Tuesday, February 13, 2018

10 Butterfly Plants for the Toowoomba District

 The secret of attracting butterflies to your garden. 

Well, there's more than one "secret";
SECRET 1: Provide baby food. Butterflies’ favourite gardens are the ones that will let them raise a family. Put in plants that their caterpillars can survive on, and they will come - BUT be aware that most butterflies can breed on only a few plant species. Some can breed on only one. These are called “host plants”.  Female butterflies are attracted by “their” plants’ special smell, (and male butterflies are attracted by females) .
SECRET 2. Know your local butterflies. Putting in plants for species which never come to our district will get you nowhere. Right now, it’s the peak of the butterfly season - a good time to get out and look for butterflies. If you don’t already know your locals, it’s a great time  to start learning. If you garden seems to have a poor selection, take a trip to somewhere with a better selection of surviving bushland, to learn what could be attracted to your garden with the right host plants.
SECRET 3. Choose local native plant species.
SECRET 4. Plenty of flowers for nectar. Flowers with a "honey" smell do the job best. This is a "secret" with erratic results, though. Plenty of people plant flowers with nectar, but many native butterflies are disappearing from Australia's suburbs for lack of host plants. Don't count on using "Secret 4" by itself!

Butterfly Host plants for our Own District.
A Shortlist
1. NATIVE CASSIA,  Senna acclinis and other Senna species (small shrubs) - Yellow and lemon migrants, small grass-yellow, large grass-yellow
2. MONKEY ROPE VINE Parsonsia straminea (Large climber) - Common crow, Native wanderer
3. SNOW WOOD Pararchidendron pruinosum (Small tree) - Tailed Emperor
4. ORANGE SPADE FLOWER - Hybanthus enneaspermus (Small perennial) - Glasswing
5. DARLING PEA - Swainsona queenslandica (Small, spreading perennial) - Grass Yellow
6. CRESSIDA BUTTERFLY VINE -Aristolochia meridionalis (Very small light climber)  - Clearwing
7. CURRACABAH Acacia concurrens (Medium wattle tree) - Imperial hairstreak, Tailed Emperor
8. FAN FLOWER Scaevola albida (Groundcover perennial)  - Meadow Argus
9. ZIG ZAG VINE Melodorum leichhardtii (Large climber) - Four-barred swordtail, pale triangle, eastern dusk-flat
10. LEOPARD ASH Flindersia collina (Small to Medium tree) - Orchard swallowtail
11. JACKWOOD Cryptocarya glaucescens (AND OTHER Cryptocarya species. Medium shade tree. - Blue triangle

Getting Hold of the Plants.
All the above are currently available from the Crows Nest Community Nursery.
Normally only open on Thursday mornings, it is also having an Open day on Saturday 3 March. 8.30am - 2.00pm.
To find the nursery, see

For a longer list of suitable local  Butterfly host plants see
There is also a recent ABC article on the excellent work being done by Helen Schwenke on butterfly host plants in SE Qld coastal districts. Excellent reading.

Some Local butterflies
Common Crow

Tailed Emperor

Blue Triangle


Meadow Argus

Grass Yellow

Orchard Butterfly

Grass Blue

Native Wanderer



Saturday, February 3, 2018

Something special, in Rainy Weather.

Tar Vine Boerhavia dominii

Some of you will be familiar with this delightful little plant.

I photographed the one below near Wyreema,

and the one below this was at McEwan State Forest near Pittsworth. As you can see, the leaves vary a bit from place to place.

The plant itself is not showy enough to ever become popular as a garden ornamental, but is pretty, all the same. The tiny flowers are exquisite. As a romantically-inclined farm child from the Darling Downs, I was sure they would be fairy favourites.

A friend from Pittsworth sent me these photos yesterday, showing the amazing transformation of the seeds after rain. She says the little blobs which have developed to encase the seeds are “slimy”.

Aren’t they beautiful? If you click on the photos, you can get a good look at the details.

On the second rainy day, the seeds are falling off, and collecting under the plant, looking "like frogspawn".

The reason for it all is that the seeds contain mucilage, which swells when wet, encasing the seed in a little damp ball to improve its chances of staying wet long enough for the newly germinated seeds to have a good chance of growing. Now would be a very good time to move some of those seeds into a bare dry patch that needs a bit of ground cover, and tuck them under a light cover of damp soil, being careful to preserve their mucilage coating. They can cope with a very tough, sunny site that gets very dry.

The mucilage has another function as well. It is designed to stick to the fur of passing mammals.This technique has helped the plant to spread itself about over much of Australia.

ADDENDUM: Since I published this blog, a correspondent has told me several other things about this plant.
The secret of its survival in hard, dry conditions is its persistent  taproot. This root is edible, and is still collected for this purpose by people living a traditional lifestyle in Central Australia. (If you want to try it, please be cautious. It may need to be cooked first). The leaves of the closely related B. diffusa are often used as a green vegetable in many parts of India.
Apparently it is unpopular with farmers, and can actually reduce the value of a farm because it is a difficult "weed" to kill by any means including poison, and tends to tangle in a plough. Pastoralists, however, regard it as a good, palatable pasture plant. Horses are said to get fat (and lazy) on it.

Thursday, December 28, 2017


Xanthorrhoea macronema

This plant doesn’t really belong on a blog about Toowoomba plants at all, as it is not native here.

I decided to include it, however, out of affection for my old school at Southport, one of whose houses is called “Karragaroo”. The lovely old Aboriginal name for this equally lovely plant seems destined to be lost in the mists of time, so I decided to put it on the internet in the hope of reviving it.

The plant itself grows in coastal areas, from Fraser Island to Sydney, and would have been common in Southport at the time the school was founded in 1912.

The only other public record of the word “Karragaroo”  that I can find is in the name of a historic home in Ipswich, built in 1883, and of the street in which it is situated. It is now a National Trust home and documentation there does say that the word means “grasstree”, but fails to record that it referred to this particular trunkless species, Xanthorrhoea macronema. Nowadays it is more often called "bottlebrush grasstree”, which is descriptive, but does lack the romance of the old name.

Most of our grasstrees are known for their tall spikes of tiny white flowers.  Karragaroos' showy spikes, however, end in short, chunky, creamy-yellow flowerheads with long, soft stamens.

They are rich in nectar, and attracting honeyeaters, butterflies, and native bees.

When not flowering, the plants simply look like rather anonymous clumps of shiny green grass. In the wild you can fail to notice them at all, which is no doubt why so many of them have disappeared under developers' bulldozers. In early summer, however, they put up their head-high spikes, and make a great show.

Because the plants themselves are rather small, it would be easy to fit a good number of them into a garden, where they would make a spectacular display in the season.They could make very appealing garden edges, or be tucked into the back of perennial borders, to go unnoticed until flowering time.

They like well-drained soil, and full sun or part shade. The light, dappled shade under eucalypts is perfect for them.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Frost Feedback Please

Several posts ago, I published lists of plants which are claimed to resist frosts of various degrees of hardness. The lists are based on my own experience, in a light frost area near the Range, as well as on other people's gardens in various areas.
Now that the frost season is almost over, can you tell me how your plants went? 
Your experiences could be valuable to other local people, who would like to know which  plants are worth trying on frosty sites.
 As  you'll notice from the comments at the end of the blog, a Meringandan resident found that several little plants, of species that are claimed to resist hard frost, didn't survive in her garden. They might be worth retaining for a whileall the same, to see whether they are still alive and will regrow. Some of those plants are surprisingly tough, and will bounce back if watered and cared for in spring once the danger of frost is over.
Meanwhile, I have added a comment to my list below that they apparently need protection from the frost while very small.

Holding Hands

Corymbia tessellaris
Here is an interesting photo, of two young carbeen trees.

Apparently their branches rubbed together while small, and have joined together. The joint is almost imperceptible.
They look like two separate trees, but I wonder if they really are.
For trees to grow together, I think their genetic material would have to be similar, if not the same. As you can see, these trees are on either side of a path (in a reserve at Rosslyn Bay). There is a possibility that they are both suckers from the roots of an old tree which might have been removed.
Does anyone esle have experience of trees which have joined themselves together, like this?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Spectacular Tulipwoods
Harpullia pendula
It is worth the climb up tabletop at the moment, just to walk across it and look down the eastern side.

The tulipwoods are spectacularly in seed, about half-way down. Some of the trees seem be more fruit than leaf. It would be quite difficult to get down to them, so we didn’t, contenting ourselves with looking down on them and photographing them from a distance.

 The tulipwoods are spectacularly in seed, about half-way down. Some of the trees seem be more fruit than leaf. They are unusually late, as the showy fruits are more often seen in summer - although like so many native trees, they take advantage of rain when it happens. This display would be the result of the lateness of our summer rains this year.

The photos below (taken elsewhere) show how pretty the seeds are, with their showy pods that last on the tree long after the birds have taken the shiny black fruits.


The flowers are pretty little things, but far from showy.

Tulipwoods are fast-growing small trees, very commonly used as street trees in Brisbane where they are valued because of their non-invasive roots and their reliable tendency (when grown in the open) to remain below the height of power lines.

Popular in gardens, they make a nice patch of shade without growing too large. Birds love to nest in the dense foliage, and the trees can be butterfly hosts, as well.

They tolerate the light frost that is typical of the eastern side of Toowoomba.    

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Frost Resistant Plants

Here are some potential good ones for Toowoomba and the Eastern Darling Downs.
(But note that there are no guarantees. For some reasons for this, see articles below the list.)
Best Species for  Heavy Frosts (over approx -7°C )

Large Trees
Araucaria bidwillii  BUNYA PINE
Casuarina cristata BELAH
Casuarina cunninghamiana RIVER SHE-OAK
Eucalyptus camaldulensis RIVER RED GUM
Eucalyptus eugenioides THIN LEAFED STRINGYBARK
Eucalyptus viminalis MANNA GUM

Medium Trees
Acacia deanei DEANE’S WATTLE
Acacia harpophylla BRIGALOW
Acacia implexa LIGHTWOOD (If seed of local provenance)
Acacia maidenii MAIDEN’S WATTLE
Acacia pendula WEEPING MYALL
Acacia stenophylla DALBY WATTLE
Callitris glaucophylla WHITE CYPRESS
Cupaniopsis parvifolia    SCRUB TUCKEROO (protect while small)
Eucalyptus conica FUZZY BOX
Geijera salicifolia    SCRUB WILGA
(protect while small)
 Melaleuca bracteata BLACK SHE-OAK
Melia azedarach WHITE CEDAR
Melicope micrococca. WHITE DOUGHWOOD
Pittosporum angustifolium GUMBY GUMBY

Small Trees
Acacia deanei DEANE’S WATTLE
Acacia hakeoides HAKEA WATTLE
Hymenosporum flavum    NATIVE FRANGIPANI

Bursaria spinosa SWEET BURSARIA
Denhamia bilocularis    HEDGE ORANGEBARK
Dodonaea triangularis TRIANGLE LEAF HOPBUSH
Eremophila maculata SPOTTED EMU BUSH
Hibbertia aspera ROUGH GUINEA FLOWER
Lomatia silaifolia    CRINKLE BUSH
Senna artemisioides subsp. zygophylla DESERT SENNA
Tasmannia insipida NATIVE PEPPER BUSH
Xanthorrhoea glauca GRASS TREE

Ground Cover
Eremophila debilis    DEVIL’S MARBLES
Dianella caerulea BLUE FLAX LILY
Dianella longifola LONG LEAFED FLAX LILY
Dianella revoluta BLACK ANTHER FLAX LILY

Rushes and Sedges
Lomandra longifolia LONG LEAFED MATRUSH
Carex appressa TALL SEDGE
Juncus usitatus PIN RUSH

Poa labillardierei TUSSOCK GRASS
Poa sieberiana SNOW GRASS
Themeda triandra KANGAROO GRASS

 Also all the grasses which grow naturally on our black soil plains.
Hardenbergia violacea PURPLE WANDERER

For Areas of Moderate Frosts (approx. -3°C to -5°C)
The above species, plus:
Large Trees
Araucaria cunninghamii HOOP PINE
Castanospermum australe BLACK BEAN
Corymbia intermedia PINK BLOODWOOD
Diploglottis australis NATIVE TAMARIND
Dysoxylum fraserianum ROSEWOOD
Eucalyptus biturbinata LARGE FRUITED GREY GUM
Eucalyptus microcorys TALLOWWOOD
Eucalyptus moluccana GUM TOPPED BOX
Eucalyptus pilularis BLACKBUTT
Eucalyptus tereticornis FOREST RED GUM
Euroschinus falcata RIBBONWOOD
Ficus rubiginosa SCRUB FIG

Medium Trees
Acacia irrorata GREEN WATTLE
Acacia melanoxylon BLACKWOOD
Allocasuarina luehmannii BULL OAK
Allocasuarina torulosa HILL SHE-OAK
Alphitonia excelsa SOAP TREE
Angophora floribunda ROUGH BARKED APPLEGUM
Aphananthe philippinensis NATIVE ELM
Auranticarpa rhombifolia GOLDEN HOLLYWOOD
Brachychiton acerifolius FLAME TREE
Brachychiton discolor LACEBARK
Brachychiton populneus KURRAJONG
Brachychiton rupestris BOTTLE TREE
Capparis mitchellii NATIVE CAPER
Cryptocarya glaucescens JACKWOOD
Cryptocarya triplinervis var. pubens HAIRY BROWN LAUREL
Elaeocarpus obovatus HARD QUANDONG
Eucalyptus melanophloia SILVER LEAVED IRONBARK
Eucalyptus melliodora YELLOW BOX
Eucalyptus populnea BIMBIL BOX
Flindersia collina LEOPARD ASH
Grevillea robusta SILKY OAK
Guioa semiglauca GUIOA
Mallotus philippensis RED KAMALA
Pittosporum undulatum SWEET  PITTOSPORUM

Small Trees
Acacia fimbriata  BRISBANE WATTLE
Acacia hakeoides HAKEA WATTLE
Acacia salicina WILLOW WATTLE
Acronychia oblongifolia WHITE ASPEN
Banksia integrifolia TREE BANKSIA
Croton insularis SILVER CROTON
Leptospermum polygalifolium TANTOON TEA TREE
Melaleuca quercina OAKEY BOTTLEBRUSH
Melaleuca viminalis (Callistemon viminalis) RED WEEPING BOTTLEBRUSH
Pittosporum viscidum BIRDS NEST BUSH
Psydrax buxifolia (Canthium buxifolium) BOX LEAFED CANTHIUM

Acacia decora PRETTY WATTLE
Acacia podalyriifolia QUEENSLAND SILVER WATTLE
Dodonaea triangularis TRIANGLE LEAF HOPBUSH
Dodonaea triquetra LARGE LEAF HOP BUSH
Hovea lanceolata LANCE LEAFED HOVEA
Hovea longipes BRUSH HOVEA
Indigofera australis NATIVE INDIGO
Jacksonia scoparia DOGWOOD
Carissa ovata KUNKERBERRY
Cassinia laevis COUGH BUSH
Dodonaea viscosa STICKY HOP BUSH
Maireana microphylla SMALL LEAFED BLUEBUSH
Pittosporum revolutum HAIRY PITTOSPORUM
Rhagodia parabolica FRAGRANT SALTBUSH
Rhagodia spinescens HEDGE SALTBUSH
Solanum aviculare KANGAROO APPLE

Alocasia brisbanensis CUNJEVOI
Doryanthes palmeri SPEAR LILY

Other flowering plants
Swainsona galegifolia DARLING PEA
Hardenbergia violacea HARDENBERGIA
Clematis glycinoides OLD MAN’S BEARD
Kennedia rubicunda RED KENNEDY PEA
Pandorea jasminoides WONGA VINE
Billardiera scandens APPLE DUMPLINGS
Hardenbergia violacea HARDENBERGIA
Hibbertia scandens SNAKE VINE
Pandorea pandorana WONGA VINE

Ground Covers
Atriplex semibaccata CREEPING SALTBUSH
Enchylaena tomentosa RUBY SALTBUSH
Small Flowering Plants
Chrysocephalum apiculatum YELLOW BUTTONS
Goodenia rotundifolia STAR GOODENIA
Scaevola albida FAIRY FAN FLOWER

Bulbine bulbosa BULBINE LILY
Microlaena stipoides WEEPING RICE GRASS
Rushes and Sedges
Schoenoplectus validus RIVER CLUBRUSH
Lomandra hystrix CREEK MATRUSH

Tolerates Light Frosts Only (to approx -2.5°C)
Large Trees
Argyrodendron actinophyllum BLACK BOOYONG
Eucalyptus saligna SYDNEY BLUE GUM
Ficus macrophylla MORETON BAY FIG
Flindersia australis CROWS ASH
Lophostemon confertus BRUSH BOX
Toona ciliata RED CEDAR

Medium Trees
Arytera divaricata COOGERA
Atalaya salicifolia SCRUB WHITEWOOD
Bursaria incana FROSTY BURSARIA
Citrus australis NATIVE ROUND LIME
Cupaniopsis parvifolia SCRUB TUCKEROO
Denhamia disperma ORANGE BOXWOOD
Denhamia pittosporoides VEINY DENHAMIA
Diospyros australis PLUM EBONY
Drypetes deplanchei YELLOW TULIPWOOD
Elattostachys xylocarpa WHITE BEETROOT TREE
Emmenosperma alphitoniodes YELLOW ASH
Flindersia xanthoxyla LONG JACK
Guioa semiglauca GUIOA
Glochidion ferdinandi CHEESE TREE
Gmelina leichhardtii WHITE BEECH
Myrsine variabilis MUTTONWOOD
Polyscias elegans CELERYWOOD   
Rhodosphaera rhodanthema DEEP YELLOWWOOD
Streblus brunonianus WHALEBONE TREE
Vitex lignum-vitae SATINWOOD

Small Trees
Alectryon tomentosus HAIRY BIRDS EYE
Backhousia angustfolia MYRTLE, CURRY
Gossia bidwillii PYTHON TREE
Psydrax species  CANTHIUM
Streblus pendulinus WHALEBONE TREE

Alchornea ilicifolia, HOLLY DOVEWOOD
Pittosporum revolutum HAIRY PITTOSPORUM
Trema tomentosa TREMA