26 October, 2008

Big Greasy steps out

This is how the Big Greasy, Cressida cressida, pupa looked for most of its time.
Then one evening I saw the colour had changed. Over a few hours the pupa darkened dramatically. I expected that it would emerge in the morning.In the morning it looked like this.When I came home at lunch time the butterfly was already well on its was to spreading its wings.

It was still the next morning before the Big Greasy flew. I wonder if it had been a warm sunny day, would it have taken so long. The conditions were cool with light rain.

19 October, 2008

Faunal Feast on Fungal Phallus

Stink-horn Fungi
This fungus is also known as the bridal veil fungus because of the lacy fringe.
Other species can be red or orange. Size varies from 10 to 20 centimetres. They are usually associated with rotting wood and wood chips in moist gardens are a haven for them. The white one was photographed in Cairns at the Centenary Lakes, while the orange one is breaking down the wood chips in my vegetable garden. These of course are the fruiting bodies. Most of the fungus is out of sight.
Did you notice all the flies? The flies are attracted by the sour sweet smell of the fungus. While feeding on the provided fluids the flies are picking up spores which they can then spread around to other potential fungus growing sites.
The availability of free flies attracts predators. In my garden dragonflies make a happy hunting ground of the fungal bounty. In Cairns the Green Ants make good use of the supply.
This one has itself a meal. But then the competition moves in!
I did not stay around to watch what happened in this tug of war. Sometimes when conditions are good, the fungus produces a mass fruiting. Before they erupt they look like puff ball fungi.

17 October, 2008

The Curtain Figtree, Yungaburra

Famous FigtreeWhen overseas I can often let people know where I am from, by reference to this tree.
Most people who visit the Atherton Tablelands call in to see this strangler fig. Bring your fish-eye lense if you have one!
The fig fell over after it had killed its host but before it was strong enough to support itself. The result of its being caught by another tree and continuing to produce these aerial roots is the famous curtain. The roots are still growing and more are being added each year. The red tips indicate that this is new growth which has been prompted by recent good rains.

Ficus virens is a deciduous tree which grows from northern New South Wales to Asia. The leafless period is brief and below you can see that new leaves are starting to show in the dawn light. SunriseThe new leaves of figs are wrapped in sheathing stipules which in most species drop to the forest floor as the leaf opens. As the new growth is rapid, a shower of these pink stipules falls onto the path below as in this picture. In a few days the fig is approaching its former glory.