Vines in Barron Gorge

Skyrail Nature Diary: February 2012


This month we will be looking at vines in Barron Gorge. Vines are particularly adaptated to reaching the light at the top of the canopy. The forest floor is generally very dark and little apart from some ferns and saplings grow there. Trees make their own way to the light. Epiphytes send their tiny seeds through the air in the hope that some of them will land on a suitable spot and ultimately grow. Vines take a more active role in their fight for light. Some are herbaceous while several more are woody – these are known as lianas. Most vines climb trees by twining around the tree’s trunk. Typical examples of this kind of climbing include grape vines, Jungle Vine and Dichapetalum. The latter vine is quite common despite often being overlooked. Dichapetalum has very thin, tough trunks that are hard to cut. Often large masses of this vine cover consideration parts of a tree. Other times the vine stays just in between the top branches of the canopy. The white flowers are tiny and are followed by small orange fruits divided into three chambers. The leaves are small, lance shaped and very dark green. 

Another popular method of climbing is the use of adventitious roots clinging on to the tree trunk. Two good examples of this are the Needle Berry and the Native Monstera. Both of these vines produce spike like flowers with edible fruits that have a burning, tangy flavour. The Native Monstera is a hemi-epiphyte, meaning that it starts life as a vine and then serves the root. During dry years they often re-establish the roots until a more suitable climate returns. The final method of consequence is the use of spines and barbs. Examples of this include the Prickly Supplejack, Mother-In-Law Vine and the Lawyer Vines. The latter is a climbing palm used in the manufacture of rattan cane furniture. A rare method of climbing worthy of a mention is the use of a sandpapery surface while twining. The Fire Vines are the main example of this kind. Their stems have a distinct sandpapery feel to them which can cause lacerations if blundered into.