Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Flowers... Tuesday night

I forgot to take a picture of the blood lilies this year.  These are amazing red flowers that appear out of the dry ground near the end of the summer.  The flowers come first (despite the fact that Diggers state that the leaves precede the flowers) and attract honeyeaters by the hundred.  The birds fight over these flowers to such an extent that the energy available must be worth an incredible amount of effort to win.  Right here, the  New Holland honeyeaters and White-plumed honeyeaters put so much effort into defending and feeding on these particular lilies that they must be very nutritious.  
This is something that people need to learn from these birds.  The amount of effort (including oil and oil dependent fertilisers)  that we put into producing the energy that we need (food) should not be more than we get out.  In the 1960's i remember learning that the the number of calories that we used to expend (using tractors and fuel etc) to get one food calorie back (on average) was forty.  Such an inefficient system cannot last indefinitely.  When the oil becomes too scarce or too expensive,  it won't be worth the effort.  It still worries me.
Anyway,  the amount of nectar and insects that the honeyeaters get must be more than they spend in those fights, otherwise they would be very skinny, unhealthy and probably die.
The picture (of the Blood Lily) that I have is one that I drew in my sketchbook... no camera at the time!  Today, the flowers are dying and the leaves are just coming out and I'll take a photograph when they are large.  The plants are also known as "elephant ears" so you can imagine how large the leaves are.   Large leaves, lots of chlorophyll that can change solar energy into carbohydrate, and that makes a huge bulb that waits underground until next year. That large bulb can produce a huge amount of energy for those birds.  You can't get something for nothing, and it all comes from the sun eventually.  

Autumn crocuses....  I have two kinds that flower in my garden.  These yellow ones are Sternbergia lutea.  They appear as soon as it rains, seemingly within minutes.  Perhaps they are forwarned somehow.  Or perhaps there is magic in the world.

Below is Colchicum byzantinum.  These appear quickly also.  They look very much like saffron,  though it is very different and not edible.  
I used to have saffron growing for several years,  and it even flowers at the same time as these purple crocuses but after the third year,  there are no more flowers.  All I can imagine is that the soil is missing something that "runs out" in just a few years.  Soil here is old and minerals and nutrients are leached out because we live in one of the oldest continents on earth.  I will try a few mineral additives to see if I can again have fresh saffron (once again it is much better than the bought kind.)  After finding out that my beetroot wouldn't grow because a lack of boron, I can see how a tiny bit of a particular mineral can change the growth and habit of the plant.  I will perservere with saffron.

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