We have always loved the red- flowering gum planted thirty years ago near our Tallebudgera home. A northern Australian bloodwood, with twisted branches and large leaves, it produces bunches of ‘Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’ buds and, of course, clusters of gold tipped red eucalyptus flowers followed by large, tough gum nuts.
We call it the ‘supermarket tree’ because, when in flower, there is an endless stream of creatures coming to feed on its bounty. Birds and insects by day, the occasional nocturnal possum or glider and the nightly fighting and noisy complaints from fruit bats make up its visitors. This year, over the first weeks of March, the tree has seen a new ‘customer’, the Richmond Birdwing butterfly.
A few years ago, I attended a Land for Wildlife education day in Tallebudgera Valley and learnt more about this most beautiful butterfly and its dependence on the Richmond Birdwing Vine (Pararistolochia praevenosa). Great efforts have occurred over the years to plant this vine, the only food source for this butterfly’s caterpillar. Despite several failures we now have a well-established vine in the adjacent bushland.
Nearby neighbours have reported yearly sightings and even pointed out a few in the neighbourhood but this year they have appeared, up to a dozen at a time, attracted by the ‘supermarket tree’.
The large females, constantly attended by the smaller and more colourful males, dance around the open garden with frequent returns to top up on nectar. When feeding, it is possible to approach closely and be entranced by the truly amazing colours and iridescent greens of this most beautiful creature.
Congratulations to everyone in the area who has nurtured a birdwing vine. We hope that you all get to share the experience of seeing the Richmond Birdwing butterfly at your place.
Peter Biddle Land for Wildlife member Tallebudgera, Gold Coast