The Corpse Smelling plant is getting ready to flower and release its pungent aroma into the gardens! Check out our Facebook page for updates or come down and practice holding your breathe while you take in all its glory!
The Amorphophallus titan (Latin for huge deformed penis. Who ever said Botanists didn’t have a sense of humour?) is the largest unbranched flower structure in the world. The Cairns Botanic Gardens is pleased to have previously had 4 other flowering Titan Arums.
The flower opens at night creating so much heat it releases steam and a foul scent that lures in carcass eating insects to come pollinate it. BE QUICK- when the flower does open it is only for 3 days!
The Beach Casuarina or Coastal She-oak (Casuarina equisetifolia) is a common plant on Australian tropical beaches. It can occur as a shrub or a tree. It is often the first plant to colonise this basically unfriendly habitat and, although wispy and fairly insubstantial in growth, it provides welcome shade. It looks as if it might be some kind of pine with long drooping needles but in fact the ‘pine needles’ are thin articulated branchlets. In the close-up photographs below you can see that the branchlets resemble the stems of the Horsetail plants (Equisetum spp.) – primitive plants dating back to the Carboniferous Period from which we know them in fossil form in coal measures and similar rocks – they even share similar Latin names.
The leaves of the Beach Casuarina are barely noticeable, being very small indeed and growing with even spacing along the stems from which the branchlets arise. You can see these scale-like leaves if you click to enlarge, for example, the photograph in the gallery below Beach Casuarina 7. The plant has unobtrusive and separate male and female flowers. Male flowers are white at the end of the branchlets while the female flowers are small and red and grow on special side branchlets. The fertilised female flowers develop into small, hard spiky fruits, with some similarity to pine cones [and also strikingly reminiscent in outline shape of the hairstyle favoured by Lisa Simpson and her baby sister Maggie].
These are images of the Mangrove, Nipa, or Nypa palm (Nypa fruticans) which is the only palm thought to be fully adapted to growing in the mangrove biome. It is shown here growing in soft mud under brackish water at the edge of Freshwater Lake (one of the Centenary lakes) at Cairns Botanic Gardens in Queensland, Australia.
The leaf stems of this particular type of palm tree in Queensland, although I have not been able to identify it to species yet, have these fearsome recurved teeth on both sides. I photographed the sharp ‘teeth’ or spines on the dead stems that still criss-crossed around the tree trunk. They remind me of the blades of double-edged hand saws, or even the jaw bone of some kind of shark. Pretty amazing anyway.
Cairns Botanical Gardens created the Centenary Lakes from coastal swampland in 1975. One lake is freshwater and fringed by Melaleuca (Paperbark) wetland; and the other is saltwater fed by a tidal inlet. These beautiful lakes have matured over the years to provide habitats for many plants and creatures but the lilies and aquatic plants are outstanding.
These photographs show some of the lovely water lily and other floating leaves. At the time of my visit, some of the larger leaves, well over a metre in diameter, were exhibiting various stages of development, emerging from the water and unfolding – changing shape and changing texture – from an intricately crumpled and in-folded form to a smoother rounder shape. The under surfaces were a mass of spikes while even the upper surfaces were studded with a regular pattern of red thorns.
These odd objects were found on the beaches at Normanby Island and Cape Tribulation on the Queensland Coast in Australia. They are large woody, angular fruits of the Beach Barringtonia mangrove tree (Barringtonia asiatica). As you can see from the photographs, they get washed up in varying stages of decomposition – anything from the perfect brown box shape with extended corners to a simple mass of fibrous material – sometimes with small sea creatures like colonial Bryozoa or stalked barnacles attached.
This post represents my first visit to the Australian shoreline. Kewarra Beach, just north of Cairns on the Queensland Coast, is fairly typical of the beaches in the area. You can see from the pictures that it was virtually deserted. Even though the temperature was hot, hot, hot, it was also steamy; for the most part, a dull day with rain clouds tumbling down from the mountains.
Rainforest trees come right down to the sand – and as with the mangroves bordering the river, the tangled networks of roots are exposed. Ideal territory for salt water crocodiles – there is even a notice warning of recent sightings. Thinking that one of the dreaded creatures is possibly lurking somewhere – ready to dart out of concealment for a meal – certainly takes the edge off the idea of paddling or exploring the woods by the shore.
The tide had washed in driftwood, dead fish, coconuts, and strange jawbones. Delicate purple-tinged clams rolled on the surf; oysters clustered on rock; and tiny Sand Bubbler Crabs popped in and out of burrows – scattering small balls of sand in linear patterns on the beach. In this paradise, pink Goat’s Foot Morning Glory flowers decorated the grey rip-rap used as a sea defence.
The end of the dry season in the outback at Chillagoe District in Queensland, saw the grasses dry as hay and the trees like tinder. Tapering cones of termite mounds stood like stalagmites in the parched vegetation while charred trunks brought to mind the likely fate of many a gum and iron-strap tree with their cracked and peeling bark roasting in the sun.
Some ferns in tropical rainforests, like the Daintree in Queensland, can be huge - they are known as Tree Ferns. There are two species in that region: Cooper’s Tree Fern (Cyathea cooperi) as shown above; and Rebecca’s Tree Fern (Cyathea rebeccae) as shown in the thumbnail image left (click it to enlarge the picture) and in the close-ups below. In both species, the stem or stalk can grow many metres high and is covered with a repeating pattern of scale-like scars that indicate where individual fronds were once attached.
At the top of the stalk is a crown of fronds with regular series of pinnules, the whole structure resembling a lovely parasol. In the Cooper’s Tree Fern, at least a dozen of these light green fronds are symmetrically arranged around the stem, which is slightly thicker than in Rebecca’s Tree Fern. The crown of fronds at the top of Rebecca’s Tree Fern has a more hap-hazard arrangement with slightly darker green fronds protruding at odd angles from a more slender stalk; and characteristically with dead brown fronds tending to remain in position for quite a while and hanging down from the centre of the crown of fronds.
Looking up into the Tree Fern crowns, the natural regular designs of the green fronds and their constituent pinnules make intricate lacy patterns as they are silhouetted against the clear blue sky.
The Cairns Inlet on the Queensland coast is obviously a habitat both rich and diverse. This wonderful natural environment is celebrated by the artist Jennie Scott (2003) in a fabulous and fun ceramic artwork that is embedded in the pavement at Skippers Cafe and Muddy’s Playground (the childrens’ water park) on the Cairns Esplanade. It features examples of all the creatures that live in and on the water just offshore, and that includes fish of all sorts – as you can see from the pictures here.