Native Plants for a Cottage Garden 18/08/2018
Angophora hispida and European honey bee
Photographer: AMBS © Australian Museum Business Services
Blue banded bee Amegilla (Zonamegilla) cingulata
(Hymenoptera: Apidae: Apinae: Anthophorini)
Many plants depend on animals, particularly insects, to transfer pollen as they forage. Plants attract pollinators in various ways, by offering pollen or nectar meals and by guiding them to the flower using scent and visual cues. This has resulted in strong relationships between plants and the animals that pollinate them (Australian Museum, 2018). However, a key scientific question that is not easily answered is ‘What pollinates what?’. That question has engaged Michael over the last few decades. It is estimated that there is some degree of specialisation in ~8% of bees. One intriguing example is that of ‘inside out flowers’ such as figs where the male wasps live inside the figs and the female sometimes rips off her wings before visiting the male and incidentally pollinating the fig flower.
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Pollinator on Xanthorrhoea macronema
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Temptation for a Pollinator: Bearded Orchid
NATIVE PLANT FOODS, THEIR CULTIVATION AND USES
At our meeting on 24th February 2018 we had a great talk by Narelle Happ on native plant foods. As well as being a good communicator, Narelle speaks from experience. She grows almost all the plants she describes, and regularly uses them in her kitchen when feeding her family. As well as plant photos, Narelle illustrated her talk with pot specimens from Sydney Wildflower Nursery, which were sale at afternoon tea. She also brought some delicious food for us to try. It was a warm day and we were greeted with a refreshing lemon cordial flavoured with Backhousia citriodora. At afternoon tea there were muffins made from wattle seed, and saltbush damper with lillypilly jam. During the talk Narelle handed around some delicious Strawberry Gum Bliss Balls, chocolate balls flavoured with ground Eucalyptus olida leaves.
In her talk Narelle divided plants by size, trees shrubs and smaller plants including herbs. We learned that only 6 species of Acacia can be eaten, but 2 of them grow locally, Acacia longifolia and A. sophorae (or alternatively Acacia longifolia ssp sophorae). The latter version is much smaller so better suited to suburban gardens. The seeds are roasted and ground into flour. Many food plants are from our rainforests, and happily grow in Sydney’s humid summers, with extra water in dry times. Quite a number of rainforest fruits are edible and delicious. Many grow in shade so can be planted as understory plants. Some are small trees, but Narelle advocates pruning to ensure that fruit can be easily reached. We learned that the leaves of the common Prostanthera species, rotundifolia and incisa, yield replacement herbs for thyme and sage respectively. Some Tasmannia species are called Pepper Berry, but the leaves have a much stronger pepper level than the berries. At the other end of the spectrum were the small plants like Mentha, the native mint, and the tubers of the Chocolate Lilly and Bulbine species. Narelle has now sent notes to distribute to members by email.
All in all this was a great talk.
Photo: Red berries of Linospadix monostachyos (Walking Stick Palm)