Fruits of the Forest

Skyrail Nature Diary: July 2009


There are two attractive rainforest trees bursting with fruit this month, the Onionwood Satinash and the Celerywood, both of which can be seen at Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.

The Onionwood Satinash (Syzygium alliiligneum) is a relatively rare rainforest tree with beautiful, fluffy white flowers and stunning, bright red fruits. Skyrail Rainforest Cableway has been working to expand populations of the Onionwood, planting it throughout the rainforest revegetation corridor at Smithfield Terminal.

Skyrail Rangers have been harvesting seeds from a large Onionwood Satinash, which grows on the banks of the lake adjacent to Smithfield Terminal, and propagating them in the Skyrail nursery.

Mature Onionwoods can grow to 30 metres high and its timber has concentric rings of bark, which resemble the interior structure of an onion. Onionwood Satinash has densely arranged leaves, which appear in pink upright flushes of growth when new.

The red Onionwood fruits appear throughout winter and spring and are relatively long-lasting. This is one of the few rainforest fruits which are edible to humans: they are crispy like an apple, but sour like a lemon. These fruits are also favoured by the endangered Southern Cassowary.

The Celerywood (Polyscias elegans) is also fruiting this month, although its small black fruits are not edible for humans. The common name for this tree comes from the smell of its bark and leaves, which smell and taste like celery when cut and crushed.

The Celerywood is a pioneer tree, which means it grows and establishes quickly, helping to form a canopy in regenerating areas of rainforest. A hardy tree, the Celerywood grows from the Illawarra region in New South Wales to Thursday Island, north of Cape York. At Skyrail, the Celerywood can easily be seen growing amongst the cycads and eucalypts around Tower 3 and 4, just outside of Smithfield Terminal.

Celerywood seeds are popular with many rainforest birds, including the currawongs and fig birds.

These are just two of many rainforest trees fruiting throughout winter in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Rainforests of Queensland. Skyrail’s Rangers will show more during a boardwalk tour at Red Peak Station.