Monday, March 5, 2018

Donkey’s Ears Wattle.

Acacia complanata

In our district, the big wattle-flowering season begins in June, peaks in August, and is all over in September.
A few rebel species don’t flow along with the crowd, however, and this is one of them. Its flowering time can vary, according to rainfall, but it is common for it to choose to flower in February and March.
It has been spectacular this year.
Botanists use a rather boring “common name” (flat-stemmed wattle) for this plant, but I prefer the more descriptive name that ordinary people use -  "Donkey’s Ears". It is such an easy plant to pick from a distance because its “leaves” (actually they’re phyllodes) are held at such an unusual angle. Sometimes they stick out sideways, sometimes they stand up like donkey’s ears. They never droop downwards.

The species is quick growing, and long lived. A well-grown plant can get to 3m high, but it’s more usual to see it at about 1.5 metres and it is very comfortable if kept to that height with occasional pruning.
If it gets a bit old-looking and scraggly it is easily refreshed by pruning it very hard.
It’s a drought hardy plant for full or half sun, and is hardy to frost and drought in our district.
Keep an eye out for local seed in August.

You will find it easy to know that you have identified the plant correctly because of those distinctive phyllodes. Pick it when it’s ripe (which the ones in the photo are not, quite), and give the seeds the boiling water treatment before planting. The seeds grow quickly, and you can have a fine display of flowers when the plant is about a year and a half old.

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.