Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

I looked but I didn’t see

There’s a native Christmas bush in our front garden tucked between the peace lily and the climbing fig. It’s partially hidden and quite small, so even though I pass it every day it’s easy to overlook.


I’ve never grown a Christmas bush before. It was a gift – and a welcome one – but since I hadn’t chosen it I wasn’t sure what to expect. Slow growing or fast growing? Thick and bushy or fine and feathery?

My knowledge of Australian natives is limited. I knew not to feed it too much; I suspected it would prefer infrequent deep watering to a daily drench, and I also assumed its foliage would be quite sparse.

Definitely slow growing I decided, glancing in that direction each time I left the house. Probably not going to win any beauty prizes any time soon either.

Yesterday I took a closer look at a plant that I pass every day, and I finally realised a pest had been attacking it. The damage was so comprehensive some of the leaves had been stripped back to bare twigs. How could I have missed that?


I looked for evidence, turning over what remained of the leaves to see if I could find the culprit. There was nothing, not a hairy caterpillar in sight. Slugs? Unlikely. There were no tell-tale silver trails. I kept looking, occasionally snapping off the end of a bare twig, and I felt mystified. Something had feasted on that plant until there was barely anything left. Just twigs.

Twigs that all had a similar size and shape. Hmmm….


It turned out the twigs were cunningly disguised caterpillars. In less than five minutes I picked off at least 35.

They were easy to spot when they were on the move


Not so easy when they were pretending to be twigs.


I’m hoping the Christmas bush will recover.

And I’ll be spending less time at the computer and more time caring for the plants in our garden.



12 comments on “I looked but I didn’t see

  1. Ron Walker
    May 19, 2017

    That is amazing the way they look like a twig. Nature sure has astounding ways to camouflage things.


  2. monsoonwendy
    May 19, 2017

    Clever little critters. Still, you can’t pander to smarty pants behaviour. Squash.


  3. Eliza Waters
    May 20, 2017

    Clever disguise!


    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      May 20, 2017

      Very clever. Called Circopetes obtusata and it grows to 7.5 cms. It’s a moth not a butterfly, which should make me feel better about hastening its demise but I still feel bad! Maybe I was a Buddhist in a previous life.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Eliza Waters
        May 20, 2017

        Yes, to cover my guilt I say, “Better luck next life!” ;D


  4. nantubre
    May 20, 2017

    Yikes, I’ve never seen a cameallian caterpillar before!


    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      May 20, 2017

      Ah ha, that could be because they’re surrounding you and you’ve never noticed. I’m checking all my plants for suspicious looking twigs.


  5. candidkay
    June 12, 2017

    Ugh. I hope you can nurse it back to health!


    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      June 21, 2017

      Thx Kay, sorry for delay in replying, I’m taking a break from social media for a while, hope all’s well with you

      Liked by 1 person

      • candidkay
        June 21, 2017

        I totally get it and I think those breaks are among the healthiest things we do :-).


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This entry was posted on May 19, 2017 by and tagged , , , , .


I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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