Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Victorian searocket, familiar flora on the beach


What's the first thing I see as walk onto the beach at Cape Conran in East Gippsland? The same species I saw a few months ago on the coast at Chios, an Greek Island near the coast of Turkey. Well, the same genus anyway.

Searocket grows on coastlines throughout the world and there are two common species: Cakile edentula native to North America I understand and Cakile maritima to Europe. At least that's the way it started. Searockets benefited a lot from human sea travel.

According to Sara Ohadi and colleagues from the University of Melbourne (just up/down the road from my new work home of Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne), Sea Rocket probably traveled to Australia in ship ballast in the late nineteenth century.

First Cakile edentula in the 1860s, then Cakile maritima starting near Perth in the 1890s but, based on the results of Ohadi's genetic studies, with fresh introductions possible on the east coast. In fact their results support either multiple introductions or hybridisation between the two species.


Today in Victoria you'll only find Cakile maritima, although the others species persists in parts of Queensland, northern New South Wales and, rather oddly, Tasmania. I presume what I saw in Chios was the same species I saw today, although both may have been tainted with a little Cakile edentula.

This is just the kind of irritating thing someone will have to think about when they update my account of Cakile in the Flora of Victoria and ready it for presenting online. Something I might even get involved in when I start at Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens in just a few weeks.

For now, I can simply enjoy the pale purple flowers and dream about my days at the National Herbarium of Victoria sorting out the rather troublesome Brassicaceae, the plant family including Cakile. At that time, Searocket was one of the easy ones.


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