Thursday, September 30, 2010

dry creek bed, asparagus fern, black nightshade berries

Spent quite a bit of today shoveling and placing gravel in the dry creek  bed. It is coming up ok in spite of the size of the gravel being a bit small.

Also did my usual fertilising with liquid fertiliser around the bush house and vegetable garden.  Collected a nice handful of Solanum americanum berries from that area - also known as poisonberry  or black nightshade. Commonly in Australia and New Zealand, people believe this plant to be highly poisonous thinking it is Atropa belladonna or deadly nightshade. However, this is a case of mistaken identity!  From the colour of the berries they would be loaded with anti-oxidants and nutritious ingredients  -  they will go on our cereal tomorrow morning.

Asparagus aethiopicus (was sprengeri)  -or Asparagus fern ( actually, it's not a fern  but of the lily family)-  is another weed on our property that comes up where birds drop the seed. Usually we grub it out, but in some places, especially around  exposed tree roots, this is not possible.  So today I mixed up some blackberry and tree killer  (50gm/l of triclopyr) and have sprayed some  clumps of this weed as a trial.  Previously, I have used Roundup without effect. The reason I do not like it, is that on North Stradbroke Island this weed has become such a dominant species that it carpets the ground under the Casaurina trees to the exclusion of native plants. The same would occur here if I do not keep removing it.  I  really would rather not spray, but the practicalities sometimes require it.  I have dug this plant out and solarized it by placing a plastic garbage bag in the past as well, but it is so much easier just roaming around with a spray pack on my back.
I will post the results in about 4 weeks.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


More rain yesterday (15mm) so the new garden room area is boggy, muddy and difficult to work on. However, I had some river rocks delivered and have started to place them in the " creek bed". I am disappointed in the size of the stones - I used a different supplier and the size is a little small for what I would like.

We took the grandchildren over the road to the neighbours to see their horse and noticed a large dogwood (Jacksonia scoparia) in flower. This property used to be covered in native plants -  grass trees, boronias, grevillias etc until someone (prior to these owners) purchased it , flattened everything other than the large gums, inspite of a vegetation protection order, and then proceeded to dump construction waste.   We were most upset at such environmental vandalism and destruction.   He was fined by the council but happily paid as it was cheaper for him than paying dump fees.   

We have some small dogwood that I have planted but they are not really thriving where they were placed

Also a red hippeastrum -  this year the snails or slugs are eating some
of the flower petals.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Yesterday the grandchildren were over for Anne's birthday and were checking out the root cellar. Their mother noticed a spider's nest on the inside of the door that created a bit of stir with them all.   It looks like a huntsman to me and is considered to be non toxic. Overall length of the spider is about 50mm.  I have left it alone and will have  to leave the door open when the young spiders hatch so they can escape to other parts of the garden.

Here's a photo of the root cellar door -  the structure has been constructed to look like an old mine entry thus the crudely painted "warning" on the door.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dockrillia linguiformis and Container door

Our really talented daughter Mary   ( easy to  tell I'm her Dad!) has finished painting up the container door -  we wanted it to look like  the entry to a Maori whare ( or house).  The dog image is of our recently deceased  Cattle dog/ Border Collie cross  and the bird is a New Zealand bird called a Pukeko. There is a very similar bird in Australia  (and nearby to us, but not on our property) which is simply called a purple swamp hen.  We are delighted with the result.  Next to this is where the waterfall is to be constructed soon.

Also with the warmer weather and Spring, lots of flowers are coming out -  this tongue orchid is growing on a Palm trunk.  It has been growing on this trunk for about 15 years  and never gets any water other than rain and no fertilising at all.  Binomial name is   Dockrillia linguiformis   - previously it was known as Dendrobium linguiformis but the name was changed to reflect some unique features of which I am uncertain about.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Powder puff lillypilly

Roaming up the back this afternoon I spotted the  Syzygium wilsonii coming into flower. It is also known as the powder puff lillypilly due to the spectacular balls of red flowers.  The fruit on this lillypilly, whilst edible, are really not worth  bothering with, as there is little flesh and lots of gritty seed material. However the flowers more than make up for this.

Nearby is a nice clump of elkhorn on a palm trunk.  At times I have discovered ring tailed possums nesting in  these large fern clumps.

Finally finished off the frame for growing Jicama (or Yam bean) today as well. I am reasonably happy with it. Still lots of work to do in this area however.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hoop pine and new bridge

Garden club meeting today at Robyns at Canungra - a lovely part of South East Queensland especially at present after so much rain.

Canungra Hoop pine

One of the features of her yard that especially caught my eye was the magnificent Hoop pines -some singles and others in delightful groves.
It makes my 20 year old specimen look quite puny.

Canungra Hoop pine

Hoop pine is  the common name for Araucaria cunninghamii.  Another of this genus is Bunya pine  or Araucaria bidwillii.  Hoop pine  grow up to 60m in height , live for up to 450 years and can take up to 200 years before producing any cones. The timber has a lovely texture and colour when used in cabinet work or furniture.

our tree- 20 years old approx
I only got home mid afternoon after stopping at the Canungra Hotel with some others from the club for lunch.  There was a large contingent of a motorcycle club present but we managed to "out noise" them with much banter and laughter. Who would have though a group of garden enthusiasts could be so rowdy!

With the remaining afternoon, however, I got into constructing the bridge
- 2 old railway sleepers set on concrete blocks with a decking of old cattle yard timber rails. It looks great  and is certainly very solid.

New bridge

Friday, September 24, 2010

frog spawn

During the rain 2 nights ago the frogs were making a real racket.
Frog pond
Frog  spawn

The next day there was 4 large frothy collections  on the edge of our frog pond.  I am reasonably sure it is frog spawn rather than cane toad as the latter tends to lay it's eggs in long strings whereas these were more of a clump. During summer here I collect cane toads at night, using a torch, and dispatch them -  they go into the veggie garden as fertiliser. We seem to have several varieties of frogs here such as green tree frogs, striped marsh frogs and others.  With a semi-permanent pond ( it does dry out in a long dry stretch) hopefully it will help these native frogs thrive

Thursday, September 23, 2010

macadamia and hippeastrum

Two Photos  - the macadamia are in flower -  we have 2 trees that are about 5m tall. They provide a good quantity of nuts that the grandchildren enjoy collecting and cracking open when they are here visiting us.

Also the hippeastrum bulbs are starting to flower. We do have some completely red ones some places in the garden but this one is a mixed colour.  Hippeastrums are our substitute  for daffodils and tulips that don't grow/flower here. The plants  beside are day lilies and zephyranthes - the latter we also call  storm lilies as they tend to flower after a period of rain

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lomandra longifolia

Yesterday was perfect for being out in the yard. After the rain, the soil was moist and the day time temperatures are still quite pleasant for working outside.   A native plant that is tough as old boots,  drought tolerant , pest free and has a nice shape and form is Lomandra longifolia  (or spiny head mat rush or basket grass). We have several mature clumps and with plenty of seedlings available I have dug lots out and replanted them in amongst the trees down the front.
They are an excellent fill in plant and tolerate shade from the trees.
We don't use this plant at all, but the Aborigines used it for making baskets as the leaves are quite fibrous. Cribb (ref below) reports that  was  used in North Queensland  for " tying up sores and abscesses on the arms and legs". It certainly can be used as a crude form of rope or twine in the garden.
The clumps of this plant can be quite sizable -  this one is about 1.8m high and a similar diameter.

The Bauhinia purpurea is probably at it's best at present.

ref: Cribb A.B and J.W 1981  Wild Medicine in Australia Fontana Collins
(pg 205)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

new water course and Daintree pine

22mm of rain yesterday and the excavation I did on the weekend to create an overflow/dry creek bed for the waterfall, has filled with water. The whole area is one sticky, muddy mess. It seems to be one of those rules of life - dig a trench or hole , it will rain and fill it up!
Also  a photo of a Daintree pine ( Gymnostoma australianum) -  this is a beautiful native tree with soft green foliage and reminds us of the NZ rimu or red pine.  It is about 3 m high after about 10 years so seem to be quite slow growing in this area.


Monday, September 20, 2010


Another vegetable we like to grow is Kale - currently we have 2 types growing, from seeds provided by another of our garden club members in exchange for some New Guinea and Yard long bean seeds. The varieties are "curly kale" and "old ladies stop and gossip kale" . They are growing well and we are harvesting leaves regularly to eat and even have spare for the chooks/ducks. Previously I have grown the "squire" variety and "tuscan" . Squire grew really well but I neglected to collect any seeds. Tuscan was not so successful being eaten fairly severely by caterpillars and I decided not to grow this variety again. Kale is not a well known vegetable in Australia/New Zealand but this seems to be changing as we have come across it on a restaurant menu called "black cabbage" some time ago.

Binomial name : Brassica oleracea -acephala group ( acephala means without head )

According to Wikipaedia, Kale is also known as Borecole (from Dutch meaning Farmer's cabbage) and is basically a non heading form of cabbage and is probably more like the original or wild plant than any of the other Brassicas. It has been developed into so many varieties that it is hard to reconcile as being from the same plant - broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, cauliflower and Kohlrabi are all brassica olearacea.

The name Kale that is used in Australia is from the Scots Cale meaning cabbage. The german kohl also of the same origin. Coleslaw is a related word meaning diced up raw cabbage usually with a dressing of some kind. Maybe if we make up a diced Kale dish it should be called Kaleslaw?


Kale rates with Broccoli in being a superb nutritious food.

Nutrition content /100gm ( a cup full of Kale would be about 65gm)

kcal = 49 kJ = 208 ( eating green leafy vegetables does not provide much energy)
Ca = 134mg K = 445.5mg Small amounts of Fe,Mg,P04,Na,Zn,Cu,Mn and Se
Vit C = 120mg ( an orange is about 80mg) Lots of B vitamins. Lots of amino acids.
Vit A = 9226 mcg RAE = 769 mcg Vit E 0.8mg
Omega 3 Fatty acids = 170mg (Purslane is about 400mg)

ref:  Kallis J Edible Wild Plants 2010 Gibbs Smith

and an excellent blog about kale is:

The levels of carotinoids are just less than Broccoli - the highest I have come across is Garlic mustard (Allaria petiolata) at 12,350 mcg.

Of particular interest though for health reasons is the about 1% by dry weight, of a class of chemicals called glucosinolates. These and their breakdown products have some dramatic benefits to us - for example one type called isothiocyanates (specifically sulforaphane) suppresses tumour growth and helps prevent conversion of precancerous lesions to cancerous ones in our bowel.
They also inhibit a metabolic pathway that converts other chemicals (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) in our diet/environment into cancer causing ones.

Taste wise it is probably milder than brussels sprouts to eat. It is certainly excellent food to be eating on a regular basis.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

native bees

We picked up a native bee hive yesterday from a man at Ipswich who rescues them from where land is being cleared.  They are the Trigona carbinara species.  The hive is not the most attractive looking thing so I will need to come up with some sort of disguise for it - probably behind some upright logs or similar.  Honey production is not really what this is for, as, if you are lucky, you might get a small amount of honey every 2 years of so. We have them for pollination and the "nice to have around" effect.

Also yesterday we did a lot more work on the sweet potato beds and frame for jicama (yam bean).  It is largely completed and planting can occur.

This whole area where we are creating this was an old dam when we bought the property.  It was filled in quite a few years ago and grassed but we want to redevelop it now. Other landscaping to happen in this "garden room"  is a waterfall and dry creek bed for any water overflow after rain  with sleeper and timber flitch bridge. So there is still lots to do.  Fortunately I have access to a bobcat (skidloader) courtesy of a neighbour.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Jade Perch for dinner

Our eldest daughter and family are coming for dinner tonight so
fish is on the menu along with some kale, broccoli etc from the veggie patch.

The fish are caught by means of a net -  it is a bit difficult even though they are in a fairly confined space - you need to be quick with the net or they evade it.  When  filleting it is amazing how much oil is in the flesh - my hands are quite greasy after finishing preparing them.

They are called Jade perch because of the presence of a dark patch on the sides of the fish. This varies in position and size and in some fish is not even present.  Another name for this species is Barcoo grunter - it comes originally from the Barcoo river in western Queensland  - I have never heard it "grunt" at all whenever I have been handling it however.

These fish are about 300mm long and about 18months old. They provide a nice sized fillet per person at this size. Another thing Anne likes about them is there is no smell in the kitchen when cooking - I guess it is because they are so fresh.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lorikeets in Bauhinia purpurea

Whilst having our breakfast on the verandah this morning some rainbow lorikeets stopped by in the Bauhinia which is in flower at present.
They are another native bird we like to see around but do not deliberately
encourage by feeding.

Also a photo of a kookaburra on the clothes line.  These birds are around our yard most of the year and have a delightful call well known to all Aussies.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

aquaponics - grow bed plants

We have 3 aquaponics systems with Jade Perch fish at present.
The grow beds attached to the fish tanks have a variety of plants which are as follows:

small system - 750l fish tank - 2 x 250l grow beds - galangal , tumeric and nasturtium

medium system -  1250l fish tank - 4 x 250l grow beds - strawberries, fennel, tomato, cabbage, lettuce, warrigal greens, chives and water cress

large system - 2500l fish tank - 2 x 1000l (approx) grow beds - kale, flat leaf parsley, parsley, warrigal greens, thyme, chicoria, and spring onions

The systems require very little work -  each day I feed the fish a handful or so of Barramundi pellets and check that the aerators and pumps are working.
This only takes a couple of minutes at most. I rarely check  the water chemistry any more as it doesn't seem to change much.  The plants seem to be growing well enough, and I am understocked as well, giving me a fair amount of leeway.

The basic biology behind aquaponics is fairly simple:  the fish waste product is ammonia,  every 30mins ( actually 1 system uses a continous pump) a pump is activated (via a timer) and some water is pumped into the grow beds. In the gravel of the grow beds,  bacteria convert the ammonia first to nitrite and then nitrate.  When the water level almost reaches the top of the gravel the pumps turn off, and the water syphons back into the fish tank.   In other words, it is a closed loop with bacteria converting ammonia to nitrate. Now nitrate is relatively non toxic to fish, and is of course an excellent plant food.
In the gravel plants that use nitrate can be planted - these are especially leafy greens such as spinach, lettuce etc.  As can be seen from the lists above though there are lots of plants that can be used.  My only concern about growing food plants like this is really how nutritious they are - the brix readings seem to be on the low side. However it is a really simple way to grow fish to eat once it is set up. It provides us with 1 fish/week and some to give away to family and friends.

The idea of the 3 systems was -  small tank for fingerlings,  medium tank for 1 year old fish and large tank for 2 year old fish.  As Jade Perch are of plate size in about 12months however, when I restock in November with fingerlings from the hatchery, I am going to try a different species in the middle sized tank - not sure which type yet.

Jade perch have been really easy to farm and have been a good starter species. They are also very high in omega 3 fatty acids -  better than salmon and tuna apparently.

Murray Hallam's web site is an excellent source of information on Aquaponics -if you are interested in this topic he is very approachable and more than willing to share his knowledge and give advice.


Monday, September 13, 2010


The photo of one of our pawpaw  trees (apologies to any US readers who call this papaya) shows a nice crop developing. However, compared to Nicola's the fruit are much smaller and the leaves indicate a disease called black  spot. According to Annette Macfarlane this results from plants stressed by a shortage of Potassium, Phosphorus and Magnesium with resulting susceptability to fungal infections.

Accordingly I have given all my pawpaw trees a good dose of potash and  eco88 ( a chicken manure based pelletised fertiliser) today. I had run out of epsom salts  so will get some tomorrow and will mix some of that up as well and water it in.

It will be interesting to look back in one month to see any effects. It certainly worked wonders for my citrus tree deficiencies.

The fruit we have been harvesting tastes ok. However, I need to pick them as soon as they turn yellow, if I leave them too long, the possums and fruit bats start to eat them.

Here's the  link to Annette MacFarlane's site:

In the foreground is lots of dock (rumex crispus) present that we use as a green vegetable in place of spinach or silverbeet 

This plant can also be grown in aquaponics systems -not that I have done this.  

Mulberry - Morus nigra

The large mulberry tree is now covered in leaf and has lots of fruit developing.

We have had this plant for well over 20 years having planted it when we first bought this property - it was a small sucker from the property over the road and so was well adapted to this area.

binomial name : Morus nigra   ( I think it is nigra)
common name : Mulberry

It grows and fruits prolifically where it was planted and we enjoy picking and eating the fruit each year. We freeze bags of it for use later after the season has ended as well. Usually, we have some with breakfast - with cereal or rolled oats.

There is lots of good reasons to eat dark coloured berries like this regularly and here are some:

Pubmed (search term Mulberry)

abstract 1 : Leaf extract exhibited anti-cancer activity against liver cancer cells.
abstract 8: Several isolated compounds from Mulberry leaves had anti-cancer activity against human cervical cells, breast and liver cancer cell lines.
abstract 12: Mulberry leaf tablets lowered cholesterol and trigylcerides over 12 weeks in a clinical trial in Thailand.
abstract 18: Mulberry leaf powder had a blood glucose lowering effect in diabetic mice. This was confirmed in a rat study as well (abstract 30)

These sorts of results are not surprising, they seem to be effects reflecting nutrients ( polyphenols, anthocyanins etc ) that we only get from eating fresh fruit and greens and these medical/scientific studies support that. Such beneficial anti-cancer, anti-diabetes and blood pressure lowering effects I have found now in lots of the edible weeds, vegetables and fruits we are growing or using.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

results of potash and epsom salts

About  1month ago I applied some potash and epsom salts to 2 citrus trees that were showing signs of a mineral deficiency .

Here are some followup photos:-  there has been a dramatic improvement

I think I will need to keep up some regular applications for these plants by the look of these results. These citrus and some others are heavily in blossom now.

We had our first ripe mulberrries to eat today -  yum!




Chenopodium album - Fat-hen

Another edible weed - it's not around at present but no doubt will be back
with warmer weather.

binomial name : Chenopodium album
common name : Fat-hen, Lamb's quarters, Goosefoot (America - pigweed)

Chenopodium - greek for goose foot -some leaves are shaped like a goose foot
album - latin for white - the underneath of the leaves can be white

This is another weed whose common name intrigued me - did it mean that
chickens who ate this weed became fat? The name pigweed illustrates why it is better to use the binomial naming system. In Australia pigweed = Portulaca oleracea whereas in America it is Chenopodium.

Identification :

It is quite distinctive in terms of the foliage color which is is a silvery green -sometimes the underneath of the leaves is almost white as well.

This whitish film is also evident at the growing points and consists of tiny wax like crystals that help the plant repel water off the leaves. The leaf shape is jagged and indeed (with a bit of imagination) does look like the foot of a goose/waterfowl. The stems terminate in flowering spikes which hold multiple small seeds.

The plant is about 1m high and has occured mainly in my vegetable garden - I think the seeds came in with a load of horse manure. It is somewhat bushy and develops lots of seeds fairly quickly - one report indicated that one plant can produce up to 500,000 seeds that remain viable for many years.

History :

Another plant that has been eaten by humans since prehistory and has been recorded as being eaten in lots of countries. Seeds of this were found in the stomachs of the bog bodies in Denmark (late iron age). Before the arrival of spinach, it was used extensively in Europe as a green leafy vegetable and is still grown as a crop in some parts of the world.


This plant is another example of how some edible weeds are " better" than our more traditionally eaten greens.

These figures are for 100gm of boiled leaves:

beta carotene: 5820 mcg
Retinal A equivalent: 485mcg
Vit C :37mg   (an orange is about 80mg)
Ca 349mg, Fe 1.15mg + a few other minerals.
Omega 3 fatty acids : 32mg.
These levels of nutrients are very similar to those found in spinach (ref 1)

It does have levels of oxalate similar to spinach and also is a nitrate accumulator.

Pubmed search:  (search term  Chenopodium album)

lots of abstracts on this plant but only a few medically oriented

abstract 5 : An extract of CA had anti-proliferative effect on some human breast cancer cell lines- further work is being done to elucidate this further as a potential new treatment for breast cancer

abstract 13: CA had an anti-fungal effect on a soil fungal pathogen

abstract 48 : In Pakistan CA has been used traditionally for worming animals and this abstract did find that an extract did show anti-helminthic activity against some sheep worms.

Conclusion :

Consider this to be a spinach substitute - maybe blanch to remove some of the oxalic acid. As it is also a nitrate accumulator so only eat in modest quantities. Otherwise a useful and nutritious edible weed.


ref 1 : Kallas J, Edible Wild Plants, 2010,  Gibbs Smith

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Holly Fuchsia

A native plant that is growing well and is a visual delight coming into flower at present is :

Graptophyllum illicifolium   or  Holly Fuchsia

It comes from the Mackay area of Queensland and is a tough shrub that can grow up to 3m . Our bush is about 2m high. When it is in flower it looks like it is "on fire" with masses of magenta coloured tubular flowers. Although it prefers shade ours grows in full sun and still performs well. It is pest free, drought tolerant but not frost tolerant. It has seeded regularly allowing us to plant in other spots in the garden.  The birds (noisy miners) seem to check it out for nectar as well.

Also a picture of one of our Spirea bushes coming into flower.  I am not sure which variety is but they always put on a lovely display come spring.
This plant also seems to be hardy, drought tolerant and pest free here.


I had to put the crow down yesterday . It was severely attacked by another crow and was badly mutilated in the head/neck area.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Queensland Arrowroot

This plant grows readily here and we now look upon it as a potato substitute -potatoes grow ok but are way more effort than growing this plant

Binomial name : Canna edulis
Common name  : Queensland arrowroot


Large smooth green leaves to about 1-2m high with thick rhizomes underneath.  There is another variety called Indian shot (Canna indica) which has slightly redder coloured leaves that is also edible. It is a tough plant - drought and frost tolerant and pest free.

History :

Another food plant from the Incas with archeological evidence of human use from  3,500 years ago in Peru.  This plant was once a significant crop in Queensland -amongst other uses, the flour from it was used as  the basis of the well known Arrowroot biscuits. These had a fine texture and subtle flavour. There is a chapter in Lost crops of the Incas on this plant (pgs 27-37)  for more information.

Cooking and Usage:   

We harvest a few rhizomes as in the photo and  break it up into the individual parts. Any roots and loose fibrous material is cleaned off and then it is baked like potato.
Alternatively, it can be peeled and boiled. When the flesh is exposed to air it tends to discolour so we put it straight into water  after peeling to stop this. Taste wise it has a pleasant and slightly sweet flavour but is a bit more fibrous than potato.  No doubt some enterprising cook could make chips from them as well.

The leaves and stems are suitable for chickens (and also my Jade perch) as a green as it is at least 10% protein.


An excellent source of carbohydrate - about 70%, about 10% simple sugars ( glucose and sucrose), 1-3% protein  and some potassium.
Also a good source of dietary fibre.


I have been planting this in several places on my property to have plenty available and do not plan  on planting potatoes again in the near future.
It has done really well in part of our property that gets some runoff from the lawn and plenty of sun. I recommend it as a food worth growing and eating.


update on the crow : I let him/her loose after a few days and (s)he is hanging around the yard either in the duck run or nearby. It cannot fly, has a blind eye seemingly ( opacified cornea) but eats  grain readily and had some biscuit today when we were having some afternoon tea. We also suspect it actually is an Australian raven rather than a crow.

ref :   Lost crops of the Incas   National Research Council
          Wild Herbs of Australia and New Zealand   Tim Low  Angus and      Robertson

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Paper wasp nest

Things in our garden are never dull - nature always amazes us.

There has been a large paper wasp nest high up in a Kauri tree that we have been watching develop over a couple of years at least. It looked really precarious and it was only a matter of time before gravity won and it fell down.   This occurred yesterday and  here is the photo of the nest.  It is  40cm x 25cm x 25cm  in a rough cone shape. The combs are visible at one end but most of it is enclosed in a papery covering.

According to the CSIRO fact sheet the paper is a mixture of wasp saliva and wood fibres.  They predate on aphids and caterpillars so I don't mind them around, however they have a nasty sting to them.

I am not sure what variety of paper wasp it is - I hope it is a native one though.  They are still hovering around where the nest was attached so maybe they will rebuild.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Garden -general

The chickens had a tragic night. I left the chicken run door open
(occasionally do this) and a fox got in and has taken  7 out of my 8 chickens, including the rooster which was a salmon faverole.
In some ways it is ok, as several of the chooks were getting a bit old and these days I am not too keen on killing them preferring instead to let them live out their lives naturally.

I probably won't restock until after our holiday next month - I think I'll get
Araucana next time but still need to look into this further.

Fortunately the ducks are ok - I also left their door open.

30mm of rain overnight.   We had planted 14 natives - grevillias etc down the front part of our property over the weekend so the rain was most welcome.
Tanks are full again as well


Stinking Roger

This next weed is not common on my property but it seems to have a good allelopathic effect on other weeds nearby ( nothing grows around it). Although I have used it in the vegetable garden (dug it in) to help control nematodes, another interesting experiment would be to grind some up and make a solution and then use this on some bare ground to see if it does work in preventing germination from any weed seed bank.

Binomial name : Tagetes minuta

Common name : Stinking Roger , Mexican Marigold

Description :

A member of the marigold family with a slender single stem and with compound leaves to about 1.5 m. There is a characteristic marigold smell when the leaves are crushed. It has small yellowish daisy like flowers


A South American plant that is now cosmopolitan. Cribb records it being used in Africa to repel insects including mosquitos. Wikipaedia also reports that it is used in South America as a culinary herb. Another interesting thing I found is that a local South American name for this plant is Chinchilla. The Queensland town, though, is probably a corruption of the Aborigine word "jinchilla" in reference to the stands of cypress pine in the area. In South America, Tagetes minuta is harvested and an oil is extracted called "Tagetes oil". This is then used in cosmetics and the food industry as a flavouring agent.

Pubmed : 

Not much medically to report but there are some abstracts supporting the view  that it is strongly biocidal and suppresses soil nematodes. It also does exhibit insect repellant activity. Another study (leaf extract) showed some antibacterial activity as well against gram positive and negative bacteria ( = most of human pathogens are of these types)


My main interest in this plant is as a potential for weed control. It might be worth trying as a garnish but I doubt we will be eating it! It is not really a problem weed on our property and is readily pulled out anyway.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sida retusa

This is a common weed on our property and is quite tough to pull out as it has a long tap root. If the ground is dry, it is not even worth trying.

Binomial name : Sida retusa

Common name : Paddy's lucerne , Jellyleaf (early colonial name)


A fibrous deep rooted herb to about 1m here with ovate and finely toothed leaves about 2-3cm. The leaves here are not grey underneath although this is recorded elsewhere as occurring. There are small pale yellow flowers to about 1.5cm diameter but none are present in these 2 photos

Historical use :

Cribb (ref below) records that it is native to Australia and other warm climate countries.

It belongs to the same family as Mallow and Hibiscus. It is recorded as a well known remedy for diarrhoea - the dose being to chew on a few leaves. In Malaysia it is recorded as being used topically for skin ulcers and sores and also for headaches and toothache. Cribb also reports that it was considered to have magical qualities and was carried as a protection when elephant hunting!

The Aborigines also used this plant for diarrhoea, so maybe they told the early colonists about this use. It is also used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for chest infections and tuberculosis.

There is also an interesting newspaper article from 1873 -The Brisbane Courier- where it was discussed as being suitable for making paper and rope or cordage .

"Sida Retusa for paper making":

It never did develop into a commercial crop however for this purpose

Walter Hill gets a mention in this article as well - he was the first curator of the Botanic Gardens and was instrumental in lots of agricultural and horticultural developements in the early days of Queensland. He introduced sugar cane from the West Indies and this, of course, is a major Queensland crop now. We have a small book about him -  what an amazing early Queensland botanist/horticulturalist. Other plants that we can thank him for include the Jacaranda, Poinciana, Pineapple and Mango.

Pubmed search :

Not much to report - only a few abstracts. One indicated anti- oxidant actvity especially in the root and  another that an extract of the seeds have an effect against liver damage and some anticancer activity. There was some anti- inflammatory activity but only minimal antibacterial effect.
There was nothing in the scientific literature about it being used for diarrhoea.  I suspect there may be some anticholinergic type compounds present that have not yet been determined  (these compounds slow gut activity down, thus reducing the diarrhoea).   I would have expected more studies to be available on this plant.


It is interesting to chew a leaf of this plant - it forms a sort of jelly in your mouth when chewed but there is no taste at all. That is the limit of my experience with it as well! However when I next go Elephant hunting I'll make sure to carry some for protection.


ref :  Cribb AB & JW  Wild Medicine in Australia  1981  Fontana Collins
         Smith G  Walter Hill of Brisbane's Botanic Gardens  2008 Gordon Smith
         Pubmed -  as usual for any medical/scientific studies

4mm rain overnight + shower yesterday morning
Bauhina purpurea coming into flower
First leaves on the Liquidambar styraciflua ( liquid amber) tree