Wednesday, 25 April 2007

significant trees 1

Here is something interesting. I must follow up. With considerable thanks to White Hat, you can link to the Australian garden at Cranbourne, which will give visitors to this site a n interesting insight into good Australian native gardening practice, unlike the grwoing green stuff on the last post.

Read More......

growing green....

Try this, a completely unintelligible bit of gumtree narcissism. And notice the example of nominative determinism: CR. Kate Redwood.

Read More......

Sunday, 22 April 2007

casually 3

These are Casuarinae, Bulloak and Sheoak. By way of digression here is a Dreamtime story of the creation of the Murray River, part of the main river system in eastern Australia: Ngurunderi is the all powerful ancestor of the Coorong people, it was his journey to the Coorong that created the Murray River and its surrounds. Ngurunderi was chasing a large Murray Cod (ponde), throwing his spear at it many times, each time the Cod escaped, rushing forward and thus creating the river. In its attempts to escape the fish turned to and from, creating the numerous bends we now see in the river. At last the giant fish arrived at Lake Alexandrina, where it floundered about in the shallows.

Ngurunderi and his family soon arrived to find the old warrior named Nepele was there before them. Joining forces they killed the giant fish. The place where they killed it is now a sandbank in the lake. Ngurunderi then cut the fish into small pieces throwing each piece into the water. The pieces came to life and swam away, some as codfish, some as catfish, mullet etc. Finally there remained only the bones, which Ngurunderi cut up and through into the water, these turned into the bony bream, still frustrating to any person that tries to eat it.

There are other versions of this story, including this fantastic site.

There is another version of this story, I read many years ago, in which Ngurunderi started at the head of the Darling River, and traversed the whole of the Murray-Darling, crossed Encounter Bay, forming the Sisters islets to Kangaroo Island and entered the Milky Way via a giant Casuarina near Penneshaw. Kangaroo Island was my home for my childhood and much of my youth, so I like the specificity of this version, because of my memories of the trees and the silky sound the wind made in them.
Casuarinae are native to Australia, and we have, in our odd way, given them common names which bear no relation to the original holders of the name, She oaks and Bull oaks. The species are now two, Allocasuarina and Casuarina. More on that later. Above are pictured three species, the bushy green tree second from the left, a brownish tree 4th, and a darker tree 5th.
These trees are 4th and 5th from he left above, they on a small island between Canterbury Road and a slipway park at the intersection of Mitcham and Canterbury Roads, Mitcham.
This tree is the 5th above, a smoky purple-black. Don't know what species as yet.

This tree is 4th, brown, I think it is Allocasuarina littoralis, Black Sheoak. These casuarinae are on a small island of land between a busy road-Canterbury Road- and a slip way parking area. They are interesting because the fartherest tree is a deep grey-purple in colour, and the other is brown, very like the tree in an earlier post casually.
This one is across the road, and is almost golden in colour. The colour comes from the male flowers, pollen producing anthers at the end of the branchlets, needle shaped, segmented, which function as leaves. This is Allocasuarina littoralis, Black Sheoak.
The anthers hang in bunches.
The anthers at 10x. They have multitudes of tiny flower like petals along each anther.
This is a branchlet segment join at 10x. Notice the pale, tiny teeth like triangular things. These are leaves, and by counting these, and the number of longitudinal ribs, one can determine the species. Bugger that.
A bunch of nuts, fruit of the dark tree pictured above.
The branchlets and female flowers of the 4th tree.
Thes are Allocasuarina littoralis fruit, small (1cm) and plentiful.
Using a macro....

Or digital microscope, at 10x mag.
Female flowers and branchlets, at 10x. The seeds of allocasuarina littoralis at 10x. Notice the wings.
At 60x. 150000+ viable seeds per kilogram, and the potential to produce suckers, these plants are designed to survive in the hardest environments this country can produce. And they will fix nitrogen.

However, like all things, they can escape their native environment and, in a more salubrious environment, become weeds.

Read More......

Monday, 16 April 2007

casually 2 ...

This is a small Casuarina in Dickens Street, Blackburn. The brownish male flowers are barely visible here, but the tree provides several branches low enough to phtogaph the females.

The female flowers are not at the tip of the needles, but along the stem of the branch. They look like little brown brushes, about a half to an inch long, alternating around the stem.
This photo gives an idea of what becomes what. The seed pod is about an inch and half long. The females are rather lost among the needles of the casuarina, which is unlike most flowers, nor do they seem to attract insects of birds. Their neighbouring gums which are in flower are full of honey eaters like parrots, lorrkeets, wattle birds etc.

Read More......

Saturday, 14 April 2007

a lone post, lest we forget.

This is the Lone Pine (Pinus halapensis ssp brutia), or Aleppo Pine, in Wattle Park, Burwood, Victoria (lat -37 50.44 long 145 06.22E). The tree was grown from seed brought back to Australia from the Gallipoli Peninsula by a veteran of that campaign during WW1. I thought I would post this because we are getting to the silly season when a lot of politicians begin to cloak themselves in the patriotism of scoundrels, including one of the local members who sent out his newsletter complete with pictures of various serving soldiers and nurses. Question: who was the last Australian Prime Minister to serve in this country's services?

Answer, which may surprise most Australians, Gough Whitlam. Before him as Prime Ministers who saw some service were McMahon, Gorton, Holt, McEwen, Earl Page, and Bruce. The great Ming was a white feather coward, and Mr Howard, our present leader, is a great encourager of military service but has had none himself. However, he will line up to take centre stage at Gallipoli again this ANZAC Day.
There was some doubt as to who brought the seeds back, but an article in our local paper, The Whitehorse Leader, claims to have solved the mystery. Here is the official version of the story.
This plaque is wrong, according to the paper, in attribution of the remembrance, but that, I think, is a minor flaw.
The seeds were brought back to Australia by Pte Thomas Keith McDowell from the 23rd Battalion, not Sgt. Keith McDowell of the 24th Battalion. The 23rd alternated with 24th in serving at the front at Lone Pine. The tree was planted on Sunday May 7th 1933. Around the base of the tree, in 1976, were scattered the ashes of Sir Frank Selleck, who served in the 24th. The neighbouring plaque celebrates the man. The clock tower on the stone obelisk celebrates another soldier who died in the war: "
In proud remembrance of Royden Louis Charles Bennett, 7th Battalion AIF killed in action at Pozières, France, 18 August 1916. Donated by his mother, Mrs Zilpah Bennett in 1948. Dedicated 7 May 1995"
This tree, like the Calder Woodruff Memorial Avenue described in an earlier post, add some melancholy to the places where they grow. This one overlooks a battered football oval, yet its near neighbours include a gum, and an oak and an elm. Stuff on the 23rd and 24th Battalions can be found here. Another take on the matter can be found here. This gives a rather humane touch to the business.

Read More......

Friday, 13 April 2007

Don't give a fig...

How green is this? While recently walking across this park, Fitzroy Gardens (lat -37 48.89 long 144 58.89E), towards the east end of Collins Street I almost got bogged in the green grass. This is very unusual given the state of the rains. I met a park ranger, and was about to ask about a tree when he said he was looking for a leaking water main. I showed him where it was, the green bit above, and continued on my way, lest I be late.

The neighbouring gardens, Treasury gardens, so named because they front up to the Treasury buildings along Treasury Place, contain a variety of trees, both exotic and sort of local. Among the trees is two rows of Moreton Bay figs Ficus macrophylla, which shelter a south-east pathway through the gardens. These gardens are a favourite place for workers in adjacent areas to sit and eat their lunch, snog, and meet their families.
The pathway isn't very wide, the trees are big and more upright than the usual Moreton Bay fig, probably because of proximity,and the ground around the trunk has been well mulched to conserve what moisture is in the soil. The figs are surface feeders so the root systems are well protected here with mulch and a film of dropped fruit, which is unpleasant to find attached to boots and clothes.
Typical trunk with exposed roots, forming series of buttresses around the base of the trunk. These trees aren't particularly old, so the trunks and buttresses are quite small. This would be about a metre in diameter. These trees have yet to drop their aerial roots.
The fig. These small, globular fruit (about 2-3cm in diameter) are edible, but you won't catch too many of us eating them. They are sweet, with a gritty texture and a jammy taste. The grittiness comes from the fact that, like all figs, the fruit is a lot of flowers growing on the inverted flesh of the fruit. It is apparently fertilized by a tiny symbiotic wasp (Pleistodontes froggatti. This wasp has recently migrated to NZ, and is now found in the fruit of naturalised Moreton Bay figs.
I quite like the fruit, but have never tried more than a few at a time. Figs I like, and I had a fig tree in a previous house which I looked after, competed assiduously with the birds and fruit bats for the fruit, and ate every fig I picked-no one else in the house liked them, so I had the lot. Perhaps one should try some Moreton Bay fig jam. For more try here and here for a nice American picture.
However, you will not find, so far as I have searched, a recipe for jam on the bush tucker sites. Pity.

Read More......


The little park just around the corner is called Bellbird Dell. There are bellbirds (or more correctly bell miner, Manorina melanophrys, in the Dell, but they are very hard to see. You hear them as you walk through, and from surrounding houses, but unless you are lucky they remain very much out of sight. There are other, better places to see bellbirds. The small copse of casuarinas above is in the Dell at lat -37 50.61 long 145 11.6E. The trees are at least two species, which have some features in common...

Bark. Notice the thick bed of dead needles around the base of the trunk. Very little of anything will grow through this carpet, giving the trees a competitive advantage of the sort common with many Australian species, including some eucalypts.

The many seed containers, under the tiny valves, open after the fruit dries on the ground, and the seed spills. The regeneration rate is not that high in parks like this. In wilder parks you see a lot more shoots.
The male flowers (brown) give quite a distinctive colour to the tree. The females are not visible on these snaps, and I will get some for adding.
I will add some interesting variations of these trees, there are some purple and other colours nearby, which I noticed the other day.

Read More......

Monday, 9 April 2007

Upside down...

Inside the National Gallery of Victoria-how Canberra hates the 'National Gallery bit-(lat -37 49.45 long 145 58.09E). The Gallery has a very large pile of white Lego, and has invited its patrons to make a cityscape. My wife and daughter are centre, and the cityscape is silhouetted against the greenery beyond, which is the London Plane trees (Planatus acerifolia) lining St. Kilda Road. The Plane trees are now beginning their deciduous phase.

Outside it looks like this...
The Gallery is a very large bluestone block, fronted by two long shallow pools which also form part of the cooling system, cooling both the building and visitors. People also use the pools for tossing their money away, and occasionally for impromptu swimming.
Where you don't swim is here, in the Yarra, where once, in colonial times, was a watering place from which Melbourne drew its drinking water. This river isn't toxic, just polluted, mainly with dog doo, the runoff from illegal sewer connections and illegal dumping of industrial wastes. The banks are now lined with watering places, using mainly imported water coloured with hops or barley, juniper berries etc. The caffes are pretty good, and the coffee isn't too bad either.
On the other side of the river are more trees, above which pokes the polychromatic tower of the Flinders Street railway station. It was a warm day, we went to hear the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, ate food, wandered about, then went home.

Read More......

look again...

E. newbeyii, Newbey's mallee, recently. See an early post (Heading south...)

Flowers have gone, some are yet to be. The pale green valves of the fruit, and the long green opercula are quite distinctive.

Read More......

dinner plain...

Just up from the oak, and still in the same park is this small sapling, probably E. tricarpa, which has survived the water shortage quite well.

The ground is just damp enough to encourage the ground feeders. In neighbouring streets the flowering gums are heavy with flower and colleges of these birds feeding on the nectar. (notice the two magpies in the background)
These parrots ( Eastern Rosella Platycercus eximus) are smart enough to know I am just wandering around, and their dinner is of no interest. They watched me for awhile, popped up to their heads so I could get a photograph with my annoyingly inappropriate camera-Oh for a digital SLR-and went on feeding.

Read More......

the heart of Old England 2...

This English Oak is on the eastern edge of a small park by the Morack Golf course, ( lat -37 51.06 long 145 12.19E), one of the fairways is immediately behind the tree. Like all oaks here, it is in the latter stages of fruiting, and the acorns on the ground are plentiful.

The morning was crisp, just an early autumn morning, and we had had some badly needed rain during the night, so the grass and leaves were wet, the sun was dulled by thin cloud. It was the sort of morning to do some hard walking. However, one gets distracted...
These are male Wood ducks (Chenonetta jubata), males all feeding on the acorns. They are quite big birds, up to 20" tall, whichmade me think they were some sort of goose. They were unconcerned as I walked past, but immediately became suspicious as I turned to look at the tree, well... them.

They headed out into the park and grazed while I photographed the acorns and tree, had a look at the neighbouring
eucalyptus newbeyi, Newbey's mallee, recorded in a very early post (Heading south), but as soon as I left the oak they headed back. I love the absolute regularity of the trailing ducks, and the double space between the leader and no. 2.

Read More......