South Australia’s four native Blue Devil species
David Muirhead says that South Australia actually has four native blue devil species!
He says that these are: –
#1:Paraplesiops meleagris : Southern Blue Devil
#2:Paraplesiops alisonae : Alison’s Blue Devil
#3:Eryngium rostratum : Blue devil
#4:Eryngium vesiculosum : Prostrate Blue devil (aka Prickfoot)
David adds, “Actually SA has 5-6 native species of blue devil, but I’ve not listed Eryngium plantagineum (Long eryngium) and Eryngium supinum (Little devil) as both occur in SA only in the Lake Eyre basin, with their main occurrences being in Qld and NSW (and probably just south of the NSW/Victorian border). Some botanists consider these two forms as being variants of a single species i.e. E. supinum is included by some authorities under E. plantagineum. (Refer Flora of South Australia Parts 1-4, 4th edition; The Flora and Fauna of SA Handbooks Committee 1986.)
I’ve set out the above not as an attempt at humour, but to provide all of us with a timely reminder that just because most SA snorkelers and divers immediately associate the term ‘blue devil’ with the two attractive marine fish species listed above does not mean there are no other species given the same common name (or variants of).
Conversely there may even be some botanists out there who have never even heard of the term being applied to fish.
Coincidentally, I find it of interest that the main two native SA species of plants known as blue devils i.e. #3 and #4 above (which are both small perennial herbaceous plants with usually prickly leaves and prickly flowers, rather thistle-like but with more attractive even ornamental pale blue to steel blue flowers closer to the ground) may be becoming uncommon, possibly even rare or threatened, but rather like the status of #1 in Reef Watch parlance, there is insufficient data to validate this widespread belief within botanical circles, which is based partly on historical records, suggesting these were cyclically common plants in many parts of SA, including on sandy flats and clay depressions behind coastal dunes and partly on the fact that most SA botanists seem to agree that nowadays, and for some decades, it has become increasingly difficult to find any blue devil plants, even when deliberately searching (e.g. with a view to propagation or research on their ecological importance as food plants for various native birds, reptiles, insects and so forth).
I, too, had never heard of a blue devil plant till about 10-12 years ago when a farming friend showed me an entire gently sloping hillside (previously cleared and cropped or grazed for many decades) covered in these blue, spiky but attractive and, for me, quite beguiling plants (somewhere near Mount Torrens is all I will divulge here!).
As I recall, they ‘appeared out of nowhere’ when he let that paddock lie fallow for one or two seasons. He’d had them identified by some quite excited field botany experts from one or government department or another, such as PIRSA or DENR.”
(David does not have any photos of a plant in flower, only some tube stock seedlings from Trees For Life. He has planted some seedlings he got from TFL and we will post a photo of a flower on the website as soon as they flower. There is an app called PlantNET which can be helpful identifying plant species, including Eryngium species. Eryngium rostratum is said to be a synonym for E.paludosum. The header image was sourced from http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Eryngium~paludosum)
Steve Reynolds is the current President of MLSSA and is a long-standing member of the Society. Steve is a keen diver, underwater explorer, photographer and is chief author of the Society’s extensive back catalogue of newsletters and journals.