Home' String of Springs : String of Springs Contents Regal birdflower
stuartii). They will
flower for months
in good years
A hardy sea-heath.
Look for it on
gibber plains and
around salt pans
and mound springs
The conversion of much of central
Australia into sand dunes has been the
product of low elevations, widespread
sediment deposition, aridity and the
extremes of a wildly fluctuating climate
over the last million years. Some
geologists believe the dunes formed in
the last 8,000 to 10,000 years; others
suggest 200,000 years.
Why do dunes vary so much in colour?
Most dunes are brownish pink or brick red;
some are yellow-brown or grey brown;
others near Lake Eyre are much lighter.
The lighter-coloured dunes are generally
found closer to the source areas of the
sand. For example, where they have blown
in from flood plains along Eyre’s Creek and
Goyder’s Lagoon, they are white or light
yellow. Generally dunes a long way from
the primary source are red to dark red in
colour and more stable. The longer the
sands remain in the aeolian (windblown)
environment, the redder they become as a
result of oxidisation and the release of iron
oxide from within the small clay fraction
in the sands. The lighter coloured dunes
support less vegetation because of their
instability and lack of nutrients.
CADNA-OWIE (in the
Dunes provided comfortable and sheltered
campsites at numerous locations along the
‘string of springs’ for Aboriginal people.
This is one of the larger ones.
Good rains that can fall at any time of the year change
everything along the string of springs.
In late autumn and winter they turn enormous
stretches of countryside into spectacular
landscapes of colour. Dunes and sandy plains
might be covered in carpets of numerous varieties
of annual flowers – yellow, white and pink
daisies, the spectacular regal birdflower or blue
cattle bush. Summer rains can produce brilliant
spreads of Sturt’s desert pea and Swainsona peas
of orange, white, pink and purple hues.
Check out the roadside
specials! Showy groundsel,
one of the larger yellow
Senecio daisy bushes, makes
an unexpected splash of
colour along drainage lines
and in the sandy patches of
road verges alongside lush
stands of the purple verbine
and pink native hollyhock.
Why is there such a wonderful variety
of plants out here?
Climate, landforms and soil types determine
where and when plants will grow.
The climate in this country is erratic. So, to survive,
plants have evolved in many different ways. Soil
types vary – ranging from clays to sandy loams;
from sand plains to limestone and saline soils;
from alluvial soils associated with swamps and
watercourses to rocky ridges, hill slopes and hard
gibber country. All are habitats for different plants
where the distribution of nutrients varies greatly.
Plants out here can be quite particular about
when they germinate and grow. Grasses and
some wildflowers usually germinate after summer
rains; short-lived herbs and most wildflowers
do so following winter rains. Sturt’s desert pea
germinates only after summer rains, when the
ground is warm. It is also programmed not to
germinate in the same area in two consecutive
years even when the rainfall is apparently
adequate and seed is in the ground.
Temperature affects germination. Bladder saltbush
will not germinate above a certain temperature
to avoid ‘cooking’ in the heat. Timing can be very
specific. For instance you’ll see button grass, a
favourite of the budgerigars, following rains during
February, when optimum ground temperatures
and rainfall are likely to coincide.
Seeds can remain dormant in the ground
protected by their tough outer coverings for
many years until the right conditions return to
How plants survive
Dry times are a normal part of the climate cycle
out here and most plants are drought evading.
Drought-resistant perennials are present all the
time. Tall shrubs and trees maximise their access
to water by a combination of shallow roots to
capitalise on light rains, and a deep tap root
system to reach the deeper reservoirs of moisture.
In exceptionally dry times most arid perennial
plants will cease growing. Some partially or
completely shed leaves to preserve nutrients
Chenopod shrublands are plant communities
largely from the family Chenopodiaceae. It
includes saltbush (Atriplex), bluebush (Maireana),
samphire (Tecticornia) species and bindyi
(Sclerolaena) and buckbush, better known as roly
poly or tumbleweed (Salsola kali). Much of the
low vegetation you see along the Track is from
this family. They are all plants that have adapted
to South Australian arid zone conditions.
What do livestock eat out here?
Stock have a greater choice of feed in pastoral
country than in the more settled areas. They
find that a whole range of grasses, shrubs,
herbs, forbs and trees are palatable to varying
degrees. Most grasses, especially the dominant
Mitchell grasses which grow after summer rains,
are excellent cattle fodder. Good seasons can
also produce an abundance of the fleshy-leaved
plants munyeroo and native spinach (also known
as New Zealand spinach). These are particularly
useful because on a diet of these moisture-laden
plants stock can spend extended periods of time
away from their watering points. Early white
settlers used to eat them as well.
In drier times cattle graze on nearly all of the
chenopods with the exception of the samphires.
But a diet high in saltbush requires a supply of
reasonable water to counteract the salt.
Why did so many pastoral settlements
fail in the early days?
Early white settlers along the string of springs
were misled by the presence of permanent
waters of the springs. They failed to recognise
that, while there was water, the surrounding
vegetation was insufficient and quickly eaten out.
This led to early failures until bores were sunk
into the GAB and water distributed via open bore
drains to more distant grazing areas.
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