Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kim's White Lilium, Butterflies, Notes on La Perouse

Today I publish photos of one of a group of Liliums which my friend Kim gave m as bulbs, last winter. They are lovely flowers, which I believe are Oriental Liliums, but perhaps they are hybrids, with the Asiatic Liliums. I cannot be sure.
What I can be sure of is that they are lovely flowers, with a stunning perfume, and a pure white flower (slight green veining) and a fine set of red stamens. Here is a single petal, showing the purity of the colour, and also the little spurs, or nodes on the petals. Believing as I do that, in Nature, nothing happens by accident, I can only assume that these little spikes or nodes are there to provide perches for insects. Perhaps they are scent organs (certainly in Orchids such things would be regarded as scent glands). I cannot be sure, but I can at least observe that they are a feature of these flowers. Note that there is a bead of nectar rolling down the green-coloured rib in the petal on the far side of the flower. (Click to enlarge). That and the sweet perfume of the flower tells me that these plants are intended to be pollinated by insects.

Talking of which!!!

Here is a Macleays Swallowtail Butterfly (Graphium macleayanum) This is one of many such Butterflies which love my Buddleja (or Buddleia, if you prefer).
These plants are prone to self-seeding in Robertson's soil and rtainy conditions. However, I would not be without these wonderful plants, for the very reason that you see here - they are like magnets for Butterflies. The solution is simple - I cut the plants down to about knee height after they flower, and before they seed. They re-generate beautifully, with plenty of time to form new flower buds for next year.

Please do not blame me for the background colour in this next image. This male Common Brown Butterfly (Heteronympha merope) chose to sit on top of the lid of my yellow Wheelie Bin. It must have thought it was some huge Dandelion flower. This species apparently occurs only in South-east Australia, and it was described by Fabricius in 1775. Fabricius, Johann Christian (1745-1808). Fabricius was a Danish entomologist. I can only conclude that this species was collected by one of the scientists in Cook's Endeavour - perhaps Sir Joseph Banks, (or one of his offsiders?).

Cook visited Australia in 1770. The next British vessel to arrive was in the "First Fleet", in 1788. The French explorer La Perouse arrived in 1788 too, but he and his vessels were lost in the Solomon Islands after they left Australia - so the only "scientific" collectors to have visited eastern Australia prior to 1775 would appear to have been on Cook's Endeavour.

Footnote about La Perouse: Having grown up in Canberra, near Laperouse Street, Griffith, and near Astrolabe Street, Red Hill, I have always been fond of this fellow. It is well known that he turned up at Botany Bay and met several of the vessels of the First Fleet,
as they were leaving Botany Bay to move to Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour), on 26 January 1788. The Sydney suburb of La Perouse is named in his honour. But I have just read tonight what happened after his departure from Botany Bay.
  • French explorer La Pérouse was stranded on Vanikoro after both his vessels, La Boussole and the Astrolabe, struck the then unknown reefs of the island in 1788. It is reported that some of the men were killed by the local inhabitants, whilst the surviving sailors built a smaller vessel and left the island, but were never seen again. Those that remained on the island died before search parties arrived in 1826. Jules Verne dedicates a chapter of his novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea to this event.
  • Source: Wikipedia


mick said...

Beautiful flowers! and the detail you show in your photos make them even more interesting.

Duncan said...

Interesting how the swallowtail has adapted to feed on a variety of exotics, Denis. We're used to seeing them in the high country around the alpine pepper.

Tyto Tony said...

Nicely detailed post, Denis. Pity there's no 'scentorama' widget.

Can't agree with nothing in nature being there by accident. Change is driven by many factors. Not all change proves successful. Bits here and there are, or become, redundant. Even a handicap and threat to the organism.

As I see it, evolution helps explain what's going on, but it's the cold-eyed commentator looking over the battleground of life, describing winners and losers but never taking sides. (IMHO)

Located name for Indian Almond: Terminalia catappa
Cyclone and salt spray resistant, which explains why it's also called (in these parts anyway) coastal almond.

Cheers, Tony

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Mick, Duncan and Tony.
Duncan, there were many more Cabbage Whites around, but I sometimes get Painted Jezebels (I think) and definitely Caper Whites on the Buddlejas. Not sure quite what it is which attracts them - presumably nectar. Adaptation is all the rage, it seems. There are some (few) plants in the same family - Scrophulariaceae ( which are natives. The only one which jumped out at me was the Eremophila, which is primarily an inland genus - not a local (here).
Tony, I am not a believer in "Intelligent Design", but rather someone who is regularly surprised to learn how well adapted many plants and insect relationships have become. Wasp/Orchid relationships is probably my favourite (pseudo-copulation) where plants have adapted to "mimic" (not my word, but that of the scientists) the pheremones of female wasps. When you think that Orchids cannot "smell" the female wasps, yet produce synthetic versions of the pheremones, it is pretty amazing. Incidentally, it is the lack of scent glands in the Orchids which make me wary of the term "mimic". I mean, it is not as if they smell the wasp phereomones and decide to copy it. No, it is adaptation, pure and simple "What works, works".
Of course, as Stephen Jay Gould loved to point out, the floors of the ocean are littered with Nature's failed experiments.
Thanks to all.

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks also for the name of the Indian Almond.

Tyto Tony said...

Hi Denis

I'd hate to get at cross purposes on these tricky grounds. No intent, God forbid, to even hint at possible belief in Intelligent Design. I was just surprised at: "in nature, nothing happens by accident".

I'm sorry if we're at cross purposes, and would be even sorrier to be thought a Darwinian pedant, or, worse, a sneaky ID provocateur.


Denis Wilson said...

Hi Tony
Thanks for clarifying. I thought perhaps you felt I was a secret devotee of the Great Designer in the Sky!
You are certainly right that there have been evolutionary "dead ends", and experiments which have failed, or nearly so (I am thinking of the 3 toed Sloths of South America, which certainly do not look very highly adapted to anything much at all.) But they are still "hanging in there".
A lousy pun for you!