On 6th June 1830 Georgiana collected some ‘little blue flowers. and placed them in her baby’s coffin before she nailed down the lid. She wrote later that there was very little else in flower because it was the beginning of winter. A few weeks ago Mike and I went to Augusta with botanist Dr Alex George to see if we could locate the species she collected – or at least narrow down the search – and I wrote about that day here on my blog. We found Lobelia anceps in flower, definitely blue, and close to the right spot but wondered whether it would still be flowering in June. it seemed very tiny and rather difficult to collect, given that it was growing in a marshy habitat and not an abundantly flowering plant.
Our reservations were confirmed when we went back to the same place on June 6th, the anniversary of baby Elizabeth Molloy’s funeral, even though there were still a few tiny, isolated Lobelia flowers to be found. The whole area was very wet and we were wading well above our ankles to find the plants. When Georgiana collected her flowers, she was still extremely weak and unwell after after all she’d been through. It seemed even more unlikely that she would wade through the stream to find such tiny flowers in her long dress.
We were extremely fortunate in being given access to a block of land passed down through the generations from one of the first settlers, still undeveloped, just a few metres from where the Molloy tents were pitched in 1830 and we were told about a ‘little blue flower’ growing abundantly there as a WA native, and currently in bloom.
It seemed we were too late and would have to think again, but after about half an hour of searching and finding only seeds each time we came across the plant, I suddenly spotted one in full flower, growing in the sunlight by climbing over a shrub.
With so very few other alternatives at this time of year, we can feel fairly sure that these beautiful, blue, bell-shaped Billardiera flowers (previously Sollya heterophylla) are the same ones that Georgiana picked that day. They grow widely in the exact area where Georgiana was camped and they are in flower at the right time of year. They are certainly blue and they are easy to collect. Commonly known as the ‘native bluebell’ they were possibly the first local flowers she gathered in Augusta.
Sollya is still a common name for this creeping, climbing plant but I don’t yet have a definite identification for its new Latin name. Billardiera fusiformis or Billardiera heterophylla? Thanks to Richard Clark (Geographe Community Landcare Nursery and South West Capes branch of the Wildflower Soc. of WA) for the updated information on this plant. Here’s another photo!