Pond Matters

villarsia flowers in summer

The rain over the past couple of days has filled the pond in my garden and it’s very close to overflowing. I planted Phlebocarya ciliata, a bog plant, in the area where the overflow will run, so it should enjoy this winter wet area. It’s in the Haemodoraceae family along with kangaroo paws. The plant structure looks similar, but it likes damp swampy ground, unlike kangaroo paws. I also got hoary twine rush (Meeboldina cana) for the water and removed one of the Villarsia from the water and planted it in the overflow area. Villarsia like boggy areas or shallow water, so it should do as well in the ground as it did in the pond.

Villarsia albiflora by Uncle Pedro

I’m still uncertain about the identification of the three Villarsia. The plant I thought was Villarsia albiflora is not. It flowered very prettily in yellow, not white. The flowers looked similar to the first flowering Villarsia (now in the ground) but slightly bigger and the plant structure and leaves are very different. It might be Villarsia latifolia. The third Villarsia has not yet flowered, so I’m waiting impatiently (until next summer) to see whether its flowers will be the white of Villarsia albiflora.

Baumea in February

In November when I got the Baumea preissii it had only just been broken off the main plant and re-potted and was not certain to survive. It did and it’s currently growing towards taking over the pond.

Baumea taking over

Soon after putting in the pond mosquitoes started breeding. Despite spiders building numerous webs above the water to catch all the flying insects, I thought I’d better introduce some aquatic predators. I wanted to get Western Pygmy Perch (Nannoperca vittata) which are endemic to Perth and the south west, but they were $15 each. I worried I might kill them, which could become expensive, so I got the cheaper White Cloud Mountain minnows (Tanichthys albonubes). They’re native to White Cloud Mountain in Guǎngdōng, China. The White Clouds liked their new home so much they bred excessively over summer. They quickly devoured all mosquito larvae and any other non-vertebrate that landed or hatched in the pond, as long as it was small enough for their minnow mouth. (They’re only about 3cm long.) This means the large number now living in the pond haven’t outgrown their habitat, but they’ve exhausted the animal delicacies and now have to live off algae, which won’t be running out soon.

spider spinning her web above the pond

Every now and then I pick a minnow-mouth-sized-caterpillar off one of the native plants and throw it in the pond, where a lucky White Cloud gets a treat. The Acacia truncata is covered in these tiny caterpillars. They strip a section of leaves, move on to another, and the stripped section shoots profusely so there are even more leaves. I guess the two evolved together, so I don’t pick them all off. Unfortunately the caterpillars which occasionally attack my vegies are too big for minnow mouths.

jiri jiri on the pond fence in summer

I’m hoping frogs will arrive sometime this winter. There’s lots of rocks in the water and branches leading into the water so they can get in and out easily. The minnows don’t eat frog eggs (supposedly) so there might even be tadpoles.


photo credits

white villarsia flower growing in south west WA by Uncle Pedro
all other photos by Clare Snow

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