I have my mother to thank that I do.  She also taught me about Greenhoods, Blue Fingers and a Waxlip.  No, not animals, clothing or body parts, but beautiful, fragile and petite Australian native orchids.  Mum also gave me a love of the bush and shared the magic of nature.

I grew up in Warrandyte, Victoria, when it was still rural; farms and bushland. We didn’t have fences and the bush came right up to the back of our block. My mother loved all things connected with flowers and nature. From an early age, she'd take me for bush walks, pointing out this flower, that tree and a grassy ring where fairies might frolic. And her knowledge and her imagination became part of me too.

child_in_garden 

Europe has beautiful wildflowers. I’ve enjoyed sensory overload hiking through the glorious alpine flower meadows of France and Slovenia in summer. But there’s a special feeling of wonder and surprise in discovering our own gorgeous, native orchids pushing up from the bushland floor to flower.

spider_orchid 

From my Adelaide home, I hike most weekends. The Mount Lofty Ranges surround the metropolitan area and we are fortunate that South Australian politicians created a ‘hills face zone’ in the 1960’s to protect it from development. Much of the area is now state and national parkland.

It is a haven for native flowers and animals and with the changing seasons there is always something new to see. Spider and Donkey Orchids bring back happy childhood memories of wandering bush tracks with Mum. And then there might be a new find like the Purple Cockatoo Orchid, the blue amongst the varieties of Donkeys in the images below. These are all terrestrial orchids which flower in cooler periods and disappear to an underground tuber during the dry summer.

donkey_orchid 

various_orchids 

As well as an attractive backdrop to the city, the zone has sustained the eco system of the area and nature abounds on our doorstep. Kangaroos, koalas, even shy echidnas can often be spotted on walks along woodland trails through the hills.

kangaroo_koala_echidna 

Surrounding ourselves with all this natural beauty is good for health and wellbeing. A Japanese study showed it can lower cortisol (our main stress hormone) levels, lower pulse rates and blood pressure. There’s something calming and peaceful about being at one with our natural environment. So take to the hills - just keep an eye out for the Spiders and the Donkeys!