Each year, at this time, I marvel at the sudden explosion of flowering on our local Grey Box Eucalyptus microcarpa.
This magnificent tree is one of the keys to the ecology of the box-ironbark ecosystem and its flowers are one of the main reasons for the diversity of nectar feeders that inhabit the region. Honeyeaters, lorikeets and (hopefully) migratory Swift Parrots depend on the resources created by Grey Box from now until late autumn.
Grey Box has been described as a pollinator generalist (see Wilson, 2002, p 67). It doesn’t produce the same large volumes of nectar as, for example, Yellow Gum – a species that is a magnet for birds, but Grey Box is apparently adapted for pollination by both birds and insects. Many honeyeaters are fond of insects as well as nectar so Grey Box is ‘just the ticket’ for these birds.
In recent days I’ve been watching both Rainbow Bee-eaters and Sacred Kingfishers catching insects in the vicinity of flowering Grey Box … fuelling up before their journey north. It’s a complex and marvellous ecosystem.
Reference: Jenny Wilson (2002) – Flowering Ecology of a Box-Ironbark Eucalyptus community, PhD thesis, Deakin University.