Springtime Bounty

Skyrail Nature Diary: November 2009

Skyrail provides the perfect vantage point to admire many of the rainforest's springtime blooms this month. There is an array of flowers on show, including the Beach Cherry, Native Gardenia, Medinilla and Bumpy Satinash.

The Beach Cherry (Eugenia reinwardtiana) is a beautiful rainforest shrub with glossy, dark green foliage, fluffy white flowers and orange to red fruits. At Skyrail, the Beach Cherry can be seen in the gardens at Smithfield Terminal.

Its small, white, fluffy flowers are followed by bright fruits, measuring 1-2cm in diameter. The fruits, produced throughout spring and summer, are edible for humans and enjoyed by many rainforest animals. This species is the only Australian Eugenia and grows from Bundaberg to Cape York Peninsula, from the coastal beaches, up to 500m altitude.

Another plant with fluffy, white flowers is the Bumpy Satinash (Syzygium cormiflorum), although these blooms are much larger than those of the Beach Cherry and appear less frequently.

This interesting species only flowers and fruits every two to five years and when it does, it happens directly from the trunk and branches, giving the plant its 'bumpy' appearance. Bumpy Satinash blooms are full of nectar, attracting a wide variety of birds during the day and possums at night.

These blooms can currently be seen close to the look out at Red Peak Station and will be followed by golf ball sized fruits, which are edible and shaped like an apple. The fruits are enjoyed by many rainforest animals, including the Southern Cassowary, which also likes to eat the round, yellow fruits of the Native Gardenia.

The Native Gardenia (Randia fitzalanii), which is now flowering at Red Peak Station, grows in rainforests along Queensland's tropical coast. It is most often smelled before seen, as its star-shaped, white flowers emit an exotic, fragrant scent. This plant is beloved by gardeners and is grown for its dark, shining foliage and delicate flowers.

Adding to the rainforest bounty this month is the Medinilla (Medinilla balls-headleyi), which was the inspiration for the Skyrail Rainforest Foundation's logo. This plant is rare, threatened and considered regionally significant.

It is only found growing in wet lowland rainforests from Tully to northern Cape York Peninsula; there is an excellent example of it, easily seen at Skyrail's Red Peak Station. Growing as a climbing shrub, the Medinilla reaches 6-7 m high and has white to pink flowers, which appear in spring. These will be followed by long-lasting clusters of pink to purple berries.

Rainfall in late October should herald a burst of flora and fauna activity in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Rainforests of the Barron Gorge National Park in November, making it a great time to visit.