Thursday, 20 September 2012

Better red than dead: on mistletoe and a spider!

I shall begin with the mistletoe, and draw people's attention to a paper by David Watson and Matthew Herring "Mistletoe as a keystone resource: an experimental test" published by the Royal Society and available as a free download.  (Well done that Society: a few other publishers should follow their example.)

For those who wonder what a keystone resource is, in another paper Watson proposes that "mistletoes function as keystone resources in forests and woodlands of many regions, providing important resources for a broad range of taxa and determining local diversities in these habitats."  In the Royal Society paper the authors prove this proposal. Thus in simple language mistletoe adds greatly to diversity in a habitat. So this tree on our block is doing a great job:
The dark blobs are the mistletoes.  This a view from directly underneath the one on the left.
The very dark lump is the remains of a old mistletoe where the stems attached to the host are just about all that is left.  This clump is about 8m off the ground and thus a bit difficult to get at and identify.  Fortunately another clump was closer to the ground and a flower could be photographed.
Apart from providing a pretty picture looking at the flower showed that all the florets were on small stalks: that makes this Amyema miqueli rather than the somewhat similar A. pendula.  I shall endeavour to keep an eye on the mistletoes around the place and report on what is feeding, nesting or otherwise interacting with the plants.

The other red item today was a small spider I found in the garden on an old weed seed-head.  It is very small: perhaps 6mm total length.  As spiders go I thought it rather cute.

I have looked at a number of spiderty sites but can't find a match for this chap.  Any suggestions welcome.

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