Float like a Butterfly

Over these last few weeks I’ve marvelled at how many butterflies have been around. They flit about the garden like wayward petals. Caper Whites are common here. They tend to tango intensely. (You’ve surely seen them spin together.) While this Common Crow just hovers dreamily … floats along till it finds another resting place.

           Some, like the Blue Triangle, are hectic fliers and hard to capture on camera.

        The other day, as I waited in the queue at the garden centre, this Meadow Argus sat                      here so long I began to wonder if it was real. What a beauty!

        Out walking in the park just before sunset, this ‘odd leaf’ caught my eye. I’ve since                     learned it’s an Evening Brown butterfly that prefers to be out at dusk. 

          When I showed a friend my butterfly photos thus far, she sent this one of a Lemon              Migrant in her backyard. They’re found all over Tropical Australia and known for                  their regular large migrations down the east coast. In February this year there was a                                            butterfly boom after the drought.

             I’ve discovered too that North American Monarchs arrived here later than other                  butterflies, in the 1870’s. Some migrate to warmer areas before winter while many                adults stay. Great clusters of them festoon the same trees each year, till the                                                       weather warms up in September.

         I’ve long thought that a visiting butterfly was a spirit on its way to the next world.              The Ancient Egyptians thought so.They also believed caterpillars died (in the chrysalis)                                              and were reborn as butterflies. 

Egypt, Middle Kingdom – Butterfly Amulet . The Met Museum Copyright free.

There’s an old Irish story which Kevin Crossley-Holland reworked and called “Butterfly Soul.” It goes something like this –

Two farm boys, Tom and Declan have been out in the hills all morning, searching for missing sheep. They give up in the heat of the day and stretch out in the shade of a rock wall. Declan falls asleep while Tom sits, watching the valley and farm below. Declan’s snores get Tom to his feet and just as he bends to shake him awake, a pale butterfly flits out of Declan’s mouth.

Tom stands rooted to the spot, while the butterfly floats down the sleeper’s left side and off down the slope. Curious, the lad follows. He watches it approach the gate, drift upwards past each wooden spar and down the other side.

On it goes, down the track. Tom runs down and climbs the gate. When he lands on the other side, there’s suddenly no sign of the butterfly. Looking around, he notices the long grass by the track. He wades in and swishes through. Yes! He spies it down in the ditch, hovering over a the white skull of a ram. There it lands and teeters the horns.

Tom scrambles closer to get a better look and sees the butterfly fly in one eye socket. Feet in the ditch Tom sits. A couple of crows fly past, cawing. A breeze shakes the grass heads. After a while, he’s rewarded. That same butterfly clambers out of the other empty hole. Flying faster than before, the insect quickly gains height and catching the wind heads  back uphill, over the gate and towards the wall.

By the time Tom gets back up the hill, his friend is sitting up, stretching his arms and grins when he sees Tom, “Had an amazing dream!” 

“So,,,  what did you dream, Declan? ” replies Tom, scraping one foot on a stone.

“I was all by myself and walked for a long, long way hunting for you, Tom,  I came upon a railway track. So I jumped along fast from one sleeper to the next.  I didn’t know where the line was heading. I kept looking for a place I knew.

At the end of the line, I came to a tall, waving forest where a strong wind bent the trees this way and that. Suddenly, the wind lifted me up and I was blown along a river shining below me. I was flying straight on, the cold wind in my face.

There, on the banks of the shining river was a big, white palace. I flew down to it. It’s big round entrance was without a door, so I stepped inside. There was not a soul around, only the wind roaring through. I moved on through the place and wandered marble halls, one after another. They were all bare. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before! 

Then I began to think I was being watched, so I got out of there as quickly as I could and got away,  back along the shining river, through the forest, along the the rail line. Then I woke up”

“The dream was wonderful. I felt so good. I saw so much. Everything glowed bright and big. And I was flying!”

“Ah… ” mused Tom. “You felt you were flying, eh? Well, you should have seen what I saw. I saw. I saw a butterfly fly out of your mouth.”

Declan’s jaw dropped, as he stared hard at his friend.

“And … I followed that butterfly as it  flew away from you. I watched where it went. Come on, I’ll show you!” pulling Declan to his feet. “This way!”

Tom showed him the bars of the gate, the tall forest of grass, the shining river that was the running ditch and then he pointed at the skull of a long dead sheep.

Declan got up close to it and began to mutter “Holy … Dooley! Oh my…! again and again. Slowly, the two them climbed of the ditch and back up on the track.  

“So Declan, ” Tom declared, looking him in the eye. “You might have seen wonders … but what I saw was an even bigger wonder! Do you think anyone will believe us?”

Butterfly You © M.Philp. Adapted from K. Crossley-Holland’s tale “Butterfly Soul’

PS. I’m can’t help chasing butterfies –

Sources
CARR, Richard Vaughan. illus. Ann James. The Butterfly: from tiny wingbeat to a tornado. Newtown, NSW, Walker Books Australia. 1996. 

‘The Butterfly Soul’ in CROSSLEY-HOLLAND, Kevin. (1987) British Folk Tales; New versions. Cambridge, C.U.P.

Queensland Museum. Garden butterflies

Thanks to local Butterfly Expert Helen Schwenke for help with identification

Recent articles in local papers

Lemon Migrant butterfly migration underway

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All text and photos in this blog created by Meg

(Unless labelled otherwise)

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp. Copyright © under Australian Law.

Walk in Autumn Rain

It had rained steadily all morning – so we went for a walk. It was still raining when we got to Millbuies Country Park.

To be among old trees again, of all shapes and sizes! Taking in the odour of leaf mould, the vistas of bark columns and all the colours heralding the change of season! Sweet Chestnut (introduced from the Balkans in the 16th. C) contrasts with the still green Sycamore (another non-native).

Beeches hummed.They dappled the darker woods, shining golden or copper.

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Huddled under umbrellas, we missed the dripping canopy.

The good earth yielded underfoot, oozed at the bends and was carpeted with leaf litter. We listened to the patter of rain on leaf, land and us.

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Rain-dappled twigs hung from shivery boughs. Ducks kept their distance.

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Clear dark water harboured brown trout, all the way to the dam wall in this man-made fishing loch.

Leaves in a back-water eddied like golden scales from a magic fish.

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A robin piped and flickered through the bare branches. I’d missed the red squirrel.

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Golden, fairie birches flickered under the rain as we trudged down and up and around the water.

Gothic larches studded the hillside,while bracken, like feathers from a phoenix, fringed the track.

With lungs full of fresh, soft air, our body warm and feet dry, we headed home refreshed.

I look forward to walks like this.

Forests in the future?

Last Autumn in Scotland, I saw many more Oak trees have been planted in public places. You notice them easily for they hang on to their golden-yellowed leaves the longest. Many were cut down for ship-building in the 17th and 18th century. Ubiquitous mono-cultural fir plantations were established by the Forestry Commission in Scotland after WWI. The British war effort had almost run out of timber! I remember these dense monocultural woods, where nothing grows below and no birds sing among, which are now being cleared and replanted. This time, with trees native to the original Caledonian forest that once covered much of Scotland. For more info see Trees for Life founder Alan Watson- Featherstone’s talk on Youtube

This post is linked to Ann-Christine’s Photo Challenge #83 Future

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All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! blog by Meg Philp. Copyright © under Australian Law.

 

Let Me Show You the World — Longreads

Quote

It’s New Year’s Day, Story Lovers.

Perhaps you have some time to consider this marvellous article about the art of storytelling. It takes 16 mins to read. Author Iman Sultan explains why and how

The time has come to reclaim Shahrazad’s voice, resonating through centuries, and experience once again the power of a good story..

Almost everything you think you know about Aladdin is wrong.

via Let Me Show You the World — Longreads

My own hard copy set of The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night Volumes I – IV. is rendered into English from the literal and complete French translation of Dr. J.C. Mardrus by Pwys Mathers , 2nd edition. London, Routledge, 1964.

 

 

Some of What Caught My Eye in 2019

On Auld Year’s Day it’s good to look back on the year. What strikes me is that I spend a lot of time looking up!

I’ve been told this is a classic Queensland sky.

Yes, someone out there in Oz still does Topiary. Kangaroo and Emu (2 of Australia’s national symbols) chat at the front gate.

A lovely walk in the Pukekura Park.

WOMAD Pigtails.

Spot the Cloud Rider!

Wrought iron work (Scottish) in Dundee’s heritage-listed Malmaison Hotel, formerly Mathers Hotel, built 1860, refurbished and re-opened in 2014.

Two entwine. Great wedding.

 The high dome in Mount Stuart’s private chapel, Island of Bute.

Snow above Loch Tay, with loch-side ruins of the  original Ben Lawers village.

Thank you, dear reader. May 2020 bring you and I more adventures and stories to tell.

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This post is part of the LENS-ARTISTS photo challenge #77

All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp, Copyright © under Australian Law.

Tobermory: Lens Artists Challenge #65 – Pick a Place and Catch its Spirit

The British Fisheries Society established Tobermory as a fishing port on the island of Mull, Scotland in 1788. The cliffs around its natural harbour were scoured back to make room for a road and houses along to a deep water pier.

High tide October 2016 ©MegPhilp

Tobermory comes from the Gaelic “Tobar Mhoire” meaning ‘Mary’s Well.’ One dedicated to St Mary is located at the top end of the cliff. When I got there in 2016 the well had been long capped. The tap didn’t work so I couldn’t try the waters’ healing power.

No matter what, water rushes down from the cliff tops towards the sea. Everywhere you walk you can hear, and find, running, clear water. They make whisky in Tobermory.

When the nearby Strathearn Waterworks were completed in 1883, this Cherub Fountain was presented to the Burgh of Tobermory by Robert Strathearn. It no longer spouts water but there’s still a basin at the foot for thirsty canines.

The An Tobar Art Centre, once a primary school, is now a collective, community-run gallery (since 1998). This statue high up on the cafe wall caught my eye. I’d hazard a guess that this is St Mungo, Patron Saint and Founder of the city of Glasgow. There’s the bell from the legend, though the bird on his shoulder is too big to be the robin.

Addendum – This statue depicts St Columba, who founded the first Christian monastery on the nearby island of Iona in 563AD . The piece was made in 2007 by sculptor/mechanic Eduard Bersudsky of the Sharmanka Theatre group, who are based in Glasgow. Made of oak from the island, it’s an automated sculpture, with the small shoulder-perched bird ringing the bell on cue. [Thanks to Ester Morrison (Front of House Manager) who answered my emailed query.]

Is this St Mungo?©2016MegPhilp

And you can’t go past a local hero – The Tobermory Cat. A picture book about him by Debi Gliori was published in 2012. Here’s a second generation cat who carries on the tradition and patrols the main street and houses in town.

We came upon this little West Highland Terrier in a corner one of the craft shops. The woman behind the counter said she was keeping an watchful eye on him. Her neighbour had recently passed away and this had been his dog.

What kind folk there are in the world!

There’s only a few fishing boats in the harbour these days but its still a peaceful haven for locals, visitors and furry friends.

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All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

Linked to Tina’s Lens Artists Challenge #65

More Sources at

Balamory children’s TV program. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Balamory. Downloaded 5 October 2019.

St Columba. https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofScotland/St-Columba-the-Isle-of-Iona/. Downloaded 21 October 2019.

The Tobermory Cat https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8gLztkXwbc. Downloaded 5 October 2019

Remember That Coat

 

That coat was the colour of the sea on a sunny day, all green-blue with sand and seaweed tossed together … or was it darker … the colour I saw from the old bridge at Lossiemouth beach.

 

I loved the colour of it. I don’t know who had worn it before me. In our small family, children’s clothes were passed on to cousins. I was surprised when my mother produced it one day and made me put it on. Here was a ‘good’ coat. It was so heavy it flapped when I walked or walloped my legs if I ran. The label inside proclaimed ‘Harris Tweed.’ On the outside were brown, shiny leather buttons, a pocket each side with a silky soft, slippery lining and a staunch belt with a buckle I found hard to handle. The fabric felt the same as my dad’s good jacket, but his was mostly grey, with purple-pink bits when you looked really closely.

Dad explained how the cloth was woven on a loom and then dyed with all sorts of things, but mostly plants. Peering at my sleeve, I fingered the threads looking for a pattern. Sunday School was the perfect place to study the weaving, scratch at the different colours, pull off straggly fine hairs and fluff, all while humming softly. How were those buttons made? I wobbled one so much it had to be sewn back on again, tightly, while I stood watching.

The collar against my neck made me itchy so I had to put one of my Mum’s headscarves between coat and skin. Looking back, I think wearing that coat marked the beginning of my fashion sense, something that I did not share with my mother.

It all came out when we were getting ready to go to a summer wedding in town. Billy McTavish, who used to dandle me on his knee as a toddler, was getting married to a big girl I’d only met once. I adored this tall, young man and had been hoping he’d wait for me to grow up but here, now, he wasn’t.

My summer dress I liked. It was soft, white cotton scattered with little purple roses. It had two pockets. My white, hand-knitted cardigan had been taken out from under the carpet, peeled from its paper wrapping and held up beautifully pressed. This year’s Clark’s sandals had been freshly whitened. My white ankle socks were new.

I baulked as my mother approached bearing that tweed coat. I cried, which was as much of a tantrum I could ever muster then. I got worse when Mum got our straw hats down from the top of the wardrobe. How to explain what I felt? How could I explain why a straw hat does not go with a tweed coat? My younger sister was always more outspoken than I and surprised me some weeks later with retorts like “I’m not wearing that!” even on school days.

 

I cried more … unlucky before a wedding. My mother bargained. If I wore the coat I could carry the white basket (shaped like a flower pot with two life-like cherries on the side) that my aunty gave me when she came back from her big holiday. My sister beamed at this news. She’d get hers if I got mine! These two treasures had been locked in the china cabinet since the day Aunty went home, ages ago.

With my coat on, my precious basket was placed into my hands. My straw hat was straightened again. It looked like a flying saucer after an unsuccessful landing and was held in place by elastic which always left a red mark under my chin. There is a B&W photo somewhere in one of our family albums to prove all this. There we stood before the ceremony, holding the pose on the steps outside the kirk. Despite the basket,  you could tell how I was feeling by the look on my face, under that hat, in that coat.

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That Coat – Text, Drawings and photo from Lossiemouth Bridge by Meg Philp©2019

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

Lens-Artist Photo Challenge #57: Taking a Break- Beach Walk

There’s nothing like a fresh sea breeze to help you clear your head and recharge. First get your shoes off and step into the sand. Then breathe in the salty air and let the sound of the waves surround you.

Feels like you have the place and the space to yourself. It’s so wide.

The wind blows away the clouds as you aim for the horizon.

Black-winged Stilts test the water.

             Other seabirds congregate at the water’s edge …

Some dance.

Others paddle.

or dreaming of crabs, they head for the Mangroves.

Others, like these Caspian Terns, just wait for a change in the weather.

Eventually, you get the feeling it’s time enough and you turn back into the wind, humming a little tune, stepping out gaily, as you go.

…and you’ll return.

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Thanks to Lens-Artists Photo Challenge from Tina

All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright © under Australian Law.

Bird Brains

Great story with just the right photos. Naomi has written an inspiring piece about sustaining our planet. Thankyou.

Writing Between the Lines

A few years ago, our friend Pat gave us a funky little birdhouse resembling a camera.

We never expected anyone to occupy it, but to our delight, recently a pair of Bewick’s Wrens took up residence.

They built a nest, and a week ago, the eggs hatched. Now, when a parent approaches to feed the nestlings, they all peep, “Me, me, me!”

Both parents share childcare, feeding the babies…

…and changing diapers too. The nestlings poop into mucus bags resembling pea-sized white balloons, nature’s zip-locs, which contain the mess until their parents remove it. Eco-friendly disposable diapers!

Day after day, from sunrise until sunset, rain or shine, the ‘wrents’ forage for insects for their young. Every five minutes or so, they bring food and remove the fecal sack on the way out, keeping the nest clean. They’re averaging over 300 deliveries per day!

How can such fragile creatures, weighing no more…

View original post 616 more words

The Very Dab

(‘The Very Dab’ is a Scots’ expression which in my experience has meant ‘the perfect finishing touch.’)

Way back at the beginning of our world, they do say that God had a walk around when he had finished and was well pleased with what he saw. The sun was shining. The rivers were flowing. Tall trees and lush plants waved in the cool breeze.

He stopped to watch some birds drink nectar from blossoms. He smiled at the antics of more of them, as they fluttered in the river shallows, flapping, dipping and drinking.

It struck Him then that the birds were hard to see clearly. They were different sizes but they all came in various shades of browns, perhaps with shadowy grey or white underneath. They all had the same short, straight beak, too. Now that wouldn’t do. He’d gone to a lot of trouble to make each animal unique. Surely the birds needed the same.

He asked Gabriel to summon every type of bird from around the world and have them gather at dawn on a certain day on top of the highest hill in Canberra. He had a plan to make them all look different and marvellous.

On the appointed day, Gabriel had his list ready. The raucous Australian contingent was there first but soon settled and made room for birds from all over the world. Gabriel ticked off thousands of arrivals. When a Cockatiel suddenly made off with the paper list and ripped it to shreds, Gabriel decided that surely every bird had arrived and went to tell God “All here.”

He came up the hill laden with a bulging sack and a satchel full of paintboxes and brushes. His paints were of the self-perpetuating kind – they’d never fade or wear off and their hues would be passed on through the generations.

God opened his arms in welcome  and told the birds they could all choose their own colours as well as a new beak to suit their needs. The birds got so excited many launched into the air. Those still on the ground formed an orderly queue behind a lorikeet that had been dozing in front but soon woke up and squawked. “I want green, red, yellow … a blue head and collar and a red curved beak.”

God painted it all the colours of the rainbow. Next a large cockatoo ambled up and screeched, “Black, black, black and a big black beak shaped like a crab’s claw on top. I’ve got nuts to crack and sticks to beat, “ stammered the parrot as two scarlet cheeks promptly appeared.

One sweet little bird wanted “A long pointed black beak and a mask to match. Oh … and lots of turquoise and a sunny, golden chest.”. As God searched in his sack, He suddenly pulled out an enormous, saggy beak.

“Oh my, here’s a mistake! I can’t think of a bird who’d be able to use this.” From the back of the crowd came a cackle, “I can! Make it pink and it’s mine!”

God signalled for the big bird to come forward and all watched in awe as the great pink bill was hooked on and then layers of plumage splashed white, then black. The gathering stared silently as the cumbersome bird bowed its head and then turned to lope towards the crest of the hill. The crowd held its breath, then cheered loudly when it took off majestically.

The black beak and mask for the Bee-eater was much easier to fix.

The peacock made very particular requests. “Please could my colours be jewelled greens and blues, with shades of topaz and amethyst in radiating patterns in my tail, just so.” The Painter miraculously made this bird’s wishes come true in a flash.

Can you imagine your favourite bird asking for what they wanted?

As the sun began to sink towards the horizon, there were very few birds left. there was just a little paint and God told them they could help themselves. The Fairy Wren dashed into the blue and came out looking superb, while the Galah frolicked in the white, red and black and came out pink and grey. When the last of the flock had gone, God and Gabriel packed up and walked down to the creek to wash up.

“That’s improved the birds, no end,” said Gabriel. God nodded and sighed.

As they stood looking at the sunset, they heard a thrashing in the bushes nearby. A bird flapped wildly through and called from a close branch.

“Oh no! Oh no! Am I too late? Nobody told me this was happening. I don’t see other birds very often and the painted woodpecker gave me such a fright! “

“Oh, hello,” said God, looking round for his paints.

“This little shy one only sings at night. “ Gabriel looked up, worried, as he searched through paintboxes.

“I’m sorry. It looks like there’s no paint left,” replied the angel as he turned to look more closely at the little brown bird as it hung its head.

In the growing dark, God told the Nightingale to come closer and held up his pointing finger. The bird fluttered over and landed there.

“Don’t despair, little one. I have found just enough on this brush. Now, open your beak for me.” When the bird did so, God put the last dab of gold on its tongue.

The sharp taste startled the Nightingale. It flew off into the bushes. It was hard to make out where it had gone. Suddenly, the most glorious birdsong floated up into the night air. No-one in the world had ever heard anything like it before.

“Ah,” said God. “That worked. Nightingale is happy now.” He and Gabriel stood to listen for a while and then went home.

So … they do say that is how the Nightingale came to sing so gloriously. When people hear one singing in the distance they stop, wherever they are and listen. They forget what they’re in the middle of but remember, ever afterwards, how that Nightingale’s song made them feel.

©MegPhilp2019

‘The Very Dab’ adapted by Meg Philp from “The Nightingale” by Richard Adams in The Iron Wolf and other stories. London, Penguin, 1980 pp. 111-115.

Notes:

The word “Canberra” is popularly claimed to derive from the word Kambera or Canberry, which is claimed to mean “meeting place” in Ngunnawal, one of the Indigenous languages spoken in the district by Aboriginal Australians before European settlers arrived, although there is no clear evidence to support this. ( Source – Wikiwand)

Birds in story order

Cockatiel

Rainbow Lorikeet

Palm Cockatoo

Rainbow Bee-Eater

Pelican

Superb Fairy Wren

Galah

Nightingale

There are more marvellous photos of all of these birds on the www.

All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

 

 

Less is More: Lens-Artist Photo Challenge #43

This post is a response to Amy’s Lens-Artist challenge. Trees are one of my favourite things and I’ve been wondering about this one.

Trees catch my eye. Not sure what type of eucalyptus this is or how tall is is. Searched online and found out there are over 800 different species. Stopped there.

We had it bone-dry over last summer. This tree trunk had a smooth, pearlised sheen then. It felt shiny.  Curious about the bark … I decided to focus on the same patch over time to see what happens.

Are those dark spots the beginning of new bark?

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A shower of rain makes all the difference. It seems to me that all the colours the tree needs for leaves, blossoms and fruits are here in the trunk, ready.

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I did find out that the best way to identify a Eucalyptus is by its bark!

A friend In NZ told me of a novel* he’d read about a man who had many different types of gum trees on his property. When any young man came courting his daughter and asked his permission to marry her … the man would reply “When you can identify every Eucalyptus on the place, you may marry my daughter. “

Well, why not? If Psyche in the Greek myth had to go through all those trials to be united with Eros … sounds fair enough. I wonder if one succeeded in identifying each tree?

The trunk began to feel more uneven. Is it due to lack of water?

Weather is still very dry.

Now the weather’s a bit cooler and we have had above average rain in March, the texture and colour are changing again.

Here’s what the foot of the tree looked like.

Focusing on just one patch of trunk has been fascinating. But what I’ve learned doing this challenge is to not let myself be overwhelmed by the top or crown … just to remember to to start at the foot!

I’ve confirmed this is a Sydney Blue Gum. I’ve listed two sources. The fact that the bark sheds in strips, yet has ‘its stocking of dark persistent bark at the base’ clinched it.

All text except quote and photos by Meg.

PS. That novel about identifying Eucalypts*. A friend who read this post is lending me her copy of Eucalyptus by Murray Bail (1998) Winner of the Miles Franklin Award 1999.

Sources

Australian National Botanic Garden, Growing Native Plants, 2012. Isabel Zeil-Rolfe. Eucalyptus Saligna: Sydney Blue Gum. 2016, Australian Government, Canberra. Viewed 30 April, 2019. https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/trainees-2016/eucalyptus-saligna.html

YOUNG, P.A.R. (1991) Rainforest Guide. Brisbane, Brisbane Forest Park Administration Authority, p38.

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright © under Australian Law.