Oh no! We have a parasite!

Not personally, you’ll be relieved to hear…

Although if I had one, I’d probably be less free with the information… No, the parasite is in the garden. A while ago, I was puzzled to notice some odd-looking leaves on a branch of my Bankok Rose (Mussaenda philippica ‘Calcutta Sunset’). They were linear and thin instead of lanceolate. But it wasn’t of such interest that I had to do something about it.

Today, however, I was pulling weeds in the front flower bed, as I usually do when I go and check the mailbox. This time, the puzzle had reached much greater, and more interesting, proportions. Well, see for yourself. Above is the Bankok Rose. Dangling down there with its leaves and flowers all completely wrong, is a parasite. An interloper. To be exact, a hemiparasite:

Hemiparasite – a plant parasitic under natural conditions, but photosynthetic to some degree. Hemiparasites may obtain only water and mineral nutrients from the host plant; many obtain at least part of their organic nutrients from the host as well. (Wikipedia)

It’s the Australian native Orange Mistletoe, Dendrophthoe glabrescens, making itself very much at home on a branch of the Mussaenda. It’s not going to kill the Bankok Rose, or I’d be whipping it off there quick smart, but it is getting a free meal ticket and a place in the sun. Speaking of which, it’s supposed to flower October to January, but because of the dry weather we had at the end of last year and over Christmas, it has been retarded and is only now bursting into quite lovely and spectacular flowers. It usually prefers a bottlebrush (Callistemon spp.), I believe, but failing that has found itself a suitable alternative.

Apart from being quite pretty, it’s also an important food plant for the larvae of at least 10 species of Queensland butterflies, including the marvellously-named Golden, Black and Scarlet Jezebels and the Amethyst and Silky Jewels.

So I’ll be leaving it well alone, then.

The Gardens of Chiconia 52: Another kind of snow

There has been great excitement on the news.

Snow in Queensland! Down in the Granite Belt they’ve had snow on the high ground, in Stanthorpe. In case you were thinking I might be feeling the cold, let me reassure you that it’s nearly 1,200km /750 miles away and well below the Tropic of Capricorn. The nearest we’ve come to snow is this:

It’s called, variously, Snow on the Mountain, Snows of Kilimanjaro, Snowflake and various other chilly names. It flowers in early winter in warm climates, is deliciously honey scented and is better known as Euphorbia leucocephala. Pretty, but poisonous, and the sap is a strong irritant. Showing you our tropical ‘snow’ made me realise that there were plenty of other winter-flowering plants in the Gardens of Chiconia. They all seem to be on the hotter end of the colour spectrum; Nature thumbing her nose at the idea of winter, maybe.

In case you were wondering, I haven’t retouched any of these photos in any way. What you see is how bright they really are.

We’re off tomorrow morning bright and early, heading north to Cairns and the wet tropics of Far North Queensland. 25°C/77°F during the day, 21°C/70°F at night. Showers are only forecast for a couple of days… So, well, Miz Lizzie the caravan is stocked with sewing, movies, food, drink, cosy quilts, brand new cushy mattresses for our bunks and clothes for all eventualities of weather. I am determined to enjoy myself, and I hope the usual suspects are bracing themselves, as we plan to hit the chocolate, coffee, cheese, clotted cream, exotic fruit, curry, fish & chips, ice cream and pie outlets hard 🙂

As always, I will post Miz Lizzie Adventures as they occur. Tomorrow night we will be in Townsville, the next night in Cardwell (home of the epic mud crab sandwich), and the next night in Cairns. Although we could make Cairns in one day at a push, we’re not rushing things. This is a holiday, and it’s also Miz Lizzie’s shakedown trip after her recent restorative surgery. She’s looking good, and I’m confident all will be well.

So, I’ll see y’all soon.