Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis
Showing posts with label Spring_06. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spring_06. Show all posts

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Winter Solstice/ earliest sunset/longest night.

Well, technically I am a day late to post this, but I was out recording the happy event, not writing about it at the correct time.

I went up onto Mt Murray in the late afternoon (yesterday), to watch the sky change, and then observe the moon rise (below them) over the ocean. A line of clouds interfered with the plan, slightly.

My friends Steve and Celeste live on top of a hill, overlooking the Illawarra coastline. They do "big sky" better than most places. Here is the late afternoon light illuminating the coastal strip near Shell Harbour. The ocean is visible, but not very clear, as it appears to merge with the blue clouds above the horizon.
However, the afternoon light was terrific to watch. Knights Hill is marked by the TV towers, (one of which is flashing its strobe lights - 2 white dots visible). The cliffs above Macquarie Pass are (very briefly) highlighted by the late afternoon light. The ocean and clouds appear to merge - out to sea.As the afternoon sun dropped in the sky, it highlighted the white clouds, against the dark blue background. The colours of the clouds, and hillsides changed so fast, it was a joy to behold. The setting sun creates a pink wash over blue clouds, over the dark mass of Knights Hill.
A very interesting evening followed, and because we started at dark (on the shortest day), the evening drew to a close at a very early time, allowing us all to enjoy an optimal sleep. I woke this morning, refreshed and renewed.

My Peonies start to swell their buds from this week (I cannot sear it happens from this day onward, but certainly the experts swear it does), as they prepare to make their new season's growth. So the Winter Solstice is always a time of optimism for me - spring is coming.

I love the Spring. For me, the NEXT spring is always the best one - the one I am always looking forward to.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

More Orchids (and Trigger Plants) in Kangaloon.

I am pleased to report that the late flowering perennials (small native plants which are "herbaceous", but persistent, across a number of seasons) which grow along Tourist Road, Kangaloon, have survived the slashing which was given them by the SCA's contractors on 31 October 2007.
Trigger Plant
The main flowers down there, at present are Trigger Plants, Stylidium graminifolium (not Stylidium lineare as I first thought) These cheerful looking plants are waving their pink flowers around on stems about 30 cm high.
(*** Possibly - I have not done a close study, I am sorry.)

With the grass having been slashed recently, of course they stand out, and are clearly visible as one drives along Tourist Road.Some Hyacinth Orchids (Dipodium punctatum*** and *** ***) which were still dormant at the time of the slashing along Tourist Road, Kangaloon, have survived.Many which were already growing then, will have been beheaded - but some have survived. The numbers of Hyacinth Orchids in flower this year is greatly reduced from last year.

These plants have a protruding labellum, (front and centre) which acts as a landing platform for insects, seeking to find the column, which is inside the tube, below the yellow spot, (underneath which the pollinia are located).
These plants grow from large underground tubers, and are hemi-parasitic, surviving by association with mycorrhizal fungi which in turn rely upon Eucalypt trees, close by. They have by-passed the need to produce their own food by photosynthesis, so this species has no true leaves, and no chlorophyll. Its only need to emerge above ground is to be pollinated, and to spread its masses of fine seed on the wind. It lives underground for approximately 10 months of the year. Given what the SCA does to them when they do emerge, that is a pretty clever strategy.

Both these pink flowers, are carried on narrow stems, and can cause some confusion as to what they are. Close examination shows the flowers are very different. Hyacinth Orchids are much larger flowers. This group of Hyacinth Orchids in the forest in Kangaloon is doing very well. Tall brown shoots just budding up.

*** I have corrected a previous incorrect identification of this flower as Dipodium punctatum. DJW 27.12.09
*** *** I have reverted to the original identification after an intensive check of all habitats of the Hyacinth Orchids in Kangaloon and Mount Alexander of which I know. These plants in this clump are definitely D. punctatum. Confirmed on 2 Jan 2010. DJW. I will publish the results of that investigation shortly, on this Blog. 2.1.10.
Trigger Plants have a square looking flower, and close examination reveals they hold out to one side a specialised "column" which is the so-called "trigger". This "column" carries both the anthers, (male organs) and the stigma (female, receptive part of the flower), although the different organs mature sequentially, so the "trigger" is functionally male, first, then, later, functions as the female part of the flower. This structure is well illustrated on the PlantNET site. The "trigger" is movement sensitive. It is on a deep red "handle", positioned on the side of the flower. That "handle" is flexible. There is a deep pink tube inside the ring of paler pink tufts, right at the centre of the flower. When an insect probes inside that narrow tube, (presumably to obtain some nectar) it "triggers" the little "hammer", (clearly visible at the left of the flower) which swings in, to bang an insect on the back while that insect is seeking to collect nectar from the flower. The insect ends up with a dob of pollen on its back, or alternatively, transfers a previously collected grain of pollen from another flower - transfers it (hopefully) to the new flower, thus completing the pollination process. It is possible for an observer to stimulate this reflex action, with a fine piece of grass, probed right inside the tube. The "trigger" will swing over, past the top of the flower. If you were an insect, you can see how the "hammer" would have hit you on the wings, or the top of your head. The plants re-set themselves after a short period of time, so the experiment does not harm the plant in any way.

To coin a bad pun, it is a "hit or miss process of pollination". But judging by the number of Trigger Plants growing on Tourist Road at present, they must be doing something right.

The other Orchid to begin flowering down in Kangaloon at present is the Small Tongue Orchid (Cryptostylis leptochila) There is one particular plant which I have been monitoring for some time. It was budding last week. It opened its first flowers yesterday (4 December). I did not have time to stop to get a new photo, so I will re-publish my favourite photo from last season. I have written previously about the bizarre process of pollination of these Orchids, by male wasps. It is called Pseudo-copulation. You can read about it in my post from 2005.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


The Victoran Alps could "burn for months" according to the Victorian Premier, Mr Steve Bracks. This is reported in "The Age", 4 December 2006.

This is a very early start to the bushfire season in Victoria. It matched what I have been saying for months about the unseasonal heat we have been having. I first commented on this on 12 October this year.

The Victorian Alps are notorious for their severe fires, as they are covered with dense Eucalypt forests, which frankly, can burn with a terrifying ferocity. Lets hope this prophecy is not lived out in reality. Here is a link to historical photographs of the infamous 1939 bushfires in the Victorian Alps.
Fortunately, the fires in the New South Wales Blue Mountains, which I mentioned last week, now appear to be under control. But that is not the same thing as saying they are out.

With that difficult terrain of deep gorges, which are utterly inaccessible by road, fires can burn uncontrolled for weeks on end down there.

But the weather has been mild for the last few days, thank goodness.


Go to "The Age" for another stunning photo of mountains slowly burning, out of control , in the Victoran Alps.

And now for some light relief.

I love the names that early explorers gave to place names. Usually it is Sailors names I notice, like Cape Tribulation, and other cheerful names. But this group of names, all reported in the one story today about bushfires in the Victorian Alps take on an especially bleak tone today:
Mt. Terrible, Black Range, Mt Despair and Mt Buggery.

But, if it were not for the fire story, you would have to have a chuckle, wouldn't you?

I also add in Mt Despair, which is mentioned in the linked photo gallery of someone's bushwalk to Mt Buggery.

Seriously, I am not kidding you - these are real place names.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Flying Duck Orchids - and my Blogger Birthday

Thanks to the regular readers who have bothered to follow the path of my steps across the last year. Little did I know quite where the journey would take me, when I started out on 26 November 2005. I wrote three blogs on that first day - because I had not then understood how the system worked, and I was experimenting with it.

I am delighted to see that my very first blog entry was entitled "Odd little things which grow around Robertson"

What is exciting is to see that the very first blog contains a picture of the "Flying Duck Orchid", (Caleana major) - which is still right up there amongst my favourite flowers. It is less satisfying to realise that I did not post a single word of text to go with the photograph. Oh well, I soon sorted out how that worked!

This little Orchid is a sensitive plant, with the "duck head" part of the flower sitting on a flexible hinge. Insects are attracted to enter the centre of the flower, in search of the mysterious scent which it apparently emits.

When the flower senses the movement of the insect, the "duck head" closes over, trapping the insect inside. This is an example of a highly evolved system for achieving pollination.

There is a tiny escape hole (which can actually be seen in the top photo - it is visible on the unopened bud on the right of the open flower). To escape through that little hole, the insect has to pass the pollen sacs of the flower, and it will inevitably get a dob of sticky pollen glued onto its back, as it seeks to exit the flower. Larger insects are liberated after about half an hour, when the flower re-sets itself to the open position.

Click on the photo to enlarge the view.

Interestingly, the second photograph shows a wonderful association of plants and insects. Flower Spiders are often found associated with Orchid flowers. Obviously the spiders know that the Orchid will attract insects to the flower, either by scent, or nectar, or pollen. In this case, there is a tiny spider sitting in her web, which is strung across the front of the flower. The body of the spider is only about the size of a match head, with the legs clearly much larger. (Click on the image for a larger view.)

She is facing outwards, and hanging upside down in her web - waiting for an insect to arrive. Clearly she avoids triggering the movement-sensing device on the flower, by remaining suspended across the front of the flower, on her web.

Two stories from one flower. This plant has given me double value for my sense of "Wonder" at the intricate designs of Nature. Each story is more weird and wonderful story than anything to do with this flower's uncanny cartoon-like resemblance to the head of "Daffy Duck"?

As a matter of statistical record, since I linked the "Site Meter" statistical reporting system on my blog, there have been 4853 separate visits to this blog site, an average of 30 visitors per day. These statistics wildly exceeded any expectation I had at the beginning. And even better, these are not just accidental hits (which does happen on the internet), but there have been 11400 "page views", an average of 2.34 pages per visit, which means people have been actually looking through the blog entries.

Thanks to my loyal readers - you make it all worthwhile.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Nature of Wind - those November storms

Well, Robbo has not had snow, but the weather has been truly awful. Last night was down to 2 degrees Celsius. Today was awfully cold. I was wearing a full rig of clothes, and still needed to add a dressing gown over the top. And even then, my fingers were painfully cold.

Yesterday I took some photos of the wind we were having. Now, most of the time the wind is invisible (unless it has clouds of fog swirling around in it). But I was fascinated watching the trees swirling around. So I realised I could photograph the wind, after all.

Well, it is not all that easy. The slow shutter experiments were too swirly to mean anything. So, I have settled for photos which show the backs of leaves as their branches were blown around.

The first is a photo of a Buddleia, growing up on the mound in front of my house. It was this plant which first got my attention, as I was inside the house trying to stay warm, but I was looking out the bedroom window, directly at this plant. This plant has a silver back to the leaf, which makes it stand out as it swirls around.

Several months ago I pruned the tall branches of this shrub to protect it from exactly these conditions, as the longer branches were likely to catch too much wind, and risk damaging the plant, or even having it torn out of the ground.

The second photo is of a "Cedar Wattle" (Acacia elata). This lovely tree is very fast growing, but I worry that it might also be damaged by wind. So, as the tree was very small, I allowed it to branch out very close to the ground. As a result, it is supported by some low-growing branches which actually rest upon the ground. Hopefully this will offer enough support to keep the plant alive, despite these terribly strong winds.

The tips of this plant have a delightul soft red tone. In this photo, you can see the strongly swirled effect of the wind, producing blurred images on the more obvious branches of the Acacia elata, and the closer Acacia. That finely divided "ferny leaved" wattle is the sweetly perfumed Acacia mearnsii. It has very pale flowers, with a delightful perfume which on still, warm days, fills the yard with a floral fragrance.

Friday, October 06, 2006

SCA starts drilling again in the Kangaloon Aquifer

Thelymitra pauciflora
"The Nature of Robertson" is full of surprises.

Today I retract the "blast" which I directed at the SCA, over the slashing of the verge, along Tourist Road. My main problem was that I feared that they might have chopped off the buds of the local perennial native flowers, especially Ground Orchids, Vanilla Rush-lilies, Trigger Plants, and myriads of other tiny plants.

T. pauciflora - flower stem

Today I discovered that there are some Ground Orchids in flower (tiny little things, in amongst the severed grass stems). I was thrilled to discover these flowers today.
A stunning Blue Sun Orchid (Thelymitra pauciflora) - which is notorious for only opening on really warm days. It is a shy flowerer.

Prasophyllum brevilabre
The Broad-lipped Leek Orchid. As it has been a dry season, this flower was only four inches high. It ought be about one foot high. Still, if it saved it from being slashed, well that is good.

It seems that the Orchids have such a long dormancy period that even though the area was only slashed two weeks ago, the Orchid flower-stems were only just growing out of the ground (if at all), and so were too short (at that time) to be chopped off by the slashers. Thank heavens for that.

Glossodia minor
This tiny mauve/blue Orchid was growing in nearly bare earth - yellow sandy soil. I have only ever found it in this one area (ever). By which I mean I have never seen it growing in any other district. Here on the impoverished sandstone soils, but without competition of other plants (due to slashing every few years), this tiny Orchid seems to thrive.

Caladenia dimorpha
This lovely white flowered Lady's Fingers Orchid was the only one of its kind which I found today. It's pink cousin grows happily in the wetter forests along Kirkland Road, East Kangaloon.

The books describe this species as haing a musky odour, but I could not detect any smell from it (even when lying on my belly to photograph it, at close range).


There was another thing I learnt today. Despite supposedly participating in a "review" of their proposal to drain the Kangaloon Aquifer, the SCA is still conducting drilling in the Borefield. So much for community consultation.

Today, 6 October 2006, at 2:45 pm, while I was photographing these Orchids, a large drilling rig, marked with the insignia of the Department of Natural Resources drove into the fire trail just across from Dragon Farm (I think it might be just east of Orfords Road, but I'm not sure of the name of this road). I think that Fire Trail leads to "Belmore Crossing", according to the contour maps of the district. The driver told me he was going to drill some "test bores" - about 150 metres deep.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Waratahs in the bush - the real burst of Spring

3 flowers on a small bush
In Robertson, one tends to measure the real flush of Spring by the arrival of the Waratah flowers, in the bush. They grow on the sandstone country around Robertson, not strictly in Robertson itself. They do not occur naturally on the red basalt soil.

Waratahs thrive in Robertson, as garden plants. But their natural range is an evolutionary thing - they are products of the sandstone forests, dominated by Eucalypts, and a whole range of other related Proteaceae plants. The rich red basalt soils of Robertson were "taken" by the rain forests, dominated by Sassafras and other more primitive rainforest plants. But I digress.

Red bracts surround a developing flower

The Waratah "flower" is actually a head of a myriad of individual flowers, surrounded by the red bracts (modified leaves) which protect the individual true flowers until they are developed enough to swell, and protrude, in the classic shape of the Waratah "flower"

A perfectly developed flower
I have previously reminded readers that the Waratahs in the bush are protected, and the flowers ought be admired whrere they are, and not cut. The plants need to flower in order to set seed, to perpetuate their species. So, give them a chance. After all, they are our most spectacular flower. Leave them for everyone to enjoy.

These plants are growing close to the roadside, in Kangaloon, but similar plants grow in the Sandstone forests near Belmore Falls, Fitzroy Falls, Carrington Falls. Just look out for them.

Individual flowers
developing within the "head".

Click on the image, to view the individual flowers.

While I was taking these photographs, a cyclist, a visitor from Sydney, as it turned out, saw me in the bush, and called out "Aren't they great?" He was enjoying being amongst so many wonderful Waratah flowers
- and he could see that I was too.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Nature of Spring Flowers

Purple Wallflower
Here are some Spring Flower photos which I wish to share with you. Click on the images to enlarge them.

The photos are all taken with the Macro Lens on my camera. I am just learning how to control the macro lens, with the kind assistance of David Young and Richard Jones.
Snowflake - arching flowers

Thanks to both of them for the time they have spent with me, and for their encouragement.

I am learning to experiment with the variables of F-stops (aperture settings) and shutter speeds, and also with the
light from the flash. The latter was most
problematic, with
the Snowflakes, which have an almost crystalline structure in their translucent petals, giving them great reflectivity.

Jonquil - single
This is a lovely single Jonquil, which was in with a bunch of "Earlicheer" double Jonquils. As with "Earlicheer", this Jonquil has a lovely sweet perfume. It has a far nicer perfume than the distinctive odour emitted by the gold and orange Jonquils, known as "soleil d'or" (golden sun).

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Nature of Anticipation

My friend and active Bloggista "Miss Eagle" has several blog posts she runs, on different themes. On one of her blogs, "The Trad Pad", is themed around: "Things that make life worth living: books and beautiful things, movies and music, furry things and gardens".

Several days ago "Miss Eagle" (over at "The Trad Pad") posted a blog around a poem by Catherine Helen Spence, a leading Suffragette and the face on the $5 note. The theme of the post was
a search for a suitable name for the in-between season, after the depth of the Australian winter, but long before Spring officially starts. The point is that Miss Eagle is seeing Wattles, Jonquils and early Fruit Trees in flower, in Melbourne - in July.

The issue Miss Eagle was addressing is the appearance of Spring,
without any cultural recognition of this reality (this in-between season lacking a name of its own). So, she set out to create a suitable name for this in-between season.

Anni has also posted about a similar seasonal confusion (under the heading: "As giddy as a baby on a swing" - a lovely poetic title).
Anyway, to the issue at hand - the search for a name for this season. "Miss Eagle" suggested several possibilities: "The Harbinger" (which sounds nicely poetic) and "Newness" (which doesn't).

I suggested to Miss Eagle that a suitable word might be
"Risorgimento" an Italian word, which historically is used to refer to the re-building of the Italian nation. but the word itself means "resurgence". - which I think has the right "feel" to it for this season.

Anyway, I was teasing "Miss Eagle" (privately) about a phenomenon known only to Peony
growers (such as myself). But Miss Eagle has challenged me to publish what I told her. So, here goes.

Peonies are plants which are totally dominated by the seasonal change which occurs immediately after the Winter Solstice. As soon as the days start to get longer, the Peonies burst into invisible growth of their roots. Then, 4 weeks later (in Australia) they poke their shoots through the soil. There is an amazing sense of anticipation associated with this burst of growth.

Every year, when this event occurs in America, the lady Peony growers, on email chat lines, etc, get very excited and refer to the Peonies "poking their little pink noses through the soil".

Come on ladies, you can do better than that!!!

There is a certain shyness on my part about publicly giving this bud the most appropriate name, which would definitely be gynaecological.

Suffice to say that I am posting a somewhat "
clitoral" image to illustrate this story. I am being careful with my words, as I don't want to get "black listed" by "Net Nanny" (again).

I like the term
"Anticipation" for this season. If you wish to contribute your experience of this in-between season, or come up with a name for it, feel free to post a comment here, or better still, add your comment at The Trad Pad, where Miss Eagle originally raised the challenge.

Here is the finished product - flowers of "Coral Charm". This is what the sense of "anticipation" is all about. (Photos from my "Peony Diary" which Anni kindly hosted for me last year, on her website.)