Friday, September 28, 2012

Native Wisteria

Callerya megasperma  (Milletia megasperma)
Just as those glorious, non-native wisteria are coming to the end of their flowering period, the native wisteria  is starting to open its softly furry white buds.
Like the introduced plant, this is a large woody climber, needing a strong fence, a sturdy pergola, or a large “wheel” on a post,  for its support. It also has large panicles of flowers, though does not produce quite such a generous display of them.
Unlike the introduced wisteria, this is an evergreen plant which keeps its glossy green leaves all year round. The stems of young plants are particularly beautiful, with their peeling bark.

 The flowers are interesting, in that the reproductive parts are clearly visible. Note here the female part, the long slender style topped with a little stigma, and the male parts, the stamens, each with a pollen-producing anther at its tip. The anthers of this flower are joined together at their bases.

Native wisteria flowers are rather unusual. Flowers of the pea family typically hide their reproductive parts between the petals of their keels, and have a high rate of self-pollination. This flower clearly wants to get its pollen out there, and its stigma is firmly placed where it will receive pollen transported from another flower, when it is visited by its nectar-seeking pollinator.

Here’s a detail I didn’t notice until I had this photo up on my computer!

It’s a butterfly caterpillar, from the family Lycaenidae. These butterflies have a symbiotic relationship with ants, which protect them in exchange for sweet juices, which the caterpillar exudes. I'm not certain which species of butterfly this one is, but it may be a pencilled-blue (Candalides absimilis). (This is a species known to breed on Callerya. and the caterpillars seem to me to look right.)

The plant will have  has a second ornamental feature around Christmas time, producing large, woody seedpods, which look as though they’re covered in soft green corduroy.

Native wisteria is a plant of rainforests which grows happily in Toowoomba gardens, tolerating light frosts, and needing no extra watering in our climate.

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