Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ivorywood at Anduramba

Siphonodon australis
I saw this pretty tree on red soil at Anduramba a few weeks ago.

Having only ever seen the species growing in scrub, I was interested to see how it shaped up as a plant grown in the open, in a paddock which it shares with cattle.
It is certainly a pretty specimen, especially laden as it is with its aromatic fruit.

This plant is probably very old, despite its small size. The species is slow-growing at the best of times. It was probably not much smaller than this when the original scrub was cleared from around it, a century or more ago. Like so many dry rainforest trees, it would have the ability to survive happily, but make little growth in a rather harsh habitat like this.
Ivorywood is one of our disappearing trees, easily cleared, and taking several human lifetimes to replace.
We all love big trees, but should remember to value those which are not naturally very large. Action groups wanting to save “significant trees” are sometimes found fighting tooth and nail to save 30-year-old gumtrees, while letting ancient treasures like this disappear without a word of protest.

For more about this plant, see Dec 2009

Gumbi Gumbi Gardens

I do love a well-designed garden!

My idea of a really good garden is one which appeals not just to the physical senses, but to the mind and spirit as well.
The University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba already has one well-established great public garden of this kind, in its Japanese Garden. It has done it again, with this Aboriginal garden. It is beautifully designed and rich with uplifting meaning and symbolism.
Even for those who choose to ignore all that, it is simply a pleasant place to be, even though it is still so very new. It is a great place to go for a stroll, watch the birds, take a picnic, bring international visitors, or just to have a snooze in the shade on a sunny afternoon.

I was delighted when I was given the opportunity to be shown around a few weeks ago. The Toowoomba Field Naturalists were given the first official tour of the garden by two of the people who were driving forces in its creation, Donna Moody and Uncle Darby McCarthy. It was a pleasure and a privilege. If you get the chance to do the same, don’t miss it, as it's very rewarding to be able to have a deeper understanding of the ideas behind the design.
I had been told that the university was building a new “bush tucker garden”, so was very interested to discover that this was a rather inadequate description. Bush tucker is certainly one of the components, but only a small part of the whole.
The plantings are all of local native species, but older existing plants of many other kinds have also been retained. This is a garden that is very firmly grounded in its own place in the world.

The Gumbi Gumbi Gardens are in the University’s “front yard”, stretching from West Street up towards the administration buildings. Parking inside the University can be difficult (though possible) on a weekday, but easy on weekends.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Joseph’s Coat Moth

(Agarista agricola)

This insect created a bit of a flutter when she was found in the seed-raising igloo at the Crows Nest Community Nursery last Thursday.
“Oh no!” we thought. "Not a butterfly laying eggs on our precious seedlings!"
On examination she proved to be not a butterfly, but our largest and most glamorous local day-flying moth. With a wingspan of 7cms, she is as large as the more familiar blue triangle butterfly,  so it is not surprising that Joseph’s coat moths are often mistaken for butterflies.

This is a female. You can tell by the large white patches on her shoulders.  Her brilliantly striped caterpillars - black, white, and orange - grow to 7cms, so could have done a lot of damage to the right kind of seedlings.
However, the Joseph’s coat moth is only known to breed on plants in the grape family, and there are none of those in the igloo. The poor girl had blundered in there and was only trying to escape.
She was carefully captured, taken home and photographed. (This picture of her showy knickers was taken through a sheet of glass.)

Then she was released in my garden, where her most common local host plant, the slender water vine Cayratia clematidea, grows. Hopefully she has found a boyfriend by now, and may be out there laying eggs as I type.

See March 2011 for more on the slender water vine.