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."
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!
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!