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Australian Plants online

Net Watch...choice selections on the 'net

Eyeball "Net Watch" aims to report those sites that you, as a grower, propagator or appreciator of Australian plants, might find interesting. Most of them relate to Australian issues of a horticultural, botanical or conservation nature but a few are of more general interest. A couple of other sites are "thrown in" for no other reason than that they redefine the term "bizarre". If you know of a site that fits into these general categories, please let us know.

The Living World

Bushwalking in Australia

This may not be the flashest looking site on the web but, if it's content you want, it's content you'll get!

The opening page presents a menu and a clickable map of Australia. You can select a specific menu topic or click on the Australian state of interest to go directly to the relevant information. It would be impossible to do justice to the site here - you'll just have to explore it yourself - but briefly, it includes:

  • Details of National Parks in all states and territories. The level of detail varies but usually includes information on access, walks, camping and useful maps. The parks are grouped together by geographical area for convenience.
  • The "Bushwalker" - a monthly magazine of events and reports.
  • Discussion group.
  • Recipes - for breakfast, lunch and snacks, dinner and dessert - try the almond bread!
  • Extensive links to other bushwalking pages.
    Bush walker with computer

Larvae, Larvae Me Do!

And now for something completely different.....

Butterfly This no-frills site is the ultimate resource for caterpillars of Australian butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera larvae). What's the relevance, you ask? Well...the little buggers eat our plants don't they?

Apparently most research on the Lepidoptera is carried out on the adult insect with the result that few Australian butterflies and moths have known caterpillars. This site seeks to attempt to rectify the situation, although its aims are modest - there are over 20,000 named Australian butterflies and moths, so it will take some time (and a lot of disk space) to cover them all!

The site includes:

  • Photographs of 167 species (at last count)
  • Information on raising your own butterfly or moth from a caterpillar, with the helpful advice "Once you have an adult, make sure it doesn't beat itself to a frenzy (butterflies and moths basically do not like being kept in jamjars)"
  • Links to other sites
Oh, and if you can't decide if a photograph shows a caterpillar coming or going.....the site helpfully advises that all photographs "have the head on the right"!

Palms and Cycads

This is a resource to information on palms and cycads world wide. The site is maintained by the International Palm Society (IPS) but includes a section devoted to the affiliated Palm and Cycad Society of Australia (PACSOA).

The main focus of the site is to outline the works of the various affiliated societies and includes details of membership, newsletters and other publications. The PACSOA include a "news and events" section based on information supplied by the various regional branches. This is particularly useful for those wishing to make contact with other enthusiasts around the country and for finding out details of shows, lectures and plant sales. There is also a growing image gallery of palm and cycad species, although there don't appear to be any Australian species included at present.

The site would benefit from some online information on cultivation and propagation of palms and cycads and perhaps some articles from back issues of the various publications.

Species Distribution

The Environmental Resources Information Network (ERIN) has established an online database which allows users to obtain details of Australian plant species occurring in a specific geographical region. The database does not cover all species but concentrates on rare and threatened species and major plant groups such as eucalypts and acacias. It also includes koalas and snakes.

In a step by step process the user selects:

  • The Australian state of interest from a map
  • An area within that state from a second map
  • The plant group of interest (rare, eucalypts, acacias, all...etc)
A list of matching records within the 1:100000 map appropriate for the selected area is then presented. If necessary the user can access further details of individual species including specimen and survey records.

As an example, I selected the area in western Sydney where I live and was presented with a listing of species for the Penrith 1:100000 map. The list included 38 acacias, 74 eucalypts as well as a number of rare species. A surprising inclusion in the list was Acacia podalyriifolia, the Queensland Silver Wattle, which is not native to the district but which has become naturalised to some extent. I selected a particular species of interest, Dillwynia tenuifolia (a small pea-flowered shrub which is now uncommon in this area), and was able to access:

  • A map showing the location where herbarium specimens had been collected
  • The herbarium records (two only, in this case)
  • A map showing possible species occurrence by climate (climatic envelope model)
Dillwynia tenuifolia
Dillwynia tenuifolia is a threatened species which occurs on clays and shales in parts of western Sydney. Select the thumbnail image or highlighted phrase for a higher resolution image (35k)

The climatic envelope model shows predicted favourable habitat for the species and is a useful indication of areas outside the known range which might contain populations of the species.

Apart from its obvious practical uses, the database is great fun to play with!

Name that (Australian) Plant!

The Australian Plant Name Index has been prepared to assist those needing information on accurate botanical names for Australian plants. Begun in 1973, it lists all scientific names - more than 62 000 - of taxa at all levels from genus downwards for the flowering plants, gymnosperms and ferns. The Index is purely a nomenclatural work and makes no taxonomic judgement other than the placement of the name within a family.

The geographical area covered by the Index includes the six Australian States, the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory, immediate offshore islands, Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island.

The Index does not appear to have been updated in recent years and does not reflect recent name changes.

The Introduction to the Australian Plant Names Index outlines the history, scope and layout of the Index in some detail, together with a list of the institutions consulted during its preparation. A search is carried out by genus and produces a listing of all species in the Index. The output of a search for a specific species is similar to that below.

Darwinia fascicularis subsp. oligantha B.Briggs
AUTHOR:  Briggs, B.G.
REFERENCE:  Contributions from the New South Wales National Herbarium 3 : (17 Sep. 1962) 149.
TYPE CITATION:  "1 mile NE of Mt. Banks, B.G. Briggs 25.3.1961 (NSW 53741)."
FAMILY:  Myrtaceae
TYPE HERB:  holo: NSW 53741.

No Plants...But Worth Checking!

The World Village

The idea here is to consider a village of 1000 persons as a metaphor for the earth as a whole. The site presents statistics about the village and its inhabitants which really do make it easier to understand environmental and other issues which effect us all. For instance, our village:-

  • Has 520 women and 480 men
  • Has 330 children
  • Has 28 new babies each year
  • Has 75% of the wealth in the hands of 200 people
  • Has enough nuclear weapons to destroy every living thing in the village 3 times

Get the idea?

The references used in preparing the statistics are given, so you can decide for yourself how authoritative it all is.

As a final (and depressing) touch, the site presents a continually updated estimate of the current world population...in the 30 minutes or so that I spent at the site, the counter claimed a population increase of about 6000 (that's 100 million per year!!! Can that be right???).

NOVA - Science in the News

If any confirmation were needed that the public is interested in scientific achievements, the recent Mars Pathfinder mission provided that confirmation. NASA's web site was overwhelmed by enthusiastic amateur scientists eager for information about the landing and the research. Of course, Mars Pathfinder was unique enough to capture the public's imagination, but there is interest in less spectacular research as well.

NOVA is an initiative of the Australian Academy of Science and presents detailed information on topical scientific research. It is aimed at the general public but there is no suggestion of trivialising or sensationalising the information. The topics are presented in clear language and cover biology, chemistry, environment, geology, health and physics.

Some of the recent topics covered are:

  • Life on Mars
  • Gene technology and Plants
  • Rabbit Calicivirus Disease
  • Cloning
  • Sun and Skin
  • Mad Cow Disease
The topics also include teaching resources.

New items are being posted to NOVA regularly and those interested can register to receive advice by email.

Off the Planet!

Self Abusement Centre

Q. Why would anyone want to subject themselves to on-line abuse?

A. Well....because you can. Do you really need any other reason you stubborn, mutant turtle-molesting whelp of a malodorous pervert!!!!

Sorry.....If you really want to be abused online, just try posting a pro-Intel message to a pro-Macintosh newsgroup! But there are other locations on the internet where you can have insults hurled at you for no apparent transgression on your part. All you have to do is log on. A couple of my favourites add some style to the tirade by using the language of Shakespeare...as in:

Try these you swag-bellied, rump-fed, beetle-headed miscreant!
Shakespeare Picture

More down to earth is Abuse-a-Tron. No niceties here. You just get put in your place with a beautifully crafted serve in perfect modern english. A modest example....

"You smell of elder berries you lotus-eating, dandruff-kissing, sheep-corrupting unwanted child of Richard Nixon's secret indiscretions"
Nothing subtle there! A nice touch is that you can send your own abuse back to the site.

So if you feel unwanted, unloved and lacking self confidence...these sites will provide confirmation that you really are unwanted, unloved and lacking self confidence.

What a Great Idea!

The human brain has produced many magnificent ideas...the wheel, X-Rays, the steam engine, the electric light globe, paper..........the espresso coffee machine.

Wacky Patent of the Month chronicles ideas that are unlikely to join that elite group. Here are collected some novel inventions and concepts with (let's be kind) a limited appeal...or maybe we're just too short sighted to appreciate the potential. A few examples....

  • Hay Fragrance - "This invention relates to fragrances and uses thereof, and more particularly to the fragrance of hay and uses thereof" in cosmetics, toiletries, foodstuffs, drinks, smoking articles......". One wonders what sort of "grass" goes into the hay?

  • Ambulatory Sleeping Bag - The idea here is to allow users to...er...relieve themselves without having to actually get out of the bag which is equipped with legs and which has numerous zippers in what can best be described as "appropriate places".

  • Apparatus for Facilitating the Birth of a Child by Centrifugal Force - "...there is provided rotatable apparatus capable of subjecting the mother and the fetus to a centrifugal force....". The worrying thing here is that the inventors seem to be entirely serious. Visions come to mind of newborns being propelled at high velocity into deeply padded walls of delivery rooms.....

  • Portable Self-powered Band Saw - Now here's an opportunity to inflict some serious injury! The idea involves a normal bicycle supported so that the rear wheel is in contact with another wheel which drives a band saw. The trouble is, if the rider leans back to enjoy the view........

The site presents more than just a brief outline of the patents. All are described in excruciating detail including diagrams.

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Australian Plants online - September 1997
The Society for Growing Australian Plants