Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Photos of raindrops on plants, fungi in Robertson

This is why we get excited about rain in Robertson.
The Rainforest comes to life, literally, when we have had some rain.

Everything glows when light strikes it. 

Ferns and mosses absorb moisture and hold it.
Fungi suddenly appear from the forest floor, or out of rotten wood in trees.

Two creamy parasol fungi growing
from the forest floor.
Coachwood "seeds" have now fallen,
and lie there awaiting germination.

Some Jelly Fungus (Ear Fungus) live all year round as hard dried up leathery lumps, then soften and shed their spores when rain arrives.
And on the forest floor seedlings sprout, and a new crop of Coachwood seeds coats the ground underneath these huge trees. They will sprout in their masses, but few will survive to become mature trees - because the mature trees in the forest only need replacing in small numbers each year, after storms bring them crashing down.

Coachwood seeds lie thick on the ground
underneath these huge trees.
Many will germinate, but few will make it to mature size
They are not needed, because in the Nature Reserve,
the mature trees are well protected by eachother,
and so storm damage is minimal.
Many more photos are visible at this Facebook Album.
It is public - no need to be a subscriber to Facebook.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sawfly guarding eggs on Rubus nebulosus

Bob McInnes, of REPS, brought me an interesting insect this morning. It is a female Sawfly Philomastix macleaii (apparently renamed Philomastix glabra) which was guarding a set of eggs she had laid on the underneath side of the leaf of the Green-leaved Bramble, Rubus nebulosus, a very sharply thorned Bramble with pinnate (5-foliolate) leaves. The specimen of leaves (and associated insect and eggs) came from Tony and Anna Williams's (not "Windsor" - apology for previous typo) property in Robertson. 

They have a very fine patch of "Cool Temperate Rainforest" on their hill. It differs somewhat from the rainforest in the Robertson Nature Reserve, as it is largely dominated by Lilly Pilly Syzygium smithii and Blackwood Wattle Acacia melanoxylon but their patch of Rainforest has some other uncommon trees, such as the Acronychia oblongifolia and the Black Olive berry (Elaeocarpus holopetalus) and their forest also has many large Birds Nest Ferns. (No doubt there are other differences which I have overlooked.)

The Sawfly is well reported to "guard" its eggs and larvae.
In the case of a closely related species, the guarding behaviour is described as follows.
"Females place their eggs in groups of 30-40 on the leaf underside on both sides of the midvein and later position themselves at the base of the leaf where the larvae feed on, with the head directed towards the stem."

Source: Pergidae of the WorldAn online catalogue of the sawfly family Pergidae (Symphyta)

That description matches exactly what this insect was doing - guarding her eggs.

Green-leaved Bramble, Rubus nebulosus
Philomastix macleaii female guarding eggs
Note how she is positioned at the 'base" (stem end) of the leaf.
This is to protect the eggs (and subsequently the larvae)
from crawling insects, such as ants.

Note similarities of this image with another image
guarding her eggs laid underside of
a Rubus moluccanus.
Similar posture, similar food plant.
Similar appearance, including long yellow antennae.
Philomastix macleaii 
female Bramble Sawfly

Eggs of the sawfly. Philomastix macleaii
Unlike eggs in earlier linked image, these are dark.
presumably well advanced towards hatching,
Check this image of similar purple eggs
of a Raspberry Sawfly.
Females of Philomastix spp. pierce the leaf from above and place the egg on the underside of the leaf (Macdonald & Ohmart 1993). All species of this genus exhibit maternal care. Females stand near their egg mass and young larvae or near the leaf petiole with the head directed to the stem and when disturbed they shake and create a buzzing sound with their wings (Macdonald & Ohmart 1993, Naumann & Groth 1998). This behaviour lasts until they die.

Click on image to enlarge.
There are tiny cuts in the upper surface of the leaf
presumably each cut relates to where the egg is underneath.
Does she protrude her "ovipositor" through the leaf?
That's the only thing which makes ergonomic sense
otherwise it would require the female to go to both sides of the leaf
and match up the cut with the egg.
Ockhams Razor would rule that out.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Unusual Pinkish Katydid at Butler's Swamp

I was excited to find this pinkish Katydid, so I rang Dave Rentz, Australia's leading expert on Katydids (he literally "wrote the book" on Katydids).
Polichne parvicauda
Click on this photo to enlarge it
and see the fine details of the head, eye, etc.

I had emailed some of these photos to Dave, and he immediately recognised it as Polichne parvicauda. He said is very wide-spread and comes in a light brown colour morph, and a green one. This is a bit of a variant, but not madly unusual, apparently.

My dreams of "fame" evaporated.
Polichne parvicauda
An album of photos of this insect is available for public viewing at this site:

Anyway, I was happy to get some fairly clear photos of this insect.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Imperial Hairstreak Butterfly in Eucryphia bushes in Robertson

Today I was amazed to find a Butterfly I had read about, but never seen before, in the iconic plant of Robertson, the Eucryphia.

This plant, Eucryphia moorei is also known as "Pinkwood". There are a few growing well in "Pinkwood Park" which is a small park directly uphill past the Post Office, on the Illawarra Highway, Robertson. These young trees are growing well, having been planted there a few years ago, by members of Robertson Environment Protection Society, under the guidance of Dr David Tranter. They are currently in full flower.

The Butterfly I saw is seldom seen
more than 20 metres from a food plant.
In this case an Acacia melanoxylon is visible
in the background of the photograph.
Imperial Hairstreak Butterfly
Jalmenus evagoras
(synonym: Common Imperial Blue)

This pale-looking Butterfly has
blue colourings on the upper side of its wings.
But it also has these strange little protrusions
on the tail ends of its hind-wings.
This is said to be a decoy pattern,.*** 
to make the rear end of the wing
look like the head-end of a different insect
Here you can see the blue patch
on the upper side of the wings.
Males are brighter blue than this (presumed) female

On this shot you can see the
uneven edge to the hind wing
which is said to be part of a decoy pattern
to confuse a possible bird predator.

The fully ripe flower of the Eucryphia,
with dots of pollen grains visible on the stamens.
The sweet perfume of these flowers was very evident
in the warm weather today.

 The first thing I ever heard about these Butterflies is that they have an symbiotic association with Ants. The ants protect the larvae of the caterpillar, in return for obtaining an extrusion from the caterpillar. Normally one would expect the ants to regard the caterpillar as food (prey) rather than a food source. However, in this genus of Butterflies, ants actually protect the caterpillars from wasps and other predatory insects and spiders. This is described as an "ant-related mutualism" and is well described in this brief article.

These Butterflies are very closely associated with plants of the Acacia genus (the food plants of their caterpillars). Robertson is well supplied with Blackwood Wattles, Acacia melanoxylon, a recognised food plant for these insects.

*** Decoy Pattern
The coloured tails of the butterfly look like white-tipped antennae on bright red/orange and black colourings which, with wings folded (the habitual posture) makes the back end of the butterfly look like the front end (the actual head and antennae being quite bland). This is perhaps a decoy perhaps in case of bird strike.
See this photo
That text about the decoy pattern is courtesy of the Butterfly House website.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Native Raspberry Rubus rosifolius - flower, leaves and ripe fruit

A few shots of the Native Raspberry, Rubus rosifolius, flowering and fruiting in my yard. The PlantNET site is down for repair at present. Normally I would link to that.
Here is a photo from the Bega Valley Native Plants website.
It confirms my ID and naming of this species.

Flower of  Rubus rosifolius
The fruit is shown as forming.
The soft leaves do not have thorns.
There are some small thorns on the stems.

Ripe fruit of the Native Raspberry.
The fruit has a slightly musky taste, to my palate.
But the Bowerbirds like them greatly.
A friend of mine, Penny, makes a lovely Native Raspberry Paste from the fruits of this plant, "gathered on the misty mountain of Jamberoo". It is delicious served with cheese and biscuits.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Paint Fungus - are hardly ever noticed.

"In many cases one of these fruiting bodies looks just like a layer of paint on the underside of wood lying on the ground. The "paint" layer may be thin or thick, it may be smooth or with some wrinkles, bumps, or very short" spines". Source: Heino Lepp ANBG.
A small twig from a Pinus radiata tree.
It is little thicker than a regular biro.
It was lying on the ground underneath this huge tree.
I showed it to my friend David Wallace, at the CTC Robertson
because the huge Pine tree is a significant tree in Robertson
and is located in the grounds of the Anglican Church
night next door to the CTC.

Paint Fungus are virtually unknown,
except to specialist Mycologists
(who are very few and far between).
Here you can see that the Paint Fungus
was growing underneath the twig
and the foliose lichen which uses chlorophyll
and hence needs sunlight, is growing on top.

Here is a shot of the Foliose Lichen
The Paint Fungus is neatly shaded underneath the twig.
Protected from the harsh effects of the Sun.