Bridal Veil fungus

The Wet season has arrived, with thunderstorms and brief downpours of 20 – 50 mm or more, and the natural world is responding to the combination of heat and moisture as it always does. Fungi, in particular, are emerging in numbers and varieties we haven’t seen since … well, our visit to the Daintree, actually, but we haven’t seen them here since last Wet season.

Some fungi are weirder than others, and some names are more risible than others. This one wins on both counts.

Bridal Veil Stinkhorn, with another in the background just emerging

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A visitation of figbirds

Figbirds (Sphecotheres vieilloti) are rowdy gregarious fruit-eaters which visit our garden quite often – not for the fruit they are named for, because we haven’t got any big fig trees, but for the palm seeds.

A large group turned up a few days ago to feed on the Alexandra palm and stayed long enough to be photographed. Long enough, in fact, for a Bowerbird to join them and then wander off again.

Adult females and the young of both sexes are brownish with speckled bellies and grey eye-rings. Adult males are colourful, their red eye-ring and vivid yellow belly contrasting brilliantly with their olive-green back and black head. Young males grow through a transitional stage in which all the adult colours gradually show through the camouflage.

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Bananas – nature and nurture

Six years ago I rescued some suckers from a neglected South Townsville garden and planted them in my own. Two years ago I rescued some more when we moved house, to plant them in my new garden. This week I found myself with a bunch from the original (still neglected) patch and a bunch from my new patch, and here they are, side by side.

large and small bananas
Genetically identical

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Butterfly vines and Swallowtail butterflies

We have been growing a particular vine, for years, just for the Birdwing butterflies whose caterpillars depend on it. Just what the vine is called and which butterflies depend on it are, however, recurring questions – for us as well as for the many other people who love the butterflies. This post pulls together information from botanical and entomological books and websites to try to settle both questions.

Very briefly, all species of butterflies in one group of Swallowtail butterflies have specialised to feed exclusively on one group of closely related plants. The butterflies are the Troidini, a “tribe” (in scientific language that’s a level between “family” and “genus”) of Swallowtails (Papilionidae) and the plants are the Birthworts (Aristolochiaceae).

Our Troidini are the Clearwing Swallowtail (Cressida cressida), Red-bodied Swallowtail (Atrophaneura polydorus) and all of the Birdwings (Ornithoptera species). The Aristolochiaceae we’re interested in are in the genus Aristolochia, or used to be, and many of them are known as Dutchman’s Pipe vines.

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