Saturday, October 24, 2015

The collection in bloom–2015, part I

This is the first of a three part post. Click Here to see Part Two and Here to see Part Three.

Red Sarracenia flava bog garden

At last – winter is a memory and the sarracenia are in full flower, with the first pitchers opening to boot! Let’s take a look at what is happening across all four of my bog gardens, starting with the red Sarracenia flava bog.

Sarracenia flava var. rubricorpora, Phil Reytter's clone

Star on the chart in this bog is Phil Reytter’s clone of Sarracenia flava var. rubricopora, aka the red tube flava. This clone is very robust and these pitchers are the largest and best coloured I’ve achieved to date.

Sarracenia flava var. atropurpurea 'FRT 1-1' (leucophylla introgressed) Sarracenia flava var. atropurpurea, 'FRT 1-1' (lecuophylla introgressed) - pitcher

Growing just in front of Phil’s red tube is my favourite plant – Sarracenia flava var. atropurpurea “FRT 1-1”. Admittedly, this plant is introgressed with Sarracenia leucophylla – note the pink blush in the flowers - but it is such a spectacular plant it ranks at the top of my list of must-haves.

Sarracenia flava var. atropurpurea, ex seed from Blackwater State Forest, Florida

Perhaps of purer breed is this var. atropurpurea from Blackwater State Forest, Florida. Ron Abernethy, a Victorian grower, got hold of seeds of this variety some years ago and was generous enough to give me three seedlings. Two are solid red plants, including this one. But the third…

Sarracenia flava var. cuprea, ex seed from Blackwater SF, Florida. Sarracenia flava var. cuprea, ex seed from Blackwater SF, Florida.

Came up as a coppertop, or S. flava var. cuprea. I am keen to see how this plant does in future.

Sarracenia flava var. cuprea/atropurpurea 'FRT 1-5' Sarracenia flava var. cuprea/atropurpurea 'FRT 1-5'

This plant is one of those clones that does one thing one year and something different the next. It is another David Martin plant, FRT 1-5 (as in flava red tube). When I first saw it, it was a coppertop flava with a nearly black lid. The next year it had a red lid and filled in nearly red. It can loose much of its colouration if moved  - including if you move the pot – or once it starts getting hot in midsummer.

Sarracenia flava var. rubricoprora 'FRT 1', flowers

Another of David’s FRTs is FRT-1, which was the first of the red flava David grew. This plant – in my experience anyway – has nearly always produced red pitchers, no matter what I did to it (including a late repotting one year). It is not so tall and perhaps not as robust as, say, Phil’s red tube, but it is nonetheless a nice plant for its strong colouration.

Sarracenia x moorei, tall red form

This Sarracenia x moorei was grown from seed by John Creevey of Gotcha! Plants, Queensland. I suspect his giant leucophylla and FRT 1-1 are the parents. It is absolutely huge! The pitchers are nearly black in full sun.

Sarracenia flava var. atropurpurea, Phil Reytter's clone

To close – this clone of S. flava var. atropurpurea from Phil Reytter is always a month of so behind all the other plants I have. It is just poking up its first pitchers now! Of all the plants I grow, this one is perhaps the most needy…

Make sure you visit Parts Two and Three of this series too!

The collection in bloom–2015, part II

This is part two of a three-part post. Click Here to see Part One and Here to see Part Three.

Sea of Sarracenia flava flowers

Here’s the general Sarracenia flava bog in flower. It contains pretty much every major variety of Sarracenia flava in it.

Sarracenia flava var. cuprea, 'F1'

Standing head and shoulders above the rest is a nearly 40 year old clone of Sarracenia flava var. cuprea that David Martin germinated from seed ex Fred Howell in the late 1970s. As it was David’s first S. flava, he called it ‘F1’. Nearly 40 years later, it is still growing strong.

Sarracenia flava var. ornata

Perhaps as old as F1 is this clone of Sarracenia flava var. ornata. This plant is controversial because a lot of people suspect it has S. oreophila as a parent. Nonetheless, its pitchers are very flava like and heavily veined to boot. I suspect there are two clones of this plant circulating; this one flushes red whereas the other one does not. Whatever it is, I enjoy it in my garden.

Sarracenia oreophila

Speaking of S. oreophila, here’s my only plant of this rather rare species. While not the first pitcher open, it has quickly produced a lot of traps and is gorging itself on the hoverflies common in Canberra at the moment. It will die down again soon, as its native habitat is not wet for as long as that of S. flava.

Sarracenia flava var. maxima, clone 1

Here is a nice Sarracenia flava var. maxima. This variety is not so easy to get hold of, and it was actually the last I added to my collection. There are a number of clones doing the rounds in Australia, but the easiest one to get – at least when I was starting out – soon proved to be a hybrid with S. alata. This one is from seed ex Harleyville, North Carolina, grown by Victorian grower Ron Abernethy.

Sarracenia flava var. maxima, clone 3 Sarracenia flava var. maxima, clone 2

And these are the other two seed-grown clones of maxima I got from Ron. There is a fourth as well, but it is always late to pitcher.

The newest Sarracenia bog

The latest bog garden is coming along nicely, but it will take a year to settle everything in.

Drosera binata, Blue Mountains form Drosera binata root cuttings producing new growth

This garden has hundreds of Drosera binata root cuttings in it. Every day, a new growth point sticks through the pine mulch. It should be spectacular come late summer!

Make sure you visit Part Three of this series too!

The collection in bloom–2015, part III

This is the last of a three part post. Click Here to see Part I and Here to see Part II.

Last but not least, let’s take a look at the Sarracenia hybrid bog garden, and some Drosera hidden though all three of my bog gardens.

Sarracenia leucophylla "Tarnok", flower

Star of this bog is Sarracenia leucophylla cv. “Tarnok”. It is a fairly typical S. leucophylla in every way except one – it has flowers that are bizarre and pom-pom like. It could almost be a sculpture or a dress design…

Sarracenia leucophylla "Tarnok", flower

To be more precise, Tarnok’s flower doesn’t actually produce petals. Instead the “flower” is made up of serially repeated calyces.Sarracenia leucophylla "Tarnok", flower

The calyx is the part of a Sarracenia flower that lasts for pretty much the entire growing season, so “Tarnok” is excellent because it adds an interesting and long-lasting “flower” to the collection. Unfortunately, I always loose a number of “Tarnok” flowers to insects, and this year I last some six flowers. Typically, few if any other flowers are ever affected. As a museum curator once told me about looking after insect collections, pests read the books: they know which are the rarities in any collection and seek them out before attacking anything else…

Sarracenia leucophylla x (x formosa) Sarracenia flava x psittacina

These deep red flowers belong to Sarracenia leucophylla x psittacina. This fairly common hybrid is definitely worth growing. The pitchers are spectacular and come in a variety of forms, depending on the plant, that range from closed a la Sarracenia psittacina to fully open. My plants came from Gotcha! Plants. When John sows sarracenia seed, he often puts three seeds to a pot to ensure decent germination rates. So, I have three different clones growing together in a clump. If you enlarge the picture at right, see if you can recognise the different trap produced by each clone.

Sarracenia rubra x formosa

This plant is one of a large series of crosses made by David Martin involving Sarracenia x formosa. Shown above are flowers of S. rubra spp. gulfensis and S. x formosa. These crosses always have a beautiful, wide and flaring hood with delicate windows from the formosa parent, and loads of colour from the rubra parent. One of the best of David’s formosa crosses is S. leucophylla x (x formosa), which I came close to loosing last year.

Sarracenia purpurea hybrid Sarracenia purpurea hybrid

This S. purpurea hybrid is one of my favourite plants. David can not remember what this cross is, so its parentage is lost to the sands of time. But it is truly beautiful come late summer, with its deep maroon pitchers and flaring hood. The midsummer pitchers are right are much paler in contrast.

Sarracenia purpurea subspecies purpurea Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea

This nicely coloured Sarracenia purpurea is grown from seed collected in Ontario.

Venus' flytraps

I also grow flytraps in this bog garden. The clone at left is one of Paradisea’s mass produced clones that can be very high on tissue culture hormones when they reach the shops. If fed well, they can quickly grow into large clumps. This clump has had a number of plants removed from it over the last few years for some people just getting into carnivorous plants, but it is still impressively large. The middle and right plants are a large clone that John Creevey produced. They are just starting to throw flowers now; I will quickly trim them off because they drain too much energy from the plants and I have never had success with cross pollination.

Drosera filiformis, all red form

At centre in this photo is the red form of Drosera filiformis available in Australia. It was first available ex Tissue Culture from the now defunct Living Traps (sold by ebay), but eventually John Creevey of Gotcha! got hold of some before and then after LT’s liquidation. John told me that the initial batch ex TC died within the first year, but were prolific self-seeders, and this is also my experience. The plants last around two years before dying, but always leave behind numerous seedlings. This is one of the seedlings from last year. Behind and to the right of it is one of the parent plants, possibly in its death throes because it has so far failed to put up any leaves, while other plants have been producing leaves for some time now.

And to close, here’s a nice view of the flowers across the three Sarracenia flava bog gardens.

Sea of Sarracenia flava flowers

I suspect my next update will be when we have a decent range of pitchers open. So until then, happy growing!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

My adventures with Nepenthes and Drosera adelae in terrariums–what worked, what did not work and pics of my new setup

Way back in 2008, before I started this blog and before I even had much of a Sarracenia collection, I set up a terrarium on my desk at work for Nepenthes and Drosera adelae. I had just tried – and failed – at working as a non-entomologist, and the terrarium brought me a lot of joy at a time when I was really down. I started it off with some Nepenthes ampullaria f. green from Captive Exotics (it was being run by Tony Camilleri then!) and two clones of Drosera adelae from Greg Bourke, followed by some ex-TC Nepenthes from the Sydney ICPS later that year.

Terrarium cc

Above is a picture of how it looked by late 2008 – the Sphagnum was growing and the plants were going from tiny ex-TC things to being recognisable for their individual species. I eventually gave away the other plants (or lost them) and kept just the two N. ampullaria. The Drosera adelae eventually spread through the tank, but I presume only the green form did well – they even burned and retreated to their roots when I upped the wattage of the lights and never turned the nice red colour some growers achieve! I also grew Pinguicula in the tank for a while with no problems – in fact, the terrarium was perfect for getting leaf cuttings to grow with a high strike rate.

The terrarium gave me much joy and taught me a lot about cultivation.

I learned about just how dark offices are and how bright the terrarium light needed to be. I found 2 x 24W compact fluoro lamps (1 warm white and 1 cool white) worked well.

I learned how using an aquarium heater and a water bath provided both heat and humidity, and how to vent the tank to allow for air circulation.

I learned how Drosera adelae did not like growing at a constant 28C and appreciated the heater being hooked up to the timer with the lights to get a night-time temperature drop.

I found through trial and error that the heater was not even needed – the office was heated to 21C on weekends and the CFL lamps provided enough heat on their own.

I learned that fish food would mould up on the D. adelae.

I learned how potted tanks worked better than a planted tank.

I even learned that a still unknown colleague would wait until I added Drosera prolifera to the setup before taking a holiday to turn the mains off at the wall for three weeks…

Just when I had everything down pat and the terrarium looked great, I was asked by a certain science museum to loan them my terrarium for a botany exhibition in 2011. They insisted that I added a Sarracenia and a Venus’ flytrap to the terrarium, and would not take no for an answer. So, instead of telling them it was my terrarium and they could take it or leave it, I caved and added a S. purpurea and a VFT that, unknown to me, carried mealybugs as hitchhikers.

Big mistake. The result – a mealybug infested terrarium that never recovered and had to be killed off because the infestation was so chronic. It was devastating – the terrarium and its inhabitants had become friends from nearly daily interaction with them. I had watched them grow and learned how to meet their needs. It was so devastating I did not even want to set it back up again. The terrarium went into the shed, where it stayed for the next four years.

Fast forward to Monday this week. I was at the Canberra Masters store (= Lowes if you are from North America) getting some gear for a project at home when I came across this…

Masters neps

Nice – some carnivores just in from Triffid Park. Taking a closer look, I saw that there were a bunch of Nepenthes x hookeriana in the consignment. Perfect timing! After my trip trying to find Drosera schizandra, I had decided it was high time to get the terrarium going again, and  I had even gone so far as to get the tank out and test the heaters. And now, without any prompting, here were several plants of an ideal terrarium Nepenthes going begging (well, not quite) for a new home. A few minutes later, I was on my way home with a fine N. x hookeriana, ready to re-establish the terrarium.

terrarium v 2.0

So, here ‘tis – terrarium V 2.0. I admit that the tank is not hugely photogenic – the condensation will always obscure the plants with this type of setup. But it works.


The plant is a N. x hookeriana, Triffid Park clone (sorry for the bad photo). It already has a basal rosette starting to form. Yes it is a bit on the big size, so once the basal is established, its cutting time! The substrate is Sphagnum cristatum stolen from my Sarracenia bogs. The planter is a 20 cm square waterlilly basket that has been trimmed down to size. The holes in these baskets will allow the Sphagnum to grow through. Nepenthes ampullaria (and hybrids) appreciate a low pot, as it allows them to spread out more (and hopefully produce basal pitchers!).


My setup uses a water reservoir with two aquarium heaters for climate control. The temperature regime is 28C for 16 hours and 22C for 8 hours. This provides a nice day-night temperature drop that Nepenthes and rainforest Drosera appreciate. To achieve this, one heater is set to 28C and turns on and off with the light. The second heater is set to 22C and is powered constantly. This way, as soon as the light turns off, the tank will cool until it reaches 22C, when the second heater will kick in. This is not needed if you use a centrally heated office building (21C is nominal heating here), but it is certainly needed for our frosty winters when our house can drop right down to 5C on a morning that is –8C outdoors. This is lethal for Drosera adelae and would make lowland Nepenthes very sick very fast.

The light is a 20W COB LED floodlight, photoperiod set up 16 hours light: 8 hours dark by an electric timer. The idea for using this type of light came from a grower on the CPUK forum who grows beautiful Nepenthes ampullaria in terraria using a similar LED. The light I use has its ballast on top, so any heat produced is radiated away from the tank. I have to agree with this grower that a very bright light will keep some Nepenthes like ampullaria and its hybrids compact – the amps I grew previously produced basal pitchers and never outgrew the tank in the two years they lived there. When I had tried brighter lights the amps leaves had burned and it stopped growing until I changed the wattage back down. But I suspect I will still have to keep the hookeriana under control with regular pruning due to the rafflesiana parentage… at least it means plenty of cuttings to share with others!

Some more mods are still in the works – I need a metallic car sunshade to wrap around the back of the tank and for the cover for insulation (plus the front bottom to hide the infrastructure!), and to keep as much light as possible in the tank. I will also add a well washed coir hanging pot liner over the platform for aesthetics (it helps stop algae from growing in the tank) and because it acts like capillary matting that helps with watering. A second pot is planned for this setup – hopefully for a red for N. ampullaria. I also hope to get some Drosera adelae and D. prolifera later this year to finish the tank off. I will update and share pics as these mods happen and new plants are added.

Cost for a setup like this? You can spend as little or as much as you like. Ask around and you may well get a fish tank and an aquarium heater off a friend or colleague for free, or at least for a fraction of a new tank (but beware leaking tanks!). The platform is acrylic light diffuser – try an acrylic shop to get it cheap or see if you can scrounge an offcut for free. The supports for the tank are some old specimen vials that had been used for insect collecting, but some cheap plastic containers from a dollar store would work just as well. The waterlilly basket was an old one that had a wall broken by a Darlingtonia stolon punching through it. The coir liner will be $4.50 and the car sunshield (and double-sided tape to hold it on) will be from a dollar store for pocket change. The most expensive parts of my setup were the light and the Nepenthes, which were $30 each. If you are lucky enough to have a CP society at easy access (which I don’t – I haven’t been to an AUSCPS meeting in a long time), you may be able to beg/swap a suitable terrarium plant for very little.

Do you need a terrarium to grow CPs? It depends on your climate and your situation. For me, a terrarium is the only viable way I can grow lowland Nepenthes. So I grow them using this method. The catch with a terrarium is understanding – and learning – that your plants will be even more dependent on your getting it right. For example, when I first tried to grow my 2009 terrarium, I thought the office lights would be more than enough. I soon learned I was wrong and then spent the next few months trialling different wattages of CFL lights until I got it right. I may well find the LED I am using is not right and will need to go back to CFLs again – who knows? Patience, keeping an open mind and accepting that trial and error will always be part of the journey are key to getting a well grown terrarium.

Next up – the first Sarracenia pitchers have opened for the 2015 season, and it looks set to be a fantastic year for Sarracenia flava! Check back soon for a photo update.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The first Sarracenia flowers open for 2015!

Sarracenia bog gardens coming into flower

The Sarracenia bogs burst into life while we were away on holidays! This season will see a bumper number of flowers.

Sarracenia flava flower

14 October marks the date of the first fully open Sarracenia flower in the bog gardens. It was of course a Sarracenia flava, this year the David Martin var. flava clone called F1. It produces robust pitchers.

Sarracenia flava var. rubricorpora

The first pitcher open looks set to be S. flava var. rubrocorpora, a robust clone from Phil Reytter. The traps look like they will be around 50 cm tall, give or take.

A profusion of unopened Sarracenia flowers

In another few weeks, the bog gardens should be ablaze with dozens of flowers all open at once. I will post more photos soon.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Holiday tales part 2–a failed attempt to see Drosera schizandra on Mount Bartle Frere, Wooroonooran National Park, Queensland, Australia

Drosera schizandra in coffee jar terrarium

Not a Drosera schizandra in the wild…

When I got started on CPs as a 9 year old, the local library’s copy of Slack’s Carnivorous Plants lived at our house unless it was requested by someone else. One cloudy weekend, I came across Slack’s description of the tropical rainforest Drosera (Drosera sect. Prolifera). For some reason, the tiny black and white image of the Drosera schizandra fired my imagination about this group. A week or so later, I saw a plant of Drosera adelae for sale but was prevented from buying it. Imagination even more fired! A few years later we drove to Cairns and I got to see its home, Mount Bartle Frere, for myself. Imagination fired even more – I could only imagine the plants growing in the lush, tropical rainforest! Eventually I managed to get a plant of D. adelae from Triffid Park and this got me hooked on this group for life. Reading The Savage Garden told me of the third member of the group – Drosera prolifera. They are still among my favourite carnivorous plants, and while I did grow D. adelae and D. prolifera here from 2008 – 2011, I lost them due to lending their terrarium to the national science centre (Questacon) for a botany exhibit (bad idea!!!!).

Drosera adelae, Sakuya Konohana Kan

These Drosera adelae growing in the Sakuya Konohana Kan botanic gardens in Osaka, Japan, were as close as I came to finding a member of the Drosera Sect. Prolifera clade in the wild on my holiday!

Fast forward to 2015. Fresh back from Japan (see Holiday Tales Part 1), I got off the plane in Cairns, attended the Australian Entomological Society conference and made plans afterwards to go see Drosera schizandra on Mount Bartle Frere with close friend Bob Miller, self-taught botanist and entomologist, and an absolute legend when it comes to finding butterfly life histories and butterfly host plants. So, we duly headed up the Gilles Range and went down Gourka Road to the western summit trail of Mount Bartle Frere where D. schizandra grows. We were also joined by Bob’s son, Dave.

Here is a link to a video by Siggi Hartmeyer showing the drive in along Gourka Road and the habitat of D. schizandra. Below are some stills from the track in.

Gourka Road, Topaz, Queensland

Ferns growing along Gourka Road, Topaz, Queensland Bank of Tassel Ferns, Gourka Road, Mount Bartle Frere

Gourka Road, Topaz, Queensland.

I have a lot of experience with doing field work in rainforests. My childhood was comprised of many blissful weekends spent with my father – a now retired forester – exploring rainforests in south-eastern Queensland. While I will always have a soft spot for the haunts of my childhood, this rainforest is incredible in comparison. The closest I have seen to here in terms of forest quality and plant diversity was parts of the Connondal Range National Park near Woodford, and it was even a far cry from what I saw here.

Someone I know who has personal experience with D. schizandra had told me I need only go a few hundred meters from the carpark before I would find them growing both sides of the summit trail. My experience was somewhat different. Even with three experienced field naturalists scanning the forest floor up to Bobbin Bobbin Falls and back (about 2 km return!), we found no D. schizandra. By the time we realised we had lucked out, it was raining heavily (I now know I lucked due to bad directions, given deliberately by someone who should know better). Back at the car, I had a brainwave based on my own research (moral of the story - always trust your own research) and tried another site nearby while Bob and his son Dave dried off. Further enquiries made after I got back to Canberra confirmed that this second spot was the right place to search. But with rain increasing to torrential levels, dense fog settling in and the thought of being bailed up by a male cassowary protecting his chicks while on my own (and I could hear a cassowary close by!), I left it for another day. We also tried to reach yet another known site for D. schizandra on the Old Cairns Track, but ran out of time for that one as well.

Even though I lucked out, here are some photos of the Bartle Frere rainforest up to and including Bobbin Bobbin Falls, and a substantial portion of the trail to Windin Falls. This area, part of Wooroonooran National Park, is a spectacular part of north Queensland and it is better than the parts of north Queensland they show the tourists.

Western summit trail, Mount Bartle Frere, Wooroonooran National Park

            Trailhead, western summit track, Mount Bartle Frere Trail map, Mount Bartle Frere

The trailhead and route map.

            Warning sign for Gympie stinging trees, Dendrocnide morioides Understory plants, Mount Bartle Frere

Trail markers, Mount Bartle Frere

The trail itself is marked out with orange reflectors for its entire length. This is a good thing – the rainforest understory is so dense (and dark!) and the track so ill defined in places that it would be easy to stumble off and get lost. At the start of the trail is a warning sign for the stinging tree or Gympie-Gympie, Dendrocnide moroides. A member of the mulberry family Moraceae, this plant packs a very powerful sting that recurs when wet or during extremes of hot or cold for many months. It is also the host plant of the white nymph butterfly (Mynes geoffroyi). We didn’t see any plants to photograph though.

Gardenia actinocarpa

While we lucked out with Drosera schizandra, we were graced with an equally endangered plant, Gardenia actinocarpa.

Epiphytic moss growth Epiphytic moss growth on a leaf!

Epiphytic moss growth, Mount Bartle Frere Epiphytic moss growth, Mount Bartle Frere

More mosses growing on foliage

It is so wet here mosses grow with profusion on the stems and leaves of other plants. The western summit trail is a relatively easy place to see real moss forest in Australia, but it would be better higher up, or on a mountain like Thornton’s Peak in the Daintree (a future challenge – climb Thornton’s Peak to see Drosera prolifera!).

       Spiky branch - hazard to bushwalkers on Mount Bartle Frere Spiky branch - hazard to Mount Bartle Frere bushwalkers

This branch was nicely covered in strong thorns. Luckily it was just above head height; any lower and it would be a major coathanger hazard to bushwalkers.

Panorama, Bobbin Bobbin Falls side trail, Mount Bartle Frere

The turnoff to Bobbin Bobbin falls is subtle and could be easily missed when going uphill. It is better marked for those coming down than going up. Above is a panorama showing the forest at this point. It started raining heavily about now.

    Side trail to Bobbin Bobbin Falls, Mount Bartle Frere Side trail to Bobbin Bobbin Falls, Mount Bartle Frere

The walk in to Bobbin Bobbin Falls would better be described as a near vertical ladder made up of conveniently placed roots! This view looks fairly benign until you realise it was taken looking down at a 45 degree (or steeper!) angle. There are lots of magnificent ferns and club mosses along the descent.

And here are the falls themselves.

Bobbin Bobbin Falls, Mount Bartle Frere

And a panoramic shot.

Panorama, Bobbin Bobbin Falls, Mount Bartle Frere

Carnivorous plant books often talk about how the rainforest Drosera grow in very dark conditions.  To show how dark it was here, the below pairs of vertical panorama shots taken at Bobbin Bobbin Falls show the gradient between the light from the clearing around the falls themselves into the dense understory by exploiting a quirk of smartphone cameras. If you set a smartphone to panorama, it will automatically meter for whatever you point it at when you start the panorama. So, to show the abrupt change from light to dark as you descend through the canopy to the forest floor, I took vertical panoramas starting in either the canopy or forest floor. Compare the panoramas taken from ground up (which become overexposed quickly because the camera metered for dark) and canopy down (which are very dark at ground level because the camera metered for the brightness of the canopy) to get a visual appreciation of how light changes with trophic level in a rainforest.

Neat, hey?

III - How dark is it in a tropical rainforest? Bobbin Bobbin Falls, Mount Bartle Frere IV - How dark is it in a tropical rainforest? Bobbin Bobbin Falls, Mount Bartle Frere   

 I - How dark is it in a tropical rainforest? Mount Bartle Frere II - How dark is it in a tropical rainforest? Mount Bartle Frere

When I actually find Drosera schizandra, I will make sure I take similar photos to show the conditions they grown under in a meaningful manner.

Bobbin Bobbin Falls track, looking up

This view shows how steep the climb back to the trail actually is! It relies on conveniently placed tree roots acting like a step ladder!

Panoramic view of the Bobbin Bobbin Falls trail, Mount Bartle Frere

But the lush rainforest is so spectacular it makes the climb (and the leaches!) well worth the effort.

Leaches trying their luck, Mount Bartle Frere

I did mention the leaches, right? Mount Bartle Frere is leach city!

Western summit trail, Mount Bartle Frere

And here is a shot looking downhill along the western summit trail. It is hilly enough on the way in to Bobbin Bobbin Falls, but it gets much, much steeper after you pass the side track!

Old Cairns Track towards (but not reaching) Windin Falls

After we lucked out with the heavy rain on Bartle Frere, we headed to the Old Cairns Track nearby to try and make Bobbin Bobbin Falls, another known locality for D. schizandra (see this paper by Bill Lavarack in the ICPS journal). Although only a few kilometres away from the Bartle Frere trailhead, this area was not anywhere near as wet as Bartle Frere itself and it was actually sunny for a while after we got out of the car.

The first thing we saw as we drove in was the rare and endangered thong tree! And it was in fruit as well!

Thong tree, Old Cairns Track, Wooroonooran National Park

Unfortunately, we saw a lot of environmental damage along this track, which is now impassable for road vehicles unless you have a heavy duty 4WD with a winch and expertise driving it under super crazy conditions. The damage done to the track is extreme and appears to be caused by a mix of 4WD enthusiasts and quad bikers, judging by the tyre tracks we saw. Some of the potholes were incredible – one that was just starting to fill with water was as deep as a car and not much longer or wider. But when full, it would probably resemble a minor puddle. Someone could feasibly attempt to drive through it and suddenly find themselves submerged! It is quite likely that this trail will not be fixed anytime soon (if ever) as the habitat it passes through is just so pristine. I suspect conservation authorities may well want to keep all but the most dedicated of explorers out to protect the area – which is good conservation management if this is the case. These photos do not do justice to the damage we saw – the magnitude was hard to capture.

Vehicle damage, Old Cairns TrackVehicle damage, Old Cairns Track 

 Vehicle damage, Old Cairns Track  Vehicle damage, Old Cairns Track  Vehicle damage, Old Cairns Track

The rainforest the Old Cairns Track passes through is nonetheless very beautiful.

Old Cairns track, Wooroonooran National Park

At one point there is even open Eucalypt heathland nearly identical to what occurs in Western Sydney.

Open eucalypt forest with sandy heath understory

Ultimately, we ran out of time and turned back, looking forward to something hot for dinner. While we did not see Drosera schizandra, a real highlight was finding some unique entomological fauna.

The hostplant (Pararistolochia deltantha) of Australia’s largest endemic butterfly, the Cairns birdwing (Ornithoptera euphorion), grew in abundance here, but we sadly did not see adults (I have seen them near here on a previous trip). But I did see birdwings in abundance further north in the Daintree, along with even more of the spectacular blue Ulysses swallowtail (Papilio ulysses joesa). Having seen Ulysses flying with the famed blue morpho (Morpho peleides) in butterfly houses, I can assure you that Ulysses beats M. peleides hands down for iridescence! But they are not the kings of iridescence – a blue morpho called Morpho rhetenor agustinae wins that contest hands down…

 Cairns birdwing vine, Pararistolochia deltantha  Courtship of the Cairns Birdwing, Ornithoptera euphorion  Papilio ulysses joesa

We also found the huge bore hole of a splendid ghost moth, probably Aenetus mirabilis judging by the huge size of the bore (the cover was 100 mm across!).

Web covering of larval bore of Aenetus ?mirabilis Larval bore of Aenetus ?mirabilis with web removed

Sadly, we could not identify the host plant. Adults of this spectacular species are around 150-170 mm in wingspan and beautifully coloured (these specimens are in the Australian National Insect Collection, Canberra):


Aenetus mirabilis, male


Aenetus mirabilis, female

Outside the park we also found and photographed the Helena brown butterfly, Tisiphone helena, which is endemic to tropical north Queensland. It feeds on Gahnia swordgrasses.

Tisiphone helena

Tisiphone helena

All in all, we had a lovely day of walking in some of the best rainforest Australia has to offer, surrounded by some very special plants, insects and their amazing habitat.

But no Drosera schizandra.

Maybe next time.

Next up – photos of the first Sarracenia flowers opening on the bog gardens.