Festival 2018 Townsville

Festival 2018 seemed to come to us from nowhere and in retrospect we’re still not sure whether that was because we weren’t paying attention or because it was poorly publicised. In any case, it was a week of concerts, dance performances and public art in Queen’s Gardens and Strand Park, complementing the Townsville segment of the Commonwealth Games.

The concerts – some free, some not; some in the Spiegeltent, some in the open air – included The Idea of North (last here in 2006), the Grigoryan brothers, Archie Roach, local youth dance and circus groups, Townsville Guitar Orchestra and many more.

The Queens Gardens site was decorated with hundreds of hanging stars, very pretty at night, but the street art at Strand Park made better photos:

street art festival 2018 townsville

Street art festival 2018 Townsville

street art Festival 2018

street art

These works were poorly identified and I’m sorry to say that I only picked up two attributions: the octopus is part of Underwater Vortex by Garth Jankovic aka Smizler, and Beastman was partly responsible for the bold geometric work on the outside of the same open stack of containers.

MOUA had a couple of containers nearby, promoting a proposed “Museum of Underwater Art” in shallow waters off Townsville. Not really a Museum, it’s better thought of as an underwater sculpture park; Townsville Enterprise is spruiking the project as a tourism drawcard.

Back to Festival 2018: we loved it and can see no good reason why we can’t have similar Festivals in 2019, 2020, 2021, etc. Please?

Alligator Creek photo album

A collection of photos from our visit to Alligator Creek on Easter Saturday, as promised a few days ago in my post about the goanna.

Looking downstream from the lookout to the main swimming area

We parked at the picnic ground, followed the Alligator Creek Falls walking track as far as Cockatoo Creek, two kilometres upstream, and returned for a late lunch before a heavy shower of rain made us decide to return home rather than walk down for a swim.

The creek and park are at their best now. Recent rain has flushed out the creek and it is still running well without being too scary for swimmers, while the vegetation is green and lush. Butterflies were everywhere, skinks and bigger lizards were sunning themselves on the track and on the rocks beside the water, and flowers were abundant.

Lycaenid butterfly
One of the smallest butterflies we saw, a Tailed Cupid, Everes lacturnus
red dragonfly Diplacodes haematodes
Scarlet Percher, Diplacodes haematodes
nobbi lizard
Nobbi Dragon, Amphibolurus nobbi, on the track
Low-growing native rosella

This red ‘hibiscus’ was identified as a Native Rosella (Abelmoschus moschatus ssp. tuberosus) by WQ folk when we saw it on a walk at Oak Valley; there’s a full description here on ANPSA. A taller white and pink hibiscus which was also quite common (old photo) was probably Hibiscus forsteri.

Cycad beside the track; the new foliage was surprisingly soft
alligator creek
White water a hundred metres upstream from the lookout
At the junction of Cockatoo Creek and Alligator Creek

Goanna at Alligator Creek

Goanna Varanus varius
Serious Varanus varius

We visited Alligator Creek today. It was very beautiful after recent rain and more photos will appear here soon but the goanna we saw in the picnic ground gave us so much pleasure that it should have a post to itself.

It was a Lace Monitor, Varanus varius, and must have been nearly fully grown because it was about 1.7 m long and they only grow to 2.1 m, according to Wilson’s Field Guide to Reptiles of Queensland.

Goanna Varanus varius
Taking to tree when disturbed

It approached us on the ground in their typical straddle-legged waddle, its tongue flickering ahead constantly, ignoring us completely and ignoring the scrub turkey nipping at the tip of its tail. (Why would the turkey do that? Perhaps it thought the tail tip was a prey-sized lizard. Perhaps it was driving the goanna out of its own territory.)

Goannas are “arboreal, foraging widely on the ground but taking to trees if disturbed,” according to Wilson, and I’m sure this one has learned that humans aren’t usually a threat and often leave food behind after their picnics. Perhaps our laughter surprised it, though, because it rushed up a skinny tree and hung there for while, slipping occasionally on the smooth bark, before relaxing enough to turn around and descend head first to the fence rail and then back to earth to continue on its way across the picnic ground.

Goanna Varanus varius
On the fence rail


Bottlebrush or paperbark? Callistemon or Melaleuca?

This question arose from a somewhat cryptic sentence in the gardening column of our local newspaper, “The Tinaroo Bottlebrush (Melaleuca recurva but still sold as Callistemon recurvis) is a personal favourite…”

The question, of course, was, “Isn’t a Melaleuca a paperbark?” or words to that effect. A bit of digging (no, not in the garden) revealed the answers to a whole series of interconnected questions.

We’re dealing with two kinds of names of names for plants, common names and scientific (Latin) names, and both are problematic. The plants, however, are just as beautiful to us, and to the birds and butterflies, whatever they are called.

black and white honeyeater on red flowers
New Holland Honeyeaters on bottlebrush in Hobart

Scientific names

Scientific names are more precise than common names but they are sometimes changed by the taxonomists and these changes take time to percolate through to the rest of the scientific community and the general public. In this case we had two closely related groups of plants long classified in two genera, Callistemon and Melaleuca, recently merged under a single name. Callistemon [species name] therefore became Melaleuca [species name] overnight.

Angus Stewart of Garden Drum explains it pretty well:

I will find it hard to get used to saying Melaleuca as the new name for some of my favourite Australian plants such as ‘Captain Cook’, ‘Endeavour’ and ‘King’s Park Special’. But this is what it might come to if the botanical and horticultural world accepts a concerted push in the world of Australian botany to merge the genus Callistemon with its close relative Melaleuca.

The argument is that the differences between the two groups are insufficient for them to be kept separate. The rationale is explained in this excellent article on the website of the Australian Native Plants Society (Australia).

And we might as well follow him to ANPSA:

…the problem with the current classification on the basis of the arrangement of the stamens is that this supposed difference is not clear cut and Callistemon tends to merge into Melaleuca rather than being unambiguously distinct. The well known Callistemon viminalis is one that has often been discussed as not easily fitting the accepted definition of Callistemon.

Over the years there have been suggestions that the differences between species of the two genera are not sufficient to warrant them being kept distinct. A paper by Lyn Craven of the Australian National Herbarium (Novon 16 468-475; December 2006 “New Combinations in Melaleuca for Australian Species of Callistemon (Myrtaceae)”) argues that the differences between the two genera are insufficient to warrant them being retained separately and that they should be combined. As Melaleuca has precedence, adoption of Craven’s work would transfer all species of Callistemon into Melaleuca. Some state herbaria have adopted this change but, at this stage, the re-classification has not been taken up in the Australian Plant Census, which ANPSA recognises as the authority on plant nomenclature. For this reason we have retained Callistemon and Melaleuca as separate genera.

While all Callistemons have their flowers arranged in a “bottlebrush” shape the inflorescences of Melaleuca may also have a globular or irregular shape. It should also be remembered that there are other genera in the myrtle family which may have free or united stamens combined with “bottlebrush” flowers. Botany was never meant to be easy!

So the debate began more than ten years ago and isn’t over yet although the result seems clear enough.

One last little wrinkle is that the form of the species name must match that of the genus, which is why Callistemon recurvis became Melaleuca recurva rather than M. recurvis.

paperbark flower spike
A single Melaleuca flower spike, one of hundreds or thousands on a big tree
bottlebrush flower
A bottlebrush flower

Common names

Staying with ANPSA for a moment longer:

…only Callistemons are commonly called “Bottlebrushes” ; Melaleucas are usually called “Paperbarks” or “Honey Myrtles” or sometimes “Tea Trees” although that name is more appropriate to another related genus, Leptospermum.

Paperbarks are named for their bark and bottlebrushes for their flowers. Given that some bottlebrushes have papery bark and some paperbarks have bottlebrushy flowers (sorry, but it’s hard to be more serious), the separation of common names must always have been blurred.

In fact, one particular tree in our own garden has been worrying me for years on just this account. We have two small trees which are unambiguously bottlebrushes (one is a hybrid, but let’s not go there), one huge tree which is unambiguously a paperbark, and a tall but very scrawny tree with papery bark and red bottlebrush flowers:

The papery bark of our mystery tree
bottlebrush flowers
The bottlebrushy flowers of our mystery tree

Is it a paperbark or a bottlebrush? Either or both, since common names are like that. Melaleuca or Callistemon? It’s now a Melaleuca, whatever it used to be.

Just for the sake of completeness

  • Banksias also have bottlebrush-shaped flower spikes but are distinctive enough not to be easily confused with Melaleucas.
  • Grevilleas are more closely related to Banksias than to Melaleucas but some have flowers which might mislead the casual onlooker. The common name of large species is “Silky Oak” but most species are known, like Banksias, by their Latin name.
  • Leptospermums are in the same family as Melaleucas (Myrtaceaeand share their common name, “Tea Tree”, with paperbarks.
  • “Tea tree” is sometimes also spelt “ti-tree”.
  • Tea tree oil is extracted from a Melaleuca.

Hervey’s Range after rain

Hervey's Range waterfall
The waterfall on Hervey’s Range Road in early March

The Townsville region received quite a deluge between mid February and early March, after a dry start to what we hoped would be a good Wet. Green Path recently posted photos of the Town Common after rain, and here are some from Hervey’s Range to the West of the city.

The waterfall photo above is the first chronologically. It was taken by Steve Coleman about March 5 and shows the beautiful waterfall beside the road, halfway up the escarpment; his comment was that it hadn’t run this well for three years or more, and I can’t disagree. The others are my own, taken on a visit on March 13. By that time the waterfall was considerably reduced, although still beautiful:

Hervey's Range waterfall
The same waterfall ten days later

Hervey’s Range Road crosses Two Mile Creek a couple of miles from the crest of the range and I took a couple of photos just upstream from the bridge. The first shows it in a very typical state – a clear stream, almost narrow enough to step across, in a broad sandy bed lined by mature trees.

Hervey's Range
Two Mile Creek in mid March

My second photo, taken at the same time from a spot in the middle of the first, shows just how high the water had risen with recent rains. (Apologies for the image quality – I should have used my camera instead of my phone.) “Raging torrent” is a cliche, but I can think of no better description of what it must have been.

Hervey's Range
Two Mile Creek showing the late February flood height

People around Townsville have been quoting a couple of lines of poetry lately, and it’s not hard to see why:

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges, 
Of droughts and flooding rains.