It is such a striking thing - coming across a bright red carpet of delicate short lived plants in the harsh expanse of Australia's inland deserts. The Sturt Desert Pea, (proper name, Swainsona formos
a) is a beautifully delicate life in a harsh place where life is tough.
In 1699, William Dampier thought these little plants were beautiful when he came across them in the Archiplego off the Western Australian coast. He said that this little plant grew as;
"a creeping vine that runs along the ground ... and the blossom like a bean blossom, but much larger and of a deep red colour looking very beautiful".
A bit later on in 1844, the famous inland explorer, Captain Charles Sturt noted their beauty several times in his diary as he traversed the Australian interior. Around the Darling River system Sturt said;
"we saw that beautiful flower the Clianthus formosa [sic] in splendid blossom on the plains. It was growing amid barrenness and decay, but its long runners were covered with flowers that gave a crimson tint to the ground".
Sturt marvelled at this robust and resilient beauty thriving in the harshest of places. Maybe we like this little plant because it's seeming triumph tells us about ourselves. People are also able to be beautiful in tough places. People are short lived so enjoy them while you can. People may look weak but can be very long lasting and remain beautiful..... If this little plant can thrive in tough places, then so can we; so can I?
Is it because we like beautiful things that seem to triumph over harsh things, that we hold up the Sturt Desert Pea as the State floral emblem in South Australia and back that up by protecting them by law?
Beauty seems at its moat beautiful when the conditions are at their toughest.