Friday, July 30, 2010

Calectasia - Blue Tinsel Lily/Star of Bethlehem

From Calectasia
Sources: Perth Plants, Barrett & Tay, pg 190
Location:  Serventy Path just North of the Broadwalk crossing

I was introduced to this little plant as the Blue Tinsel Lily aka Calectasia grandiflora when we found it growing on the Serventy Path just before it crosses the BroadWalk (see "Bushland Tracks" pamphelt.)  But there is another species of Calectasia that also grows in our park commonly referred to as the Star of Bethlehem or Calectasia narragara.  

The difference between these two species is slight in that the C. grandiflora has slightly larger flowers, although neither flower can be remotely considered large being smaller than an Australian 5 cent coin.  And the C. grandiflora's flower usually turns a bit brown on the edges as it ages.

It may be more likely that this is a C. narragara as Kings Park is the type location for that species while the C. grandiflora generally grows in more swampy areas.

In either case, look hard for this beauty on the East Side of the Serventy Path just north of the Broadwalk.  It is a small fellow, but sure to please.

M. Taylor

Acacia pulchella - Prickly Moses

From Acacia
Sources: Florabase
Perth Plants Barrett & Tay, Pg 94

UPDATE 31-JUL-2010: New photos of A. pulchella in bloom.

While not currently blooming, the Prickly Moses is making itself known in the park especially along the Law Walk but also in the bushland areas.

A. pulchella blooms in spring (May-Dec) with characteristic yellow, "puff ball" flowers.  Even without blossoms, it is an easily recognizable plant with its small leaves, green buds and most importantly if you intend to handle it, the small spikes that give it its name.   The name may be a variation of "Prickly Mimosa" but no matter the source, the prickles will let you know for sure what plant you have found when you grab a handful.

The fact that it is most abundant along the Law Walk reinforces verbal information I received stating that it is one of the early re-colonizers after a fire.  I invite corrections or substantiation of this "fact" via the comment function below or e-mail.

It is one of very few Acacias that have true leaves rather than phyllodes or modified leaf stems.

I will add some pictures of the A. puchella after they start blooming this spring.  Until then you can see the flowers at Florabase by clicking on the reference above.

M. Taylor

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Grevillea and Hakea Pollination

From Pollination
Sources: ANPSA
Wrigley, John W. & Fagg, Murray. (1989). Banksias, Waratahs & Grevilleas. Collins, Sydney. p.30

Grevillea/Hakea Pollination. In the unopened bud, the pollen presenter or style (female part of flower) is tucked in next to the anthers. When the flower opens the style extends out and has pollen on the stigma. This will deposit pollen on the pollinator (usually a bird or insect) as in the picture. When this pollen has gone, the style is then ready to pick up other flowers’ pollen from the subsequent pollinators.

From: Wrigley, John W. & Fagg, Murray. (1989). Banksias, Waratahs & Grevilleas. Collins, Sydney. p.30

M. Larke

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Spinifex longifolius - Beach Spinifex

Perth Plants (Barrett & Tay) Pg 250
Kiyanti's Blog (nice story)
Photos: M. Taylor

Some of us new guides were walking along Law Walk when we came across a grass that we immediately identified as Spinifex. We just as quickly realized that it didn't look like the specimen located near the old Boab that most of us have discussed with visitors on our walks. In an instant we doubted our knowledge but just as quickly we resolved to research this plant and figure out what it is.

Beach Spinifex grows predictably, all along all the coastal areas of Western Australia and plays a major role in stabilizing the shifting sands of the coast line. It also provides a safe refuge for some of the smaller beach dwellers as well as a low wind break (about 1 meter high) in which to shelter.

The Male and Female flowers of S. longifolius are different and if you go to the photos you can see both. The male flowers make a splayed form atop the grass stem while the female flowers form in a ball which detaches ready to roll down the beach driven by the wind until it lodges into a dune and begins forming a new plant. Right now each of the S. longifolius that I have seen around the park have detached female flowers ready to populate the earth.

Spinifex is from the Latin "spina" meaning "Spine" and "facere" meaning "to make" which refers to the pointed leaves and bristly heads of the plant.

You can find S. longifolius all along Law walk as well as the hard and soft tracks uphill between Roe Gardens and the elevated walkway.

M. Taylor

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hardenbergia comptoniana

From Hardenbergia comptoniana
SOURCES: Perth Plants (Russell Barrett & Eng Pin Tay) 1st Ed. pg 86
Aust Native Plant Society
Photos: P. Wilshaw, M. Taylor

Family: Fabaceae

Common names: Native wisteria

Genus: Hardenbergia - Named by English botanist George Bentham in 1837 after Franziska Countess von Hardenberg, a 19th century patroness of botany who sponsored early botanical research in Australia. The story goes that he was in love with the Countess and named the plant after her beautiful green eyes!

An evergreen, twining woody-stemmed climber, one of the few climbers in Kings Park.
Leaves: Dark green, leathery. Three or rarely 5-folioalate
Flowers: Blue-purple with a yellow-green 'eye', rarely white or pink. Flowers July-October
Pods: Narrow, cylindrical

Found: Dongara to Albany, WA. Common and widespread in bushlands of Kings Park and Bold Park. There are both broad and narrow leaved forms in the parks.

C. Carlton

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Eucalyptus sweedmaniana - Sweedman's Mallee

KEW Gardens
Photos: M. Taylor

Do a web search for Luke Sweedman and you won't be starved for reading material any time soon. Sweedman is Curator for the WA Seed Technology Center at our park. He is an expert in the storage of species for threatened species and some of our guides have come to call him "Sweedman the seedman." His most well known work is "Australian Seeds: a guide to their collection, identification and biology" Sweedman & Barrett.

In 2006, Sweedman was out on a seed collecting expedition with his colleague Professor Stephan Hopper, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew when they discovered a new species of Mallee now named Eucalyptus sweedmaniana.

It is a Eucalyptus of the family Myrtaceae and order Myrtales. It is rare and poorly known, which in the Australian system of taxonomy means that there may be less than 5 known populations which are all under threat. In the case of E. sweedmaniana, there is only one known population located in the Mount Arid granitic massif, east of Esperance.

As suggested by it's "Mallee" name it grows in a low multi-stemmed shrub up to about 1 meter high, but as much as 5 meters wide. The pics here were taken from a signed specimen located in the botanical garden, Mallee section, river side of the hard path. Look for the red bloom and of course, the sign.

Luke Sweedman is only one of the many research scientists that are keeping Kings Park in Perth, Western Australia atop a very short list of internationally renowned botanic gardens.

M. Taylor

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Perga dorsalis (Spitfires)

From Spitfire
PIRSA Forestry
Photos: M. Taylor

Another chance to talk about Kings Park Fauna!

These little fellows are called Spitfires because when disturbed, they emit a nasty looking yellow mucus from their mouths. They don't really spit; it's more of a drool. You can see some of this goo in the second photo below.

There are other species of crawlies that are called spitfires and some are true caterpillars that may have stinging cells on the ends of hairs that can cause a bit of pain. But not these gooey bugs; they can cause no harm to humans in either their larval or their adult phase and they are not caterpillars at all. They are wasp larvae.

From Spitfire
These guys have recently hatched, and once they have enough energy stored up they will pupate for up to 2 years before they emerge from their cocoons as Steel Blue Saw Flys.

P. dorsalis will always be seen in groups of individuals and they communicate by tapping their tail. You can tell from the first picture that they can do considerable damage to their host tree which is most often a Eucalyptus.

When the Perga dorsalis grows up it will become a wasp but it doesn't sting and it looks more like a large fly (like a horse fly.) I'll direct you to the Australian Insects website for pics of the adult wasp because I don't want to run afoul of any copyright issues and I didn't have time to wait for these fellows to grow up.

M. Taylor

Monday, July 19, 2010

Balga - Xanthorrhoea (Grass Tree)

From Balga
Monica's Site - most complete
Photos by P. Wilshaw and M. Taylor

Habitat - Throughout Australia, Tasmania

Balga is the aboriginal word for "Black Boy," a term that may be considered offensive to oversensitive white ears, but a term which obviously causes no consternation to our indigenous population. One aboriginal who was told that the term was offensive said "Well then what should I call it?" The term "Black Boy" probably arises from the appearance of the trunk which is exposed when fire burns away the old leaves and turns the trunk black.

Xanthorroea are very slow growing, very long lived plants. Not all species have trunks, but here in the park the X. preissii is the species that grows a trunk. It can take 10 years for the trunk to form from old leaf bases held together by resin. After that, it will be 75-100 years before the trunk is one meter tall. At the end of their life, at around 600 years they may approach 20 ft high.
In many websites you may see that there are 8 species of Xanthorrhoea, but Monica's Site lists a startling 32 species, all native to Australia, but they can be grown in similar climates world-wide with care.

Because they are so slow growing, transplanting grass trees has become an important part of preserving the ones that are removed from mine sites and residential clearings. We have several transplanted balgas in the park that you may have noticed around the new location of the bus stop. They can also be grown from seed as discussed at Monica's Site.

From Balg
Aboriginals used the plant for so many things that one of our guides refers to the grass tree as the "One Stop Shop." We all know that the grass tree exudes a dark red resin when the trunk is heated by fire. That resin was collected, heated and formed into balls for later use when it was re-heated and mixed with charcoal and kangaroo dung to make an epoxy like material to attach sharp stones to sticks making knives, hatchets and the like and to repair broken implements. This same resin was harvested by early European settlers to make varnishes and lacquers. Cans of tinned food were protected with a coating of this lacquer during WWII. The flower stalks are light weight and airy which made them ideal for fire-making by rubbing together. The flowering seed stalks are rich in nectar so they were soaked in water to make a sweet drink. If allowed to sit, this sweet drink would ferment making a slightly alcoholic drink. The seed pods are very tough and were used as a knife to cut meat. Young leaf stalks are a tasty vegetable, and the edible Bardie Grub lives in the crown of the plant. And the dead leaves, if not burned away by fire were be used as thatch and as tender for fire making.
Leaf Cross Sections Balga

In the park, we are limited to only two species, Xanthorrhoea preissii and X. brunonis. X. preissii is the "common grasstree." It grows a tall trunk and has a diamond shaped cross section in the leaf. The grasstree at the Tuart Lawn entrance to the Banksia Garden is a X. preissii and is about 200 years old. X. brunonis grows close to the ground with no trunk, has a narrow seed stalk better for using as fire sticks and a triangular cross section to the leaf.

The seed stalk, regardless of the species can grow at a rate of 2-3 cm per day and can reach lengths of 3 meters. The stalk is packed with nectar and attracts a wide variety of insect, bird and mammal polinators. P. Wilshaw got a picture of bees and a wattyl bird working the same two stalks in the park. He also got a picture of a bee flying into a seed stalk upside down. Maybe that nectar can ferment on its own? Click on any of the pictures to the right to be taken directly to the Balga section of the KPGuides photo album.

M. Taylor

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pandanus aquaticus - River Pandan

From Pandanus aquaticus
Location in Park - Botanic Garden, Kimberly section, interspersed with young Boabs
Habitat- Kimberly, coastal areas, anywhere that Mangroves would grow
Sources - Florabase, Gondwananet

We have several Pandans in the park, all located in the Kimberly Section of the Botanical Garden very near one another.  You will notice the first one just as you enter the Kimberly section coming from the VIC toward the Big Boab.  It is trimmed higher than the rest and you can clearly see the trunk and the prop roots emerging from the ground.  These roots help take up oxygen when the trunk is partially submerged in its natural habitat, and they also support the weight of the tree in the soft shifty soil where it normally grows.

Years ago, according to documents found by B. Mowe, we had one P. tectorius (Screw Pine) located in that same area, but it is no longer to be found.  The fact that it used to be there has caused some confusion amongst guides, but there is a well hidden sign that dates back to at least 2007 labeling the remaining plants as P. aquaticus aka River Pandan or Water Pandan.

From Pandanus aquaticus
Two of our Pandans are fruiting and they are located across the concrete path going down hill before you get to the Spinifex, Verticordia and the Big Boab..  The fruits are very large and currently green, but they turn bright red as they ripen.  While the fruit of P. tectorius and some other species are edible, the, P. aquaticus fruit is not.  In the edible species, aboriginals used the fruit for food and medicine, the leaves for clothing and fishing.  Bats, crabs and rats also eat the fruit.

One other plant near the main walkway in the Kimberly section of the garden has just finished flowering and you can still see the remnants of the creme colored flower fading with age.

From Pandanus aquaticus
Pandans are primitive, having  Male and Female sexes in separate plants.

This article may be incomplete.  Please contribute to this article by e-mailing the author if you have interesting information regarding Pandanus aquaticus.

M. Taylor

Nesting Ospreys

From Osprey
While the Flora in our park is spectacular and more than sufficient to maintain our interest for decades, it always pleases me to find a bit of Fauna to discuss.  Having heard a rumor last week of nesting birds near the park which were either White Bellied Eagles or Ospreys, I set out to discover where the nest might be.   I found it along the Swan River, clearly visible from Law Walk in the tallest of the 6 Norfolk Island Pines which are in the first cluster of Pines down river from the old brewery.  The fastest way to get there is to park at Roe Gardens and make your way down to the Law Walk, which is the lowest of the concrete paths along the escarpment.  When you reach the Law Walk, turn right and head down river while looking left toward the bay.  When you come upon the cluster of Pines, look at the tallest one and you will notice a dense matting of leaves, twigs, string, and maybe some plastic bags.  If you are lucky, you will see both of the adults coming and going which is more than entertaining.

From Osprey
These birds are Ospreys (Fish Eagles) but they might be confused with White Bellied Eagles from afar.  Both have white heads, but the Ospreys eyes are more forward pointing than the eagles, and the Osprey has a distinct black band visible behind the eye whereas the eagle is white in that area.

Clicking "Osprey" text below the images in this post will take you to more images available at my Picassa Website.

I hope you enjoy this bit of birding in our park and I further hope the guests that you guide will appreciate this bit of fauna amongst our flora.

M. Taylor

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Turner of Hearts" Verticordia grandis

Sometimes I change my plans. Rarely I change my mind. But to change a heart is something unique and rare. Verticordia means “Changer of Hearts” in Latin and this plant is named Verticordia after the goddess Venus of whom it was said was so beautiful she could change a persons heart with a glance.
This particular flower is from Verticordia grandis which is the only Verticordia species that is blooming in the garden right now. There are several other species that are commonly referred to as “featherflower” and I’ll try to post some pics of them as they start to show off in the spring. The common name for V. grandis is “Scarlet Featherflower.”
Even without flowers, the scarlet featherflower would be a show piece. It is a shrub, normally about 4-5 ft high but can grow to 12 ft. It is endemic to a small area just north of Perth and up to Geraldton. In the wild it can be wiry, short and unimpressive, but here in the botanical garden where it is pampered it is always a point of interest.
The main stems are blood red when they are young and they provide support for hundreds of strangely pale green leaves attached directly without a separate leaf stem. There are two leaves at each connection and each connection is offset from its nearest neighbor by 90 degrees which gives the leaves the appearance of surrounding the stem in a continuous spiral. Each leaf is also edged by a blood red outline encircling the leaf.
Touching a leaf here is almost always surprising because what looks soft is often hard, and vice versa. These leaves are soft to the touch, not quite like velvet, but not like a normal shrub leaf either.

Despite the beauty of the stems and leaves, the flowers of the Verticordia grandis are the real attraction. It is called a featherflower because the calyx lobes are fringed. The Calyx of a flower is the group of sepals that support the petals from underneath. Normally in the US and most of the rest of the wold, the sepals are green, but here in Australia, all bets are off and in the scarlet featherflower they are the same red color as the petals. The five petals are inside the calyx and they are fused together to form a tube. Insects travel down this tube in search of nectar and they collect pollen along the way to be used to fertilize next flower they visit. On some flowers you can see a long thin red spike curving out from the calyx and that spike is the style that contains the stigma on its end.

The featherflowers, like all plants in WA are susceptible to fire. Many plants here require fire to multiply with their seeds laying dormant for years until the fires come. But for the featherflower seeds germinate normally without fire. When fire does come, the Verticordia regenerates by sprouting new stems from lignotubers just underground.

M. Taylor

Granite Bottlebrush (Mellaleuca elliptica)

From Granite Bottlebrush
The Melaleuca elliptica is sometimes called Granite Honey Myrtle, but here in King's Park we call it Granite Bottlebrush. "Melaleuca" is a compound of latin terms “melan” meaning black and “leuca” which means white.

Several species here in Australia are named in a sort of strange way which reflects the utter confusion of the early european explorers.  Fire is a predominant and necessary part of the landscape here but the europeans didn’t know that. What likely happened was that the first of the Melaleuca species to be described had been recently affected by fire which blackened the trunk on the lower regions while leaving the upper branches a white color in new growth areas.  You can see an example of the white branches on the far right hand edge of this pic. White branches are more common here than you might think, but I don’t want to talk about them right now.  There is a better example of that phenomenon to discuss later.   Suffice it to say that the "white & black" name really isn't very descriptive of this plant.

The "flower" you see in this pic is actually more than a hundred flowers grouped together called a fluorescence.  Individual flowers are made up of five very reduced petals which encircle a tight group of stamens.  Grouping a hundred or so of these together gives the plant the characteristic bottlebrush look.  Unlike the Verticordia that we recently discussed, the sepals of the Melaleuca do not play a part in the fluorescence display. The reduction of the petals is a strategy to help conserve water that is shared by other plants here in Australia.  The normal function of the petals to attract pollinators has been taken over in large part by the colored stamens.

The plant from which I took this picture is about normal sized being a little over 6 ft high and about half as wide.  It is a tall shrub and can be pruned into a hedge.  It tolerates drought well after it is established.  Like many of our plants it flowers a good part of the year, but its best show is during spring (Sept-Nov.)

From Granite Bottlebrush
This shrub is a type of “mallee” which means “multiple trunks” and there are so many Malees in a small region along the Southern coast of Western Australia that the region itself is referred to as the Mallee Region.  Think of a crepe myrtle and you are thinking of a mallee.  I’ll post a pic of the trunk of a mallee at some point so stay tuned.

The bottlebrush is pollinated by both insects and birds who love the nectar.  The day I was taking the pic there was a bee on the flower the entire time.  If you look closely you can pick him out.  He isn’t a native bee, rather he is a common european honeybee.  I am hopeful that one day I will get a pic of one of the 16 species of native stingless bees, but so far, no luck.

Notice too the small elliptical leaves and how tightly they grow to the stems.  The leaves are where the “elliptica” part of the name comes from and the leaves are a dusty green color.  The color is an adaptation to the intense sunlight here.   Another thing I will discuss in later posts.

You can also see last season’s flower in this pic which is the spiky growth up and to the left of the flower.  If the resolution on your screen is sufficient, you can zoom in on that part of the pic and see some seeds still hanging on.

M. Taylor

Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos)

From Kangaroo Paw

The flower I should have started with is the Kangaroo Paw.  I hope you enjoyed the Scarlet Featherflower sufficiently to forgive putting it ahead of the Kangaroo Paw, which is Western Australia’s state flower (they call it the state floral emblem here.)  Specifically the Anigozanthos manglesii aka the Red and Green Kangaroo Paw is the state flower.   The pic here is a mosaic at the entrance to the Botanic Garden that shows a representation of the Red and Green Kangaroo Paw.

For a flower to have red stems is unusual.  For a flower to have green petals is very unusual.  For a flower to have red stems and green flowers... well, you do the math.
From Kangaroo Paw

I mentioned before that touching leaves here is often a surprise, but touching the Kangaroo paw parts yields about what you would expect if you were here to see the plant.   The stem is fuzzy with millions of tiny hairs up and down it’s length.   My Pics probably don’t capture it, but just imagine a very thin version of a cat tail head and that’s about what the red stem of the red and green kangaroo paw feels like.

From Kangaroo Paw

The flower is pollinated by birds (of all things.)  There are no bird pollinated plants in Europe, and the hummingbird is the only pollinating bird in the US.  But here in Australia, about 17% of the plants are pollinated by birds ranging  from the tiny honey eaters to the fairly large wattle bird.  

The bird lands on the kangaroo paw stem and seeks nectar inside the tubular flower.   When it does, the five stamens that make up the “paw” of the flower smack the bird on top of the head leaving pollen behind.   When the bird visits the next flower.. well you get the picture.  Interestingly, each species of Kangaroo Paw hits the bird in a slightly different place.   This does not prevent cross pollination, as there are other characteristics that do that, but it does help conserve pollen by not wasting it where it cannot be utilized.  These plants are pretty smart.

From Kangaroo Paw

There are at least 8 species of Anigozanthos that I know of.   Here is a pic of the Yellow Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthus pulcherrimus.)  Remember you can click on any pic to get a bigger version and be directed to my Picassa site where there is no telling what you might find.  But there is also my favorite Kangaroo Paw, the Black Kangaroo Paw pictured below.  Once again with green flowers, but a more pale green... and this time with BLACK STEMS.  Whoever heard of a black stemmed flower?  

From Kangaroo Paw

The Black Kangaroo Paw is not in the same genus as the rest, which means it is really not closely related to the other types.   Charles Darwin never visited Western Australia, but if he had, and if he had modern DNA testing technology, at least some of the points of his theories would have been different.   Darwin, in order to support his ideas about all life stemming from a single ancestor, said that it is extremely unlikely that two separate species would ever develop similar methods of adapting to a habitat.  Well, that doesn’t turn out to be true as is exemplified by the Black Kangaroo Paw which is in the genus Macropidia (Macropidia fuliginosa) instead of Anigozanthos, like the rest of the Kangaroo Paws.   Can’t really hold him too responsible for the issue though because it probably does take DNA testing to figure it out.

So these are the Kangaroo Paws.  You might see some similar species in the US called Cats Paws.  Generally smaller than these, but similar looking.

M. Taylor