About a week ago, I noticed a lot of tree roo poo at the end of the driveway. The carpet of poo has been increasing daily, even though much of it seems to be carried away on a) tyre treads and b) the soles of my shoes. This is a good sign. (The volume of poo, not the extra layers on my shoes.) Tree kangaroos have been much less obvious since the end of the last wet Wet Season. I've only seen them about half a dozen times, so it's good to know that they are still about.
I thought I'd try to identify the trees above the driveway so I could determine which species were attracting the roos. Yes, after two years of limited success with plant IDs, I was going to work these out in a flash. Dunning-Kruger, anyone?
Three of the four were pretty straightforward, but one species was tricky. And when I say tricky, I mean it was so head-deskingly, face-palmingly, nose-bleedingly obvious that I should have recognised it instantly. A botanist friend pointed out that I'd been thinking flowering plants, when I should have been thinking conifers. The mystery tree was one of the iconic species of the Wet Tropics — the kauri pine (Agathis robusta).
Bright green, leathery leaves...
... arranged in opposite pairs...
... with pale green undersides
Beautiful new growth...
...looks like a delicate flower
Kauri pine is one of three species of Agathis in Far North Queensland, where it is found from Mt Finnigan (near Rossville) south to Tully. (It also occurs in rainforest in ME and SE Queensland.) The other two species — black kauri (A. atropurpurea) and bull kauri (A. microstachya) — have more restricted distributions. Agathis atropurpurea occurs above 750m between Mt Pieter Botte (near Mossman) and Mt Bartle Frere*, whereas A. microstachya is found only on the Atherton Tablelands between 600 and 1000m.
Distribution of Agathis robusta.
© 2009 Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria Inc.
Agathis belongs to Araucariaceae, the family that also contains monkey puzzle trees, hoop, bunya and Norfolk Island pines (all Araucaria) and the Wollemi pine (Wollemia).
Kauris were among the most important timber trees in the wet forests of Far North Queensland. The last extensive stand of A. robusta was cut down in the 1970s and 80s. Few large trees remain today. The best known are the giant bull kauris at the edge of Lake Barrine, which were saved when the crater lake was declared a scenic reserve in 1888. Others are scattered through national parks — and private land.
Kauri pine hasn't been recorded in the block of rainforest, so that's a new record for the location. At least, a new post-logging record. I'll keep an eye open for more specimens ... now that I can identify them.
*And, unlike Sarah Palin, I would be able to see Mt Bartle Frere from my house ... were it not for the trees.