Most flowers have five or six petals, but the pink bells plant has four. Each flower hangs like a bell from the stem.
Pink bells is a multi-stemmed, dwarf spreading shrub found in most local forests, including on the edge of Ballarat at Canadian, Mt Clear and Invermay.
Its colour varies slightly from plant to plant. Most are mauve-pink, but others are deeper purple-pink. White-flowered plants are rare.
The inside centre of each flower is black.
The scientific name of pink bells is Tetratheca ciliata. The second part of the name means fringed with small hairs, and refers to the leaves, rather than the flowers.
There is another similar species of pink bells in the Brisbane Ranges, with nine species found in Victoria.
Most have similar flowers, but their leaves are different. Pink bells has its oval leaves in threes up the stem. Local plants grow to 30cm or more tall.
Often they are smaller. The petals close to touch each other at night, opening widely during the day.
Pink bells is accompanied now by such flowers as snake wattle, early Nancy, yam daisy, purple coral-pea, golden bush-pea and more.
In some places, many of these are nibbled down by wallabies and kangaroos, which have increased over the past few decades. Bushes of pink bells were often much larger before these animals increased.
A recent correspondent wrote of the masses of wildflowers found in forests 40 years ago.
He mentioned flowering bushes of pink-bells nearly a metre across, and said that we are now satisfied to find a few sprigs with a dozen flowers.
Severe defoliation of wattle trees through much of the district is again occurring this spring, just as it did last year.
The cause is the fireblight beetle, whose grubs and beetles eat the leaves.
Only the "ferny-leaved" wattles are affected, and not every species of ferny-leaved wattle. In our district it is confined to silver wattles and black wattles.
The rather similar NSW early black wattle - which is often a weed in this district - has not been affected, nor has the Cootamundra wattle.
While it is mostly younger wattles that have been affected, some 30-year-old trees have been stripped too. Most of them will recover, but some of the smaller trees may not.
The defoliating grubs are small. Most of them have probably matured into round-bodied beetles by now.
The beetles are small too, only a few millimetres long.
One local species is olive-brown, while another is striped green and white, providing excellent camouflage on a wattle leaf.
NATURE QUERIES ANSWERED
Can you please identify these fungi found in Cardigan? Are they poisonous to humans or dogs?
D.F., via email.
The fungi are called spring fieldcap, or spring agrocybe.
They are fairly common on woodchips in gardens and are not regarded as poisonous.
Like a lot of non-poisonous fungi, they would probably cause a gastric upset if they were eaten.
If you are concerned about young children, I think the taste would soon put them off, and the same would probably apply to dogs.
The cracks on the cap appear as the mushroom gets older.
Most types of fungi appear in autumn and early winter, but this one characteristically appears in spring.
The cracked cap and its spring appearance on garden mulch help to identify it.
- Questions and photos are welcome. Email to email@example.com, or send to Roger Thomas at The Courier, PO Box 21, Ballarat, 3353.