Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Its Fairy Toadstool time again.

As I was driving back from Bowral this afternoon, towards Robertson, I stopped beside a long row of Radiata Pines, beside Kangaloon Road, in East Bowral (before the roundabout, opposite where the Christian School is). The reason was that the recent rains and cool weather have sparked the emergence of the Fairy Toadstools (Amanita muscaria) These introduced Fungi live in association with Pine Trees, especially, but often with other exotic trees. But Pine Trees seem to be their natural "partners".

As with all postings about Toadstools, especially ones with which there is some talk of psychotropic effects, I give a standard warning to not eat these Fungi. The recent deaths of some Chinese visitors to Canberra, from mistakenly eating Death-cap Mushrooms (a related species) should give anyone interested n "experimenting" pause for thought, especially as there is no known antidote to the effects of ingesting these Toadstools.

I like to publish photos of these Toadstools simply because I regard them as aesthetically pleasing - a triumph of Nature.

Amanita muscaria - a mature specimen

Amanita muscaria
Note the white gills and the
skirt-like ring on the stem.

Amanita muscaria
A fine colony under Pine Trees

Amanita muscaria
a perfect specimen

Amanita muscaria
a young pair of these Fairy Toadstools

Amanita muscaria
a new Toadstool just developing.
The white dots are left over as the white veil breaks up.

Amanita muscaria
a Toadstool just emerging -
still covered by the white "veil"

One of the things which is really obvious about these Toadstools is that most of the mature specimens have been partially eaten. From the dried slime markings around the Fungal fruiting bodies, it seems that they have been consumed by Slugs and Snails. They graze the red tops of these Fungi, as presumably that is the source of whatever it is they like.

Amanita muscaria
The red skin is grazed on by slugs or snails.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Budderoo visit by Canberra ANPS people

Firstly, I should explain that the Canberra branch of the Australian Native Plants Society organised a visit to the Southern Highlands for this last weekend. They asked to go to the Macquarie Pass rainforests and to Budderoo Plateau.

I would have to say that there was very little in flower. However, we managed to have a pleasant trip on the Saturday (for the rainforest visit). The trick was that after walking along the Clover Hill Track as far as the abandoned farm, we headed back to the cars, and went down to Bass Point, near Shell Cove. There is a patch of Littoral Rainforest there, which at least has the advantage of being more picturesque, and warmer, being beside the coast. Everyone seemed to enjoy this little "surprise" variation to the original Plan.

On the Sunday, we went out along the Budderoo Fire Trail and straight away I was able to show them some nice sandstone heathland and (of course) some very nice Orchids.

The Mecopodum striatum plants were in flower. 
Mecopodum striatum
These cute little creamy flowers are known as Hunchback Orchids. 
They are a variant of Leek Orchids, 
having originally been classified as Prasophyllum striatum.

The next event was quite exciting for me, even though it was only very brief. We stopped along the Budderoo Fire Trail in a patch of tall Eucalypt forest, to admire some very nice examples of a large-leafed form of Polyscias sambucifolia. These plants had similar leaves to that form illustrated from Brisbane Waters (near Gosford), even though the normal Southern Highlands forms do not have such large leaves (that's why I stopped there). So we were able to contrast these plants with the lovely tall specimens of Pencil Cedars (Polyscias murrayi) we had seen on Macquarie Pass the day before.

While we were stopped, I heard and then saw an unusual Parrot fly into the top of a flowering "Eucalypt". The tree was in fact a Red Bloodwood, or Corymbia gummifera, one of many just coming into flower on this Sandstone plateau habitat.

The bird was more interesting,. It was a Swift Parrot. These are an endangered species, which migrates from Tasmania (where it breeds) to the mainland, in autumn and winter, to feed on blossoms of suitable plants (mostly in the Eucalypt tribe). So its appearance in a patch of flowering Gums, in early autumn (more or less) is just a bit early, but is in keeping with their pattern of movement.

I will lodge a formal report of this sighting with Birds Australia which monitors the Swift Parrot Recovery Program.

I recognised this bird by its call, and the fine, pointed wings and the longish pointed tail. I could not make out the diagnostic patches of colour of these birds, As you will see from any illustrations, they have a red throat and red under-tail and red under-wings. But as it was against a grey sky, I could not make out those colours. But the call, habits, flight pattern and the seasonality of the sighting all fit with the Swift Parrot.

  • What it was not: We seldom get Lorikeets on the Budderoo Plateau, but I am familiar with them from the Shoalhaven region, where they are common. And I know the calls of the Rainbow, Scaly-breasted and Musk Lorikeets and even the Little Lorikeet, and it was none of those birds.
This report seems "slightly early" in the season, to me, but it does match with the commencement of the Bloodwood flowering season on the Sandstone plateaux of the Shoalhaven and Illawarra Escarpment regions.

The bird only stayed in sight for a few moments, before flying away, calling. I had no opportunity to attempt to photograph it, unfortunately.

So, we pack up again, and moved along the Fire Trail to the track which leads to Gerringong Falls. Despite the name, these Falls (and the eponymously named Creek) flow west into the Upper Kangaroo River, so it has nothing to do with the township of the same name on the coast, south from Nowra.

Along the track there were many fine examples of Banksia ericifolia in flower.
Banksia ericifolia

The track to the Falls peters out in a swampy area, close to the edge of the Valley gorge. But we pressed ahead, through some swampy stuff, to the Creek, and walked along the more-or-less flat rock bottom of the creek, until, above the Falls, there was a deepish pool.
Pool above Gerringong Falls

We took to the shrubbery and followed Wombat trails and some human-made trails, to reach a spectacular viewing rock, opposite the Falls.
Gerringong Falls
I sat on the rock for as long as my companions would allow, for me to recover from my exertions.

Ledge at top of the Gerringong Falls
as seen from the shrubbery
framed by two Old Man Banksia trunks

The shallow rocky creek bed, above Gerringong Falls

Then we retraced our steps back 3 Km up the gently sloping track, back to the main Budderoo Fire Trail. It was a satisfying walk, with the Mecopodum plants in flower, a Swift Parrot and the lovely views of the Gerringong Falls.

Marsh Greenhood - Speculantha uliginosa

This is another "new" species for me - the tiny Marsh Greenhood. It is in the "Tiny Greenhoods" group, known as the "parviflora group". Its official name is Speculantha uliginosa. This plant is not rated as rare, but it is seldom seen, mostly because of the kind of habitat it prefers, which are mostly wet Tea Tree and Melaleuca thickets.

These plants were not growing within the Tea Tree thicket, which is close by. But as we all know, Orchid seeds are so fine, the seeds can easily be blown.

These plants were unusually small, even for members of the "parviflora group". You can tell that by the way Alan is shielding the flowers with his hand as he lines up his photos. You cannot make out the flowers, but the position of Alan's hand tells you what you need to know. They do not protrude above the side of his hand, with the edge of his hand resting on the ground. By comparison, my own hand measures 90 mm across.

Alan Stephenson photographing these
Speculantha uliginosa plants
Speculantha uliginosa - portrait
These plants were barely 90 mm high, and one had two flowers, and the other had three flowers. They both had a well developed rosette at flowering time. That characteristic distinguishes them from the local brownish members of the "parviflora group", down along Tourist Road, and the classic green forms of Speculantha parviflora. Those plants flower straight out of the ground, without a rosette, and then a rosette forms later on. They both regularly grow to 200 mm high and often have 5 or 6 flowers per stem.
Speculantha uliginosa from the side.
It shows it does not have the sharply protruding sinus
which is a feature of the Speculantha parviflora plant.

Speculantha uliginosa
with the flower pushed backwards,
you can just see the labellum.
The sinus has a very narrow notch
The edge of the sinus is gently rolled.

These plants had fully formed rosettes of leaves at flowering time. There were also 7 non-flowering plants in this group, some with minute rosettes. Those were clearly immature plants.
Rosette of Speculantha uliginosa
with a 10 cent coin for scale.
That coin is 23.3mm in diameter.
That shows how tiny these fully mature rosettes are.

Speculantha uliginosa
One mature flower (showing a creamy colour)
and a fresh flower on top.
These plants have small "points" or "ears"
which barely reach the top of the hood.
These plants all have prominent stem leaves
and one bract below each flower.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Congratulations to Sharyn Cullis and everybody who campaigned so hard for this result.

Thanks are due to Bryan Doyle MLA, The Hon Robyn Parker MLA, The Hon Barry O'Farrell MLA, Premier of NSW, and of course, Catherine Cusack MLA (who led the way for Barry O'Farrell to get involved, prior to the last election).
Lets hope they increase NPWS funding to allow them to cope with the necessary workload increase!
Denis Wilson
Sunday 25 March 2012


The NSW Government today announced the establishment of Dharawal National Park, creating a new iconic conservation area for families in Sydney’s South West and the Illawarra. 

NSW Premier and Minister for Western Sydney Barry O’Farrell and Environment Minister Robyn Parker said Dharawal National Park would be gazetted tomorrow - fulfilling a key election commitment and delivering for the community after almost two decades of campaigning.

 “The creation of the Dharawal National Park is a big win for the local community, which has fought for many years to have the area protected from mining activities,” Mr O’Farrell said.

 "The NSW Government has ensured this extraordinary natural playground is protected for future generations to explore and enjoy.

 “I am extremely proud that a NSW Liberals & Nationals Government has achieved in its first 12 months what the previous Labor Government could not deliver in 16 years.

 “We are committed to making Dharawal National Park a destination to be experienced by people of all ages – the State’s Nationals Parks are there to be enjoyed and explored, not cut off from human access.”

 Ms Parker said the new 6,500 hectare National Park had no depth restriction, meaning for the first time it was protected to the centre of the earth.

 “It will protect an iconic area close to Sydney and Wollongong, and preserve forever its extraordinary biodiversity, including endangered plants, and animals and part of Sydney’s largest surviving koala population,” Ms Parker said.

 “It will ensure the protection of significant upland swamps, rich in plant and animal life, which feed pristine water to O’Hares Creek, the headwater of the Georges River.

 “The Dharawal area also contains significant Aboriginal cultural values, with a high density of important cultural sites and priceless Aboriginal rock art.”

 Ms Parker said the Government had committed $1 million to improve visitor facilities and opportunities in the new National Park.

 “As well as announcing the establishment of the new park, I can also announce that we will shortly place on public exhibition our vision for proposed new facilities.

“These include a new lookout, with access for the disabled overlooking O’Hares Creek at Wedderburn, improved walking access to the gorgeous pools on Stokes Creek and nearby picnic facilities for local families and visitors.

 “At the Illawarra end of the new national park, at Darkes Forest, we are planning to create a loop walk to Maddens Falls and potentially a walk right down to the base of the falls.”

 People interested in commenting on future visitor facilities in the park will be able to make submissions once the public exhibition period commences in coming weeks.

 Today’s historic announcement was marked by unveiling of the new park signs at Wedderburn today by the Premier, Minister and Heathcote MP Lee Evans, Wollondilly MP Jai Rowell, Campbelltown MP Bryan Doyle, Camden MP Chris Patterson and Oatley MP Mark Coure.

 Ms Parker said a community celebration of Dharawal National Park will be held on 5 May 2012.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Some Butterflies and Moths of Robertson district.

Several nights ago I found this Moth on my front verandah - for the very first time.

I believe it is Eudocima materna, The abrupt rise in the line of the wings is quite distinctive. It matches the scalloped-out shape in the upper wings which becomes apparent (over the upper abdomen) when the wings are seen partly opened (second image).

Probably Eudocima materna

Probably Eudocima materna
If it is not that species, then I am pretty confident that it is in that genus. My problem is that the only other species in this Eudocima genus which is shown as entering NSW is Eudocima salaminia, which has quite distinctive (and dissimilar - from my specimen) markings on the upper wings. The other five species shown in Australia (according to Don Herbison-Evans' website) are all tropical moths.

This genus of moths is known as an agricultural pest, known as "fruit piercing moths". Mostly they attack Citrus but they also attack Lychees where those fruit are grown commercially. Their native "host plants" are mostly in the Menispermaceae family, best known in the Illawarra region for the Snake Vine and Pearl Vine.

Switching to the Butterfly tribe I was lucky enough to capture these images yesterday, at Clover Hill Falls track, half way down Macquarie Pass. These Butterflies were quite common along that track, amongst rainforest undergrowth underneath the Eucalypt upper-storey.

Wonder Brown Butterfly - female

What I did not realise at the time was that these dull brown Butterflies are the females of the species (only). They are Wonder Brown Butterflies (Heteronympha mirifica). Apparently the male of this species look like the more normally coloured forms of  "Brown Butterflies" (this term is used informally).
Wonder Brown Butterfly - female
Don Herbison-Evans shows both the males and the females. He says: "For many years it was thought the sexes were from different species, as the males also tend to congregate towards the tops of hills, and the females prefer the moist gullies below". That's why I didn't realise there were distinct males and females, as I was only seeing the females in the moist gullies.

One of the things I noticed about these Butterflies was their habit of sitting with the wings held totally flat.
Wonder Brown Butterfly - female
On the slow walk back along Clover Hill Falls track to the Illawarra Highway, I came across this stunning and dangerous-looking creature. At first I was suspicious that it might have been a Wasp. I have read about these Moths which resemble Wasps, but this was the first time I had seen one close up - close enough for meaningful photos.

The "experts" seem to be very cautious in naming species of these Wasp Moths. But with the small orange dots on the wings, (as distinct from large transparent patches on the wings) this seems the best "fit" in appearance and geographical range (as far as I can check). The Atlas of Living Australia seems to be having service difficulties tonight. 

If any reader can advise me if I am not correct, I would appreciate being set right.

Eressa angustipenna
Click to enlarge image.
You can see the coiled up mouth-parts
(known as a proboscis)
Eressa angustipenna
What an amazing-looking Moth. I think you can see why I was wary of it at first.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Speculantha ventricosa - from the "Type location"

In the world of Botany, showing plants from the "type location" always has a certain cachet. You know you have the right species name.

In this case, Speculantha ventricosa was named by David Jones, from this site, in the Nebraska Estate, near St George's Basin, south from Nowra. I wrote about this species and its naming, last year. This plant is now listed on the NSW Threatened Species Act as Critically Endangered.

Alan and I went down to the Nebraska Estate specifically to find these plants. In fact we were almost too early in the season, but we did find a few plants in flower.

The habitat was mixed Turpentine and Eucalypt forest on deep grey sandy soil. The plants were growing along a roadside verge, but the surrounding forest had dense undergrowth. There are some semi-cleared blocks in the area too.

Speculantha ventricosa - a classic specimen

Speculantha ventricosa rosette and flower stem

Speculantha ventricosa
flower seen from above, rear.
The lateral petals are clearly flared.

Speculantha ventricosa
note the "points" of the
lateral sepals curling over the hood.
Also note the abrupt "sinus"
(the opening at front of the flower).

Speculantha ventricosa

Speculantha ventricosa
young flowers yet to open
(at top).

Speculantha ventricosanote the shape of the
rear of the flower
Speculantha ventricosaas the flowers age they grow more reddish.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Corunastylis species in the Shoalhaven (some of them)

Here are some of the Corunastylis species which Alan and I found on Sunday and Monday.

Some were just finishing, others just starting. Of course there are many more than these species to be found, but these are what we did manage to track down.

We found a few finished flowers of Corunastylis apostasioides, and just one which still had one open flower. Unfortunately, I did not photograph it, as it was not particularly photogenic. Here is one I "prepared earlier" as TV Chefs say.
Corunastylis apostasioides - one flower open
Click to enlarge image.

I stayed over at Alan and Michelle's place (thanks Michelle) and we went out the next morning in search of Corunastylis despectans.These plants were at Tomerong.

These tiny flowers were just starting to bloom, it seems. 
Not many available to be photographed.
The flowers are very fine, with pointed sepals
and not a large dorsal sepal.
While the base colour is reddish, they overall impression
is of a slightly built, silvery red flower.
The stems were about 180mm high (about 8 inches).
Corunastylis despectans.
We then decided to go looking for some Corunastylis plants which normally are to be found, at Vincentia. These plants have not yet been named, and so are still given the made-up name Corunastylis sp. aff oligantha. It is not that named species (the Mongarlowe Midge Orchid), but is very close to it. I like to refer to it as the Vincentia Midge Orchid.
Vincentia Midge Orchid (as yet un-named)
After lunch at a cafe in Vincentia, we went to the Nebraska Estate, St George's Basin. We went looking for Corunastylis ventricosa (which we found -  but which I will not show tonight). Instead, I will show you some Corunastylis laminata which we also found.
Corunastylis laminata
the so-called "Red Midge Orchid"
On the way home, up through Kangaroo Valley 
I stopped to photograph several of the better small waterfalls
above the Barrengarry Range.
These falls flow permanently, but are normally
not visible from the Kangaroo Valley below.

This Falls is the one close to the Lookout
at Manning Lookout.
Waterfall in gorge west from Manning Lookout

These Falls are sometimes referred to as
Bridal Veil Falls
I find that name too cliched, and overused.
These falls are below the Grotto which is accessed by track
 - east from - Manning Lookout.
Second waterfall near Manning Lookout
East from the Lookout point.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Schools of Prawns - on top of the Shoalhaven Escarpment

I went bush with Alan Stephenson on Sunday.
He wanted to check on a Corunastylis he had seen in an earlier year, about which there was some confusion of identity. We did not find any of those particular plants, so that mystery remains. However, we did find lots of other plants of interest. Today I shall start a series of reports.

We went initially to the top of the Shoalhaven Escarpment (on Main Road 92) - above Sassafras, on the way towards Nerriga. We stopped at the highest point of this range, before the road descends to the Endrick River. That place is 780 metres above sea level - the highest point on that road.

We went there looking for the rare Corunastylis superba. Alan and I had examined this known site - looking for these Orchids - on 2 February 2012, and there was no sign of these plants - no leaves visible at all (and yes, we did know where to look). On Sunday, we found four plants - one had finished and set some seeds already, and one was just finishing flowering (see attached image).

Corunastylis superba
just finishing flowering

It is interesting that these plants had grown, and finished flowering in the six weeks between our visits. There were also several other plants with leaves recognisable as Corunastylis plants.

On the way to that site, we had called in to another area of exposed sandstone rock-shelves which is known to be good for Orchids.
As soon as we arrived at the rock-shelves, I spotted some "Little Dumpies" (Diplodium truncatum).
(Diplodium truncatum)
Almost immediately, we then found ourselves amongst some of the gorgeous little Greenhoods known as "Prawn Orchids" (Crangonorchis pedoglossa). This particular plant was a stand-out with the extremely fine point to the "dorsal sepal".
Such a long tip on
the Prawn Orchid
We later called in to another place where these Prawn Orchids are also known to occur, and much to our delight, they were obviously having a great season (the rainfall has been pretty remarkable, as you may well be aware). The moss beds over the rock shelves were totally soaked, and water was leaking out freely from these moss beds.

As these Prawn Orchids are small plants, photographed in a colony, from a distance (to allow me to get them all in the one photographic frame) you will need to click to enlarge the following images to make much sense of them.

I had never seen such a group of
Prawn Orchids.
A veritable "School of Prawns"
or a School of Prawn Orchids,
if you are pedantic.
And no sooner had we discovered
the first big colony,
than we found an even bigger and better colony.

These are tiny little plants, but such a great colony is remarkable.
There were over 30 plants in frame and even more close by.

And they were also growing out in the open (not under the low shrubbery as per normal).

Friday, March 16, 2012

Hail Storm this evening

Mid afternoon, the sky darkened over the Kangaroo Valley and then I lost all sight of the Valley and there was just a wall of water coming towards Robertson.

It looked more impressive than it turned out to be.
About 5 minutes worth of rain - then it cleared.

Threatening clouds coming up from Kangaroo Valley

A wall of water (rain) coming up the Valley
Visibility range about 2.5 Km
(down from 60 Km in the morning).

However, the real treat came later into the evening.
A really noisy episode of heavy rain and hail.
A bit of thunder, but not much.
Apologies for the blurred imagery.
Ever tried to focus on hail, in the dark?
Even at 1/500 sec exposure, it still blurred.

This is what the storm looked like, 
on the Bureau's Radar imagery.
Robertson is smack bang underneath
the top red marker. 
Click to enlarge the image, and check the locality.

Bureau of Meteorology Radar chart tonight.
I might have to go and check Carrington Falls again, tomorrow.

I recorded 64 mm of rain to 9:00am the next morning.
Pretty impressive for a series of storms which kept lashing us, leaving, then another one would arrive.