Rainforest Fruits

Skyrail Nature Diary: October 2004

As September marked the start of the official flowering season in Australia's Tropical Rainforests, it follows that October heralds the arrival of some of the rainforests' many fruits. Examples of the more interesting species you might see fruiting this month include the White Apple, or Bumpy Satin Ash, Red Pittosporums and the Bandicoot Berry.

The White Apple (Syzygium cormiflorum), which is also known as the Bumpy Satin Ash due to its appearance during the flowering and fruiting season, is a remarkable species found almost exclusively in the World Heritage listed rainforests between Townsville and Cooktown.

The White Apple flowers and fruits directly from its trunk or branches, which makes it very easy to distinguish from other rainforest plants at this time of year. Its flowers, which are extremely popular with the region's bird life, were out in full force in September and this month the small white fruits are beginning to develop. Although the fruits are not popular with rainforest animals, they are edible (for humans too), but are quite tart to the taste and 'floury' in texture. The fruits are numerous and when not on the trunk or branches they litter the rainforest floor underneath the trees.

Contrasting with the White Apple fruits are the bright bursts of orange and red that are the seed capsules of the Red Pittosporum (Pittosporum rubiginosum).

Although each seed capsule is only approximately 2 cm long, collectively, they provide a bright source of colour under the dark canopy of Tropical North Queensland's rainforests.

Red Pittosporum fruits are mainly apparent during the summer months, however, they can occur at any time and are in particular abundance at the moment. These bright seed capsules are preceded by fairly distinctive flowers, which appear in white, waxy clusters perched on top of this generally spindly, single-stemmed, shrub. Like the White Apple, the Red Pittosporum is found right throughout Australia's Tropical Rainforests, from Townsville to Cooktown.

Another species that is heavy with fruit this month is the Bandicoot Berry (Leea indica). This particular plant thrives in lowland tropical rainforests and can be found sprawling alongside stream-banks and in other sheltered locations. It has large, glossy, compound leaves, measuring up to one metre across, and its fruits start out green before darkening to a red-brown and finally becoming black; they are not edible.

The Bandicoot Berry is a hardy plant and is often used as'filler' in domestic gardens and in rainforest regeneration / revegetation projects. It is also unusual, as when you cut its tubular branches you discover they are actually hollow and have a Styrofoam-like texture.

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, which will take you on a 7.5km journey over the canopy and deep into the forest with two rainforest mid-stations providing the opportunity to explore this unique environment from the forest floor.