Who’s Been Eating My Plants?

Not Goldilocks, that’s for sure

Bronwen Scott


Norton’s Oak (Helicia nortoniana, Proteaceae) looking more oak-like thanks to the work of an small herbivore. © Bronwen Scott

Due to a combination of factors — weather, depleted potting mix, pests — my plant collection is suffering. I’ve had several deaths, particularly of Proteaceae, which prefer to be in the soil not in pots, and a few other species are looking peaky. I need a place of my own where they can be free.

The Norton’s Oak (Helicia nortoniana, Proteaceae, not an oak) is growing well, but the leaves are constantly chewed.

The two rainforest hibiscus are suffering a similar fate.

The Cape Tamarind (Toechima daemelianum, Sapindaceae, not a tamarind) is in an even worse situation. The leaf blades are mostly untouched, but something is chewing through the stalks. Every day I see another example of this wanton destruction. It annoys, distresses and, after I’m over the outrage, intrigues me.

Who are the culprits?

I’d like this to be a Sherlockian tale of deduction, but I have no great intellect and no deerstalker and I can’t play the violin. And uncovering the perpetrators was easier than typing this sentence.

Let me introduce you to their mugshots.

But first…The bite marks on the Norton’s Oak suggest a leaf-cutter bee has been at work. I have yet to see one on this plant, but I recognise the modus operandi of this Moriarty bee from a previous encounter. (If no leaf-cutter is involved, I apologise for the calumny.)

These two, posing here on a Rose Silky Oak (Placospermum coriaceum, Proteaceae, not, well, you know) are all ‘there’s nobody here but us twigs’ but I know they’ve been up to no good. Those hibiscus leaves are tasty…

Two stick insects probably snoozing after stuffing themselves on my plants. Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland. © Bronwen Scott.

…and this is not the face of innocence.



Bronwen Scott

Zoologist, writer, artist, museum fan, enjoying life in the tropical rainforest of Far North Queensland. She/her. Website: bronwenscott.com