Flowers and Fruits on the Cableway

Skyrail Nature Diary: April 2012

This year, March has turned out to be rather wet after two surprisingly dry months when we would usually expect more rain. Along the front line at Skyrail, the Dodder Laurel (Cassytha filiformis: Lauraceae) is flowering inconspicuously. The Dodder Laurel is a parasite which starts life as a normal vine with leaves winding around the host’s trunk until it reaches the canopy. When it reaches the top, the Dodder Laurel sheds all of its leaves and drills into the tree’s sap. Once this parasite has tapped into the sap, the root is severed. The flowers are tiny and dull yellow. The fruits are tiny berries that only rarely get darker than a dull green. These fruits are toxic like most laurel fruits.

Umbrella Tree Fruits

Another plant exhibiting unusually high activity is the Umbrella Tree (Schefflera actinophylla: Araliaceae). On both sides of the cableway these beautiful trees are flowering and fruiting. Both flowers and fruits are borne on a whorl of large stalks covered in  "raspberries". The flowers are pink and attract large crowds of birds which is a great sight for our guests.  The Umbrella Tree is what is called a hemi-epiphyte, they are not parasites. These trees often start life as an epiphyte on top of a host tree having got there with the help of birds which eat the fruits and then deposit the seeds into a Basket Fern (Drynaria rigidula: Polypodiaceae). The roots drop to the ground once the plant reaches a certain size. The tree doesn’t always die as is the case with strangler figs which behave in the same way.

Hickory Ash

Hickory Ash (Flindersia ifflaiana: Rutaceae) is flowering and fruiting along both lines. The flowers are white and occur in large round clusters on the tops of the trees.  Unlike the flowers of their relatives, the citrus trees, these flowers are fairly odourless. The fruits look like woody gherkins covered in tiny pyramids that split into five "fingers", releasing several papery seeds into the wind. The leaves are compound, which means that they each consist of several leaflets. These beautiful trees grow up to about 30 metres and have a dark yellow timber that smells very similar to curry. The timber is extremely durable and is used for a variety of purposes from bridge girders to chisel handles. 


Celerywood (Polyscias elegans: Araliaceae) has just started flowering in modest numbers along the edges of the rainforest and in regrowth areas near Barron Falls. The flowers are white and borne on clusters of small spikes on top of the tree.  The fruits are two chambered black berries, flattened along the sides. These fruits are very popular with local birds. The tree itself is a typical pioneer species with a short life cycle. The tree has a narrow trunk with virtually no branching, all branches occur on top of the tree. The leaves are compound and leave a triangular scar on the trunk when they shed. The crushed leaves and snapped branches smell strongly of celery.

Kuranda Quandong (Elaeocarpus bancroftii: Elaeocarpaceae) is having a large flowering episode along the cableway which looks awesome! The flowers hang upside down under the twigs and resemble cream coloured skirts. They have a very pleasant smell. The fruits are large green drupes with very dry flesh. The husk inside looks like a rugby ball and has very thick walls. The main problem apart from the slow growth is that these trees grow up to 45 metres. The idea is to create a dwarf variety. The Djabugandjii had special nut stones they used to crack open these delectable nuts.

By Tore Lien Linde