It was a jam-packed weekend of activities in the Garden: The tomato festival invited to visit stalls, tomato tastings, plant & produce sales on the Band Lawn, plenty of kids explored Disney’s Fairy Trail, and for the romantically minded there was a massive red heart painted on the lawn in front of the tropical pyramid inviting lovers to showcase their best Valentine’ Day snaps on https://twitter.com/hashtag/GrassyHeart?src=hash
In the hustle and bustle the information booth served as an island of shade, a corner of quietness almost, only a few steps away from the main path and red train line.
Plus, it had its very own attractions: Not just one, two beautiful (and rather big – well, medium size for Australian standards) spiders were showing off there webs in the bed right in front of the booth, spun between palm and ponytail plant, in perfect height for viewing and photographing.
One was a golden orb weaving spider. One of the smaller specimens I have seen in the garden. Nonetheless, she was surrounded by several little spiders, males presumably who are trying to get lucky – and not eaten.
Not counting the long legs, orb weaving spiders can grow several centimeter big, with large (dependent on species grey or differently coloured) bodies. And yet they maintain a lightness as they elegantly sit in their webs. It seems they barely touch it, only holding on to it with the very tips of their legs.
It is certainly golden orb weaver season – their 3D web mastery is on display everywhere in the garden! Their webs are set up in bushes and trees, often overhead.
The webs glisten in the sun – make sure to look at the webs, especially the stronger (outside) threads from different angles until you can see its golden shine. You might even want to feel the strength and elasticity of the thread by carefully pulling on it. But be careful, the last time I slightly plucked on one of the outer threads the (understandably angry) spider came running towards me. Apparently they are unknown to bite, but better not to provoke her…
What a beautiful photo! View the original on Flicker: https://flic.kr/p/8UZJQN.
The second spider on display at the information booth was a St. Andrew’s Cross spider. The web lacks the structural complexity of the golden web orb weaver’s but makes up for it by its distinct zigzag markings.
Another great pic shared on Flickr – check it out on https://flic.kr/p/2gTyiZ
Like the spider in the picture above, the one at the booth has only one zigzag feature. I can’t wait to see whether more “ladders” will be added over time.
The two spiders at the information booth are hard to miss. In fact they seemed to attract almost more attention than the booth itself! People stopped to take photos or to ask what kind of spiders they were. Some tourists hoped they’d be the famously dangerous funnel web spiders and they could finally have a closer look (after being warned Sydney would be teaming of them, yet (luckily) they tend to stay below the surface).
There are of course other many other types of spiders in the garden.
Garden spiders, though mostly absent during the day have set up their large webs. And the clivias lining the borders of the Palm Grove beds are known hang-out spots for net-casting spiders. Unlike spiders with big webs net-casting spiders make small (tiny!) webs i.e. “nets” that they hold between their front legs. Neither the nets nor the actual spiders who resemble a dried wood chip or a little twig are easy to spot, but it’s worth looking for these intriguing little animals.
This photo is taken at the other side of the world, in Costa Rica, but the little fellow looks very similar to the ones you can spot in the Garden in Sydney. Look at the original photo here: https://flic.kr/p/bnc2pd
Not only did I have the pleasure to look at the spiders and people taking interest in those spiders from the information booth, I was also lucky to discover a copy of the Green Guide: Spiders of Australia. An enjoyable and nicely illustrated booklet that fits in your pocket as you set out to explore the spiderful world. Enjoy!