Den Brer Rabbit said "I don't keer w'at you do wid me, Brer Fox, ...but don't fling me in dat brier-patch." …from the Uncle Remus stories
The Tasmanian wilderness is the only place in the world you'll find the ferociously prickly plant known as scoparia (Richea scoparia). It forms dense thickets that few bushwalkers would want to be flung into. Yet one January, I began to develop some Brer Rabbit characteristics (given that he actually DID want to be thrown into the bushes in order to escape from Brer Fox). Because on seeing the flowering scoparia surrounding Mt Rufus in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, I gladly spent hours wandering among, even flinging myself into, this stunning vegetation just to get a closer look.
A meandering, slowly ascending track approaches Mt Rufus from the Shadow Lake side. The first hint of what was ahead came when we met a pair of walkers in a deep green patch of rainforest between Mt Hugel and Mt Rufus. On their return from the top of Rufus, the two were breathless for reasons other than exertion. It was the wildflowers they'd just walked through that had them struggling for words.
One, a landscape gardener, simply said "I could only wish to design anything so superb!" We walked on in the direction from which they'd come, and began to suspect they were exaggerating. The flowers we were seeing were patches of bauera and lemon boronia: lovely enough, but nothing to blog home about.
But then we turned a corner and started to walk through broad acres of flowering scoparia: red and deep pink first, but eventually gold, white, crimson, cream, ochre and most colours in between.
I have seen plenty of scoparia before, far too much on occasion. The foliage is a Swiss Army knife for inflicting pain on human skin. It can spike, gouge, cleave, scratch, rasp, pierce and shred both skin and clothing if you're unfortunate enough – or foolish enough – to be exposed to it for any length of time.
I will admit that I have also seen some delightful patches of it in flower. But never have I seen such a concentration of its beauty over such an extended period. For literally four of the seven hours we spent walking up, around and down from Mt Rufus, we were among flowering scoparia.
I know roses have their fans, and I do appreciate a good rose. I've even enjoyed a visit to the National Rose Garden in northern Tasmania. But no rose gardener could come close to creating a garden that would hold me enraptured in the way the "roses" around Rufus did.
Some say we should forgive roses their thorns because of their beauty. After this walk I'm strongly inclined to say we must forgive scoparia its barbs. In fact I have an insatiable desire to be lifted bodily and flung again into that beautiful briar. Where are you Brer Fox?