Monday, 12 June 2017

Peaceful morning among the piccabeen palms

Piccabeen palms, Mount Tamborine.

Last Thursday, I braved a cold early morning to head up into Mount Tamborine and spend some time with the rainforest plants.

After becoming well-acquainted with the MacDonald section of Mount Tamborine National Park last year, I decided to explore somewhere new, spending a good two hours at a site called Areca Gully.

Velvetleaf, Mount Tamborine.
Situated on Contour Road in Eagle Heights, the gully and surrounding land was donated to the council by the Herringe family, and is well-looked after by Tamborine Mountain Landcare Inc.

The botanical gems of this place made themselves known to me very quickly, and one particular plant caught my eye as soon as I got out of my car.

Covered in tiny purple berries at this time of year, the velvetleaf (Callicarpa pedunculata) grows at the periphery of the rainforest in much the same way as lantana (Lantana camara) might, but is a native species.

In fact, my impression of it was that it would make a good substitute for the pervasive lantana weed, but although the velvetleaf is from the same family, it is apparently not quite as hardy and versatile as lantana, and wouldn’t thrive in as many varied locations.

This perhaps explains why I’ve never come across this plant before!

Continuing down into the gully along the narrow dirt trail, I appreciated the little arrow markers that guided me through bush regeneration areas and then into a grove of beautiful piccabeen palms (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana)

The morning sunlight filtering into this peaceful, echoing chamber of trees made me feel like I was in some kind of natural cathedral, and I was happy to linger there for quite some time.

Morning in the palm grove, Mount Tamborine.

Upon exiting, I noticed a large red fruit on the track, and looked up to see it had fallen from a giant tree that towered high above the palms—a type of lilly pilly fittingly known as the red apple (Acmena ingens).

Red apple fruit, Mount Tamborine.

Further along the trail, the dominant trees changed from palms, lilly pillies and strangler figs (Ficus watkinsiana) to eucalypts.

Flooded gum, Mount Tamborine.
With their tall, ghostly-white trunks, most were easily recognised as flooded gums (Eucalyptus grandis), but one tree stood out as having more patterned bark than the others.

I considered it to be a grey gum species (E. propinqua or E. biturbinata) for quite some time thanks to this feature, but as I continued to review my photos and consult my resources, I realised it was just another flooded gum, albeit unusually marked.

This open habitat was obviously more sunlit, and therefore more attractive to the birds and insects in need of warming up on this chilly morning.

Crimson rosella, Mount Tamborine.
A pair of crimson rosellas (Platycercus elegans) feeding at the edge of the clearing made for an exceptionally beautiful encounter.

Nearby was a gold-spotted drone fly (Eristalinus punctulatus), sunbathing on vegetation.

Lower in the gully in a damp area near the road, I found another interesting species of fly that seemed to live as a colony on the leaves of a tall sedge (Carex appressa).

These flies—known as long-legged stilt-flies (Micropezidae family)—more closely resembled ants at first glance, thanks to their slow, ambling gait over the vegetation.

LEFT to RIGHT: golden blowfly (Calliphora sp.), gold-spotted drone-fly, long-legged stilt-fly, Mount Tamborine.

They were strange little creatures with curious social behaviours, and they made me feel like I had only just begun to tap into the beauty and mystery of this location.

I look forward to returning some time!

Strangler fig, Mount Tamborine.


  1. My name is John Bestevaar. One of the team that helps manage these public reserves on Tamborine. Thank you very much for your lovely and very accurate review of the site.

    1. Hi John, thank you for your kind feedback, and most importantly, for your hard work restoring beautiful places like these! We are both members of a plant ID group on Facebook and I really respect your botany skills there, so glad to hear you deem what I've written as 'accurate'! 😄

  2. Love this post. You articulate so well the simple pleasure of quiet enjoyment of the natural world. Great photo of the "palm grove".

    1. Thanks Sri, that palm grove just had the BEST effect on me! I was so relaxed and happy for the entire week after! 😊

  3. I have lived on Tamborine Mountain for over 13 years and in the last 18 months I have enjoyed discovering the wonderful sites maintained by Landcare. They do an absolutely amazing job. There are other sites on the mountain that you may also enjoy.

    1. Glad you are a fan of the Landcare sites as well! And yes, Mount Tamborine is a beautiful place on the whole that I enjoy every visit to! You are very blessed to live there 😄

  4. Beautiful forest and photo

  5. Those palms are nothing short of spectacular.

    1. Aren't they?! Very beautiful trees...