Breakfast on the macaranga

The Macaranga or Heart-leaf is a native tree, locally quite common in the wild. I will say more about it later but, first, here are some birds enjoying breakfast on the one beside our suburban driveway this morning.

Figbird in tree
Australasian Figbird

Figbirds travel in family groups and like figs (obviously), palm seeds and other fruit and nuts. This male and his entourage came for the macaranga seeds.

friarbird in silly pose

We love birds because they are so graceful, so elegant, don’t we? And then they do something like this.

Honeyeater on hibiscus
White-gaped Honeyeater

Not on the Macaranga in this shot, although it was there moments earlier, but on the hibiscus beneath it. Wanting to be more photogenic, perhaps? Looking for more food, most likely.

Indian Myna
Common (Indian) Myna

The Myna is not on the Macaranga in this shot, either, but on the car parked (unwisely) beneath it, and eyeing off the seeds on the roof. Mynas are more comfortable eating on the ground than hanging from twigs.

The Macaranga

Quoting the tree’s description on iNaturalist (which is shared with Wikipedia) but tossing in my own comments and photos:

Macaranga tanarius is a plant found in South East Asia, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, South China, Taiwan, and eastern Australia. It is commonly seen as a pioneer species in disturbed rainforest [and coastal, and urban] areas. Easily recognised for the round [more heart-shaped, really, and huge] veiny [is that a word?] leaves. In Australia it naturally occurs from the Richmond River, NSW to Cooktown in tropical Queensland [and further north].

Some of the many common names include parasol leaf tree [yes], blush macaranga [yes, and it’s useful because we do have other macarangas. although they are different enough that most people won’t realise they are related], heart leaf [yes], nasturtium tree and David’s heart [no; these two appear only on iNat/Wikipedia – try gooogling them].

It is a shrub or bushy tree, sometimes reaching 12 metres tall and with a stem diameter of 40 cm [ours is about 8 m and it’s less than five years old]. The trunk is [often but not always] short and crooked, bark being grey-brown, with bumps and irregularities. The branchlets are smooth, bluish grey with prominent leaf scars.

Leaves are alternate, and round [not really!] with a tip, 8 to 23 cm long, greyish or white on the underside. It has prominent leaf stalks 8 to 20 cm long which connect within the leaf itself. Nine main veins radiate from the leaf stalk, easily noticed on the upper and lower leaf side.

Yellow-green flowers form on panicles [clusters] in the months of October to January (in NSW) [earlier here]. Female and male flowers grow on different trees. The fruit is a prickly three-celled [grey-green ripening to] yellow capsule, 9 mm in diameter, maturing in January to February (in NSW) [November here]. There is one black seed in each of the cells. Germination from fresh seed occurs without difficulty [understatement!]. Cuttings strike well.
[Here endeth iNat.]

Birds love them and spread the seeds widely. Ours was self-sown from such a deposit and we allowed it to grow because it chose a suitable (to us, that is) location. It’s a good shade tree.

Flowers are insignificant, hidden within bracts, but the clusters of seed-pods make up for that. They’re slightly sticky, though, as well as spiny (designed for easy transport, of course) and we move them around the garden and into the house on our feet and clothes. That, and the mess on the car roof, are small prices to pay, however, for such a beautiful tree.

We generally approve of self-sown native trees, actually, because they do well with minimal care and attract native birds and smaller wildlife. We have a self-sown lilly-pilly (Syzygium) near our macaranga, and at our previous house we had a very beautiful self-sown wattle.


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