Category Archives: Flora

Groundsel discoveries

We have good numbers of Slender Groundsels (Senecio phelleus) flowering in our bush at the moment. These delicate daisies have a rosette of dark green leaves with purple undersides and tall stems, also with a few green/purple leaves, and tiny daisy flowers on top. Flowers that look like they should open more, but never do.

Slender Groundsel (Senecio phelleus)

Slender Groundsel

Many plants are both currently flowering and setting seed. They are quite beautiful when setting seed.

Slender Groundsel (Senecio phelleus)

Slender Groundsel setting seed.

Slender Groundsel (Senecio phelleus)

Groundsel seed and a little dew

I’ve often been curious about what pollinates these tiny daisies and this season have seen some of the many hoverflies visiting them, but have not been able to photograph them in this act. Whilst I was looking at one plant, I thought an ant might be doing some pollen collection, but she had other things on her mind.

Ant "milking" aphid

Ant munching on an aphid

To my surprise she was busy eating an aphid. As I looked at other flowers on the same plant, I discovered that she had quite a smorgasboard of them!

Aphids on Groundsel

Aphids on Slender Groundsel

Most of them were black, but for one tiny red one. Was this a different species or just a variant of the same?

Aphids on Groundsel

Standing out from the crowd.

I also found on the same plant a tiny gnat, who didn’t seem interested in the aphids, but I couldn’t tell if it wanted to get pollen or stick a proboscis into the plant.

Gnat on groundsel

Gnat on Slender Groundsel

It’s also a big time of year for Bluebells – Wahlenbergia sp. Also a hit with the hoverflies it seems.

Hoverfly

Hoverfly taking the offerings of a Bluebell

Hoverfly

And off to the next one!

The Secret Life of Mistletoe

The Secret Life of Mistletoe – a presentation on Thursday 21 November at Newstead Community Centre, 8pm … All welcome (A gold coin donation would be appreciated)

David M. Watson is Professor of Ecology at Charles Sturt University and an international expert of mistletoes. In addition to the ecology of parasitic plants, his research focuses on large-scale connectivity conservation and developing innovative approaches to biodiversity monitoring and measuring ecosystem health.

Newstead Landcare Group is delighted that Prof. Watson is coming to Newstead to present a talk on this enigmatic group of plants. Lacking roots, depending on other plants for their survival and relying on animals for dispersal, mistletoes have inspired a range of beliefs throughout the world. Some people regard them as magical, endowed with special powers; others as destructive weeds that devalue native habitats. In his talk David will review two decades of his research on these plants and share his emerging view of these plants as beautiful native wildflowers that support wildlife and boost productivity.

Prof. Watson will have copies of his book for sale at the event, “Mistletoes of Southern Australia” published by CSIRO. It is the definitive illustrated guide to all 47 species of mistletoe found in southern Australia. This new edition consolidates current knowledge about the natural history, distribution, biology, ecology and management of mistletoes in one convenient source. Illustrated with beautiful paintings as well as photographs of mistletoes and the animals that depend on them.

Eastern Spinebill on Box Mistletoe, photographed by Prof. David Watson

Amyema linophylla (Buloke Mistletoe) photographed by Prof David Watson.

Of bees, blue flowers and blues

Lots on native bees around at the moment. And amongst the things native bees like, blue is right up there. A lot of our insect pollinators have a particular penchant for blue flowers.

Black-anther Flax-lilies (Dianella admixta) are in full flower at present, their drooping blooms visited by various bees including Lipotriches, a bee of the Halictid family.

Lipotriches bee

Lipotriches bee visiting Black-anther Flax-lily

Another species of Halictid bee in good numbers at present is the Parasphecodes sub-genus of Lassioglossum. These are much smaller bees, about 3mm long compared to the 5-6 mm of Lipotriches. They were very quick in visiting the Flax-lily plants, but were much more inclined to stay put on Digger’s Speedwell Veronica perfoliata flowers and hence easier to photograph. On the Speedwell flowers, they bury themselves entirely in the cup formed but the flowers and rummage around vigorously.

Lasioglossum bee

Parasphecodes on Digger’s Speedwell

Although there were many of these tiny bees on the Speedwell flowers, this one particular bee was very set on this one flower. As was another even smaller bee (I couldn’t get a clear enough shot to guess at the type) which kept trying to muscle in on the action before being forcefully ejected by the Parasphecodes bee.

Lasioglossum bee sends a smaller bee packing

The battle of the bees.

Halictid bees are also called sweat bees as they delight in drinking the sweat of humans. This one was very happy to sit on my warm hand for a taste.

Sweat Bee

Sweat bee getting some salt.

Of course, whilst they like blue, our local bees are pretty keen on yellow flowers too. A different Lasioglossum species shows what good pollinators they are, delving into a Shiny Everlasting Xerochrysum viscosum.

Lasioglossum bee

Lasioglossum

Often mistaken for native bees, but no less beautiful or important are hoverflies. Being flies – the order nameof flies, Diptera, means two wings – their second pair of wings has morphed into tiny club-like appendages that give the insect important information for exquisite flight control. This modified wing can be seen below the wing just a little way along from the wing root in these photos.

Hoverfly

Hoverfly

I often find hoverflies with dented compound eyes, presumably from some collision. It never seems to impair their skills at navigating.

Hoverfly

Not daunted by dented optics

Longicorn Beetles are also around. The name relates to their distinctive long antennae.

Longicorn Beetle

Longicorn Beetle

Close-up, they would seem to be ideal for a role in science fiction.

Longicorn Beetle

Face-to-face

 

 

Beetles and a different use of a flower

On recent nights’ excursion into the bush, there have been a few beetles to be found. On  new shoot of Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa), a small Leaf Beetle, about 10mm long.

Leaf Beetle?

Leaf Beetle

Nearby, on another Grey Box sucker, a somewhat larger beetle.

Beetle

Beetle.

Beetle

Head on.

I also found a beautiful Ladybird on a Golden Wattle.

Ladybird - Tirbe Coccinellini

Ladybird.

I have to say that, although the invertebrate numbers have lifted a little with the onset of Spring, it is still harder to find subjects than in previous years. I assume this is the result of the dry conditions.

On checking on the ever-reliable Shiny Everlastings in our bush during the daytime, I was pleased to find this tiny wasp.

Wasp

Wasp

As I kept watching, she seemed to be laying eggs in the flower. The flowers she was most interested in had brown discolourations in the central flower parts. I’m not sure if a diseased flower attracts the wasp, or wasp have changed the flower.

Wasp

Laying in the central flowers

 

A colourful carpet

Before another burst of welcome spring rain, the Mia Mia was bathed in sunshine this morning. While the birds didn’t perform for the camera a carpet of wildflowers more than compensated.

Blue Caledenia Cyanicula caerulea, Mia Mia Track area, 8th September 2019

Pink fingers Caladenia carnea

Leopard Orchid Diuris pardina

Plougshare Wattle Acacia gunnii

Rough Wattle Acacia aspera

Downy Grevillea Grevillea alpina

Tall Sundew Drosera auriculata

Red Box leaves catching the dew

List: Shining Bronze-cuckoo, Black-eared Cuckoo, Pallid Cuckoo, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Speckled Warbler, Brown Thornbill, Yellow Thornbill, Striated Thornbill, Grey Shrike-thrush, Crested Bellbird, Red-capped Robin, Red Wattlebird, White-throated Treecreeper, Superb Fairy-wren.

New territory

I sometimes berate myself for not being more adventurous in the choice of places to ramble. Not far from the well-trodden paths of the Mia Mia, in fact only a kilometre or so north, is the Telecom Track (I’ll let you figure out why it was so named) area. I was surprised at the number of larger eucalypts, including some Red Ironbark – always a good sign for birds, as well as a healthy understory of Gorse Bitter-pea and grasses.

I’ve visited this area a few times over the years, mainly in summer, when birds proved to be scarce. Not so this spring – a party of Speckled Warblers (at least 3) and territorial Scarlet Robins distracted me from a terrific display of wildflowers not yet at their peak.

Speckled Warbler (male), Telecom Track, Muckleford State Forest, 31st August 2019

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White Marianth Rhytidosporum procumbens

Early Nancy Wurmbea dioica

Scarlet Robin (female)

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List: Scarlet Robin, Eastern Yellow Robin, Little Lorikeet, Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Pallid Cuckoo (first for the season), Shining Bronze-cuckoo, Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo, Buff-rumped Thornbill, Brown-headed Honeyeater, White-naped Honeyeater.

Overhead and underfoot

What a great time of year to be in the bush. It’s hard to know where to look, with a carpet of wildflowers emerging and lots of activity in the canopy above.

Nodding Greenhoods, Telecom Track, Muckleford State Forest, 30th August 2019

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Little Lorikeet

Purple-crowned Lorikeet

Dwarf Greenhoods

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