Story telling from Australia
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.