about this blog



I started this blog in 2008. It started mainly as a way of tracking the evolution of my dry garden, and that led to an interest in photography and in the creatures that live in the garden. It's still about the garden and wildlife, but now my passion is thinking about how we humans can learn to co-exist with wild animals and plants, especially in urban areas.

Friday, 27 February 2015

an acacia story and a spider story


The leaves on Acacias are not really leaves at all. They're called phyllodes, and they're actually flattened leaf stalks that function like leaves. At the base of the phyllode is a gland, a raised bump that is a source of nectar all the year round. For this reason Acacias are superb habitat plants for the garden. I often see ants and flies moving around on the trees.



Indigenous Acacias that I recently planted are A. implexa, or Lightwood. The immature specimens have indented fern-like leaves. As the plant matures the divisions close up and become single long, curved phyllodes.





Most gardeners I know don't like it when insects or other wildlife chew the leaves of their garden specimens. They think it spoils the look. I feel happy when I see holes in leaves, happy that I have helped provide food and shelter for a few of the the fascinating non human creatures with which we share this planet. I just wish I could watch them more often while they feed.


This photo is blurry, but if you look closely you can see the back legs of an ant feeding on nectar, and you can see little drops of nectar at the end of the branch.


These leaves offer not only food but a place to lay eggs.


One day an intriguing small hole appeared near a step leading from the house to the garden. When I photographed it I glimpsed something with red legs inside. The photo is unclear, but clear enough to enable me to identify the inhabitant of the hole as a Spotted Ground Spider.


It's far from an exact id. According to the Museum of Victoria website  Spotted ground spiders Habronestes and Storena are two genera of spiders in the family Zodariidae. Within these genera there are 60 species of spiders. So this spider is one of 60 species!


Photographer: S Humphreys © Australian Museum

Spotted ground spiders hunt ground dwelling insects. They don't build webs like some other spiders do. Male spiders are found in leaf litter, under logs or rocks or even inside houses, hunting for insects and female Spotted Ground Spiders. The female is rarely found far from the nest, so I think this spider is probably female. In this case, the hole is the entrance to the nest, where there will be an egg sac with 50 eggs inside. I wish the spiderlings well and hope they make themselves at home in the garden.

Like many spiders, little is known about the biology of Spotted ground spiders. They vary in size from 6 to 20 mm long.  At ground level the hole is about 5mm in diameter. How large it is underground, and what it looks like from the inside can only be imagined. I remember reading somewhere that we know more about the deepest seas than we do about the world under our feet.

I'm linking this post to the Lessons Learned meme in the blog, Plant Postings. There's heaps to learn about the flora and fauna in the garden, and this post shares some of the information I am learning. Botany and Zoology lessons! If you check out Beth's blog you'll find lots of other lessons gardeners have learned in the last three months.

20 comments:

  1. Interesting read, Sue. I find spiders fascinating. I love the intricate patterns of the webs that many spiders weave. This summer I'm going to try my hand at photographing interesting webs.
    Happy gardening,
    Jane

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    1. Good luck with that, I love photographing webs but find it incredibly difficult.

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  2. I enjoyed that very much. How nice to see the positives in our garden wildlife. Thank you.

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    1. When the garden's not looking as beautiful and full as I would like, seeing spiders and birds etc. attracted to it, makes everything worthwhile. So pleased you enjoyed the post Janna.

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  3. Good post Catmint, it's always interesting to learn about the wildlife that lives in our gardens. I feel that the more plants are nibbled, the more butterflies we will have later in the year!

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    1. Hi Pauline, I love the way you put that last sentence. We can't have everything and like you I prefer the nibbles and the butterflies.

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  4. I knew about the phyllodes, but not about the nectar! Great post.

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    1. HI Amy, I didn't know about the nectar, either. I'm doing a project that involves learning about indigenous plants, so I'll be sharing more of what I'm learning. I'm pleased you liked the post.

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  5. Wow Sue that is quite a spider. I am not familiar with acacia although I have heard of them, but how fascinating that , 'As the plant matures the divisions close up and become single long, curved phyllodes'. Amazing!

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    1. Hi Donna, The more I notice and learn, the more I am finding the natural world fascinating and amazing. Most but not all acacias (wattles) are native to Australia although they grow in many places and in some places have become terrible weeds.

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    2. delicate little leaves growing up into thick leathery ones - are my prompt to pull weeds. It's instinctive now. Does make the little plants easy to ID!

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    3. one person's weed is another person's delight. Context is all.

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  6. Fascinating, and you have good eyes to spot those red legs in that little hole! The land beneath our feet really does contain another world, though it is deeply interconnected with our own.

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    1. It was only in the photo that I saw clearly. That sort of photography I find incredibly challenging. At one stage the spider emerged but before I could move retreated back into the hole.

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  7. Hi Sue, love your story about the spider. I'm welcoming the Golden Orb Weavers after worrying that they weren't around all summer. They must have been hiding because there's a couple of very big ones, not in the most convenient place, so I'll have to move them for their own safety. I think of them as my Golden Girls and I'm very protective of them.
    I was very interested in your acacia story, I'd seen the different 'leaves' but never thought about why they changed. Now I know, so thank you.

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    1. I often wish I could train or persuade spiders not to build their webs over the paths. But like children, they just do what they want to do ... (lol). I hope you manage to keep protecting your Golden Girls. Your comment makes me think I'd like to reread Charlotte's Web.

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  8. One off the nice things about blogging is learning new things. From other people's blogs and from taking photographs and doing research for a new blogpost. I never knew about the acacia leaves.

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    1. I agree, Denise, blogging's a great way to learn new things. And provides an incentive to learn new things too.

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  9. Thanks for joining in, Sue! I agree about observing the slightly chewed leaves. I learned so much from this post--about the Acacia phyllodes and the spotted ground spider. Great photos, too! I especially enjoyed the angle on that first photo.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the post - yours is a great meme, Beth!

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