21 May, 2011
Moreton Bay Fig
A young palm stands in shadow of a towering Morton Bay Fig and a jungle climber makes it’s way up to the canopy to get it’s share of the valuable sunlight.
Just outside of the small village of Maleny on the wet eastern side of the Great Dividing Range I saw a sign for the ‘Fig Tree Walk’. This is a small 1km long board walk through a small piece of rain forest with some spectacular trees. The most prominent tree and the one from which the walk takes it’s name is the Morton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla). This tree with its wide spread canopy, broad buttresses and tangled roots begins its life as a tiny parasitic plant high up in the canopy of another tree. The seed is deposited on a branch by a bird or fruit bat. The roots of the fig then twine their way down and around the host tree until they reach the ground. It’s at this point that the fig really takes off with all the additional nutrients from the forest floor and eventually strangles it’s host to death. Over time the host will rot away leaving a hollow lattice of roots that grow together to form a single trunk. The hollow trunk forming valuable homes for the forests wildlife. As well as housing and feeding the wildlife these trees are invaluable fore their vast root systems that hold together the forest floor to prevent flooding erosion.
A tree worthy of four photos.
A Morton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla) in its prime.
A second notable tree, not for its necessary grandeur but for it’s notorious leaves, is the Stinging Tree (Dendrocnide moroides). This is not the tree to be wandering around beneath with bare feet but by the time I saw the signs I was too far from my car to be bothered to go back and put on my shoes, so while I marveled at the forest I had to keep a close eye on the path ahead. The large soft leaves are covered with tiny stinging hairs much like those of stinging nettles. Insects feast on these leaves as among the leaves they are safe from most predators that are deterred by the stings. Some insects store the toxins within them so they themselves become toxic and there for unpalatable. The tree can cope with the loss of leaves as the large leaves are soft and have little structure so the tree can quickly grow more without exhausting itself.
Looking up into the canopy of the large leafed stinging tree (Dendrocnide moroides).
One of the soft sting leaves laying on the path. Mission successful, no leaves stepped on, no stung feet.