The ‘Wait-a-while’ Palm

The 'Wait-a-while' Palm (1) - Wicked-looking sharp spines on the stem of the 'Wait-a-while' or Yellow Lawyer Cane Palm (Calamus motii) in the Daintree tropical rainforest, Barron Gorge National Park, Queensland, Australia.

There’s some seriously spikey stuff in the jungle!

The ‘Wait-a-while’ Palm gets its name from the fact that when its sharp hooks snag on the clothes and skin of trekkers in the forest, these unfortunate people are forced to ‘wait-a-while’ trying to disentangle themselves and pull out the painful barbs. The plant is also known as Yellow Lawyer Cane – partly a reference to the fact that stems can be made into walking canes – but also an allusion perhaps to some alleged characteristic of the legal profession.

The scientific name of this plant is Calamus motii. The motii part is a local aboriginal word. I am not certain but I think the word may describe the ‘plunck’ sound that is apparently generated when the stiff spines on the stem are flicked – not that I tried this out for myself.

The ‘Wait-a-while’ Palm has rows of large hooks, spines, or thorns almost spirally wrapped around the main stems; and spines along the midribs of the leaves. This plant also has long thin whip-like flagella with recurved barbs (in Photo 4 below you can see one of  these barbed flagella close-up in my hand). This long ‘tendril’ together with all the hooks elsewhere, help the plant to climb higher, to reach upwards to the forest canopy and more light, by latching on to other stronger, taller trees and vegetation.

I have included some shots of the untouched sheer jumble of vegetation here in this particular forest location because it is atypical of most of the rainforest. Usually the forest in this region is closed-canopy – meaning that the topmost layer of foliage is so thick that very little light can penetrate to lower canopy layers; and hardly any light gets to the ground level. So the types of vegetation that can survive without light on the floor of the closed-canopy forest are relatively few and the numbers of plants is consequently small.

However, this locality has been affected by cyclones which resulted in trees being pushed over by the high winds – opening up clearings in the forest, making holes in the canopy, and allowing in full light. Consequently, a luxuriant undergrowth has developed with many of these ‘Wait-a-while’ Palms.

At the Red Peak Skyrail Station in the Barron Gorge National Park, where these photographs were taken,  the specially designed wooden boardwalk enables visitors arriving by the cable-way to touch down and enjoy the sights and sounds (as well as the intense heat and humidity) of actually being in the middle of the unspoilt jungle without impacting on the ecosystem or endangering themselves. Every possible consideration has been given to the conservation and care of this very special natural environment. The Daintree World Heritage Rainforest has occupied this area continuously for 100 million years. It is the oldest wet tropical rainforest in the world.

[A useful reference work is: Ecosystem Guides: Rainforest of Tropical Australia, Damon Ramsey (2008) 2nd Edition, ISBN 9780975747049 Pbk.]

The 'Wait-a-while' Palm (2) - The 'Wait-a-while' palm, also known as Yellow Lawyer Cane palm, (Calamus motii) , has special sharp hooks or spines on the stems, leaves, and the long thin whip-like flagella, that enable the plant to climb high up into the canopy  of the Daintree tropical rainforest, Barron Gorge National Park, Queensland, Australia.

The 'Wait-a-while' Palm (3) - The 'Wait-a-while' palm, also known as Yellow Lawyer Cane palm, (Calamus motii) , has special sharp hooks or spines on the sheath of the stem, the midrib of the leaves, and on the long thin whip-like flagella, that enable the plant to climb high up into the canopy of the Daintree tropical rainforest by hooking onto bigger trees. Red Peak Station, Barron Gorge National Park, Queensland, Australia.

The 'Wait-a-while' Palm (4) - The 'Wait-a-while' palm, also known as Yellow Lawyer Cane palm, (Calamus motii) , has special sharp hooks or spines on the long thin whip-like flagella, that enable the plant to climb high up into the canopy of the Daintree tropical rainforest towards the light by hooking onto bigger trees. Red Peak (Skyrail) Station, Barron Gorge National Park, Queensland, Australia.

The 'Wait-a-while' Palm (5) - The 'Wait-a-while' palm, (Calamus motii), has seriously sharp hooks on the sheath of the stem, that help the plant to climb high up into the canopy of the Daintree tropical rainforest by hooking onto bigger trees. The hooks are large and stiff and make a 'plunck' sound when flicked. Red Peak (Skyrail) Station, Barron Gorge National Park, Queensland, Australia.

The 'Wait-a-while' Palm (5) This image taken adjacent to the boardwalk at Red Peak Skyrail Station in the Barron Gorge National Park, Queensland, Australia, shows a greater than normal level of undergrowth because cyclone damage has opened up clearings in what is normally a closed-canopy rainforest.

The 'Wait-a-while' Palm (7) This image taken adjacent to the boardwalk at Red Peak Skyrail Station in the Barron Gorge National Park, Queensland, Australia, shows a denser than expected level of undergrowth because cyclone damage has opened up clearings in what is normally a closed-canopy rainforest.

The 'Wait-a-while' Palm (8) - This dangerously spikey palm is intermingled with other vegetation at ground level and above, making it almost impossible to walk through the undergrowth without getting painfully caught on the hooked spines that help the plant to climb upwards towards the light of the canopy. By the boardwalk at Red Peak Skyrail Station, Barron Gorge national Park, Queensland, Australia.

The 'Wait-a-while' Palm (9) - Visitors on the boardwalk at Red Peak Skyrail Station in The Barron Gorge National Park, getting up as close as it is safe to do without damaging themselves (on the thorns of  'Wait-a-while' Palm for example) and without impacting  on the rainforest eco-system. Queensland, Australia.

COPYRIGHT JESSICA WINDER 2012

All Rights Reserved

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