Casuarina honey

For about a week I have had a constant hum in my ears. Given I was recently diagnosed with moderate hearing loss, nothing would surprise me.

But then a visitor heard it too, and sensibly wondered where the bees were. Not many plants are flowering right now, so I was at a loss.

Until I really listened to where the humming was coming from — the large Casuarina on the bank behind the house. Too high for me to see its flowers without the camera’s magnification; and they don’t look much like flowers anyway. The tree just looked a bit rusty from afar.


But on going closer, this big She-oak is covered in golden flowers, its branches visibly vibrating with hundreds of busy bees. I would not have imagined these tiny flowers to be so bee-beloved.

I am always grateful that such a majestic tree survives within my watching area.


Black Cockatoos love its nuts/seeds, all the bigger birds love to perch in its branches and sing, and now I know that bees love it too. Somewhere there is a hive full of Casuarina honey.

Sandstone surprises

Visiting the Brisbane Water National Park on the NSW Central Coast, I was struck by the determination of trees to survive.


The acrobatic and colourful trunks of Angophora Costata (Sydney Blue Gum) caught my eye most, forcing their way out between slabs of sandstone and twisting their way upwards as needed — or fancied.


I was surprised to see some wildflowers out, but they couldn’t compete with the spectacular Banksias, glowing amber in their rugged trees like lit lanterns, fringed with shining burgundy.


Nearer the ground the dainty bells of Correa and the pale sunlit puffs of Wattle caught my eye. Both had spiky hard leaves, as befits the tough rocky environment in which they grew.


At the base of the gully a creek had sculpted the sandstone over eons, the damp shade fostering a whole other world of plants.


Whether ghostly green with moss, sheltering ti-tree liquid gold, or striking white with lichen, lapping at the edges, the rocks were wonderful.


Wet or dry, it was the details that drew me: the bright leaves trapped against the rock like flies in amber, or the bush-fire limned bark flakes of an old tree up the slope, badges of survival.

Low life, high life

In the four months I have been here I had not seen a snake of any sort.

Given how many red-bellied blacks I shared my last mountain home with, and that here is equally wet and welcoming for such inhabitants, I have been on the alert, expecting to see their coastal cousins in the back garden or cruising across the grass.

Last week, I pulled up in the ute to see this handsome python digesting its lump of lunch in the sun. I was very pleased that this was my introduction to the local reptilia, and I am still on the lookout for that telltale flash of shiny black.


There is a tall grandfather casuarina on the bank above the house, and from here the magpies have a fine view and a fine stage for projecting their glorious songs each morning.


Now that the baby maggie’s most unmusical whinging has ceased, the adults’ carolling is uninterrupted, a joyful accompaniment to my breakfast.

Melaleuca magic

On my new place, in typical farm fashion, trees have mostly only been left around the edges, but in the middle of the bare creekflat there are three big trees.

The kookaburras like them as good vantage points from which to spot their lunch. I like them because I can watch them from my verandah — and hence all the drama that attends bird life, such as Willy Wagtails divebombing Kookas to stop them coming any closer to their nest.

But also because I just like trees.


Now the two large and arching Melaleucas (stypheloides, I think) are a mass of blossoms: tiny white bottle brushes held in place with little green stars.


Bees like them too.

I hope this means they will set many seeds to raise many more Melaleucas to plant. Imagine a creekflat of these beauties!

Of bulbs and birches

After a few days of welcome (if inconvenient for moving house) heavy rain, the bare trees are glistening in the morning sunlight, and the bulbs beneath them are struggling to lift their heads.


I love winter birches: for their bark and the lichen it attracts, for their bobbles and fine branchlets and twigs and the raindrops they cherish.


Some of the fat snowflake clumps are flattened…


…the first shy daffodil heads are about to unfold, and the fallen autumn leaves escape the wind by huddling amongst new iris leaves.

Rosey roosts

The Crimson Rosellas are the main parrot here, but they aren’t always in as much evidence as they’ve been lately.

A group of five has been hanging about together, perching close by each other, if not all in the same tree. 

Three were quite enough for this young Red Cedar, especially as the recent shower was still weighing down its leaves. The others had to make do with the floppy vegie garden fence top.


A few grey days later I spotted a group of birds silhouetted in the leafless Nashi tree. Hard to see just what sort of birds, but there were five…


From a different aspect, with less contrasting backlighting, they were indeed the Rosella gang. I wonder where they’ll turn up next…

Small extras

Walking around the yard this sparkling autumn morning, I thought back over the many hopeful plantings over 35 years. I planted hundreds more than now exist, gone either from unsuitability or passionate macropod pruning, but I kept records.

I love how big many trees have grown but I also found myself noting the many small extra benefits that they offer.

This Lilli-Pilli (above) protects the bird bath so the small birds are game to land and stay to drink; they can scoot off into the dense leafiness and hide if need be.


This avocado was grown from a seed I saved. It has flowered — finally and fewly — and I watched the sole fruit jealously, daily. But of course it went; a bird or possum got it first. However, I love that tree, culinarily unproductive as it may be, because of its growth habit.


Its branches grow in a downwards arching manner — ‘pendulous’ or hanging — so standing inside its canopy is like being under a leafy umbrella.


And they can be nurseries, in which butterflies can lay eggs or birds build nests. The citrus trees especially seem favoured.


Of course they provide shade, perhaps none so conveniently as the two spreading Nashi trees outside my ‘bunkhouse’. A perfect spot for visitors to sit and listen to the silence.


And for myself, they continue to offer not only beauty in each season, but surprises. I adore my Liquid Amber, mightily grown back after the 2002 fires. I’ve featured its bright autumn glow in many posts.

Awesome, ancient Kaputar

Mt Kaputar National Park in north-west New South Wales is rugged, beautiful, and awe-inspiring. The mainly agricultural countryside here is very flat, so the Nandewar Range and its volcanic rock sentinels are distinctive — and old. It’s estimated that the volcanic activity that formed them was 17-21 million years ago.

At 1510 metres above sea level, Mt Kaputar itself has been calling to me for years as I drove along the Kamilaroi Highway to Narrabri or Moree for book talks.

I never had time to turn off for a few hours to answer that call.

But last week, in between protest actions against Santos CSG project in the Pilliga Forest,  I made time. My Gypsy camper and I wound our way up easily — caravans aren’t allowed — and spent two nights at the highest camping area, Dawsons Springs. I had to work, so only did a few walks one morning — but I’ll be back.

This is quite swish camping for $5 a night, with hot showers and flushing loos, but the site still feels high and wild, replete with browsing Eastern Grey kangaroos and many birds.



Snow gums and silvertop stringybarks arch over soft mounds of Poa tussock grass and many small flowering herbs. I can’t decide whether to look up or down!


There are an incredible number of fallen trees thoughout the forest, uprooted and broken. I can only imagine how strong the winds must blow at this height — and how fiercely this would all burn.


From open forest to strange rocky heaths, this place has a spine-tingling presence and great cultural significance to the Gomeroi people.  When I return, I hope to be guided by them, as elder Alf Priestley, whom I re-met at the Pilliga Ten Mile Dam camp, has offered to do.


As always, I am fascinated by the details of shape and colour, of natural artistry, from lichens to bark…


My pleasure was only spoiled by the reality check of what I saw from one lookout. In an echo of the Hunter, the overburden scar of the Boggabri mine near Leard Forest was clearly visible. How much bigger will this be if the nearby Maules Creek mine goes ahead?


Two weeks ago I was preparing my place for bushfires; days were hot, the little dam had dropped to such an unprecedentedly low level that I was worried about the frogs and tortoises in there.


The grass was dry and unappetising and the wallabies and roos were jumping up to pull down even higher branches of my fruit trees.


Then we had about 10 inches of rain, with too-close-for-comfort thunder and lightning. The grass has greened up before my eyes.

Maybe the carpet of wallaby and roo pellets will begin to break down. The critters look rather bedraggled but they will soon dry out.


My track will be a slide event for some time as the hillsides are back to oozing water; good to see the water table replenished — and the dam.

Tree morning

It’s untypically dry here, even the short grass between the beige tussocks is brown. The air is smoky; the ever-forecast rain does not materialise.

I am mowing firebreaks, crew-cutting the tussocks and blady grass, mulching sticks and gum leaves as I go.

And I am pumping day and night (it’s a very slow but sturdy old pump) to fill my ridgetop tanks for possible fire duty.

Walking over to my springfed dam to fill the pump tank early one morning, I met the sun just coming over the ridge.

Its rays lit up the ti-trees that are now flowering most gracefully over there; they love the damp along the spring line.


As the sun rose, more of the forest began to be streaked with light and even the tussocks glowed. I thought again how much I love this blue gum forest, mostly regrowth yes, but its trees are as tall and straight and silky as their 50-60 years could make them.

They thrive here — as do I.

Awesome Bunya Mountains

I have always wanted to visit these mountains. About 100 kilometres from Toowoomba, they are home to the world’s largest stand of the ancient and mighty Bunya Pines.

Partly because I love mountains, and partly because everything about these trees is so impressive, from their football sized cones and seriously spiky leaves to the legendary feasts they provided for the indigenous people. I’d seen them in parks and around homesteads, but never ‘in the wild’.

As the Bunya Mountains National Park website says,

The Bunya Mountains are like an island surrounded by plains and cleared farming land. They are a refuge of biodiversity, harbouring ancient species, distinct plant and animal communities and more than 30 rare and threatened species.

The road up to the 1100 metre-high Park is too steep for caravans so the camping area held mainly tents and small camper trailers – and my Gypsy slide-on camper. You can see the dome-shaped Bunyas (Araucaria bidwillii) rising above the rainforest close by.

It’s an odd place, with many private alpine-style chalets and resorts up there as well as the Park.

They must be there for the cooler climate — and the wonderful walks.


I set out early the first morning. It was strange to see ‘pines’ in a rainforest, but I read that the Araucarias  were a major part of our forests in wetter times. The Bunyas are there in plenty still, with massive wrinkled elephantine feet holding them firmly as they soar out of sight.


They do their part in bearing the rich diversity of plants, of ferns and lichens and orchids.

There would have been plenty of Hoop Pines (Araucaria cunninghami) here too but I only saw a few, as they and the red cedars were most desired by the timbercutters. Hoop pines are not as round-topped, and their leaves and small seeds are not to be feared. Apparently they take their name from their hoop-shaped bark sheddings.



It was a beautiful rainforest walk, past ferns and vines, a canopy of mysterious trees silhouetted against a bright sky, and magnificently efficient and slightly scary strangler figs, punctuated by creeks and small waterfalls running into pebble-bottomed pools. Because it was early, I had its green-lit peace all to myself.

Seeds of promise

The leaves have fallen from many of my garden trees and vines, so the seed pods are spectacularly visible. This White Cedar tree is a rare deciduous native, Melia Azedarach, often called Persian Lilac for its flowers, but also Bead Tree, for the now-obvious reason. They are indigenous to my region, amongst many others.


I have just pruned back the vines on my verandah, to reduce the build up of woody old growth (for bushfires), to promote new growth in spring, and to let in maximum winter sunlight. Before I did, I captured some of the masses of seed pods.

These are from the Chilean ‘jasmine’ (which it isn’t), Mandevilla laxa, whose scented white trumpet flowers produce hundreds of paired long skinny seed pods, now ‘popped’ apart and bursting with tiny feather-winged seed darts. They obligingly self-propagate.


These papery extra-terrestrials clawing skywards are from my very tall white lilliums.


The fat velvety brown pendulums of the White Wisteria do the opposite, hanging heavy, pointing to the soil where they want to land and grow. But these I will collect and attempt to aid the process in my glasshouse. The flowers are so ethereal I want more.