Blue Java bananas

The Ducasse (aka ‘sugar banana’) patch we acquired with this house has been so productive that over the last few years I have been trying to grow other varieties, although with very limited success. The Blue Java sucker mentioned in this post two and a half years ago failed to thrive – mostly, I think, because it didn’t have enough roots to support the foliage. It lived, however, and eventually pushed up a sucker of its own.

A few weeks ago it looked as though the original plant was dying without having produced a bunch but I propped it up to give it the best possible chance and a few days ago I saw that it had, after all, flowered. The flower wasn’t very big and nor were the immature bananas of its first hand but I was pleased with even that degree of success. The flower bell is much slimmer than a similarly-developed flower of Ducasse or Lady Finger, and smokier in colour.

banana flower
Blue Java flower with (mostly obscured) new fruit

Sadly, a possum noticed the flower, too, and ate both fruit and bell some time in the last couple of nights. It’s very disappointing. Somewhat surprising, too, since I don’t recall that happening – ever – to a Ducasse: the possums are always around but they leave our bananas alone until the fruit are fully formed and getting close to full size.

I still look forward to some Blue Java fruit in the coming year as a reward for my patience but now I have to put all my faith in the sucker. It’s strong, healthy and taller than I am, which is a good start. With a bit of luck – and not too many scrub turkeys, possums or cyclones – I might have them before Christmas.

Pretty little spiders

Regular readers will know that I visit a bush block on Hervey’s Range, half an hour or so inland from Townsville, fairly often. It’s a great place for spiders, though I’m not quite sure why; earlier visits have brought me the two species of golden orb weavers living side by side which I mentioned here, my only whip spider, my only tarantula and many more. My latest visit brought me these three little ones.

The Horned Triangular Spider, Arkys cornutus, is so attractively bizarre that it is photographed more often than it otherwise would be. This is the first I’ve seen in real life and yes, I photographed it too.

It lurks in foliage waiting for unwary prey to land close enough to be caught between its impressively barbed front legs, so its hunting strategy is the same as the crab (aka flower) and lynx spiders. However, it is not closely related to either of those families but is an orb-weaver (AraneidaeAraneinae) which for some reason has given up  weaving.

red spider on leaf
Horned Triangular Spider

My next odd little beast is one of those crab spiders (Thomisidae), the Hairy Crab Spider, Sidymella hirsuta. It’s about 15mm long from toe to toe but its body is almost the same size as that of my Arkys.

spider on leaf
Hairy Crab Spider

My third spider isn’t as photogenic as the other two but I thought I should include it because I saw it in the same patch of bushland on the same morning.

It’s a Cyclosa, a member of a genus of smallish orb-weavers with the habit of constructing a messy strand of debris and (sometimes) egg sacs across the middle of their web and pretending to be part of the rubbish. It must be an effective strategy because they are quite common.

Naming the genus is not problematic but even the experts avoid more exact identification, saying things like, “Cyclosa is very diverse in Australia with at least 10 species, currently under revision. At this stage it is not possible to reliably identify Australian Cyclosa to species, with the exception of a few,” and I’m not going to rush in where they fear to tread.

The thread I photographed contains (counting from the top) debris which looks like tiny dead leaves, four pale egg sacs, dark debris, the spider, more dark debris, a bigger pale bundle and a loose bundle of rubbish; the whole thing is only about as thick as a grass stem. Click on the images, as usual, for more detail.

spiderweb with debris
Cyclosa, egg sacs and debris
spider in web
Zooming in to see the spider at much more than life size: what’s in the image is about 8mm from top to bottom

Jourama Falls

Jourama Falls
Jourama Falls

Jourama is typical of the waterfalls which tumble off the edge of the Great Dividing Range between Townsville and Cairns. I have posted about Wallaman (very recently), Murray and Behana, and I have known and liked Jourama Falls for a very long time so I was surprised to find, when I checked, that I hadn’t already posted about them too.

The Jourama Falls section of the Paluma Range National Park (park information) is tucked into the northern end of the park (map), about an hour north of Townsville and only a few kilometres off the highway. The access road takes you to a peaceful swimming hole and picnic ground, then past a camping ground with the usual National Parks facilities to a carpark at the beginning of a walking track which winds along beside the rocky creek and up beside the waterfall itself. It’s all easy and pleasant, if not nearly as spectacular as Wallaman. In many ways it’s more comparable to Paradise Pool nearby: close to town and family-friendly.

I called in there for a break on my way back from Wallaman a couple of weeks ago and walked up to the lookout at the top of the track. My first photo is taken from there; the track doesn’t go as far as the top of the falls on the skyline.