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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.