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28 Feb 2022

Tree's strange reaction in wet weather

The wet weather hammering Australia is causing all sorts of unusual sights but one that has had people stumped is the jellyfish-like blobs being found.

People have been taking to social media to share photos of the clear goo they've seen on trees and footpaths.

“Many people are experiencing a gel-like substance exuding from their Illawarra Flame Trees in the wet weather," explains Australian Institute of Botanical Science Chief Botanist Dr Brett Summerell.

"In some cases this is covering the footpath and forming large blobs on the tips of the trees."

The sap from an Illawarra Flame Tree.
Dan Robinson took this photo of the jellyfish-like sap.

But Dr Summerell says there is a good explanation for the occurence. 

"Normally the tree produces this when their seed pods are attacked by insects as a means of protecting them but with so much water the trees are exuding them through the growing points and through any damage on the branches," he says.

"There are reports that the gel can be caustic and even lift the paint off cars so it is best to wash it off surfaces with a hose and not touch it with bare skin.

"It is likely that because it is so diluted that the current production is less likely to be this caustic – but better to be safe than sorry”.

The sap on a footpath.
An image shared to Reddit.
The Illawarra Flame Tree bursts with colour during summer and can be found along the east coast of Australia.

The inner bark of the trees was used by First Nations Australians for making string, fishing nets and traps, as well as being a food resource.

“The large seeds are rich in protein and taste rather like raw peanuts,” Dr Russell Barrett previously told Australian Geographic.

“They were commonly cooked before they were eaten to ensure that all the irritating hairs were burnt off.”

See what else the weather is bringing

February's hot humid weather is perfect for this month's selection of tropical plant stars. Find out what they are in 'tropical plants flourishing this month'.

Category: Science
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