Friday, October 26, 2018

Neodypsis decaryi - THREE-CORNERED PALM TREES in TOOWOOMBA - Article by J. T. Swarbrick, September, 2018

Three-cornered (or triangle) palms (also known as Dypsis decaryi) are small but highly ornamental palm trees from Madagascar, where they grow in open areas and forests as well as in rainforest, where the few remaining trees are endangered but protected. They are however widely grown as ornamentals in many climates, including Toowoomba. Three-cornered palms are unique among palms in that the leaves spiral upwards in three distinct ranks. The leaf bases are swollen, overlapping, with white waxy bases, and the rather few leaves on each plant are pinnate, stiffly erect with slightly arching tips, about three metres long and white to green, without basal spines. The sparse stiffly erect leaves with drooping tips give this elegant palm its very distinctive outline. The leaflets are long and narrow, and taper to a fine point. The lowermost leaflets on each side of the leaf develop very long (up to two metres) fine thread-like reins (see photo), a characteristic also found in some other palms.

The trunks of three-cornered palms are 30-40 centimeters thick, greyish and rather rough, and the old leaves dry out on the trunks then fall naturally. This leaves untidy trunks and usually the old leaves are cut away for tidiness, sometimes leaving the bases to accentuate the triangular effect. In nature the palms grow 10-15 meters tall, and although they are easy to cultivate and grow quickly when young they only reach 5-10 metres in cultivation. Established trees are very drought tolerant but need some moisture and require deep rich free-draining soils for best growth. They require a frost-free location.

I only know of two specimens in Toowoomba, one in the front garden of St Mark’s Church in High Street, Rangeville, and one between Matthews Street and Lillian Court in south-west Toowoomba which is visible over the fence beside the eastern drive-through beside the Philharmonic Society Hall in Mathews Street (see photos below). No doubt there are others in the city,

Three-cornered palms grow well in Toowoomba, are of striking appearance and only moderate size, and should be more widely grown in our parks and gardens. The very similar teddy bear palm (Neodypsis lastelliana) has a distinct crown shaft which is densely covered with fuzzy brown hairs.

The three-cornered palm trees in gardens in Lillian Court (left) and in High Street, Toowoomba (right)

Outing Report: Dingo Mountain & Chasely Park, near Crows Nest - 07 October 2018

Despite recent rain and the prospect of more to come about 19 members made their way to our rendezvous in the paddock at the home of Michael and Monica King, on the road to Crows Nest Falls. Here we met up with Steve Plant, member of the Progressive Community of Crows Nest, and the recently formed Crows Nest Community Solutions, a charitable company that has acquired several vacant blocks of land in the area between Bullocky’s Rest and the Crows Nest National Park in order to protect them from development, and eventually make them accessible for environmental enthusiasts.

Steve gave us a brief history of the early settlement and rural industries of the area before leading us across the creek by way of a sandstone outcrop – fortunately still above water level despite the recent rains. Steve was very considerate of those of the party who, in his words, were “less sure-footed” and found us a choice of routes up the bank onto the narrow strip of alluvial land beside the creek, which had provided the only land suitable for the original settlers to crop. To our right was a tumbled band of granite rock, with one presenting a perfect bed for a large colony of rock orchids, a few of which were still in flower.

We then made our way between broken sandstone and clumps of invasive Rhodes grass, and up through the open forest, largely ironbark, until we found several long, crude concrete troughs at ground level, remnants of the original piggery, with evidence of split-wood fencing, foundations of outbuildings, and simple farm mach-inery. As we gained height we were shown a hand-dug cutting nearly two metres deep through the rocky sand-stone ridge, through which the whey from an adjacent butter factory had been gravity fed down to the pig troughs. All of this agricultural activity had been abandoned over 60 years earlier, but it was fascinating to picture what it must have been like for those early pioneers.

Between those “less sure-footed” and those intent on bird-watching and botanical discoveries our progress up Mt Dingo was fortunately quite slow but well worth the climb to enjoy the views from the top of the cliff. Once again, we were offered a choice of routes, from a careful scramble down the cliff to a well-contoured descent back through the forest of grass trees. One of our members pointed out a small clump of tiny hooded orchids that miraculously escaped being mangled by a carelessly-placed boot.

Most of the party met at Bullocky’s Rest for a picnic lunch before driving round to Chasely Park where Steve led us through to the foot of the Pump Hole on Crows Nest Creek, where he showed us a photograph, circa 1910 judging by the fashions of two ladies standing on the ledge below the old “elephant footed” eucalypt that still keeps guard over the pool. Once again Steve pointed out a superb colony of rock orchids blanketing the cliff face, fortunately protected by being on the only part that could not be easily reached by vandals.

We were doubly blessed on this outing, by the rain that had been forecast holding off until we were all just about back home, and by having the privilege of Steve’s leadership, with his comprehensive knowledge of the area, its history, fauna and flora.

(Report by Shirley Cormack)

Bird list for Dingo Mountain and Bullocky’s Rest, Crows Nest  (Jan Veacock)

Dingo Mountain: Little Black Cormorant, Black Duck, Wood Duck, Rufous Night-heron, Kookaburra, Sacred Kingfisher [a pair flying around where the cars were parked], Peaceful Dove, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Rainbow Lorikeet, Rufous Whistler, Grey Thrush, Grey Fantail, Willie-wagtail, Leaden Flycatcher, Black-faced Cuckoo shrike, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Scarlet Honeyeater, Little Friarbird, Noisy Miner aka mickey [nesting], Striated Pardalote, White-throated Gerygone, Eastern Whipbird, Red-backed Wren, Superb Blue Wren, White-throated Tree-creeper, Magpie Lark, Pied Currawong, Torresian Crow. 

Bullocky’s Rest: Apostle Bird, Noisy Miner, Pale-headed Rosella, Kookaburra, Torresian Crow, Grey-crowned Babbler, King Parrot, Rainbow Lorikeet, Pheasant Coucal.
Also seen were two koalas at Dingo Mountain Road. I was not present for the last walk to the creek from the small park so I have no list for there. A huge number of cicada shells were seen and photographed on one of the trees in the small park.

Plants at Dingo Hill  (Article and photo by Trish Gardner)

Situated just east of Crows Nest, Dingo Hill preserves a large area of a unique ecosystem type which occurs only on sandstone-derived soil near Crows Nest. We were fortunate to have Steve Plant show us around, as he has a deep knowledge of the history, both natural and human, of the area. Dingo Hill is a naturalists’ paradise, with high diversity of plant species, and the resulting high wildlife diversity that you would expect in these circumstances.

The area is unusual for its large number of Eucalyptus species. One of these is the Helidon ironbark Eucalyptus taurina, a timber notable for splitting with a very straight grain. Unlike the small-leafed ironbark E.crebra, another of the three ironbarks which occur in the area, the Helidon ironbark decays if used in the ground.

However, it was widely used for above-ground structures such as the piggery whose ruins stand on the hill. A noticeable characteristic of the Eucalypt population was the lack of old trees - a common feature of natural areas close to all our towns, where timber was heavily harvested for construction and for firewood. The results are a lack of habitat hollows, and a disproportionate population of applegums (Angophora species), which don’t make good firewood.

Dingo Hill is also unusual in having so many members of Proteaceae family within a very small area. These are three species of Banksia, two Grevilleas, and one species each of Lomatia, Hakea, Persoonia, and Petrophile. Dry rainforest species were in evidence. Examples were the local tuckeroo Cupaniopsis parvifolia, the leopard ash Flindersia collina, and the canthium, Psydrax odoratum. As Steve pointed out, the ecology of the area is fire-dependant, and fires would have kept the numbers of these species low. Without fire, however, the rain-forest species would have been dominant - and this may be the long-term future of Dingo Hill, given that residential development spreads around it, and fires may be unwelcome in the future.

Of interest to all of us were nodules of resin exuding from the trunks of the grasstrees, Xanthorrhoea johnsonii. “Xanthorrhoea” means “yellow flow” (of resin), but in this species the resin flow is red. If warmed, it becomes soft, and was used by Aborigines for gluing axe heads to their handles. It could also be ground to a powder and mixed with water as a medicine. Look for samples which will be brought to the next meeting for Show and Tell.

Flying duck orchid (Caleana minor)
The find of the day was a group of small orchids. At first, we mistook them for greenhoods, as they “nodded” in a similar way, but close examination showed they were something quite different. We eventually discovered they were small flying duck orchids, Caleana minor. This was a new species record for the area. Thank you to John Dearnaley for identifying it for us. 


For this trip in February 2018, there were four of us and we decided to concentrate on visiting National Parks and spend three to four nights in each area. The first park we visited was Kaziranga National Park in the state of Assam in the north east corner of India. To reach it we flew from Kolkata to Guhwati and then had a five-hour road trip to Kaziranga. We passed through some beautiful lush country where many crops were being grown. On reaching Diphlu River Lodge, which consisted of comfortable high set wooden cottages, Peter and I were given the Cottage that Wills and Kate had slept in.

The park is renowned for its birdlife. It has two thirds of India’s species, and we certainly saw many of these, our guide and driver were both very knowledgeable and knew exactly where the birds would be. The park also has over 2000 one-horned rhino; this is about 70% of all the wild rhinos in India and Nepal. They are a big attraction for tourists but are still being poached for their horns which are sold to Asian markets to be ground up for traditional medicines. To combat this trade there is a considerable anti-poaching team constantly in the park.

We at last got a glimpse of one old tiger which appeared to have an abscess on its front leg which it had had for some time. Our guide told us that sick animals were not allowed to be treated by Vets although in other states they were treated.

Travelling by air and train we arrived in the state of Utterakhand to visit Corbett Park. We found that travelling by train was by far the best transport, as it was punctual and relaxing with good service. The park is in the foothills of the Himalayas and is very well watered with glacial rivers and big areas of Sal forest. Again, the birdlife was prolific, and we had many good sightings. There are wild elephant in the park, also some domesticated ones. These are no longer ridden by tourists hunting for tigers as it has been found to be painful for their backs to carry tourists.
We only saw one tigress here but had amazing views of her as she crossed in front of our Jeep, went down the bank and swam across the river. We were surprised how habituated she was to humans; there were about 10 jeeps following her and she didn’t appear at all concerned.
Next stop was Ranthambore in Rajasthan. This is another park renowned for Tigers and again we had very good views of them. The park has many different areas with different habitats including some beautiful lakes with many water birds, crocodiles and swamp deer. A rare animal to be seen here is the insectivorous sloth bear which feeds on insects and also honey. We saw a mother and two cubs who were enjoying themselves playing and rolling around in a fluffy ball.
Finally, we went to look for leopards at Jawai Park. It was a rocky area overlooking a large dam and the leopard live in the caves dotted around the hills. They have coexisted with the local villagers for many years; occasionally they take sheep or goats in which case the villagers are reimbursed by the Government as tourism is a good money earner. We only had a brief glimpse of a young leopard about a kilometer away, but we enjoyed learning about the villagers and their farming methods.

(Report and photos by Alison Evans)

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Fungus - White Punk

The insect-riddled fungus brought to the August meeting was Laetiporus portentosus. It is also called White Punk. They are mostly on the ground rotting and full of insect holes as they often grow in the top branches of tall Eucalypts. This one was found by Trish Gardner and Francis Mangubhai while bushwalking in Eucalypt forest in the Hellhole Gorge area between Cunningham's Gap and Goomburra. This website has more information.

(Information supplied by Glenda Walter and Trish Gardner.  Photo by Barbara Weller)
White Punk Laetiporus portentosus


Land snails, Bardee Grubs and the Packalacca -- by Rod Hobson

These few notes are presented as a result of member’s enquiries after our August monthly meeting and the subsequent field trip to Emu Creek. At our monthly meeting two specimens were presented for identification and the member’s comments. The first was displayed by Trish Gardner and was the dead, bleached shell of a native land snail Sphaerospira fraseri (Fraser’s Banded Snail). The mollusc was given to Trish by Steve Plant. Steve had found the shell in an area of revegetated dry vine scrub on his property at Pechey along with another native land snail Pedinogyra hayii (Hay’s Flat-coiled Snail). Both snails are sympatric across a lot of their range in south-east Queensland although Fraser’s Banded Snail extends south into the Clarence River area of north-eastern New South Wales. Both species are found in dry rainforest thickets although Fraser’s Banded Snail also extends into surrounding sclerophyll woodland. Both snails can be found under logs and rocks in damp situations. A very similar snail to fraseri is also found in similar situations in south-east Queensland. It is the Pale Banded Snail Figuladra mattea. Living snails can be easily distinguished as mattea has a red mantle whereas in fraseri this is black. Dead shells are somewhat more problematical to separate. A dead specimen shell of Hay’s Flat-coiled Snail was displayed at our July meeting from dry vine scrub at the base of Camels Hump east of Picnic Point. All these snails are a favourite food of the beautiful Noisy Pitta, Pitta versicolor.
Pupa case of Rain moth Trictena atripalpis (photo M. Rooke)
The second specimen from the night was brought in by Michael Rooke. It was found recently by Michael and Diane Pagel on a walk below Shannon Park at Highfields. It was an old pupa case of the Rain Moth Trictena atripalpis. This moth is also known as the Giant Rain Moth and the larva as a Bardee Grub. The Rain Moth is a widespread species belonging to the family Hepialidae and is found throughout southern Australia including Tasmania. It is a large moth with the wingspan of males reaching 12 cm and those of the female growing to 16 centimetres. The larva of this moth can spend several years underground feeding on the roots of adjacent trees. It emerges from the ground after rain hence its common name. Bardee Grub is somewhat of a misnomer for these larvae as Bardee is more correctly applied to the larva of the beetle Bardistus cibiarius. The discarded pupae cases can be found partly protruding from the ground after rain, as was the case around Toowoomba earlier this year. In March these cases were observed after rain in Garnet Lehmann Park, the Bridle Trail in Redwood Park, in the Lions Park at Picnic Point, on the Pardalote Walk below Picnic Point and from a private residence at Wyreema. The larvae are popular as baits with freshwater anglers.

On our last outing to John and Liz O’Brien’s Emu Creek property a conversation arose about a large, heavily buttressed tree growing close to their residence. It was an old specimen of the exotic Packalacca or Ombu Phytolacca dioica. It is a native of the Pampa of South America where it features heavily in gaucho culture. It can grow into a large tree with a canopy from 12-15 metres and a height of 12-18 metres. It is a valued shade tree and was a popular planting around dairies and livestock pens in south-east Queensland historically, but many have since disappeared, as these areas have been subsumed by urban spread and the dairying industry has declined. They’re getting to be a rarity these days. The large leaves are said to be palatable to cattle, but the roots are reported to be poisonous, however there is some doubt even about the palatability of the leaves as fodder. The Packalacca is in the same genus as the common local weed, the introduced Ink Weed or Dyeberry Phytolacca octandra and the Poke Weed Phytolacca americana from the United States. Pokeweed has been recorded from the Gold Coast hinterland area.  Although the Packalacca is an exotic it doesn’t appear to be invasive and its gaunt, sentinel form over old dairies on the Darling Downs and the Lockyer was a pleasant feature to behold. Its passing is with regret, at least by this writer.

Acacia resinicostata (Article and photo by Trish Gardner)

A diversion on our club outing to Sandisock (Sunday 05 August) gave us an opportunity to look at a very uncommon wattle. Acacia resinicostata grows in only a few disconnected places in Queensland - the Djuan population we saw on our Sunday outing, another population near Karara, and two populations in the Carn-arvon Range and the White Mountain National Park between Charters Towers and Hughenden.
Acacia resinicostata buds
This disjunct population suggests that at some time in the very distant past, the ecosystem between White Mountain and Karara provided opportunities for a continuous population to spread. The plants we saw were waist to shoulder height. They were in bud and may be showily in flower by the time you get this newsletter. Angus Stewart recommends it as a garden plant.
“Resinicostata” refers to resin and ribs. The branchlets, leaves and buds are covered in resin, with the ribs of the branchlets being covered with tiny resiny lumps. (You need a magnifying glass to see them well.)
For anyone who would like to look at the plants, head north on the New England Highway through Crows Nest then take Emu Creek Road to the right. Divert from there (another right turn) into Old Emu Creek Road. There were some roadside plants on the right just past the dump.

August Outing Report to Sandisock, Emu Creek

Twenty members took the meandering route through countryside between Goombungee and the New England Highway, pausing at Hampton. We took in the history of this once large town, and appreciated the one remaining commercial building, the very charming general store. For some members, this provided a welcome chance to buy coffee.
The roadkill count, 18 Red-necked Wallaby and two Swamp Wallaby (with the conspicuous white tip to their tails) led us to think that there must be plenty of these animals in the Hampton area. Nine living Red-necked Wallaby were also seen. Rod Hobson told us that the Swamp Wallaby had almost disappeared from the area but seems to be making a comeback.
Arriving at Sandisock, we were greeted with scones, jam and cream. Our hosts Graham and Adrienne Jocumsen have owned this getaway block for nearly 40 years and could tell us much about it. Its geology is interesting and varied, with some ancient granite outcrops, some much more modern basalt overlay, and some sandstone and conglomerate in between.
We separated into two groups, one to walk in the creek (more interesting birds) and one to go over the hill (more interesting plants). The birds were appreciating the permanent water in the creek. Like most of the district, Sandisock vegetation was looking sad because of the drought. However we found much to interest us in the narrow-leafed ironbark (Eucalyptus crebra) woodland on the hill, and noted a number of vine scrub plants including Sweet Suzie, Psydrax odoratum, Triangle-leafed Hopbush Dodonaea triangularis (with its leaves that look like duck’s feet), Narrow leafed Hopbush Dodonaea viscosa, Scrub tuckeroo Cupaniopsis parvifolia, Leopard Ash Flindersia collina, Urn Heath Melichrus urceolata, Scrub Boonaree Alectryon diversifolius, and Chain fruit Alyxia ruscifolia.
Acacia paradoxa – prickly wattle (photo: Diana Ball)
We could only find small specimens of many of these plants, which suggests that in the absence of fire these rainforest-type species are invading what was once a dry sclerophyll environment. The most interesting plant was the Kangaroo Wattle, Acacia paradoxa - a prickly monster (see photo). One of the specimens was in bud and will be very pretty when in full flower. Not common in our district, it is found on the line of sandstone which runs through Goombungee. That area has some very different plants from the rest of the Eastern Downs, as often happens on poor soil.
Insects of interest were the Australian Emperor dragonfly, and an Eastern Brown butterfly. In all it was a very enjoyable day. Thank you very much Graham and Adrienne, for welcoming us to your special hideaway.

Members enjoying lunch at Sandisock (photo: Trish Gardner)
(Report by Trish Gardner)

Checklist for August outing to “Sandisock”, Emu Creek SEQ
at GDA94 – 56J E399946 x N7003822; +/- 500 metres.  (Compiled by Rod Hobson)

Golden Whistler                                  White-throated Honeyeater                Torresian Crow
Rufous Whistler                                  Brown Honeyeater                              Silvereye
Grey-crowned Babbler                       Noisy Miner                                        Red-browed Finch
Australian Magpie                               Red-backed Fairy-wren                      Striated Pardalote
Galah                                                   Superb Fairy-wren                              Pied Currawong
White-throated Gerygone                   Laughing Kookaburra                         Lewin’s honeyeater
Yellow-faced Honeyeater                   Grey Fantail                                        Magpie-lark

  • Macquarie Turtle Emydura macquarii x 1 (remains; adult; carapace and plastron only)
  • Giant Centipede Ethmostigmus rubripes x 2
  • a centipede Scolopendra laeta x 1
  • Bennett’s Woodland Snail Pallidelix bennetti x 2 (dead shells only)            
  • Australian Emperor Anax papuensis x 1
  • Wandering Percher Diplacodes bipunctata x 1
  • Monarch Danaus plexippus
  • European Honey Bee Apis meliffera (feral hive)
  • Black-headed Strobe Ant Opisthopis rufithorax
  • Brown Shield Ant Meranoplus sp.
  • Giant Bull Ant Myrmecia gulosa

  • Southern Meat Ant Iridomyrmex purpureus
  • a leaf beetle Paropsisterna octolineata
  • Tiger Assassin bug Havinthus rufovarius
  • a shield bug Theseus modestus (adult and nymph)
  • a cricket Leptogryllus sp. (identified by Matthew Connors)
  • a spider Hemicloea roganhoferi
  • a jumping spider Astia hariola x3 (2 female, 1 male))
  • a jumping spider Holoplatys planissima
  • a jumping spider Servaea incana x 3
  • Huntsman spider Delena cancerides x 2
  • Redback Spider Latrodectus hasseltii x 2 (female)