Category Archives: Flora

No birds today …

… but there was 10 mm of beautiful, drenching rain!

You could hear the bush sighing with relief.

A brief visit to Demo Track found Red-anther Wallaby-grass Rytidosperma pallidum in great shape. Also known as Silver-top Wallaby-grass and revised from Chionochloa pallida and Joycea pallida this local native species is great habitat for Painted Button-quail.

Red-anther Wallaby-grass, Demo Track, 15th November 2017

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Who is that feasting on my threatened species?

Here at Newstead Natives Nursery I am propagating Stiff Groundsel Senecio behrianus once thought to be extinct but identified by Bernie Robb from a Corop roadside circa 1992, creating much excitement. A few years ago Damien Cook brought me cuttings from various populations at Corop, Lake Boga and Ballaarat and they have grown easily and we are now trying to mix the genetics because each population does not have many different individuals.  When Damien came yesterday to get some plants for planting out we noticed this caterpillar on them which Damien knew was a Senecio Moth Nyctemera amicus. Senecio plants contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids which make the caterpillar unpleasant to taste and poisonous to birds which would otherwise attack it.

Senecio moth caterpillar on Senecio behrianus, 12 Nov 2017

Senecio moths 9mm and 15mm long on Stiff Groundsel at Newstead Natives Nursery, 12 Nov 2017

Does this count as a Newstead story Geoff Park? The caterpillar is a Newsteadian and Newstead is in between where the plant occurs naturally in Corop and Ballaarat!

Ed note: Big tick!

Senecio behrianus - STIFF GROUNDSEL - endangered daisy flowering in 150mm pot in nursery, 10 Dec 2015

Buds and flowers of Stiff Groundsel plants photographed by Frances Cincotta at her nursery

Senecio behrianus - STIFF GROUNDSEL - endangered daisy at Miners Rest Ballarat photo by Damien Cook

Stiff Groundsel at Miners Rest Reserve, Ballaarat, photographed by Damien Cook of Rakali Consulting

An easy intervention with big results

About 15 years ago, we collected a few sandwich bags of Shiny Everlasting seeds from Sandon forest and spread them in the fenced front yard of our place at Strangways. We knew they belonged as there were a few specimens in the bush that were a favourite food of the Black Wallabies.

Protected from browsing, the Everlastings thrived in our yard and spread into the bush, where they are now so abundant, the wallabies leave them alone and we have some impressive stands.

Shiny Everlastings

Shiny Everlastings spreading into our bush

They provide an extraordinary resource for invertebrates and therefore, of course, for the keen macrophotographer.

Hoverfly

Hoverfly

Plume Moth

Plume Moth

Austral Ellipsidion nymph

Austral Ellipsidion instar (AKA the Beautiful Cockroach)

Flower Spider and ant

Flower Spider (Zygometis sp?) and prey

Clerid Beetle?

Clerid Beetle?

Fly on Shiny Everlasting

Fly

At one point as I was prowling through the Everlastings it seemed for a short period that there was an abundance of tiny iridescent green wasps on them, less than 2mm long. some seemed to be sticking ovipositors into the daisies. After a bit of searching of bowerbird.org and brisbaneinsects.com I concluded that they are of the Torymus famaily of parastic wasps. I am curious about why they appeared in such a brief and intense burst.

Torymus wasp

Torymid wasp I

Torymus wasp

Torymid wasp II

We are well pleased with the results of our little bit of direct seeding a few years ago!

I recognise the bird …

… but have no idea about the plant … help wanted!

The White-fronted Chats were from a small flock foraging along the shores of Cairn Curran near Picnic Point.

The succulent was growing profusely amongst the basalt rocks nearby.

Note: Now confidently identified as Creeping Monkey-flower Thyridia repens (formerly Mimulus repens) … many thanks for your responses!

White-fronted Chat (female), 29th October 2017

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I’m keen to know what this prostrate succulent is called

Night life in the wattles

A venture into the bush with torch and camera on a cold night reveals a lot of life in the wattles. A Silver Wattle Acacia dealbata was being slowly combed by 5 mm long nocturnal Epaulet Ants, Notoncus hickmani. (Thanks to bowerbird.org.au for help with ID)

Epaulet ant - Notoncus hickmani

Epaulet Ant, Notoncus hickmani

Epaulet ant - Notoncus hickmani

Epaulet Ant #2

In the spectacularly flowering Golden Wattles Acacia pycnantha there was an abundance of tiny spiders from less than a mm long to much larger arachnids. On one leaf was a young and translucent Hunstman spider, about 20 mm across.

Spider up close

Hunstman

Much smaller, about 5mm long, was a Hamilton’s Orb Weaver Araneus hamiltoni hiding from my bright light in the blossoms.

Araneus hamiltoni

Hamilton’s Orb Weaver #1

Araneus hamiltoni

Hamilton’s Orb Weaver #2

More confidently staying in her web was this larger orb weaver, about 10mm long.

Orb weaver

 

Wild plants galore

Wild plants of the Castlemaine district is a wonderful new resource on the flora of the local area that has been made available by the Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club CFNC.

The website is based on the plant identification and reference guide produced by the late Ern Perkins, a founding and very active member of the CFNC. Ern was a peerless field naturalist who studied and photographed the flowering plants of the Castlemaine District, covering the Mt Alexander Shire, plus Porcupine Ridge and Fryers Ridge. Over his forty year membership of CFNC, Ern produced many plant lists for specific areas – all of this information has now been incorporated into the one resource – a wonderful achievement.

It has already come in handy checking the botanical names of some of the early spring wildflowers spotted yesterday on a ramble near Fence Track in the Muckleford bush.

Blue Caladenia Cyanicula caerulea, Fence Track, 26th August 2017

Pink Bells Tetratheca ciliata

Yam Daisy Microseris walteri

Golden Moths Diuris chryseopsis

All of this under a glorious display of Golden Wattle

Golden Wattle flowers

Spring around the corner

The first wildflowers of ‘spring’ are opening up, quite a few Early Nancy and Scented Sundews, along with a great display of Golden Wattle.

The birds are tuning up for what promises to be a very good breeding season, boosted by some excellent late winter rain.

Early Nancy, Fence Track Muckleford State Forest, 18th August 2017

Scented Sundew

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Spotted Pardalote, South German Track

Daimond Firetail, South German Track

Part of a flock of half a dozen