Friday, October 29, 2010

The Rare Fawcett’s Clematis

Clematis fawcettii

Franke Scrub at Highfields is full of treasures, and this week we found another one.

This delicate-looking little clematis may have been lurking underground in seed form all through the long drought.
I was delighted with the find, as I have been searching for this plant around the district for some time. It is classified (nationally and in Queensland) as “vulnerable”, and is one of those plants which could so easily go missing forever.
The species is restricted to basalt-derived loam soils above 500 m, in south Queensland and northern New south Wales, and occurs in dry rainforests, usually on stream banks.
It is threatened by development (which has destroyed much of its habitat), and by grazing and bushfires.
The plants do have the potential to reach the canopy of rainforests, but are often seen as small understorey plants. A group could easily be grown on a small trellis.
The slender-petalled white flowers turn purplish-pink as they age. See photo at
Neither flowers nor seeds are conspicuous, but the foliage with its small, deeply lobed leaflets, is charming. Like all clematis, they climb using the unusual technique of wrapping their leaf-stems around any supports they can find. They give the impression of fragility, belying the actual hardiness of the plant.
This is a desirable, drought-hardy, garden species, and where possible, gardeners should grow it to help prevent its extinction. The plants may be difficult to acquire, though. I’ve never seen them offered for sale. They can be difficult to bring up from seed, which must be fresh for success, yet may take a long time to germinate.
If the chance arises to buy or raise some, do be sure to put in a number of plants to increase your chance of having both male and female ones. The fluffy seedheads will only grow on the female plants (but the males are needed for pollination).
yet this is a hardy plant of our local dry vine scrubs.

For more on Franke Scrub, see

Clearwing Butterfly

Cressida cressida

I took these photos last week at Perseverance Dam.
What a lovely butterfly! (It was once chosen to feature on an Australian postage stamp.)

Although common up north, this butterfly is not often seen in this district because of the rarity of suitable host plants for the caterpillars.

This one, a male, is most likely to have spent its childhood as a caterpillar munching the leaves of a cressida butterfly vine Aristolochia meridionalis.

For more on that plant, see January 15, 2010

Butterfly Plants for Poverty

Interested in growing plants to attract butterflies?
There’s a new nursery at Buaraba - set in a very beautiful garden - which sells suitable plants and raises money for charity from the proceeds.
They are having an open day on 21 November - a day worth marking on your calendar.
For directions to get there, see

Cunjevoi flower at Peacehaven

Alocasia brisbanensis
As its plants mature, Peacehaven Botanic Park at Highfields is getting to be a great place to see the annual cycles of our local native plants.

Here’s a pristine flowerhead, which appeared last week on one of the young cunjevoi plants.
To find it, take the rainforest path and look for plants with large green “elephant ear” leaves.

For an article on this species, see May 7, 2010

Slender Darling Pea

Swainsona brachycarpa

I've had difficulty identifying this plant, but decided it must be S. brachycarpa. If there are any readers out there with another opinion, I'd like to hear from you!

It resembles Swainsona queenslandica, another plant which spreads by underground rhizomes, but is smaller, and has these lovely salmon-red flowers. As you can see, it makes a dense ground-cover at this time of the year. Is flowering profusely now, and will continue to have a sprinkling of flowers right up until May. It may vanish for a few month in winter, when it dies back to its underground stems.

I photographed it last weekend at Gowrie Junction. It is already beginning to put out a few of its (typical Swainsona) inflated seedpods. Note their curled up tails.

A very pretty plant for gardens, this one could be allowed to ramble among shrubs, added to a grassland garden, or put in amongst other perennials in a flowerbed..

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pretty Wattle

Acacia decora
In my article about this plant posted on August 19, I mentioned my plan to coppice one of these wattles as an experiment, to see whether I can turn it into a dense shrub rather than the leggy bush I showed you then.

I was a bit afraid that I had cut it back too harshly, but it’s looking good so far!

Small-flowered Raspberry

Rubus parvifolius
This little plant at Peacehaven botanic Garden (Kuhl’s Road Highfields) will be worth watching this year. I have never seen a specimen flowering so well. It was very popular with the bees when I took this photo on Wednesday, and is likely to be a mass of fruit later in the season.
The fruits, when they come, will be small, but they are sweet and tasty, particularly on well-cared-for plants like this one.

Its flowers, as you see, are not really showy. They never open widely, but keep the petals pressed close to their anthers as shown.

The smallest of our three local native raspberries, this is not a plant most people would choose to grow in their gardens. It spreads by underground stems, and can create a prickly nuisance.
Yes, I do grow one at home. It was on our land before we were, and I have the sneaking feeling that it has rights - and it does have charm. But I weed it back very firmly in spring, when it puts up shoots in unwanted places. I also weed rather carefully around it in the early stages of its regrowth, as otherwise weeding is an uncomfortable/impossible job. As you see from the above photo, it can grow very thickly, shading out weeds and providing excellent cover for small birds and other little creatures.
Raspberries are usually thought of as plants of rainforest edges, but this drought and frost hardy plant is usually found in grassy Eucalypt woodlands, and the edges of dry vine scrubs, and likes to be grown where it gets quite a lot of sun (which does keep the plants neater - in shade they send out long, prickly shoots which annoy, and produce fewer flowers and even fewer fruits.)
Its leaves can be mistaken for blackberries, but are easily distinguished because they are furry white underneath.
All three of our native raspberry species (the others are R. rosifolius and R. moluccanus) occur naturally over a large area of Australia and South-east Asia. The fruits of R. parvifolius are made into wine in Japan.
(I'm sure there are, amongst my readers, people who willl look at the botanical and the common names, and say "parvifolius... surely that should be small LEAFED raspberry". I haven't the will to argue, but in practice the leaves are not notably small compared with R. rosifolius, whereas the small flowers are a very noticeable characteristic, so the above common name seems justified.)
For notes on another native raspberry, see May 2010.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Cut-leaf Buttercup

Ranunculus meristus

The roadsides between Dalby and Jandowie are glorious after the recent rains. The cracking black soil is covered with sheets of bluebells, yellow buttons, and white daisies, as well as a number of other little flowering herbs.

The table drains, especially towards the Jandowie end of the road, are a blaze of yellow buttercups among the nardoo.

Most buttercups are water-loving plants, but there are some, among Australia’s 30 or so species of native buttercups, which cope very well with drought.

Ranunculus meristus is one of them.

The roots of these tough plants survive below the soil’s surface in dry seasons, a habit which also keeps them safe from frost. Each year when the wet comes around again, they pop up as good as new.

So go on. Pack up a picnic and the Aerogard, and head out to see what must be one of the best spring wildflower displays in the country. Take your gumboots too, as you’ll probably want to have a close look at some things in slushy places. (And do be careful not to park your car on any blacksoil. “Bogged up to the axles” is an embarrassing condition which any Darling Downs resident understands well.)
(NOTE: A rather similar-looking plant to this is the river buttercup, Ranunculus inundatus, which we see growing in our red soils along the range. It has similar, but brighter green, leaves, and its flowers are fewer, smaller and much less showy. It is intolerant of drying out.)
For a description of yet another native buttercup, See Sep 2009