On rare pink flowers, fires and resilience

And taking reluctant teenagers on long hikes

Many things happened in the early months of 2021. I think most of us were excited about the new year and were looking forward to getting back to normal.

How wrong we were! 2021 has been a rollercoaster of a year!

This is a story of something wonderful. Something AWEsome.

Thousands of plant and nature lovers (and my children) took themselves on socially distanced pilgrimages into mountains and ridges to find fields of these tiny rare flowers. The pink flannel flower, Actinotus forsythii, which is related to plants like celery and carrots and of course the iconic white Flannel flower called, and we responded.

This delicate herb requires highly specific climatic conditions for the seed, which has waited in the soil since the last flowering decades ago, to germinate. For these flowers, it was bushfires of 2020 which devastated so much of Australia, followed by rainfall in 2021 which allowed them to grow. Their climatic requirements are so specific these plants are next to impossible to propagate.

We may not see this again in our life time

I told my children while they alternatively fought with each other and sulked. They were unimpressed. Teenagers and preteens on their 11 zillionth bush walk can be like that.

Until we got to the ridge where burnt out shrubs regrew and the ground was carpeted in soft pink. Then there was silence.

Along with many other plant-pilgrims we sat in silent awe and wonder, between the blackened and burnt Banksias and Casuarina’s on a ridge in Sydney’s Blue Mountains. There was an atmosphere of reverence as we considered how the seeds waited so many years only to be activated by the wild and devastating fires of 2020, which had roared up the ridges and cliffs where we sat, consuming everything in their path. Or so it seemed. Life remained and seasons passed. Rains fell. We are grateful.

It was at this time that ECE was just getting started, and we looked to the lesson of the Actinotus forsythii, that out of adversity comes wonder, awe and resilience. We took inspiration from this experience for our logo and to set the direction for ECE.

ECE is dedicated to supporting our next generation of policy makers and leaders in sustainability. May they learn from the traditional owners of the land how to care for the sacred country we live on and follow in imitation of the adults around them in their careful custody of country, earth, plants, animals and each other, and grow in awe and wonder at the natural world.

I would love to end this blog post

by telling you the elder one quit provoking her brother or that the brother played happy car games all the way home because of the impact that visiting this little pink flower plant inspired, but sadly that isn’t true. However I know that continually giving young people the opportunity to experience first hand nature’s miracles and devastations is the best way to nourish the seed of awareness and respect for the planet. I was recently pleasantly surprised to have these two willingly commit to ongoing volunteering to remove weeds with landcare, and they show every sign of loving it. Perhaps it was the pink flannel flowers…

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