Barren Grounds is a nature reserve about halfway between Sydney and Canberra. If someone asked me for an easy place to see carnivorous plants near Sydney, I would direct them here. It is unique in every sense of the word. Ecologically, it is an area of sedge peat heathland at an altitude of 550-600 metres (1800 feet) on a plateau that drops away on breathtaking escarpments nearly to sea level. Here is a view from the escarpment, looking northeast to Port Kembla-Wollongong and the Pacific Ocean:
The gorges formed along the escarpment are cool rainforests. The combination of wet heath and rainforest makes it a birdwatching paradise. I was fortunate to visit here with a birdwatching colleague a week or so back and got a real treat, both in terms of birds and, of course, carnivorous plants.
Here is a view over the heath (as you can see, not the sort of day for high-grade photography). Here, you can easily find nearly every species of Drosera that occurs in the Sydney basin, namely Drosera spathulata, D. pygmaea, D. binata and several forms of D. peltata. I am sure D. auriculata grows here as well, but I didn’t get to confirm this by examining the sepals of the suspect plants. The only species not found here on this trip were Drosera burmannii and D. glanduligera. These can be found not far away near Bargo (hear that, Peter and Jessica? They live just up the road from you…). Perhaps it is still a bit early for them here (the sundews, not Peter and Jessica)?
Before we begin – this is a nature reserve, so don’t even think about collecting plants from here without a permit. All the plants growing here are available in cultivation, so why bother in the first place?
Drosera pygmaea has a patchy distribution within any area where it occurs. This is probably due to the distribution of gemmae, which tend to scatter immediately around the parent plant. However, it is possible to find them anywhere there are moist, sandy spots with no more than short grass growing over them. The last photo also shows the leaves of an as yet unidentified Utricularia. My colleague tells me there are many species of Utric here, so a return visit during summer will be needed.
Wherever D. pygmaea grows, you will find at least one species of Drosera growing immediately adjacent. Here, we have a stand of D. peltata growing right next to D. pygmaea (arrowed). Here is a close-up of the plants in question: