Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, November 24, 2014

Privets and Hay Fever

This morning I woke with my house filled with the nauseating scent of Privet everywhere.
It is overpowering on humid nights (like last night) and mornings like this morning.

The culprits are the custodians of the Railway Line (who would probably be ARTC). But also the next offenders are the non-existent Committee in charge (nobody is actually in charge) of the School Forest.

Privet is the problem.

Privet is in the same family as the Olive - a fact which only comes obvious when the little black seeds develop in a couple of months. Small birds love them, So do bowerbirds unfortunately, and so also do White-headed Pigeons which last year swarmed all over these same trees and bushes, eating the fruit, and thus spreading the seeds. Damn.
White flowers of Ligustrum sinense
The Small-leaved Privet 
Flowers and small, slightly crinkled edged leaves of Privet
Leaf margin referred to as wavy, which is good word.
It helps people trying to weed out Privet seedlings.
Because the leaf edges are
distinctively wavy when plants are very small.

This is why I get cranky about the lack of responsibility
for these plants.
They are not on railway land, but have spread from the close-by
Railway easement to the "School Forest".

The Railway line is visible on far left of this image.
The Laurence Langley Memorial Redwood Grove
 is visible in the background.

An as-yet unknown (to me) Moths which was on my fly screen
this morning.
And my first Christmas Beetle of the season.
Because Robertson does not have many Eucalypt trees
we do not get many true Christmas Beetles like this one.
Lots of annoying small Brown Beetles do occur here.
Hay Fever is directly triggered by the sweet and overpowering scent of Privet. However, technically, it is classed as an allergy. Hence runny eyes as well as sneezes and difficulty in breathing. In fact, the scientists say that the problem with Privet is a direct irritation of the sensitive mucus membranes of the nose. I'll leave that for the experts to sort out.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Bearded Tylophora flowering inside my Study

As I write, my Study is being invaded by a branch of Tylophora barbata, the “Bearded Tylophora”.

Ever since moving to Robertson in 2002, I have been aware of this small “climber” but have never known why it got its bearded reference. Just this last week, I realised that one of these small plants had made its way up from below my house, snuck in between the external cladding and then having entered the house structure, it has followed a tiny shaft of light, through a hole. Thus it has entered my Study.

I have ignored it for many months. My reward for doing that is that when I looked at the plant in late October, I realised that there were some flowering structures “Umbels” with small, dark flowers attached.

This surprised me. So I grabbed the camera.
And this is what I found. Flower of Tylophora barbata held against a  5 cent coin for scale.

Tylophora barbata
held against a 5 cent coin - for scale purposes.
The first thing which struck me was the extreme geometrical construction of the flower. It also reminded me of a Hoya flower which my mother used grow. Indeed they are in the same family.

Here is a closer image.

Tylophora barbata
Note the 5 segments of the flower
and the dark nodular glands
and the 5 white segments in centre
which are where the anthers are located.

This shows the structure of the sexual organs of the plant: “Calyx segments 5, sometimes with small basal glands inside. Corona of 5 spreading fleshy obtuse knobs fully fused to staminal column”. So the stamens are in the central white structure. The dark knobs are glands, presumably to emit scent to attract tiny insects as pollinators. My nose is not sensitive enough to detect any scent.

This next shot (using a different lens and flash setup) shows that there are short, silvery bristles all over the inner parts of the flower. 

That takes me back to the name of the plant.
The generic name is derived from the Ancient Greek tylos "knot", and phoros "bearing", from the swollen staminal coronal lobes. Barbata means "bearded" from Latin.
In “The Guide to the Yarrawa Brush” it says: “There are small hairs on the petals, hence the name Bearded Tylophora”.
Tylophora barbata - note the fibres on petals.

So how does this plant get inside my house?

Paired leaves ("Opposite")
of Tylophora barbata
Here is the plant outside my hose, climbing up one of the brick piers.
It likes to grow in dark, moist places, under trees, or in this case under a house.

In fact, it has snuck up between the outer cladding of the house and found a small hole in the floor. The vine stems are so fine that it can enter just about anywhere it wishes to explore.

One it grew to the appropriate height, because it is in a dark area,  it would then follow any shaft of light, to grow up towards the light, Thus it is easy to work out how it appears to have a "sense of direction". The light give it that direction to follow.