Rainforest Bounty

Skyrail Nature Diary: March 2009

March is a great month to see many different rainforest fruits and flowers on the boardwalk, at Skyrail’s Red Peak Station.

The white flowers and orange / red fruits of the Prickly Alyxia and Hairy Red Pittosporum are features this month, as are the architecturally interesting fruits of the Pandanus Monticola.

Prickly Alyxia (Alyxia ruscifolia) is a beautiful, adaptable species which grows in rainforest from Wollongong in New South Wales, to Tropical North Queensland, to the Northern Territory.

It has a few other common names, Rainforest Jasmine, thanks to its sweet-smelling, white flowers, Rainforest Holly, because of its glossy, prickly leaves and the Chain Fruit, as its fruits grow in a chain-like formation.

The Prickly Alyxia grows closely around the boardwalk at Red Peak Station, allowing you to smell the gentle jasmine aroma of the flowers. Be warned of eating the fruits though, this can lead to temporary blindness.

Another rainforest species with white flowers and orange / red fruits is the Hairy Red Pittosporum (Pittosporum rubiginosum). This spindly, single-stemmed shrub is usually only one to two metres tall and grows exclusively in the Wet Tropics Rainforests, from the Paluma Range in the south to Cooktown in the north.

Hairy Red Pittosporums’ flower and fruit throughout the year, and those close to the boardwalk at Red Peak Station are currently full of bright orange fruits. These are popular with our guests, who sometimes call them hamburger fruits. The fruits are not edible for humans, but are popular with many rainforest animals, including the Musky Rat-kangaroo.

Another plant fruiting at Red Peak Station this month is the Urchin-fruited Pandanus (Pandanus monticola), also known as the Scrub Breadfruit and Rainforest Screw Pine.

The stems of this plant are very narrow, about 3cm in diameter, and are not weight-bearing. As a result, this plant is often found sprawling along the rainforest floor, a tumble of spiny leaves and stems.

The prickly, fruiting heads (pictured) grow up to 12cm long by 8cm wide and are a popular food source for the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. They are also edible for humans, but are quite bland.

Skyrail’s Rangers will point out these, and many more interesting rainforest species, on a boardwalk tour at Red Peak Station.