Wreath Lechenaultia

Wreath lechenaultias really brighten up the Australian desert.

  • Wreath lechenaultias are perennial plants, native to the woodland and desert habitats of the Southwest Australia savanna area, located in
    the Australian state of Western Australia.
  • The scientific name of a wreath lechenaultia plant is Lechenaultia macrantha and it is from the family Goodeniaceae, a family of flowering plants.
  • Wreath lechenaultias generally grow to a height of up to 15 centimetres (6 inches) and reach a diameter of 1 metre (3.3 feet).
  • The blooms of wreath lechenaultia plants typically range from pink to red, and they are a white or yellow colour in the middle.
  • Wreath lechenaultias grow best in full sun and in a fairly dry, well-drained soil that consists of sand or small pebbles.
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A Wreath Lechenaultia
Image courtesy of Derrin Images
  • Wreath lechenaultia plants bloom during late winter months and spring, and the flowers are usually produced around the outer edge of the plant, forming a wreath-like shape around the foliage.
  • Each flower of the wreath lechenaultia plant consists of five petals and is roughly 3 to 3.5 centimetres (1.2 to 1.4 inches) in diameter.
  • Wreath lechenaultias are commonly grown for decorative purposes, both on the ground or in hanging baskets, though they tend to be difficult to grow.
  • Kurt Krausse, a German botanist, was the first to scientifically describe the wreath lechenaultia, doing so in 1912.
  • Wreath lechenaultia plants tend to sprout after the event of a bushfire, and new plants can be grown from cuttings.
Bibliography:
Lechenaultia Macrantha, 2010, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lechenaultia_macrantha
Lechenaultia Macrantha, 2016, Australian native Plants Society (Australia), http://anpsa.org.au/l-macr.html
Lechenaultia Macrantha (Wreath Lechenaultia), 2016, Home Design Directory, http://www.homedesigndirectory.com.au/gardening/plant-finder/plant-descriptions/lechenaultia-macrantha/?plant-id=449
Lechenaultia Macrantha – Wreath Lechenaultia, n.d, Gardening With Angus, http://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au/lechenaultia-macrantha-wreath-lechenaultia/

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Noni

You’ll be able to tell when some noni is in your fruit salad!

  • Noni is a species of exotic tropical fruit that is native to northern Australia, Southeast Asia,  and a number of the Pacific islands.
  • ‘Noni’ is also known as ‘Indian mulberry’, ‘hog apple’, ‘great morinda’, ‘koonjerung’, ‘canary wood’, ‘beach mulberry’, ‘tokoonja’ and ‘cheese fruit’.
  • The scientific name of the tree that produces noni is Morinda citrifolia and it is from the family Rubiaceae, the family of madder and coffee.
  • Noni skin changes from green, to a pale yellow, then a creamy white colour when ripe, and is made up of many polygon shapes; while the flesh is also similar in colour.
  • The irregular shape of the noni fruit ranges from 4 to 18 centimetres (1.6 to 7 inches) in length; and it contains many seeds, which can be roasted and eaten.
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Noni
Image courtesy of Keith Roper/Flickr
  • Noni is edible both raw and cooked, often eaten with salt or cooked in curry, and it is commonly made into juice; while jams and pickles can also be made from the fruit.
  • Generally, noni emits a strong, undesirable smell, comparable to that of smelly cheese or even vomit; and the unripe fruit is commonly cooked as a vegetable.
  • Typically noni has a flavour resembling sour pineapple possibly with some sweetness, though it can be bitter and unpleasant; and the fruit has been historically used in times of famine.
  • Various illnesses including asthma, arthritis and cardiovascular issues have all be treated with noni, by using traditional medicine methods.
  • Noni has significant quantities of potassium and vitamin C, particularly in its juice, and has other vitamins and minerals.
Bibliography:
Morinda citrifolia, 2016, Australian Native Plants Society (Australia), http://anpsa.org.au/m-cit.html
Morinda citrifolia, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morinda_citrifolia
Morinda citrifolia – Noni: Life Sustaining Plant, 2016, Top Tropicals, https://toptropicals.com/html/toptropicals/plant_wk/noni.htm
Noni, 2016, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, https://nccih.nih.gov/health/noni

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Grass Tree

Finding a grass tree specimen is not too difficult in Australia.

  • Grass trees are a genus of roughly 30 species of perennial plants that are native exclusively to Australia.
  • ‘Grass trees’ are also known as ‘grass gum-trees’, ‘yakkas’, ‘balgas’, and ‘balga grass’, as well as ‘blackboys’, though this name is somewhat controversial due to the plant’s comparison to indigenous Australians.
  • The scientific name of the grass tree is Xanthorrhoea and it is from the family Asphodelaceae, a family of flowering plants.
  • Grass trees generally have an almost spherical cluster of long, spiky grass-like leaves that form at the top of a trunk.
  • The small flowers of grass trees grow along a tall cylindrical spike that can reach from 1 to 4.5 metres (3 to 15 feet) and sits above the plant.

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  • Grass trees can take a very lengthy time to grow; however, they can also live to be 600 years old; and the plants, depending on the species, can grow to 6 metres (20 feet) in height, not including the flower spike.
  • Not all grass tree species have trunks, while some have branched trunks, yet others may only branch if they have been damaged.
  • Some grass tree species have a natural procedure for combating bushfire devastation, by growing new flower spikes directly after experiencing a fire.
  • Grass trees have been traditionally adapted by indigenous Australians to create spears, particularly using the plant’s leaf resin as an adhesive, and the plant’s flowers have also been made into a sweet drink.
  • In World War II and prior, the resin of grass trees was put on tins and other metals to combat rust; and the resin was also used to create a lacquer; and sometimes used in churches to create a pleasing aroma, by burning the substance.
Bibliography:
Genus Xanthorrhoea, n.d, PlantNET, http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=gn&name=Xanthorrhoea
Pawlan M, Australian Xanthorrhoea, n.d, Pawlan, http://pawlan.com/monica/australia/
Watson P, The Grass Tree: Its Use and Abuses, 2004, Australian Plants Online, http://anpsa.org.au/APOL33/mar04-5.html
Xanthorrhoea, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xanthorrhoea

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Peacock Spider

When a peacock spider dances, their life is literally on the line.

  • Peacock spiders are a genus of colourful arachnids, native to Australia, often found in coastal areas, but they also exist inland.
  • The scientific name of the peacock spider genus is Maratus and it is from the family Salticidae, the family of jumping spiders.
  • Peacock spiders are extremely small, and generally range in length from 3.5 to 6.5 mm (0.14 to 0.26 inches); and they do not create webs to catch food, rather their prey is stalked and leapt upon.
  • Male peacock spiders generally have an abdomen of bright metallic coloured patterns, from orange, blues, reds and greens.
  • Peacock spiders are well known for their complex movements that is likened to dancing, used by males to attract and court females.
Peacock Spider, Trivia, Ten Random Facts, Colourful, Dance, Animal, Small, Arachnid, Orange, Courting, MaleA Male Peacock Spider
Image courtesy of Jurgen Otto/Flickr
  • If a male peacock spider fails to impress a female spider with their dance, the female will very likely eat the male, unless the male escapes by running off quickly.
  • German Jürgen Otto, who works as a biologist in Australia, has discovered a large number of new species in the genus, and is the leading research scientist on the spider, in conjunction with American jumping spider specialist, David Hill.
  • A single dance of a male peacock spider can last anywhere from four to fifty minutes, and movements can include leg waving above its body, and raising and flaring its abdomen in a similar way to a peacock feather train display, hence its common name.
  • Scientific documentation of peacock spiders was first undertaken by the English zoologist Octavius Pickard-Cambridge, in 1874.
  • Some species of ‘peacock spiders’ have been commonly named ‘flying spiders’ and ‘gliding spiders’, due to a false assumption that the flap on its abdomen is used to fly.
Bibliography:
Main D, The Amazing Mating Dance of the Peacock Spider, 2013, Live Science, http://www.livescience.com/39052-peacock-spider-mating-dance.html
Maratus Volans, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maratus_volans
Otto J & Hill D, Seven new peacock spiders from Western Australia and South Australia (Araneae: Salticidae: Euophryini: Maratus), 2016, Peckhamia, http://peckhamia.com/peckhamia/PECKHAMIA_141.1.pdf
The Peacock Spider – Maratus Volans, 2013, Amazing List, http://amazinglist.net/2013/02/the-peacock-spider-maratus-volans/
Wood S, Jurgen Otto and His Dancing Spiders, 2015, The Sydney Morning Herald, http://www.smh.com.au/good-weekend/jurgen-otto-and-his-dancing-spiders-20150520-gh61rs.html

Dingo

It doesn’t get wilder than a dingo!

  • Dingoes are a wild dog species native to grassy and desert habitats of Australia, and they also exist in parts of South East Asia.
  • The scientific name of a dingo is Canis lupus dingo and it is from the family Canidae, the family of dogs.
  • ‘Dingoes’ are also known as ‘Australian wolves’ and ‘Australian native dogs’, and there are many local native names for them as well.
  • The length of the body of a dingo typically ranges from 86 to 123 centimetres (34 to 48 inches), while the height to the shoulder is usually 44 to 67 centimetres (17 to 26 inches), and its weight ranges from 9.6 to 20 kilograms (21 to 44 pounds).
  • Dingoes typically have fur of a brown colour, from sandy to orange and reddish shades, often with white feet and a lighter coloured muzzle and belly, and they can also have black markings, or be fully black.
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A Dingo
Image courtesy of Sam Fraser-Smith/Flickr
  • The dingo’s diet consists mostly of possums, red kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, rabbits, rats, magpie geese, young cattle and sheep.
  • Dingoes are generally territorial and sometimes live by themselves, though they can form packs of three to twelve, especially to hunt large animals; and they have a lifespan of 7 to 15 years.
  • Dingoes are generally considered problematic in the livestock industry, because of their attacks on farm animals, and this led to a dingo fence being erected across southeast Australia in the late 1800s and early 1900s, to protect livestock in many areas; while shooting, trapping and poisoning have also been methods to reduce numbers of the wild dogs in problem areas.
  • Roughly 65% of a dingo’s communication is a form of growling; while howling is also common, and barking occurs occasionally.
  • Dingoes are listed as vulnerable and are protected in a number of areas in Australia, and they are listed as such as their numbers are decreasing due in part to interbreeding with domestic dogs.
Bibliography:
Burrel S, Dingo, 2015, Australian Museum, http://australianmuseum.net.au/dingo
Hintze M, Canis Lupus Dingo, 2002, Animal Diversity Web, http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Canis_lupus_dingo/
Dingo, 2016, A-Z Animals, http://a-z-animals.com/animals/dingo/
Dingo, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dingo

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Northern Jewelled Spider

Northern jewelled spiders are of a value not defined by money.

  • Northern jewelled spiders are a species of small arachnid, native to Australia’s Queensland.
  • The scientific name of the northern jewelled spider is Gasteracantha fornicata and it is from the family Araneidae, the family of orb weavers.
  • In 1775, the northern jewelled spider was described and scientifically classified, being the first Australian spider to be named, by Johan Christian Fabricius, a zoologist from Denmark, from information collected from Cooktown, Australia, by Sir Joseph Banks and crew in 1770.
  • Northern jewelled spiders have a spiny, striped abdomen, with six spikes visible from the top – two protruding on each side, and two at the back.
  • The stripes of northern jewelled spiders are coloured maroon, brown or black, and white to yellow.

Northern Jewelled Spider, Trivia, Ten Random Facts, Bug, Yellow, Brown, Australia, Queensland

  • Northern jewelled spiders have a diet that consists of various insects – effectively whatever is caught in the spider’s web.
  • Female northern jewelled spiders can reach a width of 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) and a length of a single centimetre (0.4 inches), while males are significantly smaller and differ to the females in appearance.
  • Northern jewelled spiders are most often found constructing webs in their rainforest habitats, and the completed webs can have a diameter as large as 2 metres.
  • The bite of northern jewelled spiders is essentially harmless to humans, primarily due to the spider’s small size.
  • The egg sacs of northern jewelled spiders are of a brilliant green colour, with an appearance of loosely woven spindly silk, and they are typically found on tree trunks and leaves, where they are camouflaged.
Bibliography:
Gasteracantha fornicata, 2013, The Find-A-Spider Guide, http://www.findaspider.org.au/find/spiders/644.htm
Gasteracantha forricata, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gasteracantha_fornicata
Gasteracantha fornicata (Fabricius, 1775), n.d, Arachne, http://www.arachne.org.au/01_cms/details.asp?ID=2375
Northern Jewelled Spider (Gasteracantha fornicata), 2015, Cooper Creek Wilderness, http://coopercreek.com.au/northern-jewelled-spider-gasteracantha-fornicata/

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