Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Beetles love blossoms.

For the last week, several plants of Melaleuca linariifolia in my yard have been flowering prolifically. I decided yesterday that I ought take some photos to show you how these flowers are structured, for they are somewhat unusual.
This plant is one of those plants known as "Snow in Summer".
Such names are of course, very ambiguous, but poetic.
A little closer view.
Here is a shot of a head if flowers - seen end on.
The bristling petals interlock,
making it hard to see where one flower starts.
Here is the same group of flowers, seen from the side.
You can see the petals opened out like little cups.
They are clearly visible on the left hand flower -
the one closest to my fingers.
The long white structures are not petals they are stamens.
The botanists describe this structure as a "claw".
That's the bit I was referring to as unusual.
Click to enlarge the image to see the tiny dots of pollen.
Here is a set of buds, just starting to open.
Here is a spray of leaves, from which the plant takes its name
- the "Flax-leaved Melaleuca" (from "Linum" the Flax plant)
While I was taking those shots I realised that the old flowers were smothered with beetles.
Click to enlarge.
Small Brown Beetles and Soldier Beetles. I do not know why the fresh flowers were not attracting the beetles. The old flowers were literally crawling with beetles.


mick said...

That's a very interesting melaleuca which I don't remember seeing before. Is it only a cold climate plant or does it grow up this way as well?

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick
According to PlantNET, it grows north from the Illawarra and in Qld.
It likes damp soil, frequently in coastal locations.
On old dairy farms one sees quite large trees (Paperbarks) of this species left in boggy areas, while the rest of the paddock has been cleared.

Mosura said...

That's a lot of beetles and a nice looking one right in the middle too.

Tyto Tony said...

Don't recall seeing this species up this way. Beetles on old blossoms only? Perhaps they feed on decayed plant material, thus show no interest in new growth.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mosura
Yes, a fine set of "antlers" on it.
I haven't studied it, other than taking that photo, but I didn't have the Macro Lens with me.
I just assumed it was a "Soldier Beetle", but perhaps there are hundreds of species - I don't know. But I did notice his antennae.
Darwin (or someone) once said "God was inordinately fond of Beetles!" - meaning he/she made more of them than the commentator thought was necessary or perhaps even "desirable".
I am quite fonmd of them for their shameless addiction to Pollen. Sometimes they just swarm all over plans with lots of pollen.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Tony
No doubt you have other species of "paperbarks", or swamp Melaleucas. They fil a distinct ecological niche, here.
Re Beetles, it is a puzzle, but I had no trouble getting good photos of the fresh flowers (without beetles, and without chewed flowers).

Gaye from the Hunter said...

Hi Denis,

I think I see a grey spider in the company of the many beetles too!

I imagine the birds have been having a feast.