Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Bitter bush

Several years ago I was doing some potting-up in a community nursery and the manager handed me a plant in a tube, which I planted in a shady area of my garden. It's grown beautifully in that spot and actually I have to prune it back so I can get down the path and access the grey-water pump. It pleases me very much.
Adriana quadripartita (glabrous form) Rare Bitter-bush really is rare, classified as endangered in Victoria. It's known from only a handful of spots on the calcareous sands on the Bellarine and Mornington peninsulas, but grows very easily from cuttings so it is being used in coastal planting. The male and female plants are separate and the one in my garden is a female. The two-armed styles are usually red (mine is very pale red), petals are absent, and there are up to seven flowers on each short spike.

Monday, 29 September 2008


Our plant survey at Bannockburn was rewarding because the area along the creek yielded lots of species for us to argue over. This one in particular was tricky. We didn't have enough references with us to solve the problem, but once we got home and put the photos up on the screen and pulled Flora Vic off the self we were in business. Our guess at Daviesia ulicifolia Gorse Bitter-pea was right. The problem was caused because, as Flora Vic says, it's "an extraordinarily variable species". Our plant had spiny phyllodes but they were very hairy and the books didn't mention that, it was growing low to the ground and the books said it was a shrub, and we didn't have any pods - Bitter-peas have triangular shaped pods.

There were a few orchid leaves hidden in the grass but very few orchids flowering. We found one patch of the Golden Moths Diuris chryseopsis standing proud and looking brilliant. These orchids didn't grow in the area where I grew up and I remember being overcome by their beauty when I first saw them. They're relatively common in the grasslands around Geelong.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Colour on the plains

This plant doesn't look like anything else on the grassy plains. In fact it almost looks like it doesn't belong. The big fleshy leaves and bright in-your-face pink flowers are unmistakable. It's Inland Pigface Carpobrotus modestus, seen growing here beside a little creek near Bannockburn today. Cotula coronopifolia, the yellow water buttons that 'they' took a long time to decide was not an Aussie plant but South African only, is also putting on a show.
Pigface is edible, but I think they should find a nicer common name to make it more palatable.

Thursday, 25 September 2008


I'm going to have to get myself a moss book. This moss was growing in the wet forest in the Otways. The sporophytes, in this and all the mosses, are very attractive and varied, and the capsules as well. According to one reference I have the spore capsules shrink as they age and this causes the air inside to compress. Eventually the cap pops off and spores are fired up to two metres. That's impressive, but apparently this process produces an audible 'pop'. Now that's something I'd like to see and hear. Maybe I'll start a bog garden in the old aquarium packed away beneath the house.

This I think is a liverwort or a hornwort, but I know even less about these so that's all I'm saying.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Otway ferns

Black beauty

Weeaproinah, one of the wettest places in Victoria, and home of the Otway Fly. No, not a fly, a Fly - a treetop walk over a rainforest gully in the beautiful Otway Ranges.

It is also the home of the Otway Snail. We found the snail today while we were surveying a property next to the Fly, listing the plants, insects, birds and mammals. The Black Otway Snail Victaphanta compacta is carnivorous (it eats other snails, worms and insect larvae apparently). It's also rare and endangered. If they're rare it's possibly not because of logging, farming or plantations, but from natural causes, because we found dozens of snail shells on the forest floor. Some creature gathers them into one place and breaks open the shell to eat them. What could it be? A bird sitting on a branch above? A bush rat? A bandicoot? We had no idea.

Friday, 19 September 2008

A sad legacy

Thirty years ago a new house was built beside the country road in a lovely spot that is between a river and a state forest, and Ron and Thelma lived there for all of that time. Ron could be seen tending his garden most days. Recently Thelma died and Ron moved, so the property is for sale.
When I called in to have a look the other day I was sad to see another legacy of their occupation. Ron has been dumping his garden rubbish on the roadside opposite their home. It looks very pretty at the moment - but the garden plants shouldn't be there. They are now weeds.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Bits and pieces

Barry has written about a birdwatching day on Swan Bay near Queenscliff here. He's one of the best birders in this area and runs the bird group of the Geelong Field Nats Club. I was told by a friend that 'Field Naturalists always go out in the field, no matter what the weather', and Barry's report is evidence of the rewards for doing just that.

Something has had a good meal of the leaf below. Obviously the veins weren't very tasty.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Egg and bacon anyone?

Every spring I look forward to seeing these shrubs flowering. They're so ungainly, bold, angular, flexible and colourful. The Hop Bitter-pea Daviesia latifolia is a member of the Fabaceae family, the brown and yellow 'egg and bacon' pea plants. Apparently it got its common name because the 'leaves' or phyllodes taste very bitter. Now why would you even try the taste? The 'latifolia' bit describes the broad leaves. That's more like it.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Position is everything

It's actually not a bad choice. The old shed is fox-proof, there are plenty of holes to fly through, it's dry and out of the wind, the shrubbery outside provides plenty of food - what more could you want?

When we visited last week the chicks had left the nest so I'm not absolutely sure that it was a White-browed Scrubwren family who took up temporary residence, but is anyone going to disagree with me? They are certainly resident in the garden, and there were two young birds being fed while we were there.

And as an aside, the side mirror on our car got a beating from a scrubwren while we were there. He obviously thought there was a possible rival in his territory. I've never seen them do that before. Fairy-wrens, yes. Scrubwrens, never.

Friday, 12 September 2008

A sticky end

This week I got just a little bit fascinated by insects caught on the sticky globules on the leaves of sundews. In the first photo a small insect is caught on Drosera whittakeri - I only ever see small insects on these plants. The other photos are Drosera peltata - some quite large insects get tangled up with this beauty. I reckon there's a PhD in what types of insects get caught and why, or maybe someone's already done it. The last photo shows the leaf after it has slowly curled in around the insect in order to absorb the nutrients.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Curious taxonomy

If you have an hour or two to spare check out this webpage - www.curioustaxonomy.net
Find out how Kryoryctes cadburyi got its name, or Notamacrocarpus, and many many more. They're all funny, interesting or curious.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Egg on my face

My friend Dave will know what this is, I thought. He's the local expert on insects. So I emailed the photo to him, and asked him what insect he thought could have laid these tiny eggs. I'd found them attached to a plant stalk, close to the ground, in the Brisbane Ranges several days ago.

Not eggs, he said. Eggs would be even in size and laid in a pattern. Maybe it's a fungus, he said. So I hit the reference books. Slime moulds develop sporangia after the slime stage, and this is the shape of one of the forms. [Check out Fuhrer's A field guide to Australian fungi, p351 - it's very similar to my photo. It's label is Leocarpus fragilis.]

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Brisbane Ranges

It was bleak and windy but we went out to the Brisbane Ranges anyway. We hardly saw or heard a bird, the majority of plants weren't flowering yet and the coffee shop at Steiglitz had closed by the time we got there but we had fun in spite of all of that. This area has suffered from several hot bushfires in the last few years and the bush is still recovering. Sutherlands Creek, at the old gold-mining village of Steiglitz, had water in it and I haven't seen that for a while.

We had a good time wandering the bush tracks, and I got a few nice photos. There were Blue Fingers orchids flowering in a few spots, Cyanicula caerulea, and the Prickly Crytandra Cryptandra tomentosa was flowering as well. The wattles were looking spectacular.