I took this photo in the Northern Territory, in Litchfield National Park just south of Darwin, but it's a good image of the Australian woodland as archetype. An Aussie friend saw it and said at once: "Yes, that's our national landscape. And that's our path." Maybe it goes somewhere interesting, but chances are it will lead to more of the same. At once we were spinning out the Australian national character: Don't get excited about the future; it's likely to be disappointing. Best keep your nose down. It'll probably just go on and on like this.
If you head out of any mainland capital and go for a walk in the woods, then except for the rare patch of rainforest it's likely to have this feel: A pervasive grey-green or "khaki" color. Trees of various sizes, at various densities, but mostly eucalypts, and mostly not very tall. Shrubs and grasses, now and then an herb. A heavy duff of dead leaves, slow to decay, smothering many sprouts.
The soil seems color-coded by region in a way that only underscores the sameness. In the north (pic above) there's often a burgundy tinge to the soil. In the southeast, around Sydney and Canberra, the path is usually orange:
... and in the west, I'm told, it's often a sandy beige. Sometimes the path leads somewhere amazing: a rock formation, a rainforest, an unusual flower or bird, but these things are striking in a distinctively Australian way, because of the reliable background on which they appear.
Even incongruity becomes reliable. Callitris, for example, is a conifer from the cypress family (juniper, redcedar, sequoia etc.) that somehow ended up in Australia. Conifers are so unimportant in Australian flora that I always think of Callitris as somehow exiled or astray. I've seen it in many dry woodlands in Australia, and in its thick dark green mass it always looks an exotic from the American west or Japan.
There's nothing like deep green to make you notice how grayed-out the background is.
There were many pleasures in my quick trip to the tropical north, but the strongest impression was of this remarkable constancy. Plants I met in the north were mostly different species of genera that I know from Sydney. It was a different team but with the same specialised roles, playing the same game.