Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Spring Tiny Greenhood starts to flower.

On this plant you can pick your own name to use: 
  • Spring Tiny Greenhood
  • Speculantha vernalis (the "new name")
  • Pterostylis vernalis (the old form of name for a new species, if you follow me).
  • Pterostylis sp. Flat Rock Creek (the name under which it is "listed")
    Speculantha vernalis
What you do need to know is that it is listed as critically endangered under both the Federal EPBC Act and the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act.
For that we can thank David Jones (who originally nominated it under the EPBC Act in 2006) and Alan Stephenson, the ANOS Conservation Officer, resident of Nowra, and my guide on Sunday who nominated the plant for NSW TSCA listing. 

On Sunday, Alan Stephenson and I went out to see if these plants were yet in flower. They had just started to flower, much to my satisfaction.

Neither of those formal websites shows any details of the plant, as both listings are quite recent, and the necessary public information has not yet been produced. But it has been "listed" formally on both sets of legislation. It is reported by Alan, in this ANOS publication as having been listed.
EPBC Act listing advice 9 February 2010.
It is in the group known as Tiny Greenhoods. They were formerly grouped within the name of Pterostylis parviflora.

It differs from the other named species in that group by flowering in springtime and also by forming its leaf rosettes prior to flowering, whereas the other species in this group flower straight out of the ground with no leaves. In those species, the rosettes form when or after the flowers mature. Not so for Speculantha vernalis, as you can see here.
Leaf rosette of  Speculantha vernalis plus flower stem base visible
 Here is the flower seen from the rear.
rear view of  Speculantha vernalis
 Leaf rosettes of this Spring Tiny Greenhood.
This plant has a preference for growing 
on moss beds, 
sometimes on sandy soil under low shrubs, 
or otherwise on sandstone rock shelves.
Spring Tiny Greenhood in situ
  Multiple plants (leaf rosettes and some flowering)
Click to enlarge image
Speculantha vernalis in situ - multiple plants

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Echidna and Possum babies in Shoalhaven region

Today I was driving along Culburra Road, south from Nowra, when a car coming the other way, suddenly stopped, flashing its lights. A man got out of the car, and stood on the road in front of the car. It looked puzzling, till we drew up opposite them and realised there was an Echidna on the road, and the guy was trying to stop it from walking across the  road, where it would have been at great risk from passing cars.

The lady then got out and grabbed some "welding gloves" from the boot. Turns out they were Wildlife Rescuers who had received a call to go and collect a baby Brush-tailed Possum the mother of which had been killed by someone's "pet" dog.
Here is the baby Possum
baby Brush-tailed Possum
 I was surprised how much it looked like a Kangaroo, with its short fur, and lack of the normal markings. But the "hands" on the front legs were very obviously equipped for climbing, with sharp claws and a thick pad on the "thumb".

While going to answer that call, they had seen the same Echidna, and had moved it off the road.

Having collected the Possum, they were returning home, on the same road, and found the same Echidna trying again to cross the same road. They are notoriously persistent.
Echidna being held by the rescuer who stopped it from getting run over

That's where they were up to in this story, when we arrived.
I sought permission to take a few images, and they agreed.
This Echidna was merely half-grown.
Echidna - close up shot. It kept wriggling and hiding its face.

Echidna's snout which includes its nose, and the very long tongue
They moved the Echidna for the second time - this time to the far side of the road, where it apparently wanted to go.

For overseas guests to this Blog, an Echidna is an ant-eating marsupial animal (in fact they have preference for breaking into termite mounds to get the larvae). It and the Platypus are proto-marsupials*** which lay eggs, yet suckle their young. *** I have been corrected on the use of that term. I should have stuck with just calling them "monotremes" but thought that was going to be too confusing. My instinct on that was right. Check out this article on Monotreme taxonomy. 

Echidnas are notoriously stubborn about crossing roads, and they are frequently killed in the process. I have written about one I found freshly killed when crossing another road.

There is an interesting article about the biology of Echidnas, and their rescuing, at Fourth Crossing Wildlife

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Spring Is coming in a rush, in the "bush".

This post will primarily be about Orchids, but let me just say that the "bush" is coming alive in the Illawarra and Southern Highlands. And it looks great!

Wattles are in flower everywhere, lining the roads and tracks, and the Pea flowers are climbing, scrambling or in the case of the shrubby ones, just standing up and flowering their little heads off.

But amongst these shrubs, the spring-flowering Orchids are just coming into flower too.

Just down my local hill, below Macquarie Pass, at Albion Park, the rare and endangered Illawarra Greenhood - better known simply as "gibbosas", have started to flower. 

The name Oligochaetochilus gibbosus amounts to the unpronounceable in search of the "bent over". 

Gibbous means humpbacked. The other part of the name, refers to its few spiky hairs on the labellum.

It is listed under the EPBC Act as Endangered, because of its limited distribution.

Here is the flower seen from the side
It is demonstrating its "gibbous" posture.
Oligochaetochilus gibbosus
And from the front, with the labellum "set"
Oligochaetochilus gibbosus
The EPBC Act recovery plan for this species includes this Pterostylis gibbosa drawing by A. W. Dockrill (reproduced from The Orchardian Volume 12, Number 3, March 1997 with the permission of the Editor)
">Botanical drawing of this species by AW Dockrill
In the same area, is found a cousin of that first species, Hymenochilus bicolor
It is a Midget Greenhood which has been renamed. In common parlance it is called the Black-tip Greenhood, in reference to its labellum. 
Black-tip Greenhood Hymenochilus bicolor


In the same area I found the first of the regular spring "Caladenias"

This is Petalochilus carneus, best known as "Pink Fingers"
Petalochilus carneus
 There is often considerable variation between different flowers.
Pink Fingers Orchid  Petalochilus carneus
There will be many more of these "Spring Orchids" over the next few days. 
Time and space are running out on me.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Daffodil Day - for all persons experienced with cancer.

Today (well yesterday as I write, but I will back-date the publication date to fit) is Daffodil Day. It is a major fun-raising event for the Cancer Council.

Unlike last year, there is not a large display of Daffodls in flower, in front of the Big Potato, in Robbo, this year, for Daffodil day. There are just two patches of flowering Daffs, and lots of leaves. 

The story is that large numbers of the Daffodils planted in front of the Big Spud were pinched last summer, as they died down (clearly by someone intending to replant them themselves). As a result, the bulbs which were planted to replace the stolen ones are in leaf, but not yet in flower. They may flower this year, but if they do they will have missed the timing to make massed display in front of the Big Spud. Lets hope they all make a massed flowering display next year.

I will at least post photos of individual plants of Daffodils and Jonquils (all related Narcissus plants) which are flowering in my yard today.

Happy Daffodil Day to everybody who has been involved with cancer - whether you yourself, or a close friend or partner, or family member. And that's just about everybody, when you think about it.

Yellow and orange Jonquils "soliel d'or"

A lovely single Daffodil J.T. Bennett Poe - just opening

A bright small cupped orange and gold daffodil

A lovely bunch of tiny Daffodils, "Tete-a-tete"

A large orange and gold Daffodil with wide, frilled cup.

A sweetly perfumed Jonquil. Narcissus tazetta

Sweetly perfumed white double Jonquil "Earlicheer"

Mirbelia platylobioides starts to flower alongTourist Road

Mirbelia platylobioides is rampantly in flower along Tourist Road, Kangaloon, down on the flat dry sandstone edges, there, (not in the wet, swampy bits, nor in the tall, wet Eucalypt forest country).

Apart from some of the Hardenbergia plants in flower, this is one of the earliest of the local pea plants to come into flower.

 It is a prostrate plant (most of the time), with bright golden orange flowers.
Mirbelia platylobioides
 I like the heavily veined leaves of this plant.
 This is the flower as seen when one is walking along.
Mirbelia platylobioides
When the seeds are produced, the pods are hairy, 
and they have a flattened base, and are roughly flat in cross-section.
There is a depressed line down the centre of the pod.

Mirbelia platylobioides seed pods

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sunset serenade

As the sun set slowly in the west, 
I went out onto the back deck to listen.
If you have birds around your home, 
try to listen to their calls as the sun rises or sets.
Sunset from my back deck tonight
Blackbirds were whistling beautifully (listen towards the end of this sound file), with the occasional clattering cluk, cluk, cluk alarm noise (unfortunately, that call is at the start of the attached sound file - which gives totally the wrong impression of their beautiful whistling call).

Pied Currawongs were carolling in the distance.

Magpies joined in with some of their piping calls.

And then a pair of Kookaburras joined in, to bid the day farewell with their wonderful call.

tonight's sunset from my back deck.

Two new species of Orchids for me.

Technically, I have seen the first species before today, but only as dried (finished) flowers.
To say that the plant needs to be seen (when fresh) to be appreciated is an understatement.

These plants were found in the Budgong Fire Trail, in the Shoalhaven Vallly,,

It is called the Mayfly Orchid. Nemacianthus caudatus
What a weird and wonderful thing it is.

Nemacianthus caudatus - the Mayfly Orchid.
 Here is a shot of the entire stem
Nemacianthus caudatus - full stem.

This is a distant shot of Petalochilus alatus
This is the first time I have seen this species.
I didn't know what it was at first.
Full plant of Petalochilus alatus

Petalochilus alatus (click to enlarge image).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mount Rae Greys

My friend Mark Selmes, from Mt Rae forest, between Crookwell and Taralga, NSW often sends me images he has taken of the Grey Kangaroos and/or Wallaroos with whom he shares life in the Mt Rae forest. Tonight I am sharing some of his latest images.

His latest message was: "Pics - wild eastern grey with joey - spending a bit of time out of pouch,but sticking close to Mum."
"La Pieta" (Mt Rae style)
Grey Kangaroo doe with joey
"Watching animals in the wild -especially at play- allows us to observe
qualities we all share
and helps us to realise that we have a common bond.
(even with the most maligned of species)."
Can I climb up, Mum?
Grey Kangaroo youngster feeling frisky.
"Without the world of nature in all its many forms 
we would all be poorer in spirit 
and eventually as natural ecosystems collapse so would our world."

Grey Kangaroo doe showing her pouch opening
"Hope you enjoy the pics, I know I enjoyed taking them."
Cute Joey - thinking up a prank to play on Mum.
My own comment is that Mark is (for his sins) now serving time on the Board of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.

I have previously shared with you images of some of the lovely Orchids which Mark has found growing at the Mt Rae Forest, including the endangered Buttercup Doubletail Orchid, Diuris aequalis.

Having seen some of the wild creatures which live in the Mt Rae Forest, I am sure you will agree that their home ought be protected from native forest logging.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Better weather, better photos of Bird Orchids

Following on from yesterday's post on the Bird Orchids on the Budderoo Plateau, the weather was better today (at least not raining), and the flowers were one day more mature, and hence more open.

We found this particularly fine plant today,
just begging to be photographed.
Illawarra Bird Orchid - Simpliglottis chlorantha
While waiting to take these photos, I noticed that the labellum 
is very subject to movement on the wind.
These plants have a hinge in the labellum stalk.
The movement of the labellum was quite noticeable.

Here is a close-up shot of the osmophores (scent glands)
on the labellum of one of the flowers.
Compare the real thing 
with the botanical illustration below, (from PlantNET)
Labellum detail of the Illawarra Bird Orchid ("osmophores" or scent glands)
Unless you actually see these strange scent glands, 
it is hard to imagine that they are real. 
They look like green and red dobs of jelly, 
but are more solid than they look.
Illawarra Bird Orchid - Botanical illustration from PlantNET
As a fringe benefit, I realised that there was tiny Flower Spider 
hiding up inside the column of one of these Bird Orchid flowers.
The yellow pollinia sacs are the point where
the Orchid needs a pollinator to come to. 
And that's where the Spider is waiting!
Flower Spider waiting besides the yellow pollinia of the Bird Orchid
Cunning little things, aren't they?
It was tiny - not much bigger than a match-head.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Illawarra Bird Orchids start to flower on Budderoo Fire Trail

I have posted about the Bird Orchids of Budderoo Plateau in previous years.
I cannot help it.

They are so extraordinary, and so localised that I always feel a glow of satisfaction when I find them.
This year, they have started to flower today, 17 August. I have found them flowering as early as 19 July in 2008, and yet they have been known to flower as late as 23 September.

This plant is known also by the name Illawarra Bird Orchid -  a reference to the "open-mouthed" posture of a baby bird, begging for food.

I have been watching these plants for about 5 weeks, firstly as leaves, then as leaves with small buds, then leaves with large upright buds, and today flowers just opening, despite the light rain which was falling. Situation normal on the Budderoo Plateau. These plants grow in shallow soil over a sandstone rock shelf. They flower in late winter, and early spring, when the shallow soil is frequently wet. This heathland on shallow soil is a harsh environment, subject to extreme drying out over summer. These plants become totally dormant at that stage - they lose their leaves and hide under the soil. A good survival strategy.

I am referring to this plant by the name Simpliglottis chlorantha, but PlantNET obstinately refuses to recognise that name. So, when I refer to the illustration from their site, I use the name which they use, Chiloglottis chlorantha.

Note the extraordinary large calli 
or osmophores (scent-producing glands)
on the broad labellum (on left of image).
Illustration from PlantNET - "Chiloglottis chlorantha"

Simpliglottis chlorantha in situ under heath plants
These plants grow in and under the low heath plants 
and "Eggs and Bacon" Pea flowers
which thrive on the shallow moist, peaty soil over the rock shelves of the area.

The dominant heath plant (in flower at the moment) 
on Budderoo Plateau
The genus name "Leucopogon" refers to "white bearded".
This plant is in the family Ericaceae, known as "heath plants"
Click to enlarge the image, to see the bearded flowers.
Leucopogon microphyllus var microphyllus
 One of the upright Eggs and Bacon Pea flowers 
which thrive on the shallow sandstone soil.
Dillwynia sp. possibly the Barren Grounds species (from nearby)
 The flower here is seen from the side. 
The "lateral sepals" protrude out in front of the flower,
then curve downwards at their tips.
Illawarra Bird Orchid - Simpliglottis chlorantha - earns its green name (chlorantha)
This is a fresh flower, and so the labellum is held quite close 
to the column.
The large pollen grains (pollinia) are just visible
held above the labellum.
Note the green and red glands (calli) on the labellum
These Orchids have two fresh green leaves flat on the ground.
The leaves are often partially covered by leaf litter.
Illawarra Bird Orchid has a red throat under the labellum.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Daffodils "Tete-a-Tete" in flower (early) and Spring Wattles

Last year I published photos of these lovely little Miniature Daffodils "Tete-a-Tete" on 27 August. It coincided with Daffodil Day.

This year, these same plants are flowering two weeks earlier than last year.
Miniature Daffodils "tete-a-tete"
They are lovely little flowers, which I always find to be "cheerful" plants. Linguistically, I should say the make me feel cheerful.

The other thing which also makes me feel cheerful, at this time of year, are the Wattles. In fact I had some assistance today to clean up several trailer loads of branches of Wattles which were damaged several weeks ago, in the heavy winds which caused havoc around Robertson. So, this is a photo from two years ago. But the flowers were just as spectacular this year.
Acacia decurrens in my yard.
But this next one is a puzzle. The only truly natural wattles in Robertson are the Blackwood Wattles - Acacia melanoxylon. This other plant, however, is self-seeded in my front yard, but does not actually belong here.

It is now well over 2 metres tall, but I have been waiting for it to flower, so I could identify it, before deciding whether or not to let it grow. I wanted to know what it was, and where it might have come from, before making that decision. 

Acacia longifolia grows commonly at my friend Jim's place, at Carrington Falls, on the sandstone plateau there, in the heavy, black soil. It is rampantly in flower down there at present. My plant is just starting to flower.
Acacia longifolia - a native wattle which is not natural in Robertson
The leaves of this species are very variable, as demonstrated by these leaves taken from three separate plants, all growing along the same roadside edge, at Cloonty Road, Carrington Falls.

The top leaf is 230mm long.  The shortest leaf is approximately 130mm. These were all mature leaves - the longest ones on each branch I selected from. In other words, the shortest one was not just a small (undeveloped) leaf, on the end of a branch.
Acacia longifolia leaves - very variable in length.
Acacia longifolia - note "pulvinus" and gland at base of leaf.

"pulvinus: the swelling at the base of the petiole, often capable of changing form to bring about movement of leaf, sometimes glandular or responsive to touch. A similar swelling near the apex of a petiole is referred to as an upper pulvinus."

Flowers of this species of Wattle are in a "rod" formation.

Here is a better image of the flowers of another specimen of A. longifolia growing at Ulladulla - in flower last Saturday.
Acacia longifolia - flowers
I have tagged this post as "Spring 2011", even though that is technically incorrect. It looks, smells and feels like Spring, so damn it, I am going to call it a Springtime post.