Peter Virag, a self-taught photographer who’s lived in Melbourne since 2007, says that drone photography has the ability to capture striking perspectives of otherwise mundane subjects. Here, he shares with us the abstract patterns and vivid colours of parts of Victoria. instagram.com/peterviragphoto www.twitter.com/peterviragphoto
Propellers and porcupines, hairpins and tennis balls — the common names for some of Australia’s 78 species of banksia speak volumes about their distinctiveness and diversity. All but one — the tropical banksia — are found only in Australia. South-western WA hogs most of the limelight with more than 80 per cent of species. What appears to be one large, showy flower is actually a dense cluster of up to several thousand individual blossoms. Their nectar once provided a sweet treat for Aboriginal people, who sucked the flower spike or soaked it in water to make a drink. After flowering, the spike develops into a woody cone with tightly closed follicles, each containing one or two ‘winged’ seeds.
THE DUGONG IS the only surviving species in the family Dugongidae. There was one other modern member — Steller’s sea cow; a huge, slow-swimming northern Pacific mammal that ate seaweed and may have reached weights of up to 10 tonnes. Sadly, the species is now best known as a cautionary conservation tale: it was discovered and hunted to extinction in three decades during the 18th century. Dugongs belong to the order Sirenia (the sirens), the name being a nod to mermaid mythology. The other living members are three species of manatee, all found in coastal areas and rivers of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, the Amazon Basin and West Africa. There are similarities between the two groups, particularly their size, appearance and histories. But, in the evolutionary sense, they’ve been separated for a long time and there are significant differences. Sirenians have a similar shape to whales, dolphins or seals, but are not closely related. They have a clearer evolutionary connection to elephants and small rodent-like animals called hyraxes, found in Africa and the Middle East.
Sprouting in the most unlikely locations, fungi thrive across the Australian continent, pushing through dry desert soils and lush rainforest floors. The ‘fruit-body’ that you see growing up through the ground is but a fraction of the organism — as little as two per cent — and it’s only there for a short time. Here is a sample of some of our most common fungi, many of which you’re likely to encounter in your own backyard. Text by Erin Frick.