Saturday, September 17, 2011

Glyphs and moths

I think I mentioned that  Barry and I ran away for a few days recently. We went to the beach; but there were lots of national parks around as well, and we went for a walk one morning.

We came across so many fabulous scribbly bark trees.  I don't know if anything like this lives anywhere else in the world; but here in Australia we have clever little moths, whose larvae live in this particular type of eucalyptus haemastoma (gum) tree and make these fabulous marks and glyphs and tracks in the bark.

These zigzag tracks are tunnels made by the larvae of the Scribbly Gum Moth (Ogmograptis scribula) and follow the insect's life cycle. Eggs are laid between layers of old and new bark. The larvae burrow into the new bark and, as the old bark falls away, the trails are revealed. The diameters of the tunnels increase as the larvae grow, and the ends of the tracks are where the larvae stopped to pupate. Thank you wikipedia.

I must admit I get amused by what appear to be completely random journeys; and where things go awry and they have to turn back and go around another way...but the marks they make are beyond beautiful.

And then the calligrapher in me was absorbed by how people also chose to graffiti these trees themselves. As if the handwriting of the larvae was an invitation for humans to try their hand as well?!?  Anyhow, despite my preference for them not to destroy or wreck the trees, I found myself a little bit fascinated by how the carved letters appeared almost like scars and I imagined their scabs falling off as the bark shed and leaving only  hint of the original writing.

Sometimes nature just gets it so right.


  1. What great shots! The first few remind me of my attempts at stitching!

  2. How wonderful! Particularly like the end shot of man's marks with nature's.

  3. Great photos! I learn something new every day. Never heard of Scribbly Gum Moths.

  4. Thanks for explaining the process - love the scribbles - I am inspired to go do some scribbling myself xoxoxoxo

  5. Where else but Australia would they name this tree 'scribbly'. It sooooo well describes the marks those little insects make. The photos are little works of art in themselves.

  6. these marks are beautiful. like maps of something imagined, important, meaningless, meaningful, depending on the seeing. or believing.

  7. So, soooo beautiful, aren't they?

  8. Oh Annie that made me smile!

    Ronnie - I agree totally

    Jennifer - fabulous marks aren't they; and the two together are a great combination

    N - I think I should be a scribbly bark moth larvae - my kind of scribbles!

    Jo - perfect nomenclature I agree - they got it so right. The bark is simply 'scribbled' upon!

    V - beautiful and perfect

    Amanda - I agree - they just make me smile!

  9. What wonderful photos Fiona. How inspired of the scribbly gum moth to make his life journey this way. His calligraphic marks are incredibly fine and beautiful. Lucky you to not only 'run away to the beach' but to find these too.

  10. Wow - never seen/heard of this before! I guess the mark-making urge is everywhere around us, whether the result of a natural process or a conscious decision. Perhaps we could all do well to be more like the tunneling insects and just go our way and let the marks we leave behind come unconsciously?

  11. Lesley - I thought you might have a moth affinity moment with these - and the calligraphic marks. It's a remarkable record of a journey isn't it? So often, these travels leave traces we can't see..

    G/Tt - pretty cool aren't they?!? Such beauty in the randomness of them; yet there is clearly a pattern and a purpose too somehow. I like the idea of the zig-zags I would leave behind me, even in a day, of all the moves I made and the places I went..

  12. These drawings left behind on the trees are just breathtaking....I am totally humbled by the work of these moth larvae....and to think we work so hard to make such marks! Thanks so much for sharing this!!


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