Friday, December 31, 2010

Wet Weather Lilies

Crinum flaccidum
I suspect Hughie has been rummaging in his shed this season, and found all those buckets of the stuff that he has forgotten to send down over the last ten years or so.
My sympathy goes out to all those who are suffering from too much rain. How ironic that we have been wanting it so badly these last years!
Living, as we do, on high ground, the floods have only been a comparatively trivial nuisance to us. We have been out and about, trying to show some overseas visitors the local scenery. They spent a month with us, and saw precious little of "sunny Queensland"!

At least we Toowoomba people can take some pleasure in knowing that our combined dam levels are now up to 61% of their capacity, the best we’ve seen since the dams last filled in February 2001, and a very refreshing contrast to the low of 8.7% a year ago.
But, Hughie, now let's just have a rest from it all!

One plant that is revelling in the summer rains is the Darling Lily. We photographed these (growing on the soggy flatlands in mixed alluvial soil) at Lake Broadwater last week.

We also saw them between Maclagan and Quinalow, on hillsides, in chocolate soil, and yesterday by the Gatton bypass on a low sandstone hill. Obviously these are plants which tolerate a wide range of conditions. (We haven’t been out to the Cooby Dam precinct, but have in the past seen them by the road there as well.)

For more about these lilies, see Dec 2008

Sticky Daisy Bush

Olearia elliptica

I photographed these attention-getting daisies out at Lake Broadwater, but the species can also be found in Redwood Park, just near Toowoomba.
Australian daisy bushes seem to be more valued overseas than here in their own country. We don't often see them in local gardens, yet they are very attractive plants.

Like many daisies, they are not long-lived (though the ones in my garden are still going strong at seven years old). Pruning makes dense shrubs of them, and probably prolongs their lives as well.

Mine are about as high as I am, and put on a good show of these little white daisies each year. The shiny upper surface of the leaves has a very slightly sticky feel to it.
Like all daisies, these drought and frost-hardy plants attract butterflies, which feed on the nectar - and I find they are very appealing to the little stingless native bees as well.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Cherry with the Seed on the Outside

Exocarpos cupressiformis

When the English first settled in Australia, they made much of it as an “upside-down, back-to-front” place. Swans were black instead of white. The trees lost their bark in summer, instead of their leaves in winter. And the cherries had their seeds on the outside!
I saw a good crop of these “cherries” (more usually called Ballarts) at Girraween National Park last weekend. The bower birds were going crazy over them.
The pretty, leafless shrubs are partly parasitic on the roots of plants around them, and are not choosy. They are said to be able to use grasses, Eucalypts, wattles, Casuarinas, Banksias, Grevilleas, and plants in the pea family.
They are very tolerant of soil type, growing on Girraween’s granite soil, but also quite at home on basaltic soil. However, they are being slowly eliminated from our area by urban sprawl.
They are regarded as difficult plants to propagate. Some growers have had success with seed germination (finding it can take up to 12 months) and cuttings. Failure after being planted out is a problem, and could perhaps be helped by growing the small plant in a pot with a host plant, which is then also planted out - though there are others who have had success with the plants on their own roots.
The moral of the story is certainly that if you have any of them growing naturally, you should treasure them (and don't hesitate to boast)! And do remember that they are probably depending to at least some extent on the naturally occurring plants around them, so preserving the ballarts may also require you to preserve some of their nearby vegetation.
In the wild, even in places where they are not being cleared, they may tend to decline. They depend on fires to rejuvenate the plants and germinate the seeds, and most of us would much rather not have fires on our properties!
Ballarts tend to sucker. Damaging the roots, or simply chopping off the old plant, encourages this to happen, and is a good way to renew a straggly old plant.
The "fruit" is good to eat, but only when very ripe. When ready it will fall off in your hand as you go to pick it. I couldn’t find any at this stage of ripeness at Girraween, as the bower birds were beating the people to them. At even a little less ripe, they taste disgusting! The inconspicuous cream flowers, and these showy fruits can occur sporadically at any time of year, but are often at their best at Christmastime.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Native Raspberry Fruit

Rubus parvifolius
Usually considered the most humble of our local raspberry species, in dry years this one puts out very few fruit indeed. It's a very drought hardy plant, typically living in dry grasslands rather than the rainforest habitat of most of its relatives, and is rarely given the chance to show its true ability.

This year, however, this plant at Peacehaven Botanic park has fruited magnificently, demonstrating just what it can do, given the kind of watering that this plant has had naturally from this year's rain.

It is possibly the most tasty of all Australia’s native raspberries - delicious.

For photos of the same plant in flower, see October.

Crinkle Bush

Lomatia silaifolia
The Crinkle Bushes are flowering unusually well this year, on the roadside between Hampton and Pechey.

These curious plants are related to Grevilleas, and as you can see, the flowers look rather like grevilleas, but with petals.
The flowers are said to be fly-repellant, and for that reason, some people plant them close to the house. Others claim that the sweet-smelling flowers give them a headache, so this is something to be considered when siting plants in the garden.
They are fast-growing plants, shown below at Peacehaven Botanic Park, already at their full height.


Pararchidendron pruinosum

I photographed these lovely flowers at Peacehaven Botanic Park (Kuhls Road Highfields) a few weeks ago.

This is the first flowering that this little four-year-old tree has produced. You can see that it’s flowers open white, and darken to deep orange before dying, making a very pretty show on the tree. They are said to be sweet-scented, but I forgot to take a sniff. Perhaps you could try it yourself. The tree is to be found in the dry rainforest section of the park.
This little tree is also called “Monkey’s earrings” because of its bright yellow seedpods, which curl into a circle, then open to show their bright red lining and shiny black seeds. Perhaps we’ll be lucky and see some at Peacehaven this autumn. The inference is that monkeys have a rather garish taste in jewellery!
See photos
The tree grows naturally on the escarpment below Harlaxton, at Ravensbourne, and in The Palms National Park north of Crows Nest, among other local sites.
Robert Campbell says he had some difficulty establishing it at Peacehaven, as it needed to be watered frequently in its early establishment phase. Now, however, it seems to be as drought hardy as the rest of Peacehaven’s plants.
We can expect it to grow into a neat little shade tree, with an ornamental red, flaky trunk. It would be suitable for a small suburban garden.
Its flowers are attractive to all kinds of butterflies. Tailed emperors can also breed on it. (see article below)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Planting for Butterflies

“Butterfly planting” is all the rage at the moment - and what beautiful results it will produce, as these gardens mature.
When planting for butterflies there are two main points to consider:
Things to do:
1. Plant flowers that adult butterflies will come to.
This is very easy. They don’t care whether their flowers are native or introduced. All they care about is that they have nectar (which is what adult butterflies live on), and most flowers have plenty of that. Excellent “butterfly-attracting” gardens are often produced by people who had never a thought of butterflies when they planted - they just planted pretty flowers.
2. Grow plants that caterpillars can grow up on. Each kind of butterfly has only a few “host plant” species that its caterpillars can eat. Without caterpillars, there are no butterflies - and those “butterfly-attracting” gardens which only considered flowers for the adults go begging.
Our suburban gardens are increasingly butterfly-deficient despite offering a smorgasbord of flowers. The reason? Bushland containing butterfly host plants is constantly being cleared as our suburbs spread. Each year, butterflies have further to fly, and often give those nectar-rich suburban gardens a complete miss.
To make a good job of creating a butterfly garden, you need first to know whether the “butterfly plant” you are contemplating is a host plant or merely a flowering plant. Then you need to have some idea of just which butterflies are likely to make use of the host plants. It’s no good planting a host for a butterfly which doesn’t actually occur in your part of Australia.
Most butterfly host plants are native, and local native host plants are the best choice, as they clearly work for the local butterflies!

A Blue Triangle.
These pretty butterflies need plants from the Laurel family (Lauraceae) to breed on. A good local native laurel is the small, shady, dry rainforest tree, the Bollygum, Neolitsea Dealbata.

The best source of information on plants to grow in our part of the world is a booklet called “Butterfly Host Plants of south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales”, written by John T, Moss. It lists 327 plant species for 201 species of butterflies, and is available from the Butterfly and Other Invertebrates Club, PO Box 2113 RUNCORN, Q 4113. You can email the club from this link:

Butterflies obviously love the nectar from these newly opened Callistemon flowers!

However, the success of this plant, which must have been feeding least thirty butterflies on the day I took this photo, depends heavily on its situation in a garden which is near bushland.
(The butterflies are: Caper White, Blue Tiger, Crow, Native Wanderer.)

Things Not to Do

1. Don’t Plant Environmental Weeds

Planting for butterflies is a great environmental initiative. It’s a pity to smirch it by planting environment-damaging species.
“Environmental weeds” are defined as plants which, though not locally native, spread (like natives) without any help from humans in the form of digging, planting, or watering. These plants are likely to jump your garden fence and establish themselves in the wild, or on the properties of your less-than-grateful neighbours.
Extra plants added to the wild are not mere harmless new arrivals, however much they may seem to be adding variety and colour to the bush. Each one takes up space which should be being filled by a native plant, and the long-term result is always less, not more, plant variety. Not only are native plant numbers reduced by their presence, the various animals (including butterflies) which needed the native plants for survival are reduced too.
Gardens don’t have to be restricted to native plants, however. There are plenty of lovely, easy-to-grow introduced plants, particularly ones with showy flowers which attract adult butterflies, which have shown no weedy tendencies. You can rely on them not to escape to make pests of themselves.
Unfortunately, environmental weeds are also readily available, and it is up to gardeners themselves to be discriminating. Potential weeds feature heavily among the ones typically given by helpful people to innocent young gardeners as garden starters. “This one will spread and fill the space in no time” they say - or “once this one gets going it just self-seeds and looks after itself”.
Reputable nurseries are usually - but not always - reliable in this regard, but weekend markets are great sources of environmental weeds. They are so easily reproduced that it’s no trouble to pot up these nice little money-earners by the hundreds.
And a few are even sold as “butterfly attracting” plants!

If you see non-native plants like the Coreopsis (above and below) growing on the roadsides, your "weed alert!" alarm bells should start ringing!

2. Don’t bother with host plants for feral butterflies.
We have a few of these, and they are doing very well indeed, thank you very much, not needing any help in the way of deliberate plantings in “butterfly gardens”.
One of these is the Wanderer or
Monarch, (Danaus plexippus) introduced into Australia (from America) in about 1880. Growing host plants for this one is like planting a “wildlife garden” then boasting about how many rabbits and pigs you are attracting!

An added disadvantage is that its milkweed hosts are very infectious feral weeds that your neighbours may get quite grumpy about.

Balloon Cottonbush Gomphocarpus physocarpus.
Avoid this feral weed, its very similar cousin
G. fruticosus, and their equally weedy friend the red-headed cotton bush , Asclepias curavassica

Cabbage White Butterfly, our other feral butterfly.
Distinguish it from some similar native butterflies by the black spots on the forewings - two for females, one for males.

This is now Australia's most common urban butterfly.
Is your garden attracting something better?

Butterfly Host Plants for the Toowoomba District

A Shortlist
There are several hundred local butterfly host plant species, attracting almost a hundred butterfly species. Here are some of the most desirable for gardens, all native to the area covered by this blogsite.
Blush Walnut Beilschmiedia obtusifolia BLUE TRIANGLE BUTTERFLY

Tailed Emperor on my window.

Mowbullan Whitewood Elaeocarpus kirtonii BRONZE FLAT, FIERY JEWEL
Crows Ash Flindersia australis ORCHARD SWALLOWTAIL
Brush Box Lophostemon confertus BRONZE FLAT, RED-EYE, JEWEL BUTTERFLIES


Yellow Migrant

Birdseyes and Boonarees Alectryon species BRONZE FLATS, JEWELS, BLUES, AND CORNELIANS
Piccabeen Palm Archontophoenix cunninghamii PALM DART SPECIES
Lacebark, Kurrajong, Bottle Tree: Brachychiton species TAILED EMPEROR, AEROPLANE, VARIOUS BLUE AND JEWEL BUTTERFLIES
Yellow Tulipwod Drypetes deplanchei YELLOW ALBATROSS
Silver-leafed Ironbark Eucalyptus melanophloia DAEMEL’S BLUE
Wattles Acacia species AS ABOVE
Native Capers, Capparis species FIVE SPECIES OF CAPER BUTTERFLIES

Caper White

Velvet Cassia Cassia tomentella LEMON MIGRANT, TAILED EMPEROR
Native Round Lime Citrus australis VARIOUS SWALLOWTAILS
Bollygums Neolitsea species BRONZE FLAT, BLUE TRIANGLE
Murrogun Cryptocarya microneura (Cryptocarya glaucescens var. reticulata) MACLEAY’S SWALLOWTAIL, BRONZE FLATS, BLUE TRIANGLE ORCHARD SWALLOWTAIL
Native Cassia Cassia tomentella YELLOWS, TAILED EMPEROR.


Lemon Migrant

Holly Dovewood Alchornea ilicifolia YELLOW ALBATROSS
Breynia Breynia oblongifolia YELLOWS
Blueberry Ash Elaeocarpus reticulatus BRONZE FLAT
Dogwood Jacksonia scoparia BLUES AND JEWELS
Native Cassias Senna coronilloides, S. artemisioides etc YELLOWS, TAILED EMPEROR.

Cressida Butterfly Vine Aristolochia meridionalis CLEARWING


Zig-zag Vine Melodorum leichhardtii FOUR-BAR SWORDTAIL, RED-EYE

Four-bar Swordtail

Native Passionfruit Passiflora aurantia GLASSWING
Doubah, Marsdenia viridiflora COMMON CROW, NATIVE WANDERER
Gargaloo, Parsonsia eucalyptoides COMMON CROW.
Corky Milk Vine Secamone elliptica BLUE TIGER, COMMON CROW, NATIVE WANDERER

Blue Tiger

Spade flower Hybanthus stellarioides GLASSWING
Native Plumbago Plumbago zeylanica PLUMBAGO BLUE
Love Flower Pseuderanthemum variabile LEAFWING, ARGUS, EGGFLY.
Fan Flowers Scaevola species MEADOW ARGUS
Native Nettles Urtica incisa AUSTRALIAN ADMIRAL

Australian Admiral

Paper daisies, Xerochrysum and other species PAINTED LADY

Matrushes Lomandra longifolia SKIPPERS
Tussock grasses Poa species BROWNS, SKIPPERS

Banks' Brown, at the Bunya Mountains

Kangaroo Grass Themeda triandra BROWNS, RINGLETS

MISTLETOES of the Loranthaceae Family.
(Plant seeds on existing trees)
Most Mistletoe species. JEZEBELS, AZURES

Scarlet Jezebel