Monday, February 28, 2011

Sweating Weeds to Death

Canna lilies trying for a come-back
I have been trying to get rid of a bunch of canna lilies for a number of years. I'd weed them and they'd grow back. These are not the dark red leaf variety with the beautiful orange flowers, but a weedy sort with tiny red flowers.

They're right beside the easterly fence and shaded in winter by the garage as well. But I have the place picked for my cassias, the seedlings I've been showing you.

It's also where the introduced cassias liked to grow, that's how I figured out it must be a good place for cassias. I admit it's the kind of assumption I often make, with no more than observation to back it up.

I've tried pulling up individual plants but this is possible only when the ground is very soft and then only with recently sprouted seeds. Thousands more sprouted.

I've tried poisoning with a herbicide dropped into the centre of each larger plant with an eye dropper.
Canna Regrowth Being Sweated
The plants so treated took absolutely no notice. Grew on regardless.

Digging out the old tubers would have left too many bits. I've had that experience with trying to get rid of excess turmeric.

The black plastic cure was something tried out at a Landcare site I once visited. The bits lying on it are plants I weeded from the edges.

It's been on there a week and we've had some steaming hot days. But I want to make sure the tubers melt. And all the seeds sprout and die.

I'll let you know what happens.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cassia Seedlings

Cassia seedlings in pots

Cassia seedlings in Situ
A while ago I described the way to treat cassia seeds to get them to sprout. The coffee mug and boiling water way.

These are my results so far. Each pot had in it two seeds. As you can see, that's a fifty percent strike rate.

(The little thing in the top left hand corner is a weed.)

The fifty percent strike rate held true in the in-situ experiment, as you can see.

This little experience is another example of what some people would call nature's wastefulness, producing a hundred seeds and having just thirteen sprout.

However you may recall that I didn't give all the seeds the chance to sprout. I choose the biggest after they'd been soaked.

And, anyway, in nature, every single seed is used when not to grow up and become a shrub, then to feed the myriads of small lives that live in its
local food web.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Moss on Citrus Tree
In this wet wet summer I have mosses growing that I have never seen before.

This particular variety is quite tall as mosses go. With fronds of about three centimetres, in the bottom half of the photo, on the southern side of a bare citrus trunk.

I'm not able to give you a name. Obviously I have not come across the right site or field guide yet.

Normally all the moss I see grows on the ground in the front yard, which in winter is in continual shade.

I wonder if this is a moss at all. What else could it be?

Drop me a comment if you recognise it?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Army Worms turning into Navy Worms

Army worm crossing water

Army worm climbing nardoo stem
Army worms have begun to eat the nardoo water fern in the wetland habitat. They're fearless little critters that seem to walk on water. The azola fern helps them by behaving like little rafts that can be reached for with half the caterpillar's body length lying on the water. I haven't seen one drown yet.

It has taken me a long time to figure out how they even got into the bath and why I never saw any small size caterpillars, for that's what they are in reality, moth caterpillars. But all is discovered. They climb up grass stems leaning against the bath.

The nardoo fern looks much the worse for wear. Most of the leaves that stand up above the water are eaten.

One thing I haven't yet seen is any orchid dupe wasps taking on the caterpillars on the wetland. So perhaps eating nardoo, on a wetland, can be seen as a survival stratagem.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Old" Tadpoles

Advanced Tadpoles
There are a good crowd of large tadpoles in the wetland habitat. Probably a dozen of them that I suspect should by now have had their legs and be practicing jumping around. To my mind the last spawning event was weeks ago.

It was January 10th as a matter of fact. Exactly five weeks ago.

But I have noticed in previous years, that if the conditions aren't exactly right -- whatever they are supposed to be -- the tadpoles seem to stop growing. The twelve or so remaining in the bath seem perfectly happy well, of course, they don't know any different.

I can't imagine that it is because the water is too cold, a problem in a previous year. If anything, the water has been warmer than usual. I've had the filter/fountain pump going for days while it was hot
(40 degrees +) to try and cool the water by moving it and by contact with the air, sort of on the same premise as sweating.

It seemed to help but wasn't enough. Next I rigged up some old shade cloth over the ponds. Had them on there for three or four days until the weather changed.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

St Andrews Cross Spider

St Andrews Cross Spider
This exquisite spider is a common variety in my garden, this particular one has made its web mid height in the lilly pilly tree. The body is about a centimetre long, so it is not yet very big. Nor has it yet developed the distinctive "St Andrews" stripes in its web.

The Wildlife of Greater Brisbane, the field guide I use to find out about local animal species, doesn't know why these spiders make these stripes.

I wonder whether it is not a way to seem bigger. Normally the spider sits on its web with the arms of the cross extending its paired legs.  Nor does this one have a very tidy web.

Friarbirds are a common predator, says the book, and since I do see these occasionally I suspect them the reason for the here today gone tomorrow flavour of St Andrews Cross spiders.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Birds Nest Fern in Trouble

Birds Nest Fern in Trouble
During the 40 degree centigrade/102 degrees Fahrenheit heatwave we had here a couple of days ago, I thought I would lose my twenty-five-year old birds-nest fern, shown above, literally keeling over. 

Half a dozen leaves were sunburnt and its rootball had dried out and shrunk, causing it to lean over in the hole into which I had transplanted it a couple of years ago at the feet of a bangalow palm and a tree fern. 

I'd had to move it in the first place because it originally grew at the base of a tree that died. That place became much too sunny. This new place again, when with all the rain we've been having, the trees above it grew higher, leaving the poor old birds-nest in the sun again.  

Birdsnest Fern out of the ground and being Moved
I waited until after the sun went down before I began though it was still hot and humid. I started with soaking the rootball for first aid. Then cut most of its mature leaves off, a little over halfway along their length. Manoeuvred it onto a bit of black plastic to drag it to its new and hopefully permanent home. It may work. Here's hoping.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Orchid Dupe Wasps

Most mornings in the last week I've opened the back door to the sight of dozens of Orchid Dupe Wasps overflying the grassed areas at a height of approximately 5 to 7 centimetres, stopping suddenly, and the female wasps digging their ovipositor into the ground.

Flying too fast for me to get a shot at them, this website gives a clear picture of an individual wasp.

These wasps prey on the army caterpillars which have been in plague proportions on my grassed areas, using the caterpillars to deposit eggs into. The subsequent larva will eat the caterpillar. The more the better I say, so that there will be fewer of the army worms eating a swathe through the grass.

A gratifying example, I thought, of the web of life.

Further there's been the heat, 40 degrees centigrade plus in the back yard, for a couple of days already, and distress among the worms, which in trying to keep cool in the bottom compartment of the worm farm, i'm guessing, fall through the tap hole. Every night there is quite a clutch of them in bucket under the tap. Mostly I just return them back into the top compartment, hoping for the best.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Moth Eggs on Stalks

Once you've seen one of these clutches of moth eggs, they become visible in many places. This one on the underneath of a window sill, therefore difficult to include something to compare them too, to get an idea of size.

Imagine them about the size of long sewing pins. I have no idea whether the hatching creature will eat the stalk, or just climb down, or in this case up it, or use it as a jumping off point.

Wildlife of Greater Brisbane, the field guide I use, tells me that while it is known that several thousands of moths make their homes in this area, hardly anything is known about them.
Moth Eggs on Stalks
Yes! I managed to add another field guide to the Print Resources page. The design is not ideal, but hey, at least the image stayed where it was supposed to.