Orchids in Tropical Rainforest

Dendrobium Orchid at Skyrail in Cairns

Visit the tropical rainforest of Barron Gorge National Park with Skyrail and you’ll be treated to a beautiful display of various orchids that are currently in flower.

The orchid family (Orchidacea) is considered one of the most diverse of all plant families with approximately 28,000 species. They can be found on every continent except Antarctica.

Orchids will typically grow on other plants (epiphytic) or on rocks (lithophytic), while a few will grow more traditionally in the ground.

All orchid flowers are bilaterally symmetrical and many species have evolved highly complex petal shapes.

Dendrobium Orchids at Skyrail in Cairns

Dendrobium is a huge genus of orchids and today contains about 1,200 species, some of which can be found in the Tropical Rainforest surrounding Skyrail Rainforest Cableway in Cairns.

An orchid’s leaf structure is dependent on its habitat. Epiphytic and lithophytic orchids will have thick leaves with a waxy feel to them. This is to help them retain water when their host tree branch or rock face eventually dries out.

Skyrail’s Smithfield terminal in Cairns is home to a variety of epiphytic orchids, some great examples of which can be seen in the front garden that borders the entry ramp into our ticketing lobby.

King Orchid flower at Skyrail in Cairns

Impressive King Orchid (Thelychiton speciosus) in flower amongst the dense tropical rainforest at Skyrail in Cairns

At Red Peak Station, if you look up you may notice the impressive King Orchid (Thelychiton speciosus) located on a branch over the boardwalk – between the large Kauri tree and the lookout. The King Orchid is a large species with a native range from Victoria to Cape York. Although it is still quite common in most areas, certain populations of this species have suffered the effects of illegal poaching.

King Orchid in Tropical Rainforest at Skyrail

A King Orchid perched high in the rainforest canopy at Skyrail’s Red Peak Station.

Orchids have long been used for food and perfumes but one group in particular still finds its way into dishes worldwide – the Vanilla Orchids. First cultivated in Central and Southern America by the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican peoples, the orchid and its flavourful seed pods were first introduced to Europeans back in the 16th century.

Skyrail Ranger Tim HackwoodTropical rainforest information and Images supplied by Skyrail Environmental Ranger & Wildlife photographer Tim Hackwood