Canopy In Bloom

Skyrail Nature Diary: April 2009

Skyrail’s guests will see many fruits and flowers across the rainforest canopy this month, including the Blue Quandong, Candle Nut, Lawyer Vine and Black Wattle.

Blue Quandongs grow throughout the Barron Gorge National Park and are very visible in the canopy thanks to their sometimes red leaves, frilly white flowers and distinctive blue fruits.

Mature Blue Quandongs (Elaeocarpus gradis) grow up to 40m tall and have a sparse canopy with long serrated leaves that will turn noticeably red in colour. These are pioneer trees, which mean they grow and regenerate quite quickly and are found throughout the rainforest.

The flowers are popular with Rainbow Lorikeets and other nectar-feeding animals, whilst the fruits are edible for humans. Blue Quandong seeds are convoluted, like a brain, and were once used to make necklaces.

The Candle Nut is so named for its seeds, which are encased in large, globular fruits, which are now growing on the trees. Each fruit contains two or three seeds which have an inner-kernel so high in oil, that they can be used as candles. They are also quite delicious to eat when roasted.

Related to the Poinsettia, the leaves of the Candle Nut turn white during flowering, making them very visible along the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway transect.

The Lawyer Vine is a climbing rainforest palm that every single guest will see during a Skyrail experience. As well as being draped across the rainforest canopy, the Lawyer Vine (Calamus spp.) grows in abundance alongside the boardwalk at Red Peak Station.

The Lawyer Vine is most known for its spiny leaves and tendrils, which it uses to latch on to other rainforest trees, to climb to the top of the rainforest canopy. These tendrils are called flagellum and they are leafless stems with backward facing hooks, it is these hooks that give the plant its other common name, Wait-a-while.

This month, the Lawyer Vines are fruiting and there are some excellent examples hanging down above the boardwalk at Red Peak Station. The fruits are small, round, scaly and edible. There is a thin flesh, which tastes like date, surrounding a tough brown seed. The Aboriginal people used to crush the Lawyer Cane seed and place it in any holes in their teeth. The seed would make the area go numb, providing pain relief.

Finally this month, we look at the Black Wattles, which are flowering sporadically. Black Wattle (Acacia celsa) is also known as Brown Sandlewood, Brush Ironbark Wattle and New Guinea Wattle. Its bright yellow flowers start to appear in late summer, much to the delight of many nectar-feeding birds, and are eventually followed by seeds. The seeds can be roasted and eaten by humans.

There are over 3,000 different plant species from 210 families growing in the Wet Tropics World Heritage listed Rainforests. Skyrail Rainforest Cableway provides the best way to view many of them, as you glide just metres over the canopy, before descending to the forest floor to learn more on boardwalks and at the Rainforest Interpretation Centre.