On my morning walk, this unusual decorative wall drew me across the road for a closer look. It looked intentional, with the defined cut-off line at the top.
But in fact it was not made by man, but by Nature. It proved to a most painterly smattering of lichens, opportunistically taking over a stretch of black shadecloth.
Up close, the lichen was both pretty and delicately varied, the shadecloth host giving it the effect of paint on canvas.
Further along the road, different lichen had ‘painted’ just four of a whole fence of timber palings. What did they have that the others didn’t?
Of course we are most used to seeing lichen on trees, as here on the south side of a palm tree in that same street.
Lichen is not a parasite, so it does not harm the trees.
Lichens are formed from a symbiotic relationship between two organisms — fungus and algae. The fungus grows on the tree and can collect moisture, which the algae needs. The algae, in return, can create food from the energy of the sun, which feeds the fungus.
Being confined to home doesn’t mean life is less interesting. You just have to look more.
Remember to go outside before dinner to see is there’s a sunset; autumn is a great time for sky spectacles!
And in the mornings, check out what the spiders have been up to overnight. This major engineering feat on my deck looked even more impressive when only half-lit; how was it hanging there?!
And look down.
Amongst the dull leaf litter this vibrant little Stinkhorn fungus ventures up to see what the weather is doing. It’s one of the stinkhorn family and apparently smells like rotting meat or sewage.
Often found as a solitary specimen, it is Phallus rubicundus. Can’t imagine why…
And while looking down, I was surprised to see this decorative pair remaining in place like statues, sunning themselves together even as I walked past several times, quite close.
Eastern Water Skinks, they are cherished residents here in town. Burnished bronze and gold and chocolate, with such delicate fingers and toes I fear for them — I’d like to think they know they are safe here. No need to bolt for cover when I appear…
I planted this lilac Buddleia (aka Butterfly Bush) for obvious reasons – its flowers are beautiful and butterflies love them.
It is attracting at least four varieties that I have seen, the most stunning being the Blue Triangle (Graphium sarpedon choredon).
One of the Swallowtail family (Papilionidae), it keeps its wings up and continually vibrates them when feeding on the flowers. This habit, plus the fact that it also flits fast and frequently from one branch of blossoms to another branch, makes it very hard to capture by photograph.
Like the White-headed Pigeons, these butterflies have adapted to favour the introduced and extremely rampant Camphor Laurel trees.
The butterflies visit singly but the fungi have not got the social distancing message yet. Dozens of tiny brown ones have boldly squeezed up in clusters this morning. I know they will turn black and ‘dissolve’ by tomorrow.
I can relate to that: pop up, take a look at the crazy world we are in, and say ‘No thanks!’
And speaking of bold overcrowding and defiance of restrictions for their own good, those small cinnamon-dusted drumsticks of last week are now full-blown.
As they fight for space, they push into and on top of each other, breaking bits off and distorting their smooth umbrella tops.
When they too disappear, what new surprises will await me on my morning garden forays?
After the long drought, we have taken on tropical storms, with rain most days. Plant growth is rampant, and the lawn mower has come out of its summer/autumn/winter retirement.
But amongst all the green I spot a flash of colour in the grass. Yellow.
Close up, it resembles several blobs of crumbed, artificially yellow battered takeaway food! But the strands of slime give it away: the first slime mould of 2020 in my yard.
This one looks like the ’Dog’s Vomit’ slime mould.
If you haven’t struck such an oddity before, this is one of a very strange and long misunderstood group of organisms (Fuligo). While no longer classed with fungi, they are included in my Fungi field guide (by A.M.Young).
It tells me they can produce cells that can ‘move about actively and ingest food rather like an amoeba. This cell feeds and reproduces by simple fission until there are perhaps thousands of daughter cells. A chemical signal then causes these cells to combine and form the fruiting structure…’.
I always find them slightly creepy.
My book says this one’s common name is Flowers of Tan, but Dog’s Vomit is much more apt.
Several days later the yellow has become a greyish mauve; now more likely to be mistaken for dried dog’s turds…
But it is not the only slimy visitor after the rain. In a much-horse-manured garden bed, crisp white snow crystals cluster and clump over a stem of my grapevine, again the slimy threads giving it away.
Others transform horse poo into snowballs. Or I could go with the food analogy and say powdered sugar…
An older one is already less snowy and within days they are all a less notable brown. Toasted desiccated coconut?
No wonder I continue to be astonished at the intricacies and varieties that Nature holds, and sometimes shows, especially the ephemeral ones. I need another lifetime to discover more of them…
Arranged like a tableau on stage, these fungi glowed at me from the gloom of the Rainforest Walk in the Australian Native Botanical Gardens in Canberra. Unsurprisingly, the climate of Canberra is not great for rainforest plants, so frequent misting is needed to keep plants happy.
Waiting until a break in misting episodes seemed sensible, pretty as it was.
I walked alongside the little stream, and was astonished by these giant strappy plants. A little further on, I found the name peg: their common name is Stream Lilies! Or more properly, the rather ugly Helmholtzia glaberimma.
Native to New South Wales and Queensland rainforests, they can apparently grow up to two metres high.
The misting left the spiderwebs as beautifully bejewelled as dew can. The ‘stump’ of a tree fern here provided the perfect framework for the diamond-hung strands.
Other less-ambitious spiders took advantage of even the low ground covers, with hundreds of ultra fine mini nets.
Older tree fern trunks, with their many broken-off leaf bases, were home to a stunning variety of life — unidentified, unimagined, but applauded.
And it seems fitting to end as I began, with fungi, always treasure to be sought on rainforest floors. This sole flower-like specimen of brassy gold was yet so well camouflaged I might have missed it. Again, I applaud.
With rain every few days and humidity almost liquid — or it is on my person! — fungi are thriving. Nothing spectacular or colourful, some rather shy and delicate, but each different in an unassuming way.
And the large colony amongst my raised garden beds is still renewing itself, growing larger and more fleshy each time.
I love flowers and foliage, but fungi are more fascinating!
Rainforests are often majestic and always green worlds of their own. Dorrigo National Park has a two-hour walk that takes you through such a world.
While focal points like the Falls are spectacular, it’s the details along the way that fascinate me.
Conical hanging birds’ nests? Or accidentally arranged lichen?
Vines reach for the light way above, and lichen hitches a ride on most things, decorating bark to green furriness.
Different lichens decorate in different ways, here trailing like delicate green feather boas.
This walk is on a steep hillside, where the very large trees need all the earth hold they can get, so buttresses are common, but not often as narrow as these.
The bark of the tree varieties is interesting enough, but some bore strange markings like moon craters or excrescences like foetal creatures.
Fascinating details that I wanted a guide to quiz.
I saw many more varieties but could not photograph them as halfway round the walk I was caught in a thunderstorm, with heavy rain and stinging hail. I had to stow the camera in my bag and don the emergency plastic poncho. The camera survived the long wet trip back, my boots and trousers and the poncho didn’t.
On stumps of felled or fallen trees and logs from such, this last week of rain has brought forth a cornucopia of fungi blooms of the strangest shapes. These ones look more like tiny shells and amber bluebottles.
Others have the more expected ‘ear’ shape, when not being bubbles, so I can only assume that they are Auricularia Sp. 1; definitely one of the ‘jelly’ fungi.
Yet others are so discoloured and distorted that they look like something regurgitated.
On a similar log in my mini rainforest these more ‘ordinary’ white fungi are what caught my distant eye in the first place.
They are tough and solid, with tiny pores underneath, and also appear to have bubble babies. However, I wasn’t able to identify what they are called.
Not on wood but in the leaf litter was this cute little glistening orange cup, that I think is Amanita xanthocephala.
I find it astonishing that my village backyard just keeps producing surprise treats for the observant eye.