Plant of the Month-July 2018

ONE-SPINE SALTBUSH

or GREY BINDYI

(Sclerolaena uniflora)

(Photos: C. Schultz, stem, fruit with horns; Cape Jervis)

There are both one-spine and two-spine saltbushes, which are very similar except for the shape of those horns you see on the fruit in the second photo. The ones pictured are just that…little horns on those lumps. In the two-spine saltbush, they are longer and spikier, more like spines than horns! Like a lot of Cape Jervis plants, the one-spine saltbush is about ankle-high. It is a sprawling perennial, with grey-green hairy leaves crowded along the stems. The leaves are about 1cm long and narrow, and possibly flat on one side. As you can see from the photos, the leaves are really fleshy, or succulent. Yellow-red, single flowers appear in October, to be followed by those hairy horned fruits. The spines are only about 2mm long, and one (or both) might not even be there. There should be a lump though, even if you can’t see the spine.

Weed of the Month-July 2018

FALSE CAPER

 (Euphorbia terracina)

(Photos: Leaves and flowers http://www.pestandweeds.com/weed-profiles/weed-herbs/false-caper/; sighted 13-6-18; Mass of false capers – the red tinge in the “middle ground”, photo  E. Cousins, Sorata St )

Since the seeds of this perennial germinate over autumn-spring, you will see new ones emerging now. The false caper is about thigh high. Older plants have 4-5 erect, pale green leafy stems emerging from a single stem at the base.  The leaves alternating up these stems are fairly spread out. They can be up to 65mm long, 2-10mm wide! They don’t have petioles (little stems attaching the leaf to the main stems). Up to 6 flower stems branch out at the end of the main stems with 5 leaves just under the division. The flower stems can branch again and again, and under each fork you will spot two egg-shaped leaves then a cup-shaped cluster of 8-15 male flowers with a single female flower. The flower head is yellow-green. Watch for them from July-October. Next season, new stems can form from the old crown. Small or isolated patches can be hand-weeded. There is a strong tap root with horizontal laterals. However, as with some of the other Euphorbias, this one can exude a corrosive milky sap when you break the stem so be careful if hand pulling…wear gloves. Exploding seed capsules can send seeds several metres away so try to control weeds BEFORE flowers appear!

Plant of the Month-June 2018

LEAFLESS CHERRY or BALLART

(Exocarpos aphyllus)

(Photos: C. Schultz, Cape Jervis)

We were pretty impressed with ourselves in April, 2017, when we found this specimen of the leafless cherry at Cape Jervis. It is a local plant listed as ‘vulnerable’ and so it was good to see about 10 plants in the vicinity looking quite healthy. Part of the sandalwood family (of which the quandong is a member), this is a semi-parasitic shrub to 3.5m, needing the roots of a host tree. As you can see, it is much-branched, with no leaves. The grey-green branches are rigid, and often come from the stems almost at right angles (‘divaricate’). Any flowers are likely to appear from July on; these are very small, and appear in clusters or spikes, just 2-4mm long. The fruits look like little domed ‘hats’, 7-8mm in diameter.

Weed of the Month-June 2018

BROAD-LEAF COTTON BUSH

(Gomphocarpus cancellatus)

This woody weed from South Africa grows to about 1 metre high, and competes with natives for space, nutrients and water. It has escaped cultivation as an ornamental, and has invaded many reserves and national parks. We never worried about this weed too much on our reserve at Cape Jervis in the past, but it has definitely become more widespread. So lately we have been more active in removing it. The plant seed is spread by wind and water; its sap can be irritating or toxic to some people, so use gloves when dealing with infestations. Hand pull small plants; use cut-and-swab or drill-and-fill techniques to poison large ones. If infestations are kept under control, the cotton bush does bring one benefit. Over the winter, you’ll notice the plant has many white-purple flowers…and often plenty of caterpillars, devouring the soft leaves and stems. These are the larvae of the Monarch butterfly. The Monarch is not truly an Australian native (though a resident for hundreds of years!), but apparently the larvae of the Lesser Monarch, which IS an Australian native butterfly, also uses this bush as a food source!

Plant of the Month-May 2018

DRYLAND TEA-TREE

(Melaleuca lanceolata)

(Photos: C. Schultz. Leaves and insect-attracting flowers)

Recently we featured Totem Poles, Melaleuca decussata. The Dryland Tea-tree is another of the pretty melaleucas at the Cape. Both have a similar growth habit: lovely compact shrubs with elongated leaves about 1cm long. The clusters of flowers differ though in colour and shape, with the Dryland Tea-tree having white flowers, not forming the tight purple cylinder of the totem pole. Also their leaves are placed alternately, rather than opposite each other, along the rough-barked stems. And the fruit are smooth and spherical, (not like the little cups built into the stems of the totem pole!) Plant one of each maybe…the totem poles flower spring-summer, the dryland tea-tree in summer-autumn. The dryland tea-tree is a really important habitat shrub as it provides nectar when not much else is flowering. Check out all the insects on the flowers!

Weed of the Month-May 2018

PIG’S EARS

(Cotyledon orbiculata)

(Photo: E. Cousins; plant on knoll above ferry terminal, Cape Jervis)

No, there are not a lot of these plants growing wild around Cape Jervis. We only know of this one outside of gardens in the area. We thought we would use it though as our Weed of the Month, because it illustrates a recurring theme: a weed is a plant growing where it shouldn’t be, and garden plants can become weeds if they escape the garden! This succulent has grey-green leaves that are rounded, with a slight tip. There is a distinctive red line around the edge of the leaves. The red tubular flowers hang down from the top of spikes that stand out above the leafy part of the plant.  The ones in the photo above were on their last legs, hence their brown, not red, colour! Earlier in the season, they would have attracted birds and bees to their nectar. A lovely contrast plant in the garden, good in sun or shade, and with little rainfall… just please make sure it stays in your garden, and doesn’t escape into areas of native vegetation!

Plant of the Month-April 2018

FOX-TAIL MULGA-GRASS

(Neurachne alopecuroidea)

(Photos: C. Schultz, whole plant, developing seed heads, mature seed, Cape Jervis)

If looking for a neat and tidy native grass species, then fox-tail mulga-grass could be the one for you! Its stems are 20-50 cm high, with a cluster of leaves at the base. Expect this perennial grass to die back over summer unless given extra water. The grey silky flowering spikes resemble a fox’s tail, hence the common name; and the species name “alopecuroidea” which comes from the Greek alopex, fox + oura, tail + oidea, -like). Native grasses provide shelter for many small creatures including skinks and finches, and they attract insects for other animals to eat. The seed of native grasses are a really important food source for many small birds. Look for this grass in spring, down by the ferry terminal where we will be planting it in the coastal display garden, south of the ferry terminal, along the Heysen Trail.

Weed of the Month-April 2018

CYCLOPS

(Acacia cyclops)

(Photos, C. Schultz: 3-9 month old seedlings, 3-4 year old plants, twisted open seed pods, Cape Jervis)

Another repeated weed of the month – because this woody weed just keeps coming back. Its distinctive seeds are attractive to birds who spread this seed far and wide around the Cape. It’s the distinctive black seed, surrounded by a ring of red, like a blood-shot eye, that gives Cyclops its name. Cyclops was a mythical Greek giant who only had one eye. The old seed pods are really twisted…one way to identify this plant. The flowers are round, unlike those on Acacia longifolia ssp. sophorae, which can look similar if you only look at the leaves.

Native to W.A., this plant is now a weed in S.A. where it rapidly crowds out local plants. The verges of Sorata St were cleared of cyclops a few years ago and now they are covered again. Cyclops thrives on limestone and sandy soils, and is very hardy even when exposed to salty winds. It can flower after only 2 or 3 years and seeds can germinate with just a whiff of moisture.

The only good thing about A. cyclops is that it does not require poisoning to eliminate, just pull out small seedlings or use loppers to cut the stem at ground level.

Plant of the Month – March 2018

TOTEM POLES

(Melaleuca decussata)

(Photos: E. Cousins. Leaves and flower; fruits )

Like purple flowers? Maybe this melaleuca is the shrub for you! Look at those pretty little brushes.  Around Cape Jervis, these shrubs grow to a couple of metres tall, with a slender growth habit. In a garden situation though they can be pruned to keep them more rounded, and the foliage green and thick. The leaves are small (about 15mm long) and grey-green, providing a nice contrast with those purple brushes of flowers that appear in springtime. Look at the placement of the leaves on the stems: two pairs sit at right angles to each other, forming an X. (That’s where the decussata  in the name comes from, Latin for ‘shaped like an X’.) The fruits containing the seeds are those woody grey-brown bumps you can see embedded in the stems in the second photo. Also bird attracting, what is not to like about this shrub?

 

Weed of the Month – March 2018

SCABIOSA or PINCUSHION
(Scabiosa atropurpurea)

(Photos,E. Cousins: young plant; clumps browning off, Cape Jervis)
This weed, originally from South Africa, is a real problem on our reserve at Cape Jervis. If in March you keep walking through stiff, crunchy dried clumping plants with the occasional purple flower, you are probably walking in a scabiosa patch! The scabiosa leaves are 5-9 cm long, and 1-2 cm wide, deeply lobed, and form a rosette at ground level, above a sturdy tap root. When flowering, the plants are about 60 cm tall at Cape Jervis, with flowers held above the basal rosette on long, spindly stems. They look a bit like daisies, and range in colour from white through pink and purple to dark red. The photo above of a flower not fully open shows a multitude of funnel-shaped petals. Flowers usually appear September to March, but you’ll see some most of the year around here. This weed spreads by seed, travelling by wind, water and on vehicles. Control when plants are immature, and before flowering, with herbicides or by hand pulling. Otherwise, you will end up with clumps browning off from February, leaving those stiff dead stems and many, many viable seed heads!