Friday, 21 January 2011

Fruits of the Forest: Part Something or Other

My attempts to identify plants in my patch of rainforest are hampered by my complete lack of botanical skill. Also, the important bits — flowers and fruit — are way up there, while I and my absent skills are down here.

The fruits eventually fall, but then it’s a matter of getting to them before the ravenous hordes of red-legged pademelons, fawn-footed melomys and white-tailed rats descend. (Literally, in the case of the rats: they’re arboreal.)

You're blaming me? How much could I eat?

I’d been watching these bunches of fruit ripen, completely ignorant of the species, but hoping that they belonged to some wildly delightful type of bush tucker. There were a lot of them. They look like longans. Longans taste nice ...

Except, of course, they were brown tamarinds (Castanospora alphandii). The brown tamarind belongs to the same family as the longan (Sapindaceae)*, but has nowhere near as much flesh. The fruits are favoured by cassowaries, which swallow them whole. Judging by the number of chestnut-like seeds left among the leaf litter, the fruits are also popular with mammals.

Ferdinand von Mueller described the species in 1864 from material collected in the Seaview Range and around Rockingham Bay. An Australian rainforest endemic, it occurs in two main areas — in NE Queensland from Helenvale to Wallaman Falls and in SE Qld and N NSW from Gayndah to the Bellinger River. It is found at all altitudes.

That's about seven species I can identify now. Only a few hundred more to go.


* But is not related at all to the real tamarinds (Fabaceae). Have I mentioned how much I dislike common names?


desertnutmeg said...

Love that photo of the pademelon!
I've missed them (your photos). How is your python?

forestwalk/laura k said...

((been thinking of you lately...everytime i get around to reading blogs i follow...and waiting for your post to pop up. i hope all's well where u heart is still over there...for all those who are fighting their way through the devastation)) :(

anyway! that is the cutest little...uh...looks like a mini kangaroo...a pademelon?? he looks pretty healthy to me!! looks like he's enjoying all those little berries!
looks like you have your work cut out for you if you're trying to ID the remaining fruits/berries in your area! fleshy or not...they look tart! yummy!

neomyrtus said...

Fabbo fruit..

not sure about the connection between Ferdy Von and Alphand - either the Baron was a friend of the illustrious Parisian or he really liked Adolphe's lavish garden book.

Tyto Tony said...

You need Mr Darwin's shooter to blast fruit and flowers from the trees. And an expert (because heaven help anyone trying to do it from books) to ID the droppings!

Snail said...

Megs, that's Crinkle Cut's youngster. He's very cheeky. Not sure where the python's gone --- it's been a bit cool and wet here lately, so it might still be around but not very active.

Snail said...

Laura, we've had plenty of rain up here in the Far North, but nowhere near as much as the falls in C + SE Qld.

Here are some pics of the pademelon joey when he was still in mum's pouch. He's quite a robust little fellow and has gone from being very shy to being underfoot all the time.

Snail said...

Neo, thanks for that info. Do you know if he named anything else after Alphand? I wonder if he was running out of people to name species after?

Snail said...

Tony, if anyone fired a gun near me, I think there'd be some easily identifiable droppings!

I really have to make an effort to get a handle on these plants. I might have left my run too late.

neomyrtus said...

Last time I procured this list from anbg, but for now... wiki will do..

Castanospora alphandii is the only one with that epithet

Snail said...

Thanks, neo. Why didn't I think of that?!