Our recent trip to Western Australia was originally planned for 2020 as a celebration of Majella’s 70th birthday. She wanted to see the wildflowers and we planned to be there around the time of her birthday in September which is peak wildflower season. COVID-19 intervened in 2020 and 2021, closing the Western Australian border. In 2022 one of our intended travelling companions, Lynne, was ill. This year the borders were open and we were all ready to travel.
The stunning variety of wildflowers we saw in Western Australia often left us wondering what we were seeing. I took more than 800 photographs over the two weeks and, after processing and culling for duplicates and poor images, I finished with just over 400 photos in my Flickr album for the trip. Of those a few more than half are of wildflowers and I tried to minimise duplication so that probably represents close to 200 different species.
I process photos in Adobe Lightroom and export them as JPGs that I import into Apple Photos and upload to Flickr. My Canon R6 records GPS locations from my iPhone and I check those during processing to ensure they are as accurate as possible. I add captions and titles so that I, and others, might have some idea of what they represent. Those metadata items are preserved in the JPGs I export for Apple Photos upload to Flicker. For flowers it seemed obvious to identify them in the title but with such variety and unfamiliarity that was never going to be an easy task.
Although my first degree was in applied science and included some biology, I’m no botanist. What little gardening I’ve done has enabled me to identify a few common garden plants. Occasional walks in the bush have added a few common natives to my repertoire but beyond that I’m mostly lost. I needed help to have any chance of identifying the flowers I had photographed.
My usual ’go to’ for identifying flowers or birds from photographs is Google Lens. It is easily accessed from the standard Google search engine page by clicking on the stylised camera that appears to the right of the search field. There are options to enter a URL where an image can be found or to upload an image. I usually generate smallish JPGs suited for posting to Facebook and simply drag them into the Google window. Google will attempt to match my image with similar images that appear on the web. With luck it finds matching images that have been properly identified. That approach worked for many, but not all, of my Western Australian wildflowers. Google Lens works on visual similarity and sometimes finds multiple possibilities that match for colour, shape, or other characteristics. Additional checking is sometimes needed for reasonably confident identification.
With a little searching, sometimes initiated from what Google had found, I located some other sites that were helpful for confirmation. Probably the most useful of those was Florabase, a site produced by the Western Australian Herbarium. It supports a simple search by genus and/or species name and a more advanced search in which additional details such as colour, flowering season, local authority area, and more can be added. In each case the response will be a list of one or more possibilities (or an indication that nothing matched). Items in the list mostly have linked photographs and other details including locations where the species has been found. Once I had a possible genus or species name from Google Lens I could search Florabase and look for a matching photograph and possible locations. That usually enabled me to identify the species or at least the genus with reasonable confidence if it was associated with the appropriate location.
Occasionally I came across sites with information about specific locations. On the second day of our trip, while staying at New Norcia, we drove out to Rica Erickson Nature Reserve and I later found the comprehensive guide produced by Lesley and Michael Brooker which I used to help with identifying some of what we saw that day. Searching Flickr for images referencing a location like Kondil Wildflower Park helped in some cases and one of the most helpful local resources I found was a blog devoted to Esperance Wildflowers. It has a very extensive list of species usually with multiple photos and descriptive detail.
I’m not confident that I have all my images of wildflowers correctly identified. I’ve done the best I could and would be happy to hear from anybody who can correct those I got wrong. Attempting identifications resulted in my photo processing taking longer than usual, almost two weeks from the time we arrived home.