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A Central Australian Christmas story from Dave and Bess Nungarrayi Price

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This is the fruit of the bush passionfruit, or Capparis spinosa and in Warlpiri, mingkilyananga. Try saying that with a mouthful of Christmas pudding. It grows along watercourses in Central Australia, flowering and then fruiting in early December usually.
It’s a small shrub but can get pretty big in the right conditions. We have one growing self-seeded in our backyard from river sand that I imported to replace a small patch of lawn that had been destroyed by army grubs. it flowers every year and can get pretty luxuriant.
First come the buds.
The brilliant white flowers last only 24 hours and the fruit springs from the heart of the flower.
We were watching all this happen in our backyard.
I could photograph every stage of this Summer wonder sitting in my own backyard with a cold beer and a good book. Then came the vandals.
At first we were mesmerised. There seemed to be hundreds of these beautiful, delicate little butterflies decorating the shrub like angels on a Christmas tree. Soon new life covered the leaves. We were witnessing a miracle of nature.
This butterfly is actually different to the others featured in this story. While the Caper White is known to use the Bush Passionfruit, this is an interloper to proceedings known as the Lesser Wanderer, Danaus chrysippus.
We could watch the life cycle of one of nature’s most beautiful creatures unfold before us in a matter of days.
And all of this had happened naturally.
The shrub was self-seeded, the butterflies invited themselves. We were thrilled.
Then our visitors, without a shred of shame, indulged in a frenzy of sexual activity right before our very eyes and died.

Now our bush passionfruit looks like this. The little, randy bastards didn’t leave one leaf, not one flower and all the fruit is gone.

All text & images are by Dave and Bess Nungarrayi Price and are reproduced here by kind permission.