Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fun Fungi of Robertson.

The fun fungi of Robertson are bursting out of the ground. Hardly surprising, with the moisture we have received recently. This is a large post, for reasons of the importance of knowing what you are dealing with, when considering Fungi.

The first thing to understand about all "fungi" is that the distinction between "Mushrooms" and "Toadstools" is totally arbitrary.
If you touch them or wish to eat them, then the responsibility rests with you.
Know what you are doing, or else be content to buy your "mushrooms" from a Green-grocer.

I stress that the first group of these fungi are "fun" ONLY in the sense that everybody loves to SEE them, but they are DEFINITELY NOT SAFE TO EAT (unless prepared by experts). These are the so-called "Fairy Toadstools" (Amanita muscaria). These are also called "Fly Agaric".
A perfectly formed "Fairy Toadstool"
The stuff of fairy tales, and post cards and children's books.
Here is a mature specimen, with the white stem "ring" and white gills visible.
This shot shows a 62mm camera lens cap (2 3/4 inches) for scale.
Note the white flecks on the cap, which are the remains of the "veil" which originally covered the entire fungus fruiting body, prior to it emerging from the soil.

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The rest of these fungi are safe to consider as potential meals. Mind you, it pays to know what you are doing and to have a good recipe. I cannot advise you personally on that (I do like Field Mushrooms pan-fried in butter), but I can say that these next fungi are all considered edible.

However, I have to add a caveat - which is that if you propose to eat fungi which you gather, the onus of responsibility for identifying what you have in your hand (or your saucepan) rests with you.

I am confident of what I see, and identify. But what you find might be ever so slightly different, and ever so potentially dangerous. If you know someone of European background, with experience of European Mushrooms (which all of these are), then talk to that person about any fungi which you find growing wild.

There are some seriously dangerous fungi out there.

Canberra, and Melbourne are notorious for dangerous fungi, which grow there, because of all those introduced trees. One of the tricks is to identify the host plants with which the fungi are growing. White fungi growing near Oak trees are especially suspect, as the Death Cap Toadstool commonly grows in Canberra, and the Melbourne region, usually near American Oaks, especially Pin Oaks.

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Here is a collection of three species of edible fungi found commonly in the Southern Highlands of NSW. Their varying size, colour and form make an attractive display.The first of these species (below) is easily recognised by its characteristic slipperiness - which earns it the name: "Slippery Jack". You can see how wet and shiny these very fresh specimens are. Even though it had been raining, the slipperiness was noticeable only on this species, not the Amanitas or Lactarius which were growing beside them, under the same Pine Trees.

Its scientific name is Suillus granulatus.
There is another very similar species, Suillus luteus, but that fungus (which I have not found in the Southern Highlands), apparently has a distinctive veil when just opening, and once the cap has opened, that veil leaves a remnant ring on its stem. My specimen does not have that 'ring" - and the absence of a "ring" on the stem of this "bolete" is distinctive. Look at Gaye's image of the other species, on the link above to see what I mean.

In the Southern Highlands of NSW, the true Slippery Jack grows commonly in association with Pine trees, typically Pinus radiata.Like all classical "Bolete" fungi, the "Slippery Jack" has "pores" not "gills".
From underneath, they look like a sponge.
I have broken away a small section to show the little vertical tubes which form the"pores".
Click to enlarge the image.
The next of the edible "exotic" mushrooms is commonly known as the "Pine Mushroom", even though the preceding species also grows almost exclusively in association with Pinus radiata (in the Southern Highlands of NSW).

This is Lactarius deliciosus, or the "Saffron Cap". This is a gilled fungus - immediately making it distinguishable from the previous one, which had pores.

This fungus is regarded by Australians of northern or eastern European background as something of a delicacy. Personally, I just love its colour. As this fungus opens, it tends to form a flattish surface, with a slight depression in the middle.

You can see the hollow in the centre of the cap of this next image. It is an older specimen which has been "scraped" by slugs or snails, which obviously love these fungi.
From underneath, its identity is immediately obvious.When seen from underneath, the Saffron Cap has a distinctive spotted stem, and the diagnostic feature is the way the cap, if broken, reveals the bright orange interior colour. Click to enlarge the image.

Most readers will recognise this as the familiar Field Mushroom (Agaricus campestris).
It is a young specimen, freshly opened, with the pinkish-fawn tones in its gills.
Kindly note the disclaimer issued by the WA Dept of Agriculture on that Website linked above.
Here is the top of another Field Mushroom - same species, just a more mature specimen.

Note the skin on the cap which peels easily.
This is NOT a diagnostic feature between '"Safe" Mushrooms and toxic ones
- despite what you might have been told.
"Peelability" is a positive indicator of this species, but it is NOT a diagnostic feature, in itself.
Other poisonous species of gilled fungi also peel easily. Look for gill colour, and for any discolouration when the gills are bruised.
Even apparently safe-looking "Mushrooms" with strong "chemical" odours are to be avoided. Some dangerous ones smell like "safe mushrooms".
Ultimately, identification of "Field Mushrooms" must be carefully judged on a number of factors.
Refer back to that W.A. site linked above.

Here is the same specimen, viewed from below. This is a typical mature Field Mushroom. The pink gills age to this dark blackish-brown colour. Mushrooms like this are sold in Green-grocers shops as "flats" (as distinct from the smaller"button mushrooms"). The difference between them is simply a matter of maturity (stage of development at which it was picked).
My view is, never eat any Fungus if you have any doubt at all about its identity.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Anzac Day Memorial Service in Robertson

A couple of days ago I received a phone call asking me if I knew about the Anzac Day Memorial Service in Robertson. I didn't know the details - but I ought have done. Several phone calls later I was able to pass on the necessary information to the inquirer. However, I resolved to go along to the Memorial Service take part myself.

The ceremony is held at the School of Arts, where the Memorial Stones are found, and the Flag pole.
The Anzac Day Memorial Service at Robertson was introduced by Jack Skipper, local resident and Returned Serviceman from the Korean War campaign. The Rev. Barry Lee is in the background of this image.Here is a young Lieutenant J.H. Skipper, MC, at Majon'ni, Korea. 1953-05-27
Photo used in accordance with AWM permissions code.

Members of the Robertson community laying their Memorial floral tributes and wreaths. In the centre of the image you can see Clrs Jim Mauger and Juliet Arkwright, who both represented the Wingecarribee Shire. Mrs Lynette Skipper is also waiting to lay a wreath.
Robertson resident and Shire Councillor, Larry Whipper, did not attend this Memorial Service.
"Lest We Forget". A moment of silence during to playing of The Last Post.Sounding Last Post
"Last Post is the trumpet or bugle call sounded in barracks and other military installations at 10pm each night to mark the end of the day's activities. It is also sounded at military funerals and commemorative services to indicate that the soldier's day has drawn to a final close.
Wreaths laid at the Robertson Honour Roll and Memorial stone." Source: Anzac Day history.Wreaths laid at the Kangaloon Honour Roll and Memorial Stone.
Peter Vaughan raises the flag, after the playing of "Rouse".
Raising of the flag
"After the one-minute silence, flags are raised from half-mast to the masthead as "Rouse" is sounded. Traditionally Rouse called soldiers' spirits to arise, ready to fight for another day. Today it is associated with Last Post at all military funerals, and at services of dedication and remembrance." Source: Anzac Day history.

After the placing of wreaths and the raising of the Flag, we adjourned to the School of Arts hall, for the formal Memorial Service. A series of slides and videos of local servicemen, compiled by Barry Lee, was played on the screen.

Jack Skipper welcomed everyone to the Memorial Service.
The school children are Isabella and Andrew from the Robertson Public School.Barry Lee giving a brief statement during the Memorial Service.
Gordon Whatman is also in the image. He recited the ode "Age shall not weary them...."
'They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."

Ode from the poem: "For the Fallen" by the English poet and writer Laurence Binyon and was first published in London in the Times newspaper in 1914. Source: Anzac Day - history

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Rainy days in Robbo bring out the Fungi.

It has been a wet week in Robertson. It has been like the"good old days" in Robbo - almost. Lets not forget that we missed out on the really heavy summer rains which we typically receive.

Over the last 5 days we have had 9.0 mm, 15 mm, 18m, and 17mm, and 10 mm.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to show a Canberra birdwatcher, Elisabeth Compston around the area, after a lunchtime downpour, the local Robertson Nature Reserve has never looked finer. Raindrops glistening on the leaves, with sunlight beaming through between the gaps in the canopy.

Today I went with Jim to explore a local creek beyond Carrington Falls, to look for a mini-waterfall which Jim had been told about. In view of the recent rain, the timing was terrific.This creek we were exploring has less than one kilometre of catchment, but the sandstone plateau is so waterlogged there is very heavy run-off.

We started out following an early settlers' track known as the "Butter Track", as it was used by the Kangaroo Valley settlers, in the very earliest days, to transport their produce to the coast, near Wollongong, and thence to Sydney. Anyway, this very old track runs beside Jim's property, and we were following it today. We came to point where a rock shelf traps the creek to form a small pool. After heavy rain, the creek flows down over the rock shelf as a cascade.We turned off the Butter Track and followed the creek towards the escarpment which borders the Upper Kangaroo Valley. It as only about 300 metres through the dense bush, to the edge. It was hard going, through dense scrub, sword grass, and over numerous fallen logs, but at least we did not have far to go. When we reached the cliff line, we could see straight across the Upper Kangaroo Valley to the houses of Robertson along Fountaindale Road. Carrington Falls is about one kilometre away, out of sight past the cliffs to the right.
Jim took the opportunity to sit at one of these wonderful rock formations which look like table-tops. The green grassed areas in the background are on Wallaby Hill (left) and Bells Hill (right). According to the contour map, the cliff line has an immediate 50 metre drop, just behind where Jim is sitting, and a further drop of about 100 metres down the slope to the very bottom of the valley where the (Upper) Kangaroo River flows away from bottom of Carrington Falls.
Because of the rain the fungi were growing very rapidly. Here is a young Boletus fungus. I do not know the species, unfortunately. From the thickness of the stem you can see that this Bolete would have become a very larg fungus indeed.
You can see the underside of the Fungus, showing the pored structure, instead of gills. Click to enlarge the image.
Jim and I then scrambled down a steep slope leading to the base of the small waterfall. We were still within the creek ravine, not out in the main Valley. Because of the narrowness of the ravine and the amount of water flowing down the creek, the whole area was dripping wet - with moss everywhere. Jim commented that it remined him of a scene in Lorna Doon. Quite right.

Here is the waterfall itself, and you can see the creek continuing to run down in a series of small cascades. The water was roaring.
On the valley floor there were many fungi. The first we saw was this small black vase-shaped fungus. It was only about the size of a 20 cent coin.
From underneath, you can see that this fungus has small teeth, not gills or pores. The body of the fungus was very stiff and firm, much like a "bracket fungus", but had a stiff black stem.On the valley floor, there were very many yellow fungi with coarse gills. They were very soft and fragile. Here is one which had been knocked over by a passing animal. You can see the very coarse gills underneath.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tiny Greenhoods and a Terminal Wattle

Yesterday I went to Manning Lookout, a Sandstone bluff overlooking the Kangaroo Valley, just a few Kilometres from Robertson. This Lookout is near Fitzroy Falls, but it overlooks the centre of Kangaroo River valley (and the village of Kangaroo Valley). By contrast, the lookouts at nearby Fitzroy Falls mostly look into the giant valley of the Shoalhaven River - with a southwesterly perspective. It is all part of the same Shoalhaven valley system, just that the Kangaroo River starts above Carrington Falls, north-east of Kangaroo Valley village, and it runs south-west until it meets the Shoalhaven River system. These days, the junction of these rivers is within Tallowa Dam.

Manning Lookout is one of my favourite places, locally, both for scenic attractiveness, and also for plants, fungi, birds and for gentle bushwalking. But yesterday, the main point of interest was the local autumn-flowering plants. There were many Banksias just coming into season, and I shall deal with them in the coming days (if my computer is ever returned to good health).

Today let us examine some of the "Tiny Greenhoods" (Speculantha sp. aff parviflora). As with most Greenhoods, this plant was previously known as a "Pterostylis". I have written about these plants many times, now, as there are numerous variant forms in the local area, and at Nowra (on the coast south from here). What was of interest was to see the form which grows here in shallow moss gardens on exposed sandstone rock shelves, within about 50 metres of the cliff faces.

Unlike the classic "form" of this species of Greenhood, which is simply green and white, this plant has distinct brown colouration on the top and front of the flower. It has small "ears" or "points" which do not protrude above the 'hood" of the flower (unlike the longer "eared" form I have shown previously, from near Nowra). When seen from the side, like this, you can see that the "sinus" (lets call it the gap at the front of the flower) of this form is not "stepped when viewed from the side" (PlantNET). Contrast it with this form of what is apparently the classic "parviflora" type of Greenhood - which has a very prominent step or protruding bulge in its "sinus".

The point about this location is that it means the plants are subjected to the full extremes of the weather - drying winds, lashing rains, and with a mere inch of soil below the moss, very little reserves of moisture to keep the plants alive over the summer. That latter condition of course, is what determines their predilection for flowering in autumn - after the heat has gone. To further highlight the tough conditions in which these plants live, if you look back at my earlier post about Manning Lookout, where I discussed Mallee Gums living there, you will see how tough and demanding is this localised "desert-like" environment (although it is a high rainfall area, these plants are living in a "virtual desert" on top of a sandstone cliff, with little or no soil). There Tiny Greenhoods are growing on rock shelves where not even the Mallee Gums can survive, but they are a mere handful of metres away from the Mallee Gums. There is a physical limitation to the size of plants which can survive on these exposed rock shelves, (insufficient soil to hold their roots - tall shrubs and trees would blow over), but tiny "heath" shrubs, and perennial plants such as Orchids and Sundews thrive amongst the mosses.
Here is the "Tiny Greenhood" as seen from the front.

By pushing the flower back slightly, I was better able to show you the "sinus" of the flower - it is not deeply notched, as some of these Tiny Greenhoods are. "Sinus shallowly notched when viewed from the front" (PlantNET) In fact this form does not appear to be "notched" at all.Here is a "mature" or ageing flower. The brownish colour has gone more red (which commonly happens in these brown forms of the plant). The "points" on the lateral sepals are just starting to protrude above the "hood". It seems to me to me to be unlikely that these points "grow" - so I assume that the "hood" starts to collapse as the flower ages, leaving the points protruding. I guess that is something which one could determine with some accuracy with a set of calipers, over a week of the life of an individual flower - but I have never done that measurement test.The point I am making about the variation amongst these related plants is that, in my opinion, there is ample evidence to classify them as different species. I know that David Jones, formerly from CSIRO and the Australian National Herbarium agrees, but he simply did not have the time to classify all these numerous variants from the "type" of the "Tiny Greenhood". He has retired now, but I understand he is still hoping to "publish" his conclusions on the revision of these "Speculanthas". It cannot come soon enough for me.

Another plant which was flowering abundantly at Manning Lookout yesterday is the Sunshine Wattle (Acacia terminalis). I mentioned this plant the other day, when discussing the "Sweet Wattle" which is just coming into flower on the Budderoo Plateau.

Here is a flower stem, with a fully opened head of flowers,
one set of partially opened flowers,
and one "head" with a single flower opened.

Next is a close-up study of the single opened flower. (Click to enlarge the image).
This image shows the buds of other flowers just starting to open.

You can clearly see the hard sheath-like petals from which the stamens of the flowers protrude.
These hard shell-like petals are permanent, and stay hidden by the "ball" of stamens which we think of as the flower. They do not fall, unlike those bracts which surround the buds in the "Sweet Wattle", prior to the true flower opening. For a more technical description of flowers of Acacia plants see this post, and this link to how the "botanists describe" Wattle flowers (see Fabaceae - Mimosoideae).
Here are some leaves of the Sunshine Wattle.

This plant has true leaves, not Phyllodes, as do the vast majority of Australian Acacias.

By the way, I do not know why this a plant is called Acacia "terminalis" - but I have left it to the end of this post to declare that fact!

Friday, April 17, 2009

An Orchid, an Acacia and a Frog (my 900th posting)

I know it might seem trivial to persons other than myself, but the fact that I have persevered this far is pretty amazing (to me). 900 postings, since 26 November 2005. And to think that I started out with "Odd little things which grow around Robertson", about a Flying Duck Orchid, and here I am three years, and 5 months later, still writing about Orchids (and frogs), and many other things in between.

Anni Heino deserves a round of thanks too, as she showed me how to go about Blogging. Thanks Anni!

Late this afternoon I had about 30 minutes of daylight left, and decided to venture a little further past Carrington Falls Road, along the Jamberoo Mountain Road, to quickly check for any signs of Orchids at a spot I know which is quite accessible, out on the Budderoo Plateau. This is just a few kilometres from Robertson.

I was wanting to check on some Greenhood plants which I know are found there, but which I have not yet seen in flower, and which I therefore cannot yet identify. The plants are there, OK, but still not in flower. I decided to look a little further afield for any Corunastylis (Midge Orchids). Also no luck there, alas.

But I did chance upon a creamy-white flowered member of the Leek Orchid tribe. It was formerly known as Prasophyllum striatum, but now is called Mecopodum striatum. Unusually for a member of the Leek Orchid grouping, this plant flowers in autumn and winter. It likes shallow moss beds on sandstone rock shelves - exactly the circumstances where I found it tonight.I referred to the flower as creamy-white, for that is the impression that it gives, when one first spots it in the heathland. But in fact, most of the flower is green, with dark reddish-purple stripes, the source of its specific name. Apparently it has a musky odour, a fact which I overlooked tonight. I wonder if it is worth another trip - just to test my scent glands?Oh well, I guess I am in for another session lying down on moist mossy soil, sticking my face down amongst the low shrubbery testing tiny Orchids for their scent. The things we Orchid enthiusiasts do, out in the bush. No wonder other people think we are strange!

There is no need for me to check for a perfume on this next plant.

Its perfume is overwhelmingly beautiful. It is Acacia suaveolens which name translates as "Sweet Wattle".
The distinctive thing about this wattle (apart from its exquisite perfume), is the bracts which enclose the buds, at their early stage of development. The bracts fall off before the flower buds enlarge, and then open. The smooth looking buds at the top of the flower stem are the bracts to which I refer. The ones in the centre of the image are just about to fall off.Most Wattles simply form their buds as small rounded clusters of tiny "golf ball" shaped objects (technically what we think of as a single wattle flower is in fact a raceme of many flowers held together in a bunch). This wattle has that form, but when the buds are developing they are enclosed in these protective sheaths, which are noticeable sticky to the the touch.

This wattle also is a very early flowerer (if one can say that of such a huge genus, which has something in flower every month of the year). But as all Aussies know, Wattle blossom is axiomatically associated with the first signs of Springtime. That's why I describe this one as "early". The Sunshine Wattle (A. terminalis) is also just starting to flower in the sandstone plateaux around Robertson, but it is also famously "early".

And next up is a Peron's Tree Frog (Litoria peroni) (or the "Emerald-spotted Tree Frog").

That name is right up there with the "Red-kneed Dotterel", and the "Red Wattlebird", in my book of accurate, but uselessly precise names. The Red-kneed Dotterel does indeed have red knees, but only early bird collectors (who thought nothing of blasting away with "bird shot" in their shot guns) or persons with a very fancy set-up of telescopes and cameras, can ever see that feature on the bird, in the field. And the "Red Wattlebird" is predominantly grey, with a yellow belly patch, and a tiny pink "wattle" (a loose flap of skin) hanging from below its eye. But I digress.

Here is the Frog in question. It does have tiny green spots on its skin. Click on the image to enlarge it, so you can see that some of the spots are indeed bright green - but only some of them.
By the way, the frog was clinging on to a door architrave on my front porch a few nights back. It was in fact facing vertically, up the wall. But it shows better when posted horizontally. This is what it really looked like. Frogs have great eyes by the way. And the ear plate (clearly visible behind the eye) is often often diagnostic amongst different frog species.

The large toe pads are typical of Tree Frogs. Its what enables them to climb smooth surfaces, such as windows, so easily.
Needless to say, it was on my front porch on a moist night, when there were many moths about. I did not see it catch any moths, but you can see a video of just such behaviour (with the same species of Frog) on David Young's blog. It is well worth a look. Frogs spend a lot of time sitting still, but when they decide to move, they are very fast movers indeed. Check out David's excellent short video. The Video is only 54 seconds long.

Incidentally, this Frog has a distinctive call, and yellow thighs, when seen from underneath. Perhaps it ought be re-named the yellow-thighed Tree Frog?
Just kidding folks!
It is already known as the "Maniacal Cackle Frog" - due to its distinctive call. That is burden enough for any animal.

Who knows what I shall be wrinting about in another 3 years and 5 months?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Back to Blogging, back to Orchids

If you thought that I was not publishing my blog any more, I am sorry. My computer has a terminal disease, apparently. Hopefully my photos are safely stored on my external hard drive. But the unknown factor, at this stage, is whether my last 4 years worth of email files on the C drive of my old computer can be salvaged. Lets hope so. Meanwhile I am working on the CTCs computer, by myself, late at night. Many thanks, to them.
Meanwhile, lets get back to blogging about Orchids.
It has been a very poor season for the summer and autumn flowering Orchids along Tourist Road, Kangaloon, this year. January and February were very dry, when we had a terrifically hot burst of weather for 3 or 4 days. Now the small autumn -flowering Orchids were still underground when the worst of that weather occurred, but it has delayed their flowering season. We have had some mild weather, and some gentle rain (not like the places further north), which has encouraged some of the local Orchids to flower.
Anyway, there is one particular Orchid which I photographed last year, which has been the subject of some controversy, as to its correct identity. So I was hanging out for it to flower this year. Finally it has opened up.
This is Corunastylis apostasioides. It is related to the other Corunastylis and Genoplesium plants which I have shown this year, but it is significantly different from them in several respects. Firstly, it is massively hairy on both the labellum, and on the dorsal sepal (underneath the flower). Secondly, it does not reflex the lateral sepals, as the other species do. (Contrast these images with the images of C. sagittifera - below).
When seen from the side, this plant holds the later sepals at about 30 degrees below horizontal. The labelum reflexes up somewhat, but that is the highest part of the flower.
Here is a close-up of the labellum and the dorsal sepal. (Click to enlarge). The dorsal sepal is boat-shaped, underneath the labellum, but it is quite small, relative to the massively hairy labellum. The Dorsal sepal is also closely crowded with hairs, but they are not as long as the hairs on the labellum above.
Some of my Orchid colleagues suggested that the flowers I photographed last year were an aberration, not properly formed, or not properly opened, or were perhaps "past it". Well, here we have a fresh flower stem, with the lower flowers closed, the top flowers not yet opened, and two open flowers in the middle. In fact, last year I found a similarly "phased" presentation of flowers. So, at the risk of creating controversy, I am going to stick with my identification of this flower as the true C. apostasioides, as with my flowers from last year. I know it differs from the flower shown in the Jones book, but at the risk of embarassing myself, I simply ask if my plants are not C. apostasioides, then would someone kindly tell me what else they are? I fear the other flowers identified on the internet as C. apostasioides might in fact be C. fimbriata. The problem with this species is that the flowers seldom open, so are often seen in closed form, and when one finds a half-opened specimen (of another related species) it is tempting to consider that it is C. apostasioides. Although the flower stems are quite tall, (relatively speaking), at about 200mm
the individual flowers are genuinely tiny. I had stared at this flower for several moments before I realised there were two open flowers for me to photograph.
You may contrast the above flowers with the classical presentation of a Corunastylis flower. Have a look at this image of C. sagittifera, growing nearby to the plant above. The lateral sepals are wide spread, and held high. The labellum is dark purplish, and curves down firstly, then reflexes back at the tip. The shiny purple part of the flower visible in this image is the upper side of the labellum.
This image is achieved by pushing the flower stem, back slightly, (about 30 degrees off vertical) to show into the flower slightly. You can see the pollinia grains inside the column, within the dorsal sepal. The lateral sepals dominate the flowern (held high as they are).

This specimen was growing about 200 metres from the other species, and although the flower stem is not as tall (only about 150mm) the flowers themselves are about 3 times as large as C. apostasoides, an impression created mostly because that plant does not spread its lateral sepals, but holds them drooping down, somewhat in the style of the ears of a Brahman Bull.