The Fruiting Forest

Skyrail Nature Diary: October 2008

It’s springtime in Australia’s Tropical Rainforests and many species are now presenting a bountiful array of fruits and flowers at Skyrail.

Rainforest fruits are much more colourful than their flower counterparts, coming in a range of hues, shapes and sizes.

This month at Skyrail’s Red Peak Station you can see the orange fruits of the Red Pittosporum, the white ‘apples’ of the Bumpy Satinash and the purple berries of the Medinilla.

The Red Pittosporum (Pittosporum rubiginosum) is a small understorey plant that grows one or two metres high and flowers and fruits directly on top of its usually spindly, single stem.

The Red Pittosporum’s small, bright orange fruits, which are about two centimetres long, split open to reveal a cache of red seeds which are a popular food source for many rainforest animals, including the Musky Rat-kangaroo.

Red Pittosporum fruits are mainly apparent during the summer months; however, they can occur at any time and can be seen at Skyrail’s Red Peak Station at the moment.

The Bumpy Satinash (Syzygium cormiflorum) is an ancient rainforest species which flowers and fruits directly from its trunk and branches, giving it a ‘bumpy’ appearance and its common name.

Its beautiful, fluffy white flowers attract many nectar-feeding birds and animals, while the small white fruits can be eaten by humans and animals. The fruits resemble small white apples; they are quite tart and ‘floury’ in texture.

The Medinilla (Medinilla balls-headleyi) is a rare rainforest plant which can only be found in wet lowland rainforests from Tully to northern Cape York Peninsula. Although rare, the Medinilla flourishes at Red Peak Station and its fruits were chosen as the inspiration for the Skyrail Rainforest Foundation logo.

This month, the Medinilla is finishing its flowering and moving into fruiting. Its soft pink petals have showered the boardwalk and are being replaced by bright purple fruits, which contain numerous small seeds and are edible.

The rainforest bounty is just beginning, with many more fruits to appear throughout the rainforest in the coming months.