These little guys are always crawling about somewhere in the garden. I’d never looked them up before and had always assumed it was a local centipede but after some searching I think it’s the introduced species known as the Portuguese millipede.
I’d assumed it was a centipede because it didn’t have a huge number of legs. Generally millipedes have more legs than centipedes but despite the names centipedes don’t have exactly 100 legs and millipedes don’t have 1000. One of the ways you can tell what animal you’re dealing with is that centipedes have only one pair of legs per body segment while millipedes have two.
Portuguese millipedes were accidentally introduced to Australia in 1953 possibly in ship ballast. They may have been introduced on several separate occasions, they are now spread over large parts of South and Eastern Australia, they are also found around Perth in Western Australia. They have no known predators and can breed to plague proportions. In 2002 50 trains between Melbourne and Ballarat had to be cancelled or delayed because Portuguese millipedes on the rails had been squashed into a gooey paste that prevented the trains from getting traction!
I found this one in the bush just behind our house. While I was taking the photo I got bitten on the toe by a bulldog ant. Quite painful! It started with a mild sting then over 30 minutes became a strong dull ache over my whole toe. I can’t feel any pain now but from past experience it will flair up again tomorrow.
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.