A Cloak Of Green To Keep Out The Cold

Skyrail Nature Diary: July 2004

Unlike the deciduous forests of the world's colder climes, most of species found in Australia's Tropical Rainforests retain their leaves during winter preserving their cloak of green around the region's lowlands and mountains. Indeed far from being bare, many rainforest species are bursting with flowers and fruit providing a winter feast for our native critters.

Some of the species which are particularly active in July are the Alexandra Palms, the Yellow Ash, the Cadaghi, a unique rainforest eucalypt, and the Brown and Blush Macaranga.

Fact: Did you know that palms are one of the world's earliest types of flowering plants? They have inhabited the Australian continent for more than 55 million years. Australia's World Heritage listed Tropical Rainforests are home to many species of palms, including the Alexandra, all of which are prominent and easily visible in the canopy and on the forest floor.

The Alexandra Palm (Archontophoenix alexandrae) grows in dense groves in 'moist' rainforests and is found in lowland and highland areas, up to altitudes of 1,200 metres, from Gladstone in Queensland's south to Cape York Peninsula in the north.

The Alexandra does particularly well in swampy areas or tracts of land that are prone to periodical flooding; it is a common sight in the rainforests of Tropical North Queensland and a popular plant with local landscapers and gardeners.

Bursting with sprays of green and red berries (they turn red when ripe) and creamy, waxy white flowers, which extend directly from the trunks underneath the leaves, the Alexandra is an easy tree for rainforest visitors to identify this month.

Meantime the Macarangas, Yellow Ash and Cadaghi are some of the other species providing winter foods for the rainforests many animals.

The Blush and Brown Macaranga, (Macaranga tanarius) and (Macaranga involucrata) respectively, are both found in the rainforests of Tropical North Queensland and also grow in some regions of south east Asia. The flowers of the Blush Macaranga are a greeny-yellow, making them suite difficult to spot amongst the rainforest foliage, and are followed by small green fruits which only grow on the female trees.

The Yellow Ash's (Emmenosperma alphitonoides) fruits are easier to see, being distinctly yellow as the name of the tree suggests and grow profusely for a couple of months. The Yellow Ash grows to heights of 35 metres and is found in the warmer rainforests from Nowra in south-east New South Wales to Cape York Peninsula.

The Cadaghi (Corymbia toelliana) is a unique species of eucalyptus and one of the few to call Australia's Tropical Rainforests home. Although their natural range extends from Ingham to Cooktown, the plant has been used extensively in south-east Queensland to create windbreaks and has adapted well to the cooler conditions.

A rainforest emergent, Cadaghis can grow up to 30 metres high; it has a smooth green trunk with a rough stocking at the base. The Cadaghis' delicate white flowers, which are present now, will be replaced by urn-shaped nuts common to this species.

Australia's World Heritage listed Tropical Rainforests cover approximately 10,000 square kilometres of land from Ingham to Cooktown. Representing a tiny 0.01% of Australia's total land mass, these rainforests are home to an amazing diversity of plant and animal life including 65% of the country's fern species, 37% of the conifer species, 60% of butterfly species and 50% of the country's bird species.

Of the 3,000 different plant species living in Australia's Tropical Rainforests, more than 395 are considered rare or threatened and 330 are found no where else in the world!

The best way to see the rainforest is on Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.