Flowers of the Forest

Skyrail Nature Diary: September 2009

The flowers of the forest herald the arrival of spring in Tropical North Queensland this month.

The red blooms of the Powderpuff Lilly Pilly add bright splashes of colour to the rainforest under-storey, while clusters of red and yellow Black Bean flowers can be seen across the canopy.

The Powderpuff Lilly Pilly belongs to the Syzygium genus, which has over 500 species worldwide, 47 of which are found in Tropical North Queensland. The “Lillypillies” are popular rainforest plants, which are much sought after by gardeners and landscapers for commercial use.

The Powderpuff Lilly Pilly (Syzygium wilsonii) is the only of its kind to have red / pink flowers, which also give the plant its common name, due to their fluffy appearance. Endemic to the Wet Tropics Rainforests, this species grows natively from Ingham to Mossman, from sea level up to 600-800m and thrives in poor soil.

At Skyrail, the Powderpuff Lilly Pilly can be seen at Barron Falls Station. Although this species only grows to approximately 3-6m high, its fragrant flowers, delicate white fruits and reddish-brown flushes of new leaf growth, make it one of the most attractive and versatile of the lillypillies.

By comparison, the Black Bean is a rainforest giant. It can reach heights of up to 40m at maturity, with a crown up to 8m wide. Also known as the Moreton Bay Chestnut, the Black Bean belongs to the Fabaceae family, which is one of the largest families of flowering plants in the world.

Although native to the coastal rainforests and beaches of Australia, this is a hardy species which tolerates a range of conditions. This versatility has seen the tree spread, by cultivation, across much of the country.

The Black Bean’s common name comes from its large seed pods, which appear between March and May. The pods contain three or more bean-like seeds, which are highly toxic to humans but popular with Sulphur crested cockatoos. However, this month, it is the Black Bean’s beautiful red and yellow flowers which are making a display in the rainforest at Skyrail.

The Black Bean (Castanospermum australe) will continue flowering for several months, providing a bountiful food supply for many native parrots, bats and butterflies.

The Wet Tropics World Heritage listed Rainforests are home to more than 3,000 different plant species from 210 families. Skyrail Rainforest Cableway provides guests with the perfect opportunity to view rainforest flora from above the canopy, before alighting at rainforest mid-stations to learn more from the forest floor.