Friday, February 8, 2019

Devil’s Marbles

Eremophila debilis
FAMILY: SCROPHULARIACEAE (MYOPORACEAE)




Down south, this plant is known as Winter Apple - and that’s when it usually fruits.

However, like so many of our local native plants, Devil's Marbles is an opportunist. By means mysterious, it decides when its chance of producing a new generation is at its best, and this year it has chosen February. I would love to think that it "knows" rain is coming!

For those who would like to grow this useful and hardy ground cover plant, now is a good time to look for fruits on your properties and on roadsides.

The best technique is to plant one seed per small tube, in good-quality potting mix. Cover it to a depth equal to the diameter of the seed, and keep it damp until it germinates.  Some people say they have good results if the flesh is left on the seed, but I prefer to remove it. You can do this by sucking your seed clean. This is regarded as a bush tucker plant, and is quite safe. I leave it to you to decide whether you like the flavour, which I find quite acceptable (if unexciting) provided the fruit is very ripe.



Once the plants have reached a good size, they are can be planted straight into the garden.

To find a more detailed article about this plant, use the white Search box at top left.
 

Monday, February 4, 2019

Desert Jasmine

Jasminum didymum subsp lineare (Jasminum lineare)
FAMILY: OLEACEAE

Despite its name, this is a plant we see on the black soil of the Darling Downs. As the name suggests, it is very drought hardy indeed.

It can be distinguished by its triple leaves from Sweet Jasmine, Jasminum dianthifolium, a plant whose simple leaves look much the same. Sweet Jasmine is a low-growing plant that spreads by underground stems.



Desert Jasmine is a variable plant. In full sun, it grows as a shrub about 60cm tall.





If it finds itself close to suitable support, however, its stems will take to twining, and it becomes a small shrubby climber. This means that it may not grow quite as you expected.





If a shrub is what you want, a bit of discipline with the secateurs can keep it in order if it shows signs of turning into a climber. Otherwise it can be left to express its own creative nature among garden shrubs, on a trellis, or in revegetation or wildlife corridor planting.

Desert jasmine is a delight in the garden, because the tiny flowers have a strong jasmine fragrance.  Like all native jasmines, they attract native bees and other small insects.



The little soft black fruits are very appealing to birds.

Its favourite sites are those which provide it with partial shade.

It is frost hardy.


Monday, January 28, 2019

Triangular Clubrush

Schoenoplectiella mucronata (Schoenoplectus mucronatus, Scirpus mucronatus)
FAMILY: CYPERACEAE
 


This small species of perennial rush can’t be mistaken for any other plant. It has distinctive yellow-green triangular stems, each ornamented in summer with a neat cluster of golden-brown cone-like “clubs” about 2 cm from the stem-tips. (They resemble posies, and look like something that might be carried by a bridesmaid with attitude!)

The plant is worth growing if for no other reason than for use in floral arrangements.

Shown here in a bird bath, it is easily grown in any small container which holds water. It grows rather fast, so a pot of it is best refreshed each spring by having three quarters of the plant, and its rather dense root ball, removed and replaced with fresh soil or potting mix.



In a pond or dam, triangular club-rushes form a low thicket which grows from the water’s edge to the point where the water is too deep for them, which is at approximately 30cm. They will survive deeper water provide it is temporary, such as in a flood.

It also tolerates some drying out (as shown here at Cressbrook Dam) but probably needs good wet soil not far below the surface.



In creeks, it will only grow where there is permanent water, which must be either still or slow-flowing.

Triangular clubrush is a frog-favourite, and particularly useful for small garden ponds in wildlife friendly gardens.


This is one of the few shade-tolerant rushes. It can survive in full shade provided it is well lit (though it does tend to get leggy), and is equally happy in full sun.

It is also frost hardy.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Silver-leafed Ironbark.

Eucalyptus melanophloia
FAMILY: MYRTACEAE

This tree is now in flower at Federation Park in Drayton Connection Road. The photo shows its masses of small, nectar-laden flowers, and its unusual leaf habit.



Unlike most other (and all other local) Australian Eucalyptus species, adult trees have opposite leaves rather than alternate ones. You can see that the leaves are also “sessile” (which means that they have no stems).

This is one of our prettiest local eucalypts, as well as possibly the smallest. It has been known to grow to 20metres high, but in our district we usually see it as a smaller tree, growing no higher than 10 metres.



It is one of the most suitable for gardens. Besides being relatively small, it is a tidy tree, as gumtrees go. Like most ironbarks it is reliable about not dropping large limbs.

Its flowers are rather small, but produce a reliable nectar flow, which makes it a good honey tree.

It has a reputation for being very resistant to the stresses of being used as a cattle camp. Some Eucalypts die younger than they should, unable to cope with many years of soil compaction resulting from heavy use of their root zones by large heavy hoofed animals, and the over-fertilisation of those nice shady areas under trees where stock rest (and excrete) on hot days.



This sturdy tree is ideal for planting in pastures and in paddock-edge planting strips intended as windbreaks or wildlife corridors.

In the wild, it tends to grow on ridges and slopes because it likes at least moderately good drainage. It is happy to grow on most local soil types including black soil, although it doesn’t like the very heavy black soil of the plains.

It is very hardy to drought, and testing has established that it tolerates frost to at least -5°.



Friday, November 2, 2018

Some Pretty Cullen Species.

Cullen patens, Cullen tenax
FAMILY: FABACEAE
Two of our local species of Cullen are flowering at the moment, out near Oakey.
They are both perennial plants, and are pretty at this time of the year, smothered with flowers in two shades of pink.
As well as being good for native pastures because of their palatibility to stock, they are great plants for a wildlife garden. A number of animals eat them, and they are hosts for several butterfly species. This includes several kinds of small blue butterflies, and the large and showy chequered swallowtails - butterflies whose numbers are dwindling in the Toowoomba area due to loss of habitat.



The photo below shows Bullamon lucerne, Cullen patens, a spreading perennial growing to about 15cm high. It comes in two leaf colours. Out west it’s blue-green, but here the leaves are dark green.



It loves the hard conditions in the gravel right near the edge of the road, where the drainage is good and the plants get a bit of moisture from the road.

Cullen patens.

Emu Foot, Cullen tenax, has lush green leaves, lavender-coloured flowers, and is slightly taller than its cousin, growing to knee-height.

 



Cullen tenax

 Both plants are flowering out near Oakey this week.


Thursday, November 1, 2018

Carex appressa

A Useful, Adaptable Sedge
Carex appressa
FAMILY: CYPERACEAE
This is a plant that is happy to have its feet in the water all year round.


(Note the frog eggs in the corner behind it.)

It also grows on dry land, tolerating a surprising amount of drought. This makes it excellent as a plant for the edge of a dam or pond whose water might vary in height, but it is also good in shady nooks on the garden, dry watercourses, and areas of poor drainage.



It’s common name is “tall sedge”.  How boring is that? For such a useful and attractive plant, I feel we should be able to do better!

I find it is a frog-favourite. My single pot of Carex creates a nice little niche for a pair of frogs to get together to produce eggs. After a croaky night, we often see a froth of eggs tucked in the corner behind it.




These are striped marsh frogs.

Like most Carex species, it is monoecious (having male and female flower-heads on the same plant). Female flower-stems are shorter than the males


Male flower head


Female (above) and male.



Detail. The male flower head has yellow anthers, which shed pollen.
The female flowers (behind) have sticky white styles, to catch the flying pollen. Only the female flower head will produce seeds.


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Desert Senna

Senna artemisioides subsp. zygophylla

It’s senna time again, and our roadsides are lively with bright splashes of yellow.



These plants were in flower on the Oakey Cooyar Road last weekend.






If you drive past without looking closely, you might think you were seeing wattles. A closer look will tell you that these pretty plants have cassia-type flowers.



Despite its name, this is not just a plant of deserts, but is quite at home in the drier parts of Toowoomba region. It lives up to its name when it comes to its water needs, though. It is a very drought hardy plant, never needing watering once established

Australia has 46 of the world’s 350 Senna species. Alas we also have a few extras, including the weedy Easter cassia, Senna pendula, which is a native of tropical America. It is it has put some people off growing sennas at all, which is a pity. Our natives are very civilised plants, usually growing to not much more than waist high, and of course, by definition, local native plants can't become feral weeds!

Sennas are not long lived plants. They tend to need replacing every 5 - 10 years, which is easy enough to do as they are simple to grow from seed. Look for them in November. In nature a fire, followed by rain, results in a flush of new plants. You can imitate this by using the boiling water method to get them started. (Put them in a coffee cup. Pour boiling water on. Leave to cool overnight. Plant.)

They may also self-seed for you if you live in their home territory, as older seed can germinate without fire.

Like all Sennas, they are butterfly host plants, attracting several different species of yellow butterflies to breed.