“A small graceful tree to 15m high, but sometimes much taller”NOPS p.38
During the big storms a few weeks ago I was lying in bed at around 11pm just about to ready to go to sleep when a loud and prolonged cracking sound started coming from just outside the bedroom. I knew right away that the large Sydney Peppermint gum in the back yard was falling over! I jumped up and tried to get to the window but it was pitch dark and storming, I couldn’t a thing. As the cracking continued I was terrified it was going to fall on the house, luckily it went the other way and ended up taking out a sizeable swath of bush and other trees as it came down. Phew!
The Sydney Peppermint gum is a small to medium tree of up to 15m but can be much taller in the right conditions. It’s trunk is covered by rough grey bark that detaches from the tree and hangs in strips as it reaches higher up revealing smooth white upper branches. The leaves have a strong peppermint smell especially when crushed. The Sydney Peppermint was the first Australian plant to be used medicinally by Europeans. It’s oil was found by a surgeon on the first fleet to be “more efficacious in removing all cholicky complaints than of the English Peppermint”
As the name suggests Sydney Peppermint gum is found in the Sydney basin, it ranges from the extreme south NSW coast up to the central north coast. Flowering time is early summer.
It was a shame to loose the tree, it was a large feature of the back yard. The pair of kookaburras who used to sit in it came and sat on the toppled tree no doubt wondering what had happened.
I’ve updated the climate pages with the latest data from the BOM.
If this summer felt long and hot to you then you’re right. The graph shows the average summer high is the hottest it’s been for 5 years. Looking at the 1 year averages the cooling trend that started in 2014 has reversed and we’re warming again. As always the longer term 30 year averages still show a very clear and consistent warming trend. The warming acceleration that started in 2013 is continuing.
Here’s an animal that every Australian knows. The Blue Tongue Lizard is common in bushland and suburban backyards of Eastern Australia, but even the familiar has the capacity to surprise as I found out with this one!
The family was visiting friends in Gerringong 1 1/2 hrs south of Sydney. The kids came running in from the back yard saying they they had found a snake. We went out to take a look and found what was clearly a Blue Tongue Lizard half obscured under the back step. It’s legs were tucked under it’s body so it’s understandable that the kids though it was a snake. There was a small crowd of us watching it when it started to slowly lumber out of it’s hiding spot. The lizard seemed quite fat even for a Blue Tongue which I commented on, then all of a sudden a fully formed baby lizard popped out from the underside! It was a mum giving birth!
I’d assumed that Blue Tongues laid eggs like almost every other reptile, but a quick search confirmed that they, along with Red Bellied Black Snakes do indeed give birth to live young.
With enough food Blue Tongues are able to breed every year. They have litters of around 10 young at a time, but have been known have up to 25. Once born the young are independent and will disperse within a few days.
There are a number of species of Blue Tongue, they are found in Australia, New Guinea and Indonesia. I believe this one was a Eastern Blue-tongued Lizard. Eastern Blue-tongued Lizards are found within a few hundred Kms of the coast all around North, South and Eastern Australia. They are a silvery colour with dark banding across their body and tail, they can grow up to 60cm. If handled roughly by the tail Blue Tongues may drop their tail. The tail stump rapidly heals and a shorter regenerated tail grows back after a while. It looks like this has happened to the mum in the picture.
I was working in the yard when Jess called me over to see a beetle she’d found. I was a bit reluctant to stop work but she convinced me “c’mon dad, you’ll love it!” She was right. With a quick search this beetle was simple to identify as a Fiddler Beetle.
Fiddler Beetles are native to Australia, they are found all the way up and down the east coast. The first thing you notice about them is their appearance, they are black with a striking pattern of yellow or green markings that look like they have been applied as part of a carefully thought out tribal design. The one Jess found had green markings. Not sure if it was male or female, often in nature the males are more visually striking than the ladies but I couldn’t find any sources that distinguished between the two in appearance. Fiddler beetles live in heathland, eucalypt forest and suburban parks and yards. They lay their eggs in rotting logs or damp soil. After hatching the grubs eat wood until they are ready to emerge as adult beetles in the early summer.