The devastating fires over the Black Summer in the Blue Mountains have produced one remarkable display, the pink flannel flower (Actinotus forsythii). These flowers have been seen in burnt out areas from Katoomba to Lithgow and north to Newnes. The huge number of sightseers has caused the national parks rangers to institute traffic and parking control measures at easy access places like Narrow Neck.
The Pink Flannel Flower is special because of its ephemeral nature. It only germinates after conditions of fire and then good rainfall. It is believed that they germinate in response to bushfire smoke rather than heat.
Researchers at the University of NSW Centre for Ecosystem Science are aiming to find out more about the species, including how long their seeds can remain between fire events in a ‘deep dormancy’ before germination.
The smoke-derived chemical karrikinolide is the active ingredient to trigger the plants’ emergence. Lab tests involved creating so-called smoke-water infused with the chemical to prompt germination.
Left: View near State Mine Gully Road (Jill Green). Right: Narrow Neck close up (John Martyn)