One of the highlights of the island visit was the spectacular sight of masses of flowering Tasmanian Christmas Bells, from early December through till the end of January. The species of bells that occur at home in the Blue Mountains of N.S.W. are not commonly seen, often only occurring in large numbers in the season following a bush fire.
The bells on the island stand up to about 1m high, their strappy foliage often intermixed with that of Gahnia. They seem to thrive in the guano-rich soil and their brightly coloured flowers shine through the darkness of the dense tea-tree canopy. Each plant has many bell-shaped flowers occurring in a terminal raceme.
Is there more than one species of bells on the island? The variation in colour from bright orange, through pink to deep purple-red was intriguing. The differences in hue did not seem to be a function of soil or micro-climate with two immediately adjacent plants at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Drawing and painting the bells was a high priority. Soon after my residency was confirmed, Tas Parks facilitator Pip kindly sent me a bookmark from a watercolour painting of B. punicea by Tasmanian artist Sylvie Gerozisis, “… to keep the dream alive”. This is a graphite drawing I did of the bells during my stay on Maatsuyker Island.
December 2015 – a happy postscript … Friends of Maatsuyker Island (FOMI) chose my watercolour painting above to make into a greeting card as part of a series to raise funds. Check out their website here – https://wildcaretas.org.au/branches/friends-of-maatsuyker-island/