Sunday, 14 August 2011

Kauri - ing on

When I moved in to this little house in the rainforest, one of my neighbours gave me a list of plants that had been recorded in the area. That was over two years ago, but despite that list I'm still not up to scratch with my identifications. Yes, I'm a slow learner when it comes to all things photosynthetic. We'll leave all the other categories for another day.

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.


Magda said...

Wow, that is some input Snail, fabulous.
If all books were so generous with images for recognition and description would be wonderful.
Interesting to know that even back in 1888 some conscience was pricked about Australia's landscape being uniquely beautiful and worth holding onto, otherwise there may have been far less to experience today.
Of course I forgot to write notes so I could remember which Kauri has small distribution shown on the Map... love Maps... oh well, for now I know I can return and learn and hopefully remember...

If you don't mind me asking... how did your collection of She-Oaks fare Snail? (deletion is a blessing if out of place). I had read about them in your first Posting, and have wondered.
Good wishes from Magda in Australia

Snail said...

I won't forget how to identify Agathis now!

I didn't bring the she-oaks with me, of course, which was just as well because they would have been too big for their pots by now!

Some of them didn't survive that stinking hot weather in the first week of Feb 2009 (even though I brought them all into the house!). Others were knocked about quite badly by it. I donated the plants to friends, but I'm not sure how they're going. (The plants. The friends are doing well!)

If I had more garden space, I'd start collecting again.

budak said...

whatever happens, keep calm and kauri on...

Snail said...

Where's the Like button?

forestwalk/laura k said...

sooo, if i were to plant a few kauri pines...will the roos come?
i hope so!


MorningAJ said...

I love the idea of being happy about piles of poo in your garden. Up here in the UK the best I can hope for a cat poo (not nice - but they're my cats) I have a high wall around my garden and nothing gets in unless it can fly.

We get foxes in the churchyard across the road though.

laurak@forestwalkart said...

just wandering by...hoping all is good with you...and you're just pre-occupied with all your ROOS and SNAKES and other critters that aren't keeping you up at night...going bump!! :)