Tuesday, February 13, 2018

10 Butterfly Plants for the Toowoomba District

 The secret of attracting butterflies to your garden. 

Well, there's more than one "secret";
SECRET 1: Provide baby food. Butterflies’ favourite gardens are the ones that will let them raise a family. Put in plants that their caterpillars can survive on, and they will come - BUT be aware that most butterflies can breed on only a few plant species. Some can breed on only one. These are called “host plants”.  Female butterflies are attracted by “their” plants’ special smell, (and male butterflies are attracted by females) .
SECRET 2. Know your local butterflies. Putting in plants for species which never come to our district will get you nowhere. Right now, it’s the peak of the butterfly season - a good time to get out and look for butterflies. If you don’t already know your locals, it’s a great time  to start learning. If you garden seems to have a poor selection, take a trip to somewhere with a better selection of surviving bushland, to learn what could be attracted to your garden with the right host plants.
SECRET 3. Choose local native plant species.
SECRET 4. Plenty of flowers for nectar. Flowers with a "honey" smell do the job best. This is a "secret" with erratic results, though. Plenty of people plant flowers with nectar, but many native butterflies are disappearing from Australia's suburbs for lack of host plants. Don't count on using "Secret 4" by itself!

Butterfly Host plants for our Own District.
A Shortlist
1. NATIVE CASSIA,  Senna acclinis and other Senna species (small shrubs) - Yellow and lemon migrants, small grass-yellow, large grass-yellow
2. MONKEY ROPE VINE Parsonsia straminea (Large climber) - Common crow, Native wanderer
3. SNOW WOOD Pararchidendron pruinosum (Small tree) - Tailed Emperor
4. ORANGE SPADE FLOWER - Hybanthus enneaspermus (Small perennial) - Glasswing
5. DARLING PEA - Swainsona queenslandica (Small, spreading perennial) - Grass Yellow
6. CRESSIDA BUTTERFLY VINE -Aristolochia meridionalis (Very small light climber)  - Clearwing
7. CURRACABAH Acacia concurrens (Medium wattle tree) - Imperial hairstreak, Tailed Emperor
8. FAN FLOWER Scaevola albida (Groundcover perennial)  - Meadow Argus
9. ZIG ZAG VINE Melodorum leichhardtii (Large climber) - Four-barred swordtail, pale triangle, eastern dusk-flat
10. LEOPARD ASH Flindersia collina (Small to Medium tree) - Orchard swallowtail
11. JACKWOOD Cryptocarya glaucescens (AND OTHER Cryptocarya species. Medium shade tree. - Blue triangle

Getting Hold of the Plants.
All the above are currently available from the Crows Nest Community Nursery.
Normally only open on Thursday mornings, it is also having an Open day on Saturday 3 March. 8.30am - 2.00pm.
To find the nursery, see

For a longer list of suitable local  Butterfly host plants see
There is also a recent ABC article on the excellent work being done by Helen Schwenke on butterfly host plants in SE Qld coastal districts. Excellent reading.

Some Local butterflies
Common Crow

Tailed Emperor

Blue Triangle


Meadow Argus

Grass Yellow

Orchard Butterfly

Grass Blue

Native Wanderer



Saturday, February 3, 2018

Something special, in Rainy Weather.

Tar Vine Boerhavia dominii

Some of you will be familiar with this delightful little plant.

I photographed the one below near Wyreema,

and the one below this was at McEwan State Forest near Pittsworth. As you can see, the leaves vary a bit from place to place.

The plant itself is not showy enough to ever become popular as a garden ornamental, but is pretty, all the same. The tiny flowers are exquisite. As a romantically-inclined farm child from the Darling Downs, I was sure they would be fairy favourites.

A friend from Pittsworth sent me these photos yesterday, showing the amazing transformation of the seeds after rain. She says the little blobs which have developed to encase the seeds are “slimy”.

Aren’t they beautiful? Like little pearls! If you click on the photos, you can get a good look at the details.

On the second rainy day, the seeds are falling off, and collecting under the plant, looking "like frogspawn".

The reason for it all is that the seeds contain mucilage, which swells when wet, encasing the seed in a little damp ball to improve its chances of staying wet long enough for the newly germinated seeds to have a good chance of growing. Now would be a very good time to move some of those seeds into a bare dry patch that needs a bit of ground cover, and tuck them under a light cover of damp soil, being careful to preserve their mucilage coating. They can cope with a very tough, sunny site that gets very dry.

The mucilage has another function as well. It is designed to stick to the fur of passing mammals.This technique has helped the plant to spread itself about over much of Australia.

ADDENDUM: Since I published this blog, a correspondent has told me several other things about this plant.
The secret of its survival in hard, dry conditions is its persistent  taproot. This root is edible, and is still collected for this purpose by people living a traditional lifestyle in Central Australia. (If you want to try it, please be cautious. It may need to be cooked first). The leaves of the closely related B. diffusa are often used as a green vegetable in many parts of India.
Apparently it is unpopular with farmers, and can actually reduce the value of a farm because it is a difficult "weed" to kill by any means including poison, and tends to tangle in a plough. Pastoralists, however, regard it as a good, palatable pasture plant. Horses are said to get fat (and lazy) on it.