Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Eurema smilax

Whilst working in the yard noticed this bright yellow butterfly down near the two large rainwater tanks :

Scientific name :   Eurema smilax
Common name :  Small grass yellow butterfly

Top view

Underneath view

The food plants for it are various Cassia  and Senna. I have planted some Senna seeds but I think they have not sprouted,  and otherwise we don't have any of these food plants for this butterfly.  If the seeds don't sprout, I'll need to find some Cassia or Senna sp to plant.  Cassia fistula is considered a weed/pest species in Brisbane and so it will need to be something else.

We also saw this butterfly in Boonah on the weekend -  it seems to be quite common.  The common name really does not do justice to such a lovely butterfly!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Polymeria calycina and Hypoxis pratensis

Two more pretty flowers we saw at  Boonah on our friend's property

Polymeria calycina  (or slender bindweed)

It belongs to the Convolvulaceae family

The other one is called Hypoxis pratensis ( the species is only probably).
It doesn't have a common name:

Both these plants were quite low growing -  the latter about 20cm high at the most.  There were also lots of Yellow Buttons  (Chrysocephalum sp) around as well but I didn't take a photo of those.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Orchard Swallowtail Butterfly

Today we went to our friend's property at Boonah to collect a trailer load of bush rocks that I want for the bank behind the mine site. They asked us about a few garden problems :

Problem 1 :   Plum tree - lots of fruit - but all stung by Queensland Fruit Fly

Advice :  too late to do anything as the whole crop is infested.  Next year try netting  as soon as pollination has occurred

Problem 2 : Citrus leaves being eaten  by :

Advice :  This is the caterpillar of  the Orchard Swallowtail butterfly :
(Papilio aegeus)


At the time, I was not sure of the associated moth or butterfly but have since emailed them and suggested they leave them be, as there was not too  much leaf damage evident.

They also asked us about some passionfuit not forming fruit - we thought maybe it was a non fruiting variety and another plant that looked like a mineral or nutrient deficiency problem.

After some delicious poppy seed cake and coffee we headed up the back to collect some rocks :

This green tree frog was hiding in a pile of rocks and was carefully tucked away again :

We also checked out a bushy ridge and found some delightful native herbs in flower, that I have still to identify, and also this blue fringed lily:
(Thysanotus tuberosus)

This is the first time  I have noticed this lily - hat tip to a blog reader who sent me a photo of one a couple of weeks ago and made me aware of it. It is a really beautiful flower.  When you look carefully around the Australian bush there are lots of little visual delights to be found, especially after such good rains.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Light Sussex Chickens

After the Garden Club Xmas breakup breakfast today we picked up  the replacement chickens following the fox taking most of our last flock. These birds are from another club member who is moving and is unable to take a rooster to the new place. They are a breed I have never had before, called  a Light Sussex.  They are a much larger bird than the Australorp or Rhode Island Red that we previously had.  We have been assured  the rooster is non aggressive to people but he has some pretty impressive spurs that I wouldn't like to be on the receiving end of.

Six new girls

Harold the Rooster

Now to be more careful with anti-fox security!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Grey Shrike-thrush

Another bird we hear ,and catch glimpses of, is the Grey Shrike-thrush.
It is a fairly shy bird and I haven't managed a photo so far. It has a delightful song especially early in the day but also throughout the day.

Scientific name :  Colluricincla  harmonica
Common name : Grey Shrike-thrush

It is drab grey bird of similar size to the Oriole. Diet includes insects, spiders, frogs and lizards and maybe fruit and seeds.  It is a difficult bird to get to know as it rapidly decamps whenever  it is approached.  The link to the  song really does not do it justice -  the birds around here are more melodic :


details  of the bird :


It is a lovely bird to hear and have around on the property

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


When  my wife and daughter were at the local health food shop they noticed a plant product being touted as a "super food". Being the skeptic that I am, here is my take on it (note that we don't grow it, and it looks like it is a high altitude cold climate plant anyway).

Binomial name : Lepidium meyenii
Common name : Maca,  Peruvian ginseng

Description :   a mat like perennial plant with tuberous roots resembling a radish. The roots are yellow or purple or  a combination of the two. The roots are rich in  sugars, starches, protein (13-16%),  iron and iodine. Taste of the dried roots is reported to be sweet but spicy - boiled it is sweeter than cocoa (which is actually pretty bitter to my palate)

History :  This is another Incan food that was widely grown - there are hundreds of square kilometres of terraces in the  Lake Junin area of north Peru ,that seemed to have been used historically to grow it. This area is very cold and is barren and rocky such that even potatoes don't grow. The roots were dried and stored and used for trade for lower altitude foods.  For the Incans ,and indeed in Peru today, this food is valued as it reputedly enhances fertility in humans and livestock.  There is archeological evidence for it's use dating back to about 1600 B.C.

The free internet book  - Lost crops of the Incas  has a really good chapter on this plant:


Pubmed - search term Lepidium meyenii

Abstract 9 : This was a review of 4 randomised controlled trials. Two trials showed that Maca had a postive effect on sexual dysfunction and libido in healthy menopausal women and men. One trial showed no effect on healthy cyclists!. The last trial reported on showed a positive effect for male erectile dysfunction.  That is an interesting one as I have quite a few male patients looking for help with that!
Abstract 12: Maca  had a bone density increasing effect on ovarectomised rats. This means  it potentially is useful for osteoporosis in oestrogen deficient women
Abstract 22: Maca had a potent blocking effect on an enzyme called ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme). This enzyme is blocked medically in patients with hypertension and thus Maca would probably lower blood pressure as well.  No doubt phenolic compounds in the plant would also lower blood sugar and cholesterol, but this was not really reported in this abstract.

There were more studies on Pubmed  as well but those were the ones that I found interesting.

As  regards being a superfood - note that the sites touting this also are selling it, no doubt at a good profit margin. I bet the poor farmers in Peru don't make much out it.  In my opinion, it is ok as a supplement but we have access to other fresh foods such as kale and brocolli and lots of fresh fruit that would be probably better. I certainly would not bother buying it here , but would be interested in trying it, if we ever get to go to Peru. Medically it might be worth trying for the reasons given in abstract 9.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cabbage White butterfly

With  the onset of warmer weather Cabbage White butterflies are common again.

Binomial  name : Pieris rapae
Common name : Cabbage White  or Summer Snowflake  ( cute name for it!)

underneath view
top view

This butterfly is a major pest in our garden and elsewhere when trying to grow brassica type vegetables ( cabbage, broccoli, kale etc). It was accidentally introduced into Australia in about 1929 and quickly spread - a butterfly story replicated by the cane toad. It appeared in Sydney by 1941.   Appearance is basically white with a yellow tinge underneath. The male has one black spot on the wings and the female two. The eggs are laid underneath the leaves of the chosen plant singly and are about 1mm long. When they hatch the caterpillar eats large holes in  the outer leaves before moving into the middle part  with the plant being rendered useless apart for feeding to the chooks.

There are some look alikes - here is an excellent site for butterfly and insect ID that I use a lot :


Control is via Derris dust (Rotenone) applied regularly and after rain and Dipel ( Bacillus thuringiensis). The latter is safe in the aquaponics system whereas Derris dust is toxic to fish.  Bordeaux mixture is supposed to repel the butterfly as is growing Dill as a companion plant. I have used Derris dust and Dipel. Derris dust is easy to use as it comes in a "puff" pack.

My vegetable garden is netted to try and exclude this particular pest but they still manage to get in somehow (usually an open door) and create havoc.

I don't even try to grow brassicas in the warmer months although we still are harvesting Kale leaves regularly and still have some cabbages hanging on that will go to the chooks.


Monday, November 22, 2010


We often see Kookaburras around our property. Often they sit on a branch for awhile studying the ground underneath before swooping down and catching some insect or worm to eat. This one was sitting on a fence post.

The petrea volubilis in flower is also visible , the walkway out to the two large rainwater tanks, and a grevillea behind the Kookaburra as well.
I'm not sure I believe this, but Kookaburras calling in the middle of the day is supposed to be a sign of rain coming.

I collected another 7 toads tonight, 28 yesterday and 32 the night before. That makes 127 so far over 4 nights. Surely I have taken a good chunk of the local population by now.  We had about 5mm of rain last night.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Preserving fruit

We are getting to the end of the peach and nectarine crop and have bottled quite a lot for later use.

The method we use to preserve fruit is fairly simple.  After preparing the fruit, such as trimming off any blemishes and removing the stone,  about a 1/2 cup of sugar is added and the lot boiled for about 5-10 minutes. The preserving jar bottles are heated in the oven whilst the fruit is being prepared and cooked. Lids and rings are sterilised with boiling water - either in another small pot or simply by pouring boiling water over them from the kettle. The cooked fruit is ladled into a jar and when full, boiling water from the kettle is poured on to the point of the jar overflowing.  The lid is then screwed down. As cooling occurs a negative pressure develops inside the jar and this really "pulls down" the lid and a clicking noise indicates good sealing has occurred.

Regarding preserving jars -  we acquired a box full of old Agee jars some time ago from another member of the garden club we belong to. We also use jam jars as they also have a seal on the lids. Yesterday, we purchased some more jars from  a kitchen shop in Brisbane  (a shop  called Taste in Fortitude Valley - what an amazing store!). These jars are Italian made  and the rings and lids of the Agee jars fit them perfectly when we need to reuse them. The old Australian  Fowler vacola jars were also available at another Taste store. Agee rings and lids are available from NZ - when we were over last we found some on a supermarket shelf - but they don't seem to be available in Australian stores.

The bottom picture shows some reused jam jars (original lids) and Agee jars. One jar is not completely filled and will be refrigerated for use in the next few days rather than storing.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Olive backed Oriole

A bird we hear alot around the property is the olive backed oriole. Indeed one was calling  repeatedly as we were having lunch today.

Binomial name : Oriolus sagittatus
Common name : Olive-backed Oriole

The name Oriole basically equals the call which is written as "orry-orry-oriole" in the bird book.


The bird has a streaked breast when seen front on that reminds me of the English thrush that occurs in New Zealand.

Oriole seen high in dead tree
The picture we took is a bit indistinct  so included is one that my bird expert sent back  after he had identified it.  It eats berries and small fruits so that is probably why it is around here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Silver leaf desmodium

In reference to the post on Monday  15/11/10  the Invasive Species Officer  at Brisbane City Council has identified it as Silver leaf Desmodium

Binomial name : Desmodium uncinatum
Common name : Velcro plant or Velcro vine.

The common name is quite apt as both the plant and seeds are very sticky to clothing and shoes.

The invasive species officer mentioned other varieties of this plant, and Glycine, that includes some natives so I will need to check carefully tomorrow to make sure I have the ID correct before committing plant murder with Glyphosate.

The link to the reply and also a plug for the BCC weeds forum that I only recently discovered :

or Google: Brisbane City Council weeds forum.

Also the grandchildren were around for dinner - home grown strawberries and icing sugar for dessert.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cane toads

Did a cane toad hunt last night -  this pest species is nocturnal and with the warmer weather they have been hopping around again.  I collected 60 last night and interestingly the behaviour of some of them is changing. In previous years, just about all simply squatted or "posed" when a torch was directed at them. Last night quite a few ran to try and escape.  Collection is simply by picking up and putting into a used chicken feed bag which is tied off to prevent them escaping until the morning. This morning they were dispatched - I use the side of a garden trowel to almost decapitate them and they are then buried in the vegetable garden as a fertiliser.  If you are careful and avoid cutting through the poison glands  on the neck and have the mouth of the toad facing away from you, no fluid comes anywhere near your hands or face.  On one occasion I did get some fluid onto my lips which went numb for awhile even though I washed it off straight away. Strictly speaking one should wear eye goggles, long sleeves and gloves as they do have quite a toxic poison.

Bufo marinus

Other methods of dispatch are putting them into the freezer if you are a bit more squeamish than I am.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Binomial name :  Macroptilium atropurpureum
Common name:    Siratro

Another weed species that occurs here in summer is Siratro. It is a rampant creeper and climbing vine with a large tap root that can be difficult to pull out if the ground is dry. The flowers are pea type and a dark red purple colour. The leaves occur in 3 broad leaflets/node and are 2-7cm with small silky hairs.
It was introduced as a stock feed, as it has about 15% protein but has become another just another weed species to be managed!  I dislike it as it smothers other plants  and can damage them - for example we have a young Bunya pine that was infested with it last year and it took  a ladder, gloves and much effort to free the tree from it. Then the top was bent over and I needed to run a length of rope around it to strain it to become straight again.

The Queensland DPI  link is :


I don't use this plant for anything around the yard but I guess the chooks would eat it.

Still picking peaches and nectarines - one of our best crops ever this year.
I am on a mission this morning to buy more jars for bottling as we have run out of our old Agee jars.

Monday, November 15, 2010


 These two images are here so I can upload them to the BCC weed forum for help with ID.

One is glycine and the other looks like glycine.

Both are a nuisance on my property and I would like to learn more about them.  So more about them later when I know a bit more

Sunday, November 14, 2010

March fly

There have been some March flies around when working outside -  they are a fairly slow moving fly that are fairly easily swatted when they settle to bite.

Binomial name : Cydistomyia doddi
Common name : March fly     ( overseas they are called Horse flies)

It is the female that bites to get some blood for egg production, whereas the male feed on nectar and pollen and thus are useful for pollination. They bite mammals and also birds, reptiles and amphibians. The larvae live in damp/wet soil and feed on other soil invertebrates.  Here is the link to the Queensland Museum site.


Interestingly, they do not spread disease like mosquitos to humans - Macropods (such as Kangaroos and Wallabies) however can be infected by a nematode by these flies.

I was taken by the pattern on the wings.

Otherwise - finally completely finished the physical work on the old dam site. It is now another "room" in our garden  with sweet potato beds, berry patches, dry creek bed, old gold mine/root cellar , water shute and old shipping container made to look like a maori whare.  It is  all mulched, top soil spread where grass is to grow back and only needs some planting. Overall, we are happy with the outcome.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Corky Passionfruit and Dietes

Another weed with edible fruit is Corky passionfruit  - however it is a very nondescript flavour, unlike the Stinking passionfruit which is quite sweet.
Indeed, I would almost suggest not bothering with this one unless there was no other options around!

binomial name : Passiflora suberosa
common name : corky passionfruit

This plant is a perennial vine that climbs on other vegetation up to about 6m high. The lower stems have a corky appearance -thus the common name. The leaves are three lobed up to about 10cm and it has globe shaped fruit 1-1.5cm diameter. The fruit is green and turns dark purple/black when ripe.
A butterfly called the Glasswing feeds on this plant :


I have noticed this butterfly around in the past on our property.

Pubmed - nil of interest

The Dietes have been flowering profusely this past week. We have 2 types and 1 cultivar.  It is a tough strappy plant a little like Lomandra but with more prominent and colouful flowers.  Dietes robinsoniana is one we do not have, but I will definitely get if I come across it sometime

Dietes iridiodes

Dietes bicolor

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Our Grumichama has finally produced some fruit and it is very delicious to eat!

Binomial name : Eugenia brasiliensis (or dombeyi)
Common name : Brazil cherry

The fruit are a purplish-black colour ( there is also a yellow variety) and occur after the tree has been growing for 4-5 years. It can grow to 5-10m but is a bit drought sensitive.  Last summer I nearly lost mine, at one stage all the leaves drooped and started to fall, but it recovered after a good drink.

The globe artichokes are flowering - we have never grown these before so it will be interesting when we pick them to see what they taste like.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Garden - old dam site

More progress on the water shute - planted 3 pots of water plants yesterday - shield pennywort,  dwarf umbrella grass and dwarf papyrus - all supposedly frog friendly. I have a workable pump  system -  the solar idea of pump and panels but no battery was not really practical with a head height of 2.1m  and so I have settled on a 3,000lph pond pump on a timer.  I can run power from the shed nearby using 3 trees as poles to string up the power lead.

I have put down 7m2  of road base to make the paths -  it needs to be wide enough for mower/trailer  access to the old shipping container that we use for storage.

Also a photo of one of our Inukshuk replicas -  we were fascinated by these stacks of rocks when we visited Alaska a few years ago  and when we returned  from that trip,  I made two from rocks we had lying around. I cheated a bit and used mortar to help keep them upright though.

Photo of some dahlias in flower:

And finally an eggplant from one of the aquaponics growbeds -it actually was  quite buggy on the other side!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Backhousia myrtifolia

Photo  of  Backhousia myrtifolia ( cinnamon myrtle) in flower.

The leaves when crushed and tasted don't really remind us of cinnamon. They seem to grow well on our property and I have recently planted several more.

Unidentified hairy caterpillar.  I don't have a reference book for moths/butterflies and  was unable to ID it using the internet. So - it is now in a container to be looked after until it pupates and hopefully I can ID it when it hatches.  It was found on a Loropetalum bush.

Current length  =  5cm

Also saw a Pacific Baza -  a crested raptor this morning when having breakfast but it had moved on before we could get a photo unfortunately.

Wikipedia has a good article about it:


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Yams -Kitava (Trobriand Islands)

Yams are an important subsistence foodstuff in PNG and this was evident in Kitava, which is part of the Trobriand Islands.  There is much cultural aspects attached to this plant including dances, harvest festival and competition to grow the largest specimens.


Here are 2 photos -one of a yam house -  this was a separate storage hut
that was behind each  dwelling, in the village we visited on Kitava. As it was the end of the season the yams evident are for replanting.  The other photo shows a typical residence in this village-  basically only traditional building materials are still used.  The yam hut is visible in the background - only just got it in!  I was also intrigued  with the ramp/step up to the house.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Garden - general

More photos :

Brazilian cherry ( Eugenia uniflora) -  the fruit is a bit tart but still quite nice to eat.

Plum pine ( Podocarpus elatus) fruit developing.  We have made jam from this in the  past.

Brown Silky Oak ( Darlingia darlingiana) seedlings - I have potted up at least a dozen and will replant them later in other places on the property. We only have 2 trees and they have grown really well. This is the first time I have found seedlings - maybe a reflection of how much rain we have had.

Dianella sp  (Blueberry lily) . This plant is becoming quite common on our property. The blue berries are edible but contain lots of seeds and so are a bit "gritty" when eaten. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Brithys crini and Spodoptera picta

Lots happening in the garden - more rain yesterday.  Made a little bit of progress in the old dam site and have had some road base delivered for making the tracks.

I noticed this  beautifully coloured caterpillar on the Zephyranthes yesterday. It is a Brithys crini -  they also feed on Hippeastrum, Crocus and Crinum. The adult is a fairly nondescript moth.

Brithys crini

Some of the Lomandra are flowering:

Lomandra longifolia

The Eugenia jambos ( rose apple) has almost finished flowering - this
is the last flower and there is quite a lot of fruit developing. It is a nice fruit
to eat when ripe.

Eugenia jambos flower

Native bramble or raspberry (Rubus rosifolius)- the fruit is ok as long as it is really ripe.  I have this planted on the other side of the Mine site/root cellar to the water sluice that I have been working on lately.

Rubus rosifolius

Swamp lilly - looking ok so far, but in a month or so, it will be a sad specimen. Although it is a Crinum as far as I can determine ( I have never really looked) it is eaten by a different caterpillar - Spodoptera picta.
I found some of these caterpillars yesterday in a growbed munching on some spring onions.

Crinum pedunculatum

Spodoptera picta