Anderson Park is the largest of the three botanical gardens managed by Townsville City Council. We have been conveniently close to it in Mundingburra for so long that we take it for granted but a couple of recent visits reminded us how pleasant it is; reminded us, too, of the Conservatory and the exotic fruit garden.
The council doesn’t publicise the Conservatory very well (it doesn’t even rate any text on the park brochure, for instance, although it is marked as a little grey square on the map) and only opens it to the public on Tuesdays but it’s worth a look.
It’s full of gingers, ferns, cycads, bromeliads and other families. Many of them feature in our own gardens, of course, but most of us don’t have so many varieties, or get them growing so well. The two which caught my eye last Tuesday were the ornamental banana and the pitcher plants.
Tropical Fruit Orchard
The Tropical Fruit Orchard is right next to the Conservatory. We didn’t spend as much time there as we would have on a cooler day but noted both Black and Yellow Sapote fruiting abundantly and dropping ripe fruit on the ground, while a Pomelo and a patch of (edible) bananas were also quite productive. Stern notices forbid the collection of any fruit from the orchard; one can see the point, although the waste of good fruit is disappointing.
There is always something new to see on a walk around the park and on our stroll with Wildlife Queensland folk last Sunday I noticed this beautiful little egg dangling from a shrub. Its silken thread suggested to me that it might be a spider’s egg-case (I knew the little dewdrop spiders create similarly rigid egg-cases and suspend them from a thread like this), and everyone knows that caterpillars make cocoons from silk and some suspend them from plants.
A little creative internet searching revealed, however, that it was neither of the above but the cocoon of a small parasitic wasp in the family Campopleginae, one of the 1500+ subfamilies of the Ichneumonidae.
That level of identification is as close as I will get, but this link will take you to a splendid international collection of photos of the adult wasps. Sometimes I love the internet!
Bug hunters love flowers, not just for their own sake but for the bugs they attract. This set of photos shows most of the insects I saw in just ten or fifteen minutes on one profusely flowering shrub in Anderson Park, beginning with the wasps.
This wasp is possibly a Blue Flower Wasp, Scolia soror, and certainly a close relation if not that particular species. There was another similar one feeding on the same shrub, distinguishable by a bright yellow patch on the back of its head; it may have been Scolia verticalis (see them both here, on Graeme Cocks’ site).
Scoliidae is just one family of wasps, the Flower wasps. Gasteruptidae (top pic) is another (BugGuide calls them “Carrot Wasps” and you can see why, but I don’t think they have a genuinely common name), and there are many more including Polistinae, the Paper wasps. This index page on Graeme’s site shows them with their nearest relations, the bees and ants.
This small native bee (Colletidae) is similar to one which appeared on my earlier all-on-one-plant post. The beetle below is not just similar – it is definitely the same species:
The odd angle of this shot was forced on me by my uncooperative subject but does allow me to point out a neat bit of mimicry: the eye-spots and tails on the lower part of the wings are a surprisingly good imitation of the butterfly’s head and antennae (there’s an even more striking example here, on a related butterfly). I’m sure this is not a coincidence, since tricking predators into attacking non-vital parts is great for survival.
All the other insects here were attracted to the flowers. This dragonfly just wanted to perch for a while and found a suitable bare twig. He happens to be the first carnivore (insectivore?) on the page and he may well be looking out for prey amongst the smaller bugs attracted to the flowers. As I said in the beginning, bug hunters love flowers.
Jacanas (family Jacanidae) have adapted to, and specialised in, one particular kind of habitat, shallow freshwater lakes and ponds with floating vegetation. They live right across the tropics, with various species in South and Central America, southern Africa, India and South-east Asia through to New Guinea and northern Australia. We only have one species in Australia, the Comb-crested Jacana, Irediparra gallinacea, and it is found in northern and eastern coastal areas from the WA-NT border to about Sydney.
They were new and exotic to me when I first came to Townsville from Victoria but are not too uncommon here; I’ve seen them on Ross River, for instance, and on the Town Common, and I spotted this one on the lagoon in Anderson Park, one of Townsville’s three Botanical Gardens. They don’t move very fast but they can still be hard to observe because they tend to stay well out from the edge of the water, where they are safer.
Their adaptation is in their feet. The toes are enormously exaggerated and spread their weight so widely that they can walk on floating lily pads or other water weeds and exploit the food available on them or just under the surface of the water. The penalty is that they are somewhat clumsy when walking anywhere and can’t fly as well as they otherwise might.