15 September, 2009

The Australian "Oaks"

In Australia the Proteaceae family often have common names involving oak if they grow into trees. This is because of the oak like grain in a radial pattern. Other trees to be called 'oak' are the Sheoaks or Casuarina.
Below are two Proteaceae in flower at the moment: Darlingia darlingiana, white, and Alloxylon flameum, red. Above is the Banksia from yesterday's blog.
In most of the Proteaceae the flower bud opens by the tepals, undifferentiated perianth segments, opening to reveal the style standing proud. the Anthers are more or less stuck to the tepals and open before the bud so the pollen is left behind on the style and surrounding area. The style become receptive to pollen at a later stage.

14 September, 2009

Flowers in the Forest: September 2009

Spring time is not the best time for flowers but there are some around at the moment. In the tall sclerophyll forests of the western edge of the Atherton Tablelands is Banksia aquilonia, the tallest of the banksias. It is a handsome tree and the flowers are usually terminal. 'Cones' with seeds lose their old flowers but they are retained if no pollination is successful.
Johnstone River Satinash, Syzygium erythrocaylyx, flowers on the trunk, and branches. Red to scarlet buds open to green flowers. This tree only grows in very wet areas. The fruit is large, red and edible. One should not eat fruit from the rainforest unless a reliable guide indicates it is safe to do so. Let them eat it first and if they are still walking around in half an hour give it a go.
The rich golden yellow flowers of Myrtle Satinash, Thaleropia queeenslandica, cause the trees to stand out like beacons. The first flowers are beginning to open now on the southern Tablelands.
In the wilds of the Kennedy Range, the Powder-puff Lilly-pilly, Syzygium wilsoni ssp wilsoni, is a scruffy shrub. Grown in a garden with a bit of care and pruning it is a magnificently dense shrub with these wonderful flowers with white pollen. The new growth of this form is magenta. Other forms of the species grow into huge trees with white flowers or small trees with pink flowers and blue fruit as opposed to the white fruit of this form.
Bonewood, above and the following plants are all in flower now on the middle altitudes of the Atherton Tablelands where I am fortunate enough to live. Emminosperma alphitoniodes, is a great small tree with glossy green leaves. It is rare for the tree not to have new growth, fruit or flowers, whatever the time of year. The canopy is darkly dense and the trunk so pale as to be almost white.
Daphne Buttonwood, does not have the largest flowers but they make up for this by being highly scented in the early evening. the fruit look like old fashioned ribbed buttons.
Umbels of small flowers can still cover a whole tree of Snowwood, Pararchidendron pruinosum, and will be followed by dry leathery pods containing black seeds. The pods are dark brown on the outside and reddish-brown on the inside.

Pittosporum rubiginosum is in flower around Malanda and at Lake Barrine near the entrance to the huge Kauri trees. Small orange fruit contain many small sticky red seeds.
Darlingia darlingiana, or Brown Oak is now just starting to flower. They have a very strong honey scent. Beetles, flies and wasps are important pollinators.
The Tree Waratah is a stunner! One can see these in the forests from Malanda to Tolga but also in the towns. the timber is also of high quality.

01 September, 2009

Spring Time in the Mountains

Mt Bartle Frere hovers above the Tablelands. Taken two weeks ago this paddock now looks brown.
Today, September 1st, the first day of spring for those who follow the three month cycle of seasons. Actually we are beginning our fry season [accidental typo but I'll keep it] and it is dry already. The countryside is brown, unlike last year when we received enough rain throughout the year to keep the grass green and the creeks and springs flowing. Water levels are dropping quickly in the creeks and with the over extraction form our aquifers they will drop a lot further before the rains come. Still there is plenty of beauty around. The Red Cedars have now almost completed gaining their new leaves. The setting sun was still striking the colourful new growth of this tree near Malanda.
Fruit is becoming more available in the forest. From this little Thorny Yellow-wood which is eaten by honeyeaters to the large Water Gum which is eaten by Musky Rat-Kangaroos, This is the time for the northern migrants to return. The birds from the shorelines which fly to above the Arctic Circle to breed and those Cuckoos which just go to Indonesia and New Guinea for a holiday are returning. Some local birds breed at this time of year and other are displaying in hope of a mate later.Victoria's Riflebirds are beginning to display. A Bar-tailed Godwit has returned from the north and is feeding on the Cairns Esplanade with this Beach Stone-curlew. Metallic Starlings have just returned to the Tablelands but are already nest building on the coast.
Pheasant Coucals will turn almost black before they breed. This bird was photographed in our garden. Barred Cuckoo-shrikes have white eyes when not breeding but they are now turning a sexy yellow.

I got a little fright this morning while running around the yard to do a few jobs while creating this blog. I almost ran onto this handsome fellow. A Red-bellied Snake should be treated with caution but while they are bad news for dogs, humans should have little to fear from their venom. Lots of snakes are beginning to move out of their winter quarters and become active. A Yellow-faced Whipsnake was run over outside our house yesterday which is rather sad. Carpet Snakes, above, and Amethystine Pythons do not have to sun themselves for as long these warmer mornings and are soon on the move.