Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Wet and Rusty Spring in the Austral Home Bug Garden

An ornamental Grevillea exploding into bloom.
A new year and a new Home Bug Garden. The last year has been one of those 'interesting times' the apocryphal Chinese curse threatens, but now all is better and I'm enjoying the new garden, my own hectare this time and not a rental. It comes with 10 years of loving attention from the previous owner, but no garden manuals or identification tags for the numerous plantings. For example, at least a half dozen unnamed Grevilleas have been flowering over the winter and into the spring. Given that, according to A Flora of Australia (Volume 17a) , the genus has 362 described species and more than 100 subspecies, not to mention the hundreds of hybrids and horticultural selections, any identifications I offer should be taken with a boxcar of salt. However, the brilliant pink and white specimen above may be Grevillea 'Caloundra Gem', a hybrid of G. banksii x G. whiteana.
Another firework of a flower, a native Lilly Pilly from back beyond the compost bin.
Although the pervious owner had a penchant for native plants, her tastes were broad enough to include many exotics. Some of these previously non-natives (well, probably most that have survived in the thin soil of this garden) have naturalised in the bush in Queensland and so present a  conundrum to a Home Bug Gardener. During my convalescence, I had the strong back of my youngest brother Brian to grub up some of the more intrusive weeds, but now that I'm mostly better I'm taking a less drastic approach. One reason, other than laziness, is that if I grubbed out all of the exotics, then about half the shrubs would have to go. I think a long term, one-at-a-time replacement strategy would be less disruptive. Also, the natives are not without their problems, as the poor Lilly Pilly above is infected with the introduced and destructive Myrtle Rust (Puccinia psidii) and may need to be terminated. This rather wet spring (atypical since we are supposed to be in El Nino) is no doubt encouraging the spread.
Myrtle Rust sporulating on a Lilly Pilly Bud
I've reported my infestation, but the Government has decided the rust cannot be eradicated, so it is another of those aliens that are here to stay and degrade native habitats.  Myrtle Rust is thought to be native to Brazil and, perhaps not surprisingly, my Brazilian Grape Tree (aka JabuticabaPlinia cauliflora), although also a Myrtle, shows no sign of infection. That's good, because I am looking forward to trying the fruit produced directly on the stems and the native bees appreciate the blooms.
Jabutikaba, aka the Brazilian Grape Tree, in flower & attractive to native bees
Well, that's my update to the Home Bug Garden. Apologies to those with comments that were so long in moderation, but it took me a long while to recover. And for those who wonder where the bugs are, here's a splendid mantisfly looking very much like a mantid with gossamer wings (but in fact a relative of the lacewings and not a mantid).
A Mantisfly Ditaxis biseriata (Westwood, 1852) guarding the salad greens