Spring time is wattle time, but there is one summer flowering wattle in the Ballarat district: the lightwood, a medium-sized wattle tree.
The photo above shows an attractive spray of lightwood flowers. It was taken earlier this week at Illabarook, where the soils are basalt-based. At Mt Beckworth the lightwood grows on granite. It does not seem to grow within 25km of Ballarat, preferring slightly milder, lower rainfall and lower altitude places than Ballarat proper.
The lightwood and the blackwood are often confused. The blackwood is larger, with wider straighter leaves, and it flowers in spring. It is much more common and widespread than the lightwood. Unfortunately, it is often wrongly known as lightwood.
The flowers of the lightwood start in about mid-December and go through in some places into March, so there is never any overlap with the blackwood. January is the lightwood’s main month. As can be seen, the flowers are paler than those of many wattles, being a creamy-yellow, more than a bright lemon-yellow.
There is some variation in the lightwood’s leaf shape. The leaves are often distinctly curved (sickle-shaped), which assists identification, but this is not always the case. Sometimes the leaves (actually “phyllodes”) look very much like those of the blackwood.
Lightwood is known to botanists as Acacia implexa. In New South Wales it is often called hickory wattle. Despite the names of each, lightwood’s timber is similar in appearance to that of blackwood. The origin of the name “lightwood” is a mystery. Other local places at which it is known include Campbelltown, Rokewood, Dereel and Pittong.
There are serval families of local butterflies. We have the whites and yellows, the browns and nymphs, the swallowtails, the skippers, and the blues.
Recently seen at Napoleons was the broad-margined azure, or olane azure. It is a member of the blue family, and is a rarity in the Ballarat district. With a wingspan of about 35mm, it is smaller than the common and well-known cabbage white. Each of its four upper wings has a patch of bluish-purple in its centre. These are edged with dull dark brown. Folded wings are camouflaged grey and brown.
Butterfly distribution is governed by food plants for the caterpillars, and this is the case with the broad-margined azure. It needs mistletoes. Adults spend most of their time around mistletoes in the treetops.
The unexpected Napoleons specimen was discovered when it came low to sip at a watered garden.