Saturday, 5 August 2017

Bollywood! (No, not that one.)

I'm on the road at the moment, with limited internet access, so I'll be posting some photos I've taken through the first half of the year.

Towards the end of the dry season, white bollywood or bollygum (Neolitsea dealbata) produces new growth so pale that it is almost luminous. It is a species that favours disturbance and is abundant at the rainforest's edge. At my place, it lines the driveway. On sunny days, the light makes the leaves look like bunting; coming home is a celebration.

The first signs of new leaves are these candles.

New leaves are covered in dense white hairs. The youngest leaves are almost all down (see first photo), but as they grow, the hairs are more widely spaced and the surface appears smoother. 

Leaves go through colour changes as they mature. Although not as showy as those of lillipillies (Syzygium and allies), bollywood leaves have their own subtle charm.

Tree kangaroos sometimes get stuck into the foliage at this stage. They will often return to the same tree every few days to eat the next batch.

Fine hairs are distributed along the twigs. This is a young stem. The hairs are not so obvious in older growth, where they tend to be worn and covered in lichen and moss.

In contrast to the shiny dark green of the upper surface, the undersides of mature leaves are pale. As are the aphids.

The flowers are modest, but the tree produces a lot of small, berry-shaped fruit, which might, in fact, be berries. Or might not, because 'berry' has a specific meaning in botany and I've never got the hang of it. One of bollywood's (many) alternative common names* is pigeon-berry. Frugivorous birds, including bowerbirds, and wompoos and topknot pigeons, love the fruit, and will stuff their faces with it. If you are planning to plant a few of these trees — and they are very attractive at the new growth stage — this is something to consider. The seeds germinate easily and could end up as a problem outside their natural range, which is is rainforest and wet sclerophyll from the tip of Cape York Peninsula south to about Wollongong.

* Don't get me started. Again.