, seven endangered and 11 vulnerable.
Many other threatened species - smaller shrubs or orchids - will be included in the second volume.
"New species are always being discovered and described. Many of these occur in highly restricted localities and may well be listed as threatened."
A new exhibition at Newcastle Museum, titled Flora of the Hunter Region, features many of the illustrations in the book.
The Sting song about walking in fields of gold came to mind when Melinda Smith told us about the sea of flowers at Sandgate Cemetery.
Grounds staff at the cemetery said the golden-yellow flowers only began popping up around the turn of the century, after soil was brought to the area for a work-for-the-dole project.
The flowers are beautiful, but they do come from a weed. They sprout from a tiny bulb, similar to onion grass.
Recent rain helped the flowers emerge into the light from their earthy hibernation.
Apparently, the display will only last a few days. Nature can be fleeting, can't she?