Monday, January 31, 2011

Planting Soaked Cassia Seeds

As you can see comparing the previous post with today's, I am a mite confused as to the name of the species I'm working with. I'll have to leave it as Senna the previous post and Cassia this one. One of them will be correct. The field guides aren't able to tell me so I'll take the problem to the experts.

Cassia Seeds and Pods

Here the results of my soaking experiment. Many Australian plants have very hard seeds that need either a bushfire to pass over them before they'll germinate, or they need some kind of hands-on treatment to help the new plant force its way through the seed covering.

A sample of pods and their seeds straight from the shrub, to the left.

All the seeds to the right, top and bottom, had boiling water poured over them, in a coffee mug, and were soaked in that water for 24 hours.

The seeds at the top right are markedly bigger than those clumped at the bottom of the photo. The bigger ones were the ones I planted. Four of them in the place where I'd like them to grow, and the rest in pairs in seedling pots.

We shall see what we shall see.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Starting Native Senna Seeds

Native Senna
Since I've rooted out the non native sennas I've noticed a definite decrease in visiting yellow, and white migrant butterflies. (Two different species)

Hence I've been waiting impatiently for the one native senna I have growing to start producing seed pods.

You'll notice a couple of pods in the lower lefthand of the pic. They're flat where the non native version has  rounded pods.

I've got twenty or thirty seeds soaking in a coffee mug, in what was boiling water to resemble a bushfire passing over. Which I hope will give me three or four viable seeds.

There are so many roots at the base of the tung nut tree stump that to plant any seedlings there will be well nigh impossible for a couple of years. But I don't want to wait that long starting something as the weeds certainly won't. I thought, if I do it with seeds, they'll find their own ways for their roots.

And as I said above, the yellow migrants need more nectar and more places to lay their eggs. The east side of the house was always the non native senna haven, that I'm going to try to turn into native senna haven.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Maidenhair Ferns

The climate here, and certain areas in my yard are very amenable to ferns in general and I have up to half a dozen or so different species growing. I'm a bit confused with some whether they are ferns, hence my hesitance.

The west side of my house, between it and the six foot paling fence, is a moist shady territory that seems to resemble conditions on the ground in a rainforest. After rain the path, the mowed bit in the middle, is soggy for a long time.  A number of four metre plus trees grow along the neighbours' side of the fence. Maidenhair ferns love it there.

The bed of maidenhair fern (below) began with a few scraggly fronds buried in what was at that time an overgrowth of paspalum. No broadleaf back in those days. This luscious patch is about ten or twelve years old.

At the moment there's a bit of basket grass trying to colonise it but fortunately, basket grass is easy to pull up.

Maidenhair Fern

Rough Maidenhair

Rough maidenhair grows in clumps near all the house stumps and drain pipes on the west, and this year also along the southern, front of the house. 

New growth is pink and each clump continues to put out new shoots even in summer. Again there's a bit of basket grass having a go, it is nearly weeding time.

This fern was here when I moved in, twenty three years ago, and comes in wet years, extending to a fringe between the stumps and dies back to the individual clumps during droughts conditions. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mystery Grass Eating Caterpillar

Mystery Caterpillar
Today I discovered that the reason I have hardly any grass remaining -- not having to mow it is okay -- is not particularly that the grass stood with its toes in the water for a couple of weeks, but that this caterpillar and its brothers and sisters and cousins have been eating it.

Here seen chomping into the nardoo, water fern, in one of the bathtubs. Lately seen on grass stems, gathered under and in any dark place such as plant pots and mulch bags. 

They are all more or less this pattern but with variations of colour. I have heard of "army worms" eating grass but have never actually seen those. These look similar in anatomy to "cut worms" though the "cut worms" I've seen were greyish. Nothing worm -like about them, of course. 

Does anybody know what these are?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Project Ground Covers

Some butterflies lay their eggs on small plants that have difficulty surviving amongst introduced grasses and other weeds. An example is the egg fly butterfly which needs love flowers for its caterpillars, which themselves need partial shade to do really well. The local rainforest nursery considers them weeds.

Love Flowers among the Chives
The best success I've had growing love flowers is in the vege garden, away from rampant grasses. Pictured with a (careless) application of worm castings for nutrients.

Probably by the time they become weedy in the vege patch they'll have been seeding themselves in the main garden.

This happened with the arrowhead violet, which is a host plant for the highly endangered laced fritillary butterfly. So while I don't really expect to ever see that butterfly in my backyard, I decided to try grow the violet which itself is "becoming rare in coastal areas" (from Create More Butterflies)

After a couple of false starts, I now have a little population of self seeding arrowhead violet plants through the vege patch and its surrounds.

Arrowhead Violet 
The purple colouring of its winter and spring flowers attracts a number of small butterflies, such as the plumbago blue butterfly, that need nectar from blue flowers. The flowers on the plant through summer and autumn, as at the moment, are closed self-pollinating and without proper petals, and seed cases. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Weeding Broad Leaf Paspalum

One of the most useful things I've learned about broad leaf paspalum  is that each tussock is made up of individual plants, each called a tilder. Useful, because I realised it is possible, given the right conditions, each tilder can be pulled up by hand.

That's what I've been doing today. Pulling up broad leaf paspalum, though not quite individually. Due to the recent rain, the ground is quite soft. If I put my left hand down low around three or four tilders and pull steadily with that hand while giving the top of the bunch a good tug with my right hand, I generally get them up without breaking off the roots.

Rap them against the top of one shoe to get the dirt off and lay them down with the roots on a bunch of previously pulled leaves. This last to prevent them touching the lusciously wet soil and taking root again.

Broad leaf is a shade loving plant, an introduced pasture escapee, and is in direct competition with basket grass, the local native. In my experience so far, any area of native grass left without weeding for more than a couple of months, will be colonised by the broad leaf.

Many grasses are flowering and setting seed at the moment, likewise the basket grass, the reason I don't feel bad pulling up handfuls of it at the same time. I know it will quickly grow back now that it is so strong in my garden.

The area I weeded today was in need of a knock down ... everything was getting too tall, overgrowing my rubbish bin storage area. The native ground cover was in need of privileging ... all the (exotic) paspalum needed to be weeded out. And the soil is in need of nutrients. The heavy, frequent rain we've had leaches nutrients from the soil that can be replaces by a green manure limed down.

Tomorrow the lime, and possibly a light covering of half dry mulch to speed the rotting process. And all this was happening in  couple of square metres.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Green Tree Frog Spawning Event!

Last night they got it together. Or should I say, a couple, at least one male and at least one female green tree frog got together and produced some spawn. An egg mass. Fortunately in a bucket of rain water rather than in either of the bath tubs, both having their own squad of voracious fish.

The rain holding up for a half hour allowed me out with my phone to get a couple of shots. My increasing ability with the technology available to me, in this case Blue Tooth, magic! however it works, enabled me to "get" these images to my computer. My half baked skill turned this into a couple of tries. But finally, an image hot off the press as the saying goes..
Green Tree Frog Spawn

I shall be leaving the resulting tadpoles in the bucket until they are big enough not to be eaten by fish. Some people would say we already have enough green tree frogs in our immediate surroundings. I was even thinking that myself only a couple of noisy nights ago. 

Then I thought, probably we'll have a python move in soon. They like frogs. I'll need a replacement population of green tree frogs waiting in the wings and anyway I'll need them to eat up all the mosquitoes resulting from me letting water stand around in buckets.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Green Tree Frogs

Green Tree Froglet
Though this particular baby is from last summer, going on the competition of who can make the loudest noise, I had thought there would be many more tadpoles being made.

Not so, though there are these incredibly loud and ongoing concerts of male green tree frogs defending their territories, there have been no spawning events. Many recent  nights, even during rain, half a dozen  of the frogs filled the yard with their urgency.

With nothing to show for it next morning. I wonder if there are any females around. Each of the frogs sits in a drainpipe which expands the noise considerably. Last night the concert was still full throated at eleven p/m with just the one reedy little cane toad call weaving through.

Today, in between showers of you guessed  it, more rain, I started weeding the eastern strip along the fence, pulling out canna lilies and a lusciously green sprawling creeper. This is an area that gets a lot of shade and is very wet so I am aiming to replant it with something thirsty, native, and blossom bearing. A tall order.

Friday, January 7, 2011

I Lost My Tung Nut Tree

Orchard Swallowtail Chrysalis

Finally I found one of these, after following the birth and growth of at least a dozen caterpillars. The rain and/or birds have taken out numerous individuals. Adding to which is the difficulty even spotting the chrysalises.

Standing around studying this or that bush is no option when the rain is pouring down and in the three almost dry days, 2nd - 4th January, so much had to be achieved I didn't have time. Washing, for one. 

One huge change in the yard is that my beloved tung nut tree beside the house, deciduous, therefore sun in winter, shade in summer, started to rot. Leaves hung drooping then turned brown. White ants had got into it. The continuous rain since early December only finished the job. A window with a chain saw presented itself, and no more tree. 

Though these are not long lived trees, I hadn't expected it to go yet and I'll miss its blossoms in spring, its shade in summer, the sun through its bare branches in winter, the brown leaves in autumn, good for composting. The sky is very big now through the living room window. 

Tung Nut tree in Spring

Monday, January 3, 2011

Mud-dauber Wasps

Mud-Dauber Wasp Cells
A bit of tidying in the tool cupboard gave me this image. The wasp has obviously been coming here for more than a couple of seasons. WildLife of Greater Brisbane describes a Mud Dauber Wasp which covers the up to three layers of cells with extra mud. Each cell is filled with spiders for the wasp larva to eat while it matures.

I am assuming this is the similar species the text describes, Sceliphron formosum, which does not cover cells with extra mud and is a coastal wasp ranging from Northern Territory, through Queensland and down to New South Wales.

The wasp itself is slim with a thread-like waist. Gold and black. I don't know if it stings, usually one can wave this one gently out of the way if it flies nearby.

These are the wasps that overseas are implicated in aircraft crashes, and locally for getting into the smallest holes and stuffing lawn mower apertures with mud, keyholes, car ignitions and gas system intakes. Many local farmers spend hours undoing waspish labour to get things working again.