Friday, 31 May 2013

On mistletoe

The (sort of) traditional view:
On Googling 'mistletoe' I came up with a bunch of links to an alleged song by someone called Justin Bieber who I believe aims his work at the wannabe Princess market.  I have never heard him warble so I shouldn't criticise.

Adding the word 'cartoon' to the search came up with some more helpful works, although many of them were obviously done by people with better skills in art and humour than botany.  Even at very low resolution I can tell that is Holly (Ilex aquifolium) - the red berries are a big hint - rather than the common mistletoe (Viscum_album)  with white berries, employed to encourage a little of this and that and, if you are very lucky, the other, around Christmas.

There is nothing like starting a post with a screen full of irrelevance!  Taking text from Wikipedia "Mistletoe is the common name for obligate hemi-parasitic plants in several families in the order Santalales. These plants attach to and penetrate the branches of a tree or shrub by a structure called the haustorium, through which they absorb water and nutrients from the host plant."

The reason I am writing about this set of plants is the debate on the last ANPS WW about two members of Australian mistletoes, genus Amyema common in the Canberra region.  My post from that walk includes an image of A. miquelii:
Notice that all three of the residual flowers have stalks (aka pedicels).  

We also found on the walk, a flower head of A. pendula but I didn't at the time photograph it.  That omission has been remedied at home:
The fact of flowering at this time of year is a big hint towards A. pendula, but the definitive attribute is the lack of a pedicel on the central floret.
In other words, the species whose name suggests hanging down, does so less than the other common species. (I will note in passing that the species used to be called Amyema pendulum but APNI now reduces that to a mere "orthographic variant"!  I have tried to find the reasons for this change but other than finding it came from the Australian Plant Census have been unsuccesful: perhaps it was just lining up the sex of the words?)

In the local region we have - as far as I am aware - 4 species of mistletoe, in the family Loranthaceae.  A third species in the genus Amyema, A. cambagei is a parasite of Allocauarinas and mimics them rather well making it very difficult to spot them (I haven't found it in any of the visits I have entered so far).  The 4th species Muellerina eucalyptoides - is again a parasite of eucalypts  - and on my observations is far less common that the Amyemas.  A fifth species A. congener is found on the limit of our range to the NE (ie Bungonia) which is also about the western extreme of its range: it also parasitises Allocasurinas.

The distribution of the 4 species, recorded in 32 of 130 Wednesday Walks I have entered to a database, is illustrated in this snip from Google Earth. ( I am very surprised at the absence of records from the Brindabellas/Namadgi.  My friend Ros has suggested this is because the trees are too high - probably a fair call, for differentiating miquelii from pendula.)
Yellow is A. miquelii, turquoise is A. pendula/pendulum; big red drop is A. congener;  big green drop is Muellerina eucalytpoides.

A final thought is to note that mistletoe is seen as a keystone resource (ie leads to a high level of environmental richness) . The seminal work (sorry about that word - it is in fact a polite, even if chiched,  one) is by Watson and Herring.  Incidentally, full praise to them for the full text being available at no cost rather than the rip-off rates usually charged by academia.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

ANPS visits a dry hillside

Just joking: it wasn't quite that dry today!  Enough with the Carnegiea gigantea let us move on to the foothills of Mount Majura.

The weather was fine and even the clouds were very high cirrus - very much fine weather clouds.
Things weren't that fine on the ground with a fairly typical TAMS sign warning us off.  They can't even be bothered to give the plant its correct name as the endangered taxon is L. a. tricolor.
 Not only were the plants extremely common over a large area  they were even in flower in some parts!
 We next have a puzzle.  I encountered a very nice Kurrajong (Brachychiton populneus) with very attractive red petioles (which most other members of the species seen today also showed).
However about 4m away was another brachychiton with yellow-green petioles.  Why is this so?
 An Acacia implexa was flowering!  Poor confused thing.
 So was an Eucalyptus meliodora (most others just had buds).  I am sure they normally flower in Summer.
 Here is a very dry patch of Chrysocephalum semipapposum.  I did explore this and there were no Chollas growing in the middle of the patch.
However a few heads were still showing some colour.
 Here we have a classic Ameyena miqueli showing that all 3 florets have a clear pedicel.  There were a lot of mistletoes around which is a very good sign for the diversity of the area.  (That point and this family is covered in a later post.)
After finding a very much 'past-it' example of Styphelia triflora earlier in the walk about the last plant we saw had a nice display of flowers.  I couldn't decide which of these images to include so have stuck them both in!

 I checked this 'watcher ' for a joey.  Then checked the undertail area and realised that a joey in the pouch -or indeed a pouch - was unlikely.
 Continuing my series of blue sky birds this Galah made a pleasant snap.
Although Roger wasn't with us I did find a couple in interesting arthropods to photograph.  Thankfully this one was easy to identify as Agonoscelis rutila. Its common name is Horehound bug - look what it is feeding on!
 I will stretch my knowledge and ID this as a caterpillar!
 Finally, here is a view from the high point of the walk.
The following image is nothing to do with the walk but I thought members of ANPS might appreciate the sentiment (click on it to get a bigger image)..

Monday, 27 May 2013

Blue Sky Birding (mainly)

Today I wandered over to Bungendore to see what was going on on the damp spots.  In essence, much the same as last visit except no Shelduck near Trucking Yard Lane and more Freckled Duck at the Lake Road dam.  On the way back a Black-shouldered Kite posed nicely on the powerlines.

After lunch I visited an area near Fairbarn in Canberra.  The bird pictured against the blue sky there is an immature Grey Butcherbird.
The dead vegetative matter is the tip of a redwood tree.
 Here is the foliage of one of the trees.
 This notice explains much of the history of the plantation (click for big),    This webpage also explains a little more.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Albury trip Day 1: Getting to the Southern Border

The last time we really took a trip to the Southern border of a country we were interested in the work of Homeland Security and got assistance in speaking to shop assistants from some blue rinsed ladies who had better Spanish than me (which ain't hard to achieve).  That was Nogales AZ.

This is Albury NSW.

We left home in Beauty on time at 8am.  The temperature was about 0C and fog seemed to threaten, but never actually delivered.  Rain also threatened during the drive and occasionally did deliver, but the VW automatic rain detector was well up to this.  So were all other systems – I was driving and thus had the information system on instant fuel consumption.  This is a great slope detector: if it is above 5l/100km you're going uphill!

Our first stop was Tarcutta, about 10km past the split between the Hume and Sturt Highways.  We found the RSL and its two field guns but they didn't seem to be designated memorials.  The big memorial in Tarcutta is the Truckies Memorial. 

Note the nicknames.

The actual memorial is the Hall next door to the halfway (between Melbourne and Sydney) cafe.
I was struck by the number of females listed on the Honour Roll 
and by the fact that they are all designated as 'Miss'.  Frances commented that they would probably have mainly been young women going off as nurses.

Before leaving this area we went up Mates Gully Rd to inspect a Travelling Stock reserve renowned for good birding when the eucalypts are in flower.
I was a tad worried that is might have been burnt in January this year but the fire had started just East of the area of interest.  The only obvious flower was Acacia genistifolia.
Here is a burnt area: note the epicormic growth!
On to Holbrook.  As I noted in my posts about the trip to Melbourne this was renamed in honour of a submariner.  The memorial submarine was well decorated with schoolkids.
The Uniting Church was interesting as both the original building (costing £241) and its newer version (£1648) were still extant.
Swapping rites, I noticed that St Clare's convent were hiring out office space.
Fair dos, but I am surprised that nuns would have “JeanLouise essential beauty” as their first clients.  Perhaps nuns have changed recently or perhaps I never saw the 'before' side of them in the past?

With a slight wonder about what will happen to Holbrook when the bypass is finished (the bypass seemed not to have changed since October  last year) we rolled on down the road and saw that Woomargama had potential for a War Memorial so swung in.  War was about the only thing they didn't memorialise!

The area is making a big thing about a large national Park nearby and this edifice is devoted to the Squirrel Glider.

 If you've got a dunny, turn it into a work of art!
On, on to Albury.  What a nice town.  A very helpful lass at the Info Centre and we found the accommodation really easily.  The railway station (seen here from Monument Hill)
was suitably historic (including the longest platform outside Flinders Street).
It appears this was because people changed trains here due to different gauges, so NSW took the chance to stick their finger up to Victoria.   They also had some unusual bike racks (the building in the background is the former Station master's house which is now the Visitor Information Centre).
The blot on the landscape was all the exclusions in the Botanic Gardens.  I wonder why they exclude dogs but (probably) let taxonomists in?
The main War Memorial was extremely interesting although scaling the Hill on which it was located was somewhat of a challenge.
This memorial, as with many others, dated from WW1 for which the dates were given as 1914 -1919.  This is quite sensible, as although the Armistice was signed in 1918 many Australian troops wouldn't have got home until well into 1919.
We spent a little time trying to find the WWII bowl.  Only when we got back to the foot of the hill did I realise this was a reference to the stone fort we had passed on the way up.  Coming back down we noticed the very colourful array of foliage in the town.
Quite a few of the buildings in Dean Street were suitably historic.

This 'work' was on the top of the AMP building.
My Latin isn't really good but I think "Amicus certae in re incertae" could be be translated as "A sure friend in uncertain times".  AMP is - or was - an insurance business: clearly this relates to the period before demutualisation.

This plaque on the Art Gallery raises questions about the definition of a War Memorial.  I tend to think it is, 'cos it wouldn't have got erected if there hadn't been a war!
A window in St Matthews Church commemorating the 2/23rd was very impressive.
Indeed the whole building was impressive, having been rebuilt after a fire in 1991.  The stonework is very well done.
Inside it was intriguing as it is the only Anglican church where I can recall seeing the stations of the cross.  Also, the rector was described as 'Fr.' and I can never remember hearing a vicar referred to as 'Father'.

As we walked 'home' the lantern in the War Memorial caught the sun and really looked as though it was lit from inside.
Following a libation or two I contacted a nearby Indian restaurant- the Indian Chimney – and acquired some takeaway.  The butter chicken was OK but a tad sweet while the beef vindaloo was brilliant: no salmonella could survive in that!

Links to rest of trip
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4