Thursday, November 15, 2012

Split Jack

Capparis lasiantha
   We rarely see these plants on the eastern side of the Condamine. I found this one in Edgefield Road North-east of Dalby, where the basalt soil is blending into sandy alluvial soil.
   Like our other local native capers, it has flowers which resemble butterflies, with its four petals arranged in pairs.
Also like other native capers, the plant is well-defended by ants. (I can find no information about this well-known association between ants and Australian Capparis species. I imagine that they are being attracted by nectar-secreting glands (nectaries)  that have evolved for the purpose. Can any of my readers enlighten me?)
   The flowers of most of our native capers are short-lived, losing their petals by mid-afternoon. Their decorative qualities come from the sheer quantifies of flowers produced. However these little ones were still hanging on, quite late in the day. They seem to open white and turn yellow, but I don’t know whether they last for more days than one.

   Split Jack is a scrambling climber, hanging onto its host plants by the sharp little pairs of spines at the base of each leaf. Some capers lose their thorniness as the plants age, but this one seems to be a thorny little devil all its life. (Now there’s the thing to grow on a fence, if you’re worried about prowlers!)
   They can climb to about ten metres, but are more often seen on fences where they can grow quite bushy, or scrambling over themselves to make dense, bird-sheltering shrubs. They grow densely without pruning, but are happy to be confined to a desired shape and size with the secateurs.

Like all Capparis, they are hosts for a number of butterfly species, like this Caper White (Belenois java).

Grow a split jack, (or a native caper of any kind) and you will always have native butterflies in your garden!

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