Image Source: https://www.abc.net.au/
Striking red and yellow Christmas bell flowers are blooming in abundance in northern New South Wales, creating an eye-catching display among coastal heathland.
The native wildflowers have emerged in huge numbers this summer in the wake of high rainfall and previous bushfires.
They are located just south of Port Macquarie, on the NSW Mid North Coast, in the Lake Innes Nature Reserve.
The area is known as Christmas Bell Plains, but some locals say it’s been decades since the Christmas bells have been so prolific.
Bronwyn Zwetsloot is among those who have stopped to view the natural display and said the stunning sight was uplifting at the end of a challenging year.
“When I was a kid we used to come up here for holidays and you’d always see these [while] driving along the road here.
“It’s really nice after the year we’ve had and what Christmas was last year [with bushfires].”
Bushfires and rain create ‘ideal conditions’
Australian native wildflower grower Paul Dalley, who is based at Kempsey, said severe bushfires in the area in late 2019, followed by good rainfall in 2020, had created ideal growing conditions for Christmas bells.
The delicate flowers also emerged at Christmas last year, although in lesser numbers, just months after a severe fire.
“It’s been a combination of fire and rain,” he said.
“It’s a carry-over effect from last year. During the drought a lot of the Christmas bells went dormant, they don’t compete very well with other plants in the bush for water.
“So they were knocked back, then the bushfire came along and knocked out a lot of that competition.
“Christmas bells have an underground root structure that allows them to survive the fire and then come back quickly to reshoot, and they’ve done that.
“There’s reduced competition on the ground so they get plenty of light.
Mr Dalley said Christmas bells were common in national parks in Australia, but they were often hidden by bushland and didn’t always bloom.
“There are potentially lots left in the wild in the national parks, but they tend to be suppressed by overgrowth from other plants.
“So you probably don’t see them for years, but they are still there,” he said.