Okay, I know there’s no such thing as evil ecosystems. You create plenty, and things come. Plenty of chicken food and regular eggs, you get nine teenaged brush turkeys, slouching around your backyard, eating anything that’s not nailed down. Lots of grapes vines and your resident possums bite their way through the mesh exclusion bags and let in the fruit flies. A yard littered with the sulphurous fermented droppings of a cocos palm (not to mention the ordure of those brush turkeys), you get loads and loads of flies.
I’ve had a red hot go at taking an aesthetic approach to the flies, with their sparkling metallic blue and golden armour and crazy eyes. I’ve tried to think about them as simply part of the cycle of life, but I am starting to stare pointedly at my watch, waiting for the arrival of the cavalry, a wheeling flock of insectivorous SBBs (small brown birds) that will weave through the undergrowth and snatch the pests from the air without breaking formation. I want one of those neat and tidy ecosystems, the ones where the annoying insects become a food source for endangered and good-looking avian visitors.
But no – desite my native shrubs and the absence of a horde of noisy miners, our place is rich in bombastic generalists and SBBs are thin on the ground. Your kookaburra – good for tidying up your left over sausages. Your cockies will make short work of the peach crop. But both of them bloody useless at disposing of flies. The garden skinks have been a disappointment as well. Allegedly they are avid carnivores, and flies are a favourite treat, and we’ve got more Lampropholis guichenoti in the backyard than we have five cent pieces rattling around in the bottom of the washing machine. But they, too, have failed to come to the party. Once again, Gaia appears to be napping on the job.
While the Cocos palm absolutely and definitively a weed (I like the nuggets of invective in the Grow Me Instead Brochure – “a blot on the landscape” “can give the appearance of a garden planted with telegraph poles”) my hatred for this vermin-attracting plant was masked for a while by a sense of gratitude. After all, it did save the house and possibly the family from being crushed under a giant gum tree.
I was at work one day when RB called. “I don’t want to worry you but a tree’s just fallen on the house”.
The SES was summoned: a marvellous mob of guys and gals with chainsaws who belayed themselves to the wonky car port and swarmed over the roof of the house, making short if noisy work of the tree. The big gum had lost its grip on the ground and fallen sideways towards our verandah. Fortunately a forked branch wedged itself across the Queen palm, holding the eucalyptus suspended just a smidgen above the roof. The sum of the damage: one branch lightly brushed a gutter and gave it a bit of a bend.
So, thanks for that, Queen palm (and, needless to say, the SES. You are legends.). We’re grateful for the structural integrity of our roofline.
But if you think it’s going to stop us chopping you down, you couldn’t be more wrong. The possums might view your fruit as ideal picnic food but you’re a hazard for the flying foxes. It’s a worry when you rely for 30% of your diet on something that gives you acid reflux, damages your teeth, chokes you and leads you to stumble around on the garden being mauled by suburban dogs. Even Maccas isn’t that bad. That’s an evil ecosystem if ever there was one.
And that’s leaving aside the trip hazard for someone as poorly coordinated and lazy with the garden broom as I am. So unless I hear about a recipe for cocos palm wine before I afford a tree surgeon, Cocos palm, you’re cactus!