Greenwood Scrub visit in 1886 – Richard Harding

The Field Naturalists’ Section of the Royal Society visited Greenwood Scrub, on the Kelvin Grove road, on Saturday afternoon, the occasion of their fifth excursion, numerous members proceeding thither by Enoggera omnibus, and alighting at the terminus of the first stage of its outward journey. After leaving the main road and following that to the left for a few hundred yards, and having crossed and re-crossed the Enoggera Creek, the above favoured spot was reached, when the work of the club-informing all with the knowledge of the few – had already commenced. By the creek side grew a splendid example of one of our native figs (Ficus rubiginosa), its lofty branchless trunk scarcely revealing the life history of this interesting epiphytal plant. Doubtless long since the seed from which it sprang had been deposited in the mould lodged in some cavity in the branches of another forest giant which had preceded it at this spot. And as the seedling plant grew, and its supply of nourishment from this decaying vegetation was becoming insufficient for its ever increasing requirements, its roots stretched down the trunk of the tree, which supported it, and on all sides, in quest of the nourishment which the earth itself would yield As time went on these roots, at first aerial only, had coalesced to at length form a wall of solid wood which invested the parent trunk till ultimately this trunk had completely disappeared and eventually, as in this case, its leafy crown, after struggling to exist, had succumbed, giving place to the foliage of its parasite and destroyer. But what will not time the avenger accomplish ? High aloft on this stately fig tree, and as if to repeat its history is growing another allied plant of similar habit, and must it not in its turn then give place to the even finer growth of Ficus macrophylla, the Moreton Bay fig, for such this plant is. Strange, however, is this habit amongst our figs, so well repeated in all particulars by the ruddy blossomed rata of Now Zealand; but well for arboriculture is it that in neither case is this mode of 0rigin necessary for the best development of the trees of either kind. The water gum (Eugenia ventenatii) with its profusion of snow white flowers, presented a charming object growing at the foot of this huge epiphyte, and at no great distance Flindersia Schottiana, with its large pinnate dark green leaves and its extensive panicles of cream-white flowers, was equally remarkable This latter plant, too, had other attractions for the Field Naturalists. Ensconced in its ample leaves were the large chrysalids of a handsome Bombyx moth, and flitting amongst its blossoms were the honey-loving Phyllotocus navicularia – beetles whose elytra presented the beautiful combination of orange brown and steel blue, and which, in this case – by effecting cross fertilisation – were performing such service as would enable this handsome tree to perpetuate its kind. The members, however, were soon reminded of the baneful influence of insects of this class. For though what more exquisite in appearance than that active little scaruboid (Diphucephala aurolimbata), whose whole upper surface is of glistening green, merging on either side into a bronze yellow, and whose appearance is enhanced by these colours being reflected from a delicately sculptured surface, what more destructive, as was noted on this occasion, to the foliage of that most ornamental tree, Alphitonia excelsa. Its ally, too – though not in beauty – the little brown chafer (Liparotus fulvohirtus) was numerous on the higher ground about the succulent foliage of the young spotted gums, which it was first demolishing in illustration, as it were, of the probable effect of a vast swarm, such as sometimes characterises the presence of these pests, in checking the growth of similar trees of still larger growth. Yet another destructive insect was obtained, and one remarkable too amongst the numerous members of the family to which it belonged, namely that of the weevils, in the possession of conspicuous colours. This was the mottled glistening green and shining black beetle, Chrysolophus spectabilis, which, whilst affecting other members of the same genus, attacks especially the tannin-yielding Acacia decurrens. This acacia, popularly known as the black wattle, was amongst those trees now in flower.

Greenwood Scrub, otherwise known as the Three-mile Scrub, once bore the reputation of being a rich field for the naturalist – a character which it now only partially sustains, and in floral wealth alone it would vie then with any scrub in the colony. Now what portion has not given way to the axe of the selector has been closed in great measure to the tourist by the abundant growth of the introduced Lantana, which has completely altered the original physiognomy due to the vegetation, whilst a rich fauna, has, as far as the birds were concerned, been so affected by indiscriminate shooting, that scarcely a member of the feathered tribe can now be met with. Indeed the Field naturalists were fortunate in noticing here the coach-whip (Psophodes crepitans), the green oriole (Mimeta viridis) the black campophaga (Campophaga Jardinii), Lewin’s honey eater (Pilotis Lewinii), and that little wren like bird, Gerygone magnirostris, in the scrub itself , whilst about the creek the white breasted kingfisher (Halcyon Macleayi), and on its border the little red-head finch (Estrila modesta) still held their own. Amongst plants several kinds of orchids were yet to be procured, and the members of the club obtained the following species of these plants, though none of them were observed to be in flower -Oberonia iridifolia, Dendrobium tetragonum, D gracilicaule, D monophyllum, D teretifolium, D mortii, Bulbopbyllum aurantiacum, Sarcochilus divitiflorus, and Galeola foliata. The last mentioned orchid being, its name notwithstanding, a leafless climber, having in the place of leaves large leaf like bracts. The important natural order of plants, the Euphorbiacea, seemed well represented in and about Greenwood Scrub. Dwellers in Brisbane are familiar with this order in the castor oil plant, the Poinsettia, with its scarlet or white bracts, the asthma herb, and numerous other allied plants All of these have, as a common character, their flowers distinctly male and female. Amongst the most conspicuous of those noticed on this occasion were Hemicyclia Australasica and Alchornca ilicifolia, both of which were in fruit, the latter, throughout all stages of growth, and the former when in a young state only, having leaves armed with spines as in the European holly. The Alchornea is perhaps better known in Europe than in Australia, where it is indigenous. There it has long been familiar in botanical gardens under the name of Coelebogyne. It is perhaps the most remarkable example of parthenogenesis, or virgin reproduction amongst flowering plants. Examples of this shrub, bearing female flowers only, in which form alone the Alchornca has for a long time been known in Europe, have been unquestionably found competent of themselves to produce fertile seeds and these have in their turn given rise to individuals perfectly resembling the mother plant. This exceptional phenomenon has en- gaged the attention of many scientists, who, as an explanation, can only find here some power of multiplied reproduction extending to several generations, inherent in the seed itself as in the case of Aphides. As additional examples of euphorbiaceous plants were Croton insularis and Mallotus clayoxyloides. Of the latter, examples with male and with female flowers, were both obtained, and their strangely unpleasant perfume perceived. The Croton is sometimes known as the Queensland Cascarilla, the genuine drug being, however, the product of a West Indian Croton. Both these plants present interesting objects for the microscopist, the leaves of the Croton having the minute hairs on their under surface disposed in tiny rosettes, the individual hairs radiating from a common centre , whilst in the Mallotus these hairs form seven or eight-rayed stars. Other euphorbiaceous plants still were Disillaria baloghioides, a tree whose fruit contains hard shining seeds available as material for making necklaces and other similar ornaments and Tragia Novae Hollandiae, an herbaceous plant, at this season in flower, whoso congeners in other countries are endowed with medicinal properties. The scrub was tenanted by many interesting kinds of ants, and the most remarkable appeared to be the small shining jet-black Polyrachis (rastellata). The nest of this ant was a most interesting object, being composed of wood debris and placed within the cavity formed by drawing the two edges of a single leaf together, an operation which had been accomplished without apparently affecting the vitality of the leaf itself. This tiny domicile was lined with a soft papery material. Amongst butterflies were collected the common American importation, Danais Archippus, which was observed in its first stage as a caterpillar, banded with yellow, black, and white, with four black thread like horns ; in its next stage as an oval, smooth chrysalis, bedecked with golden spots; and finally as the well known perfect insect, which the boys here designate “brownies “. A few jaded specimens alone represented the Pierus teutonia the butterfly which occurred here in such swarms a few days since, whilst Tachyris scillara, a second species of the same family of insects which accompanied, though in much less numbers, the host then, hovered frequently in the scrub where its caterpillars appeared to be feeding on the Capparis nobilis, whose leaves, and those of the neighbouring plants also, were more or less covered with its chrysalids. This habit of swarming in almost indefinite numbers is well known to occur amongst the Pieridae ; fortunately, however, conditions are not always favourable to this taking place. Amongst land molluscs, were observed the snail Helix villaris with its pretty delicate, clear, pink coloured shell, and dead examples of Helix Maconnelli. This is one of the largest land shells in the world, and its somewhat anomalous shape, for an Helix its conspicuous colours – brown with more or less interrupted revolving bands of almost black, and its large dimensions also render it a conspicuous object. Most strange, however, was that huge Australian slug, Tribomophorus Schütteii, whose pale gray-coloured body is bordered by a red band, whilst a conspicuous triangle of the same colour defines the mantle and surrounds the respiratory orifice. Many more interesting objects were seen, for the field naturalists leave no stone unturned, or fallen tree, for all that, and even the malodorous remains of a defunct dog are not shunned, but on exploration yield numerous specimens of that curious beetle, Trox subcarinatus, whose dull colour and curiously-ornamented surface, covered with dirt, assists its death simulating propensity in rendering it unmolested; while its associate, Creophilus erythrocephalus, a beetle the very opposite of inconspicuous, relies on its activity, and celerity of movement generally, to effect the same ends.

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