Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas in the Bush

What does the WA bush have to offer this festive season?

Firstly, the WA Christmas Tree has the most spectacular flowers of any plant, they being an iridescent orange. It grows to around 6-10 metres and similar in width, with branches spreading outward almost horizontally and except for the tips, are usually bare of any foliage, giving it a clean open structure. Most years, only the larger trees will flower around the Christmas/New Year period, but all flower profusely after a bushfire, when the brilliant orange flowers are contrasted against the blackened trunks.

Nuytsia floribunda the WA Christmas Tree

This Christmas Tree is no ordinary tree. It is a mistletoe! But instead of growing on the branches of host plants, this tree sends out very long roots (to 100 metres), seeking the roots of potential hosts. When it encounters one, it produces a hard white calcium-like ring with a sharp inner edge, once the root is encircled, it cuts into the outer layer to where the sap can be reached and plundered. This feature makes the Christmas Tree very unpopular near fruit orchards, or where small-unprotected plastic water pipes, electric cables or telephone lines have been buried, as these discs will also cut through them, requiring their replacement.

Found in sandy soils from Israelite Bay (200 km east of Esperance) to the Murchison River (500 km north of Perth), it is very common and can even be seen providing shade in grazing paddocks with nothing other than grass and sedges (on which to parasitise). This habitat (devoid of other trees and shrubs) indicates it is not fully parasitic, but can survive for prolonged periods without the need to access the roots of other large plant species.

Its name is Nuytsia floribunda, from the mistletoe family Loranthaceae, but is better known as the WA Christmas Tree. It is named after Pieter Nuijts from the Dutch East India Company, who visited Australia in 1627 in the ship "Gulde Zeepard."

So who else in the bush is enjoying Christmas?

How about all the little animals that believe in the true spirit of Christmas. Santa and the receiving of gifts!

You would think with such a beautiful Christmas Tree, there would be no need for further decoration, but some still try. Here is Froggie the Tree-frog practicing hard to be the tree-fairy.

And Mr T. the Tiger Snake arranging more decorations. At least when he does it, there are fewer arguments.

Shorty the Marauding Katydid a Metaballus sp. is a wildlife 'hippy' who after a session on the grass, wishes everybody love.

As for Santa; Storena the Zodariidae Spider is always a good sport and takes on the role. Mind you she has the advantages of being red and having a big soft tummy, she can also spin the required white wig and beard. Plus nobody has ever fallen off her knee!

Mrs Western Spinebill did her bit, by making a strong toy sack for Santa.

But who is going to pull the sleigh? Fortunately the Crickets bounded in at the last minute. 'Crikey the Cricket' is playing Rudolf the Green-nose Reindeer and is just rearing to go.

However, there are always last minute problems as 'Wicket the Cricket,' stubbornly refused to be called Rudolf the Brown-nose Reindeer.

And what is all this preparation in aid of? The big doe-eyed little ones of course!

So when you go into the bush this Christmas, remember there are lots of little critters that call it home. Therefore be good and watch your step!


Anonymous said...

Hey there Jack,

Followed the link from Scribbly to have a look and let you know I now have my own blog at

Terrific pics once again, your close-up work in particular I really like the one of the grasshopper with water in background, nice harmony of colours and a well composed shot (I'm no expert 'though).

Two questions I have for you

What type of camera are you using?

What method due you use to up-load to this blog?


Geoff_D said...

That certainly is a spectacular blooming. I can think of nothing that matches it over here on the east coast at this time of year.

Esperance Blog said...

Hi Peter, thanks for your interest and pleased you like it.

My camera equipment is very modest and is detailed in my profile above. Being in a place with spectacular flora and fauna helps, plus living in the bush I probably have more opportunity to photograph things.

Uploading to this blog using blogspot is very easy requiring little experience, it just needs a little practise to overcome initial teething problems, then away you go. You simply click a button to publish.


Esperance Blog said...

Hi geoff_d,
WA certainly does have some spectacular flora, however I do miss the fern gullies over east. They are a great place to be on a hot Christmas day, particularly if your favourite color is green. ;)


Gaye said...

Jack, thank you for the bright and entertaining Christmas read.

I just love Crikey the stumpy green cricket - a comical little character indeed. Wicket the brown cricket is a fearsome critter that looks as if he could do with a bit of Christmas cheer.

And what a stunning Chrissy tree you have !

Cheers to you,

Esperance Blog said...

Hi Gaye, I'm pleased you liked it. Hope you and your wildlife have a beaut Christmas. :)