Sunday, May 29, 2011

Arrow-leaved Violet

Viola betonicifolia
 I've been encouraging this violet to become a weed throughout my vegetable garden, for about a year now, by not pulling it out. And today I'm finally witnessing a flowering event. Two of the older plants are in flower.

This violet is an Australian native plant, or more accurately put, endemic to Australia. According to Mangroves to Mountains one of our field guides here, it is a tufted, herbaceous plant found in paperbark wetlands and mountains. Leaves to 20 cms, flowers to 20 mm spring and summer.

Though you could hardly call May spring! We haven't even had the shortest day of the year yet.

What allowed this species to spread, is its interesting ability to set fruit without first flowering! The plant develops seedcases at any time of the year, such as in the lower right hand corner of the pic just above the flower bud, that has split open and thrown the hard little seeds quite a distance.

This violet is host plant for an almost/probably extinct butterfly, the Fritillary, that I don't expect to see in my yard. Last sighting was about 30 years ago somewhere in Queensland.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Not Vegetable, Not Animal

Unidentified Ascomycetes
According to the latest stuff I'm reading, newsletters on the FungiMap site, Fungi are closer in kind to animals than to plants, except for the fact they don't move to get their food. But neither do sea sponges, so I can see a likeness.

They've been awarded their own kingdom. And the Kingdom of Fungi includes lichens, they apparently are fungi in a symbiotic relationship with alga.

The parts of fungi I've been so excited about lately are fruiting bodies of Macro Fungi (so called because they can be seen with the naked eye).

The little mob in the photo, though, are getting towards the teeny weeny size people my age can't see very clearly now.

So I was very pleased that my phone camera was up to the job even when I couldn't see what it was doing. One of those point-and-click situations. The "timber" the little things are growing on, are the air roots of a bangalow palm.

These "critters" are about 5 mm tall and they are the only ones of their kind I've ever seen. Still searching the field guides for their identity. There are only eleven all told so you can see I'm a little bit reluctant picking even one to get a closer look until maybe I meet someone with a microscope.

But you see the situation they are growing in? There's a bangalow blossom in one corner. Dead blossoms underfoot. A plant trying to muscle in. Detritus in the surrounds. The lower edge of the palm forming a gallery.

The scene doesn't look tidy. And that's the thing with biodiversity. It is only a word that means diversity of life. But it happens more, ie more diversity happens when things are allowed to be untidy. When dead blossoms aren't swept up. When lawn clippings aren't piled around the aerial roots of a palm. (The word aerial speaks for itself, air? Bangalows often grow in swampy ground.)

When tree litter is allowed to rot where it falls you get these tiny little treasures.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bee-eating Assassin Bug

Assassin Bug
This red and green assassin bug seems very comfortable on my rust-red and green-painted letterbox. Probably thinking it is camouflaged.

Right colours but wrong object. Like all other bugs it is a sap sucking insect, though this sort sucks the sap right out of any bee it can fly down.

I don't mind too much if he goes for the European honey bees, of which there are plenty around here. I don't think there are so many assassin bugs around a bee keeper needs to worry about them.

But I will mind, but that's nature for you, you can't stop the roundabout, if the bug goes for the native solitary blue-banded bees that so industriously pollinate my cherry tomatoes. They are the reason I have cherry tomatoes all the year round.

Here an Interesting article on blue-banded-bees, with a mug shot, explaining the reason why blue-banded-bees are so good with tomatoes. They are even being bred to pollinate tomatoes in glass houses.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Web Trail? and Butterfly Chrysalis

Web Trail over Woodchips
This beaded sticky thread was the mystery facing me this morning. It extended back and forth over the woodchip strata three times for about a metre, in a large zig zag.

I am guessing when I'm calling it a web trail. It wasn't a snail trail, and definitely had a web feel to it.

The beads might have been rain or dew, or they might have been sticky though they didn't feel sticky to me.

I think it is a spider's web. Anyone got any other explanations? Seen anything similar?

The other exciting thing that's been going on is the Large Grass-yellow Butterfly caterpillars spinning themselves into chrysalis, on the denuded Breynia bush, as below.

Large Grass-yellow Chrysalis

Although this shot is blurred, it's the best I've got at the moment.

This chrysalis appears to contain a female butterfly-to-be. Several males butterflies are often to be found nearby, and sometimes rest on the chrysalis, as if waiting for the female to hatch.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Processing Palm Leaves

 Every year a lot of palm leaves get dumped by the sides of roads, in parks on Landcare sites and in the bush. I have two palms in my yard, one bangalow and an alexander masquerading as a bangalow. I get at least twelve leaves a year to process.

Cut Palm Frond with Clippers
I usually wait until the leaves have been rained on for a while. They are a lot easier to handle when they are wet. First I cut off the frond part in 12 inch long bits. I use them around the yard, eg on paths, for mulch.

Also in the picture are my special "lady-sized" clippers. No way can I even get my hands around the normal sized ones. Smaller tools go a long way towards allowing women to be independent at this kind of job.

Next is the sheath part. Some people make beaut baskets and containers with these, and they are also useful as water troughs for wild life.

Bangalow Palm Sheath Folded Up
But because they take so long to rot down, you soon get too many. I fold them up, as you can see (my shadow in the lower left taking the pic) I fold them up, while they are damp and put a brick on them to keep them in that shape while they wait for the next rubbish collection.

Because I put them into the rubbish bin, one at the time. Them, thorny rose clippings and maybe the odd blown-over tree are the only green waste I send off the premises. And only because I have no other way of disposal.

I fantasise that one day we'll have a green waste collection in our local towns to take care of palm fronds.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cat Curfew Needed

Baby Carpet Python
This is what I found one morning recently on my grassed area. It's too bad that when I keep my own cat inside at night, other people's cats hunt in my yard.

Though, since it happened during the night, I'm not absolutely sure it was caught in my garden. Perhaps the predator brought it in from somewhere else.

My desire for a cat curfew stands.
I've been brainstorming what to do about it and getting some snarky ideas. Put an electric current right around my yard, hire a trap from the Council and inject incomers with a gadget that will shock them when they come near my wire? I'm told this works with dogs who wear the gadget in their collars. OK, I realise this is the stuff of science fiction. I just wish that more cats were kept inside, or caged, at night.

The poor disarticulated carcass is lying on 1 cm graph paper, and so you can see that its full length might have been between 30 and 40 cm. Probably about six months old when it met its grisly fate.

I suspect a large kookaburra could easily eat a snake this size. But at least it would eat the whole animal. I don't think either a currawong (crow-like bird) or pacific bazza (raptor) or owl would tackle a snake. I certainly don't know of any animal other than a cat that would've torn it apart like that.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Large Grass-yellow Butterfly caterpillar

When you have caterpillars you have to expect to lose a few leaves.

This caterpillar and four or five little mates are busy at it in one of my (fairly) newly planted breynia bushes.

And that is the trouble. Neither of the breynias have been in the ground for longer than about four months. And here we are already supplying sustenance to these cheery butterflies-in-waiting.

Sometimes in these situations it is difficult to know what to do. Get rid of a couple of caterpillars to save the bush and a couple of the caterpillars? Or let nature take its course and let all the caterpillars starve? Or let the bush die from lack of leaves and replant in the spring? Got any thoughts on this?

I thought it was too late and/or too early for butterflies to reproduce now, in the cold of May, but the authors of Create More Butterflies consider it normal so I must too.

I quote, 'They breed one last generation before winter. Then hide in the shrubbery to emerge on sunny days to sip nectar from Arrowhead Violets and other flowers.' page 26

That is a bit of a worry, because the arrowhead violets haven't flowered yet. Maybe they will this winter. If only we had a bit more sun. As it is we're having more rain and cloud than sunny winter days.

I'd like to get onto some more serious things but neither my old Lumix camera nor my phone-camera is giving up its harvest of photos to my computer for some still unfathomable reason. And so I still have a  dismembered snake in the fridge, against the time I work out the problems with the technology and can take the required shot for that awful story.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My Favourite Spider

Two-spined Spider
I have been watching this two-spined spider for about four months now, checking it every day.

It is not particularly big. It's body is probably about the size of the top of my little finger.

Here it has just got a moth and is beginning to feed. Moisture on the leaves tell of another wet day.

I'm amazed that it is still in residence, still under the same three leaves, on the same small tree.

The Wildlife of Greater Brisbane tells me it is most common in summer. So it will be interesting to see how long the spider will last. Since we're getting temperatures down in the single digits now.

Apparently it occurs throughout Australia. So if you live on this old rock, keep a look out for it. The spider is very distinctive with its two white spines, like eyes, and wide smiling 'mouth' along the front edge of its stomach.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fungi in Winter

Winter has set in with a vengeance. With rain on a cold wind. Winter does often finally start that way, after a thunderstorm, which we have been having in the last week or so. What's unusual about this year's weather is that it came so late. Here we are in May already.

Hard Fungus on Stump
Orange Fungus on Dead Tree

As I had expected, the cold definitely affects the type and number of fungi fruiting bodies to be observed. Hardy 'shelf' fungi such as these are fine. Neither are named, as you can see, I'm still a complete beginner at matching what I see, to the names in books.

I thought the orange one might be a curry punk (Piptoporus australiensis) but it is now turning white on top so I may have to research it some more.

They may go dormant, I haven't had the chance to see that yet, but I will try to record that, by way of regular photo shoots.

I haven't seen any of the varieties of ink caps for more than a week and the Stropharians and Lysurus fruiting bodies tend to be much smaller than the warm weather efforts.
F33, Troop among the Chickweed
Of the more ephemeral sorts there are only a few little brown agarics hiding in the chickweed. As you can see from the caption, I started to number my finds. I had to. When i first became obsessed, I was finding new (to me) examples every day. Now that's down to a new one every couple of days and I have extended my fungi finds to my walks in the district. I've got approximately 70! types in my photo collection.