Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Algal Collecting Thwarted


"Following a weekend of heavy rain, the Bureau also reported that the water level in the Millgrove section of the Yarra River had exceeded the minor flood level of 2 metres and was still rising. According to the Bureau the Upper Yarra River catchment received 100mm of rainfall from 9am Thursday 24 September to Monday midday." So reported the Mountain Views Mail today.

My picture is from Dights Falls, a long way down stream, and not so flooded. This is as close as I got to the upper Yarra catchment today. So no algal collecting - I'll have to plan a return trip in summer I think.

Two reasons for the Dight's Falls picture. It's very near the Collingwood Football Club and I needed something to neutralise my weekend in Geelong (premiers of the AFL this year if you don't know - and anyone who visits Geelong would certainly know). It's also the site of one of the first collections of freshwater red algae from Australia.

In 1884, Henry Watts collected a specimen which later became the type (i.e. the specimen on which the name is based - as everyone who attended my talk in Geelong will know!) of a whole new genus of red algae (Nothocladus) now known from New Zealand, south-eastern Australia and...Madgascar (but I need to check that last record...).

He made his collection from around Collingwood, where he lived. Nowadays the species is only found up near Millgrove and Warburton - areas that feature in the newspaper story above. I've always presumed pollution and development along the Yarra has meant the distribution of the species has worked its way up stream.

Today I paid homage to Henry Watts and to Collingwood, among other things. Tomorrow I'll spend a day in the National Herbarium of Victoria, pehaps even examining a specimen or two by the late Mr Watts. (If all this algal talk tires you, don't worry, I'll be sure to feature some orchids next week when I holiday in the Grampians.)

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