Rainforest at Kuranda – Part 2

Another taste of the hot, steamy rainforest in Queensland, Australia, in the hills around Kuranda. It is the end of November and starting to get wet but not so bad as it will be in a month or two. Tall trees reach up to a dense canopy of leaves through which sunshine occasionally bursts with blinding intensity. Up high, epiphytes like the Basket, Bird’s Nest, and Asplenium Ferns are wedged in the angles of branches, feeding on falling debris.

Creepers, climbers and vines twist around the trunks or hang as spiral-shaped lianas clinging to ‘ghost’ branches. Fierce spiky stems and barbed tendrils of Wait-a-While Palms spread among the undergrowth waiting to snare passers-by. The odd bright red flower strikes a vivid contrast amongst the varying shades of green; and isolated clumps of illuminated leaves become gloriously translucent amid the shaded vegetation. There is a fleeting glimpse of a Monitor Lizard as it makes its way through rotting leaves on the forest floor, where striped woody shelf or bracket fungi decorate stumps of decaying wood. This is Djabugay Country.

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Rainforest at Kuranda – Part 1

Red tropical rainforest flowers

A bit of a walk on the wild side today. These photographs were taken on a stroll through the wet tropical rainforest in the mountains of Queensland, Australia. We took a fantastic ride with the Kuranda Scenic Railway from Cairns on the coast up to Kuranda via the Barron Gorge National Park. Although the town itself is very much dedicated to tourists and tourism, and that has its own appeal and interest, it is also surrounded by natural forest with walkways so that you can at least experience Nature up-close and personal in a safe way.

I hope this gallery of photographs will give you a flavour of what it was like to be in the hot and humid rainforest with its luxuriant vegetation of peeling Paperbarks, Wait-a-while Palms and Palm trees of all sorts, Staghorn Ferns up in the boughs, twisted vines wrapping around the tree trunks, and occasional trailing tendrils with vibrant flowers.

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Rainforest Ferns 17

Cooper's or Scaly Tree Fern (Cyathea cooperi) in Cairns Botanic Gardens in tropical Queensland, Australia.

Rebecca's Tree Fern in the Daintree rainforest of Queensland, AustraliaSome 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.

Fronds of Rebecca's Tree Fern in the Daintree Rainforest of Queensland, Australia, silhouetted against the blue sky.

Fronds of Rebecca's Tree Fern in the Daintree Rainforest of Queensland, Australia, silhouetted against the blue sky.

Fronds of Rebecca's Tree Fern in the Daintree Rainforest of Queensland, Australia, silhouetted against the blue sky.

Fronds of Rebecca's Tree Fern in the Daintree Rainforest of Queensland, Australia, silhouetted against the blue sky.

Fronds of Rebecca's Tree Fern in the Daintree Rainforest of Queensland, Australia, silhouetted against the blue sky.

Fronds of Rebecca's Tree Fern in the Daintree Rainforest of Queensland, Australia, silhouetted against the blue sky.

Rebecca's Tree Fern in the Daintree rainforest of Queensland, Australia

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Fan Palms at Dubuji

Fan Palms, Licuala ramsayi, in the Australian Daintree rainforest

These pictures evoke for me the fantastic feeling of being in the tropical rainforest, with it’s cathedral-like atmosphere,  towering columns of trees, the canopy of Fan Palm leaves way-up overhead, and late afternoon sun filtering through. The only thing missing is the sense of how hot and humid it was with the rainy season about to start. These photographs were taken from the relative safety of the Dubuji boardwalk near Cape Tribulation in Queensland, Australia.

Fan Palms, Licuala ramsayi, in the Australian Daintree rainforest

Fan Palms, Licuala ramsayi, in the Australian Daintree rainforest

Fan Palms, Licuala ramsayi, in the Australian Daintree rainforest

Fan Palms, Licuala ramsayi, in the Australian Daintree rainforest

Fan Palms, Licuala ramsayi, in the Australian Daintree rainforest

Fan Palms, Licuala ramsayi, in the Australian Daintree rainforest

COPYRIGHT JESSICA WINDER 2013

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Rainforest Fruit Bats

Fruit Bats or Flying Foxes roosting in trees

Images 1-3 show Fruit Bats (Flying Foxes, Pteropus spp.) right in the town centre at Cairns, Queensland, Australia, roosting in trees with traffic and people all around. Images 3-6 show Spectacled Flying Foxes (Pteropus conspicillatus) in the actual rainforest, the Daintree, at Cape Tribulation in Far North Queensland. Both colonies might be conspicillatus but shadows obscure the features of the Cairns bats so it is not possible to say with certainty they are Spectacled.

The short videos below show the colonies of bats. The first clip shows bats in Cairns making a hullabaloo as they squabble and jostle for space with the sound of traffic all around. The movie was taken around the middle of the day. I was not only very surprised to find a colony above the busy streets but amazed at the noise they made.

The second and third clips show bats roosting in the Daintree at Cape Tribulation. They are waking up, preening, yawning, and stretching, getting ready for flying out en masse at dusk. Here the setting was more peaceful. However, both colonies of bats made a spectacular cacophonous show as they flew out to forage for food when the sun set. A fantastic show for diners sitting out every evening. [Apologies for the wrong orientation of the clips but you can see the action regardless].

Dragons of the Rainforest

Dragons of the Rainforest (1) - Boyd's Forest Dragon, Hypsilurus boydii, a reptile of the tropical rainforest in Queensland, Australia.

This lovely creature is a dragon, a real life dragon, but it is only 15 cms long – not including the long tail. It has a large head and eyes. Spines ornament its back and throat. White ossicles stud the skin of the cheeks. The first three photographs were taken in a wildlife habitat conservation and display area in the Daintree, and show Boyd’s Forest Dragon, Hypsilurus boydii, in captivity. These lizard-like reptiles are masters of disguise, clinging motionless in a vertical position on the trunks of trees, waiting for unsuspecting prey. If they become aware that they have been observed, they sidle round the tree out of sight again. The male of this species has a large bright yellow flap of folded skin beneath its chin, a dewlap, that it can extend and flash like the opening of a fan, when it is disturbed by predators or another male.

The last two images show another species of dragon which I spotted out in the wild, in its natural habitat, and photographed from the window of a moving tour vehicle. It has a scaly skin but this one doesn’t look so spiny. However, the folded yellow skin around its neck  is more noticeable and must make a spectacular display when it is raised in alarm.

Dragons of the Rainforest (2) - Boyd's Forest Dragon, Hypsilurus boydii, a reptile of the tropical rainforest in Queensland, Australia.

Dragons of the Rainforest (3) - Boyd's Forest Dragon, Hypsilurus boydii, a reptile of the tropical rainforest in Queensland, Australia.

Dragons of the Rainforest (4)

Dragons of the Rainforest (5) - A Dragon, Hypsilurus sp., reptile of the Agamidae Family photographed in its natural habitat from the window of a tour jeep in Queensland, Australia.

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Tree bark patterns & textures – Part 11

Tree bark patterns & textures (73) - Natural patterns, colours and textures of bark on various types of Palm trees in Queensland, Australia. Examples of natural abstract art.

Natural patterns, colours and textures of bark on various types of Palm trees in Queensland, Australia. Examples of natural abstract art.

Tree bark patterns & textures (74) - Natural patterns, colours and textures of bark on various types of Palm trees in Queensland, Australia. Examples of natural abstract art.

Tree bark patterns & textures (75) - Natural patterns, colours and textures of bark on various types of Palm trees in Queensland, Australia. Examples of natural abstract art.

Tree bark patterns & textures (76) - Natural patterns, colours and textures of bark on various types of Palm trees in Queensland, Australia. Examples of natural abstract art.

Tree bark patterns & textures (77) - Natural patterns, colours and textures of bark on various types of Palm trees in Queensland, Australia. Examples of natural abstract art.

Tree bark patterns & textures (78) - Natural patterns, colours and textures of bark on various types of Palm trees in Queensland, Australia. Examples of natural abstract art.

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Lichens in the Tropical Rainforest

Lichens in the Tropical Rainforest (1) - Lichens and vines growing on the trunk of a tree in the tropical rainforest of Far North Queensland, Australia.

The heat, high humidity, and unpolluted air allow lichens to flourish in the tropical rainforest of Far North Queensland in Australia. Lichens can grow on any number of surfaces, both living and inert, but they are most noticeable on the trunks of trees. The variety of lichen types, their colours, patterns, and textures, are amazing. It can look as if the bark has been decorated by an artist – but these displays of lichen are nature’s own form of abstract art.

Here are a dozen photographs illustrating some of the natural lichen designs that I saw, mostly in the densely vegetated forest – but also, in the final shot, an example in the street.

Click here for more posts about LICHEN.

Lichens in the Tropical Rainforest (2) - The natural pattern made by lichens of different colours and species on different aspects of a tree trunk in the tropical rainforest of Queensland, Australia.

Lichens in the Tropical Rainforest (3) - The natural pattern made by lichens of different colours and species on a tree trunk in the tropical rainforest of Queensland, Australia.

Lichens in the Tropical Rainforest (4) - The natural pattern made by lichens of different colours and species on a tree trunk in the tropical rainforest of Queensland, Australia.

Lichens in the Tropical Rainforest (5) - The natural pattern made by lichens on a tree trunk with many large spines in the tropical rainforest of Queensland, Australia.

Lichens in the Tropical Rainforest (6) - The natural pattern made by lichens of different colours and species on a tree trunk in the tropical rainforest of Queensland, Australia.

Lichens in the Tropical Rainforest (7) - The natural pattern made by lichens of different colours and species on a tree trunk in the tropical rainforest of Queensland, Australia.

Lichens in the Tropical Rainforest (8) - The natural pattern made by lichens of different colours and species on a tree trunk in the tropical rainforest of Queensland, Australia.

Lichens in the Tropical Rainforest (9) - The natural pattern made by lichens of different colours and species on a tree trunk (bearing a spiral groove where a vine had once been attached) in the tropical rainforest of Queensland, Australia.

Lichens in the Tropical Rainforest (10) - The natural pattern made by lichens of different colours and species on a tree trunk in the tropical rainforest of Queensland, Australia.

Lichens in the Tropical Rainforest (11) - The natural pattern made by lichens of different colours and species on a tree trunk in the tropical rainforest of Queensland, Australia.

Lichens in the Tropical Rainforest (12) - Natural patterns of lichens on the bark of a tree in the street near Trinity Beach, Far North Queensland, Australia - in the wet tropics.

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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

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Riding above the Rainforest

Riding above the Rainforest 1 - Looking out into the inpenetrable jungle at ground level from the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway at the Barron Falls Station, Queensland, Australia.

I don’t know about you – but I have always longed to wing my way above the tree tops and have a bird’s eye view of the forest canopy – in the way that you so often see in natural history documentaries where people film the foliage from hot-air balloons, hang gliders, and helicopters. I thought this was an unachievable dream for me. However, when I was in Australia last year, I discovered SKYRAIL!

The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway travels 7.5 kilometres from sea level at Caravonica near Cairns, up to the mountain top station of Red Peak, on to the Barron Falls Station, and finally over the gorge and Barron River to the mountain village of Kuranda. The Cableway was specially designed to enable visitors to experience the rainforest without damaging it. The construction work has been carried out with every consideration for the protection of the environment – the ecosystem.

The cable car ride makes it possible to take in fantastic, awe-inspiring, panoramic views of the vast expanses of forest; while the stopping points at Red Peak and Barron Falls allow visitors to get right up close to the fascinating and diverse array of plant species from special boardwalks. In later posts, I’ll share with you some photographs of the amazing flora seen at ground level.

Till then, jump on board a gondola with me – and from the safety of the suspended capsule enjoy the view from way above the trees and over the mountain tops of the Barron Gorge National Park in Queensland. Get an introductory glimpse of a luxuriant and virtually impenetrable part of the Daintree Wet Tropics World Heritage Rainforest – the oldest of its kind in the world and dating back 100 million years.

Riding above the Rainforest 2 - View from the Skyrail gondola suspended from cables high above the canopy of the rainforest in Barron Gorge National Park, Queensland, Australia.

Riding above the Rainforest 3 - View from the Skyrail gondola suspended from cables high above the canopy of the rainforest in Barron Gorge National Park, Queensland, Australia.

Riding above the Rainforest 4 - View from the Skyrail gondola suspended from cables high above the canopy of the rainforest in Barron Gorge National Park, Queensland, Australia.

Riding above the Rainforest 5 - View from the Skyrail gondola suspended from cables high above the canopy of the rainforest in Barron Gorge National Park, Queensland, Australia.

Riding above the Rainforest 6 - View from the Skyrail gondola suspended from cables high above the canopy of the rainforest in Barron Gorge National Park, Queensland, Australia.

Riding above the Rainforest 7 - View from the Skyrail gondola suspended from cables high above the canopy of the rainforest in Barron Gorge National Park, Queensland, Australia.

Riding above the Rainforest 8 - View from the Skyrail gondola suspended from cables high above the canopy of the rainforest in Barron Gorge National Park, Queensland, Australia.

Riding above the Rainforest 9 - View from the Skyrail gondola suspended from cables high above the canopy of the rainforest in Barron Gorge National Park, Queensland, Australia.

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