Unseasonal Flowering

Skyrail Nature Diary: July 2014

Last month was yet another wet one at a time of year you would normally associate with the dry season in Cairns and the associated start of our tropical winter. We’re still mowing the grass! Hopefully July will bring clear skies and some sunshine. There has however been some serious flowering which is normally unheard of at this time of year. During the end of June, the Mararie was still flowering having started at the beginning of May. The tree itself is comes to life when it flowers. The numerous tiny cream flowers are borne on long thin racemes and truly stand out. The fruits are hairy yellow capsules. These slightly primitive trees only seem to flower once in a few years and then only in moderation. Mararie was occasionally harvested for its useful timber.

The Briar Silky Oak flowered in small numbers along the back line of Skyrail. With a bit of luck they will be fruiting in July. However, due to the cooler weather, this may not occur. The cream or brownish flowers are borne on long racemes and are followed by red brown woody capsules full of papery seeds that are dispersed by the wind. The leaves are typically strongly lobed while still young. Adult leaves are distinctly yellow-green and slightly wavy. The timber of these trees is quite dense and good for doors. This tree is also moderately popular as an indoor plant.

Red Penda started budding at the end of June and continued doing so for a couple of weeks, possibly due to the cool weather. The flowers are large and yellow with no petals. The fruits are three lobed capsules filled with small hard seeds. These beautiful trees grow to quite large sizes and were once popular for bridge building. Red Penda is moderately popular in cultivation and flowers even as a small bush.

Candlenut flowered in moderate numbers along the cableway last month. The flowers are small and white and surrounded by large conspicuous white leaves. The fruits are large three lobed capsules with three hard round nuts containing 60% oil. This once made them useful as candles when strung together on a long wick. The Djabugandjii people ate the seeds in moderation after cooking. The seeds can, however, induce severe vomiting and upset stomach. Candlenut is a typical pioneer tree growing very quickly and having a moderately soft trunk. Interestingly Candlenut is related to the beautiful Poinsettia.

Yellow Walnut was flowering in moderate numbers along the back line in late June. The tiny flowers are brownish and are borne in small clusters on top of the tree. The fruits are large round nuts with two pointy ends. The seeds are extremely toxic but were eaten by the Djabugandjii people after extensive treatment to leach out the toxins. Very few animals are known to eat these fruits. The leaves are lance shaped and droop noticeably. The trunks produce a useful structural and decorative timber. Cut trunks often smell of sugar cane.

By Tore Lien Linde