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.
Stop the presses right. Hah, well I still think this is pretty cool. The last time the cycad sprouted new leaves was almost 4 years ago.
Cycads are ancient plants that in some ways resemble palms or tree ferns. They have tough evergreen leaves that grow in a fan like arrangement from a single central trunk. Cycads are slow growing and can live for a long time, up to 1000 years. They are thought to have been much more widespread in the ancient past 100’s of millions of years ago, today they are still found around the world in tropical and subtropical climates.
The new shoots emerge at the top of the plant like a ring of spears from the central ball of coralloid roots. They grow very rapidly, up to 20cm per day for the first week after they emerge. As the spears emerge the leaves are each individually coiled up tight in intricate spirals. At first the leaves are very soft and flexible, and the undersides are covered with a film of fine hair/fur. Once they unroll the hair is lost and the leaves become stiff and hard.
I’m not sure what is behind the strategy of waiting years then growing all the leaves at once. Not long after the last time the leaves grew there was a scorcher of a day that burnt some of the new leaves leaving them dead and brown. That cant be good when new leaf growth is years away.