Carbon dating has found grass tree ages of up to 1,000 years. Also, they have special contractile roots that pull seedlings underground so that plants on sandy soils may not develop an above ground stem for 10 to 30 years. I reckon that the five-metre plant I found in Candy Block must be ancient. Unfortunately, twenty-eight parrots are now attacking its new growth.
The grass tree at Foxes Lair is the smaller Xanthorrhoea brevistyla that lacks an above ground trunk. It is an insect magnet when flowering in November.
I regularly see severe insect attack on balga flowering spikes and brought one home for examination. The green stem had frequent reddish- brown sunken lesions with gum exuding from small holes. The split stem revealed tunnels containing bardi grubs, surrounded by reddish brown fungal infection. Once again, a canker fungus that affects eucalypts and other shrubs
The bardi grubs are larvae of longicorn and cockchafer beetles. They have tunnelled up through the entire flowering stem.
The flowers and seeds were attacked by a brownish caterpillar that eats them under a protective cover it makes from its frass (poo) and silk.
The fibrous centre of the dead balga was completely replaced by a soil-like material containing wireworms, which were attacking the interior of the surrounding leaf bases
This balga had been surviving with a decayed centre for some time until the weakened stem snapped. It is a natural process and dead remnants can be attractive in their own right.
Unfortunately, increased in Australian ringneck parrot (twenty eight) numbers are causing premature balga death from them continuously chewing the new growth.