Since getting our new dog “Louie” Jess and I have been taking him for a walk around the street every morning. I find it a bit of a chore to drag myself out of bed early on these winter mornings but once up it’s been really good to spend time together. We’re both getting to know the early morning dog walking crew and it’s a great chance to look at the plants and houses along the way too.
There’s a section of the walk where the paperbark trees on the nature strip have growths of stringy silver hay like clumps of growth hanging from the branches. It’s clearly not part of the tree, but what is it?
I thought it looked like some kind of fungus or lichen, turns out it’s neither. It’s called Spanish Moss, an epiphyte flowering plant native to North, Central and South America.
Spanish Moss is not a parasite, it uses a host tree for shelter and support but it gathers it’s own water and nutrients.
The crucifix Orchid is popular among the houses in our area. It must have been fashionable at some time in past, or possibly have spread itself from a single stating point. It’s a hardy plant that has taken over large areas of the garden without any special care. It grows as dense stands to about 1.5m high. Individual plants consist of a thin bamboo like central stem with thick oval shaped leaves sprouting directly off it in an alternating pattern.
I just read that the leaves of the purple variety are edible and taste like watermelon. Well, I just tried a leaf from one of the orange ones and they taste like watermelon too! More like artificial watermelon flavour, kind of like watermelon flavoured Nerds.
The flowers are the most striking part of the plant, the varieties in our garden bloom in clusters of vivid red or orange flowers. Each individual flower has a cross shape, hence the name.
As well as seeding, the plant spreads by growing small daughter plants complete with roots from off it’s central stem. The daughter then breaks off, takes root and grows into a new plant.
I’ve removed a lot of crucifix orchid from the garden already, I’d like to get rid of most of it, thankfully the roots are shallow making it easy to pull out.
Another Crassula, this one sits right next to Crassula “Gollum” in the garden. Looking at them side by side it’s clear they are very closely related, I can imagine a single mutation caused the leaves of the Jade Plant to curl back upon themselves, and there we have the “gollum”. Evolution in action.
Crassula Gollum is a south African native that is popular nurserys. It is a small shrub growing to only 1m tall with thick spongy branches The leaves are tube shaped succulent terminating with a red tipped suction cup like structure at the tips.
The name “Gollum” is in reference to J.R.R Tolkein’s charcter from the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. I’ve also seen them refered to as “Shrek’s ears”, it’s a pretty good description.
They must be pretty hardy, the one in our garden survives well with no watering in a shallow sandy soil bed on top of a sandstone slab. Will regularly gets in behind it and breaks of a branch or two as well.