Aglaia sapindina (Meliaceae)

Aglaia sapindina DSC_0748

May the grace of splendour touch your heart when you meet Aglaia.

What a nice name Aglaia. The word is derived from greek mythology, where Aglaia (pronounced ə-GLIE-ə)represents beauty or splendour, and is one of the three minor goddesses or graces.

The far north of Queensland has some 12 species of Aglaias, and I hope to see them all sometime!

Aglaia sapindina is known as the Smooth fruited Aglaia, and for good reason – the bright orange fruits appear shiny and smooth.

The leaves also APPEAR smooth as well, which is quite interesting for a member of the Aglaia genus.

Most other Aglaias are well-covered with dark hairs or scales on all young shoots and leaf undersides and also fruits, particularly Aglaia meriodionalis which I have written before.

Neverthelss, if you look closely enough, you will find that Aglaia sapindina has a few brownish hairs or scales here and there on the underside of the leaf, and also on the developing leaf buds.

Without this close examination, it is easy to mistake this tree for a Sapindaceae, which has a similar gist (But of course, note that instead of a pin at the end of the compound leaf, Aglaia has a terminal leaflet).

Aglaia sapindina DSC_0746

And the flowers, well they are a glorious beautiful golden yellow.

Aglaia sapindina Halorans Hill DSC_0329 (2)

With no shame of being repetitive, may the grace of splendour touch your heart when you meet Aglaia.

Posted in Habitat - Rain forest, Lifeform - Trees & Shrubs, Meliaceae (Mahogany family) | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Archidendron whitei (Fabaceae)

Archidendron whitei DSC_0732 (9)

This small and not very well known understorey tree is one of the more interesting and species of Archidendrons.

This Far North Queensland endemic has hairy and rather dull green leaflets, which are much smaller in proportions to most of the other Archidendrons in the region. Often, also, there are only two leaflets on each compound leaf.

Archidendron whitei DSC_0732 (2)

Archidendron whitei DSC_0732 (4)

Nevertheless, the conspicuous glands on the leaflet stalks and the compound leaf rachis affirm that it is an Archidendron.

The species works well as an ornamental, producing conspicuous red-orange seed pods.

Posted in Endemics, Fabaceae (Pea family), Habitat - Rain forest, Lifeform - Trees & Shrubs, Ornamental Plants | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Symplocos stawellii (Symplocaceae)

Symplocos stawellii var. stawellii DSC_1065 (4)

Symplocos is quite non-descript for the non-initiated.

Trying to identify Symplocos from among the hundreds of understorey trees may be “simply loco”, but will be consistently pleasing for the stalwart!

Symplocos stawellii var. stawellii DSC_1065 (2)

There are good features to help with seeing this understorey tree of upland rainforest.

The leaves are always alernate and has no stipules. The leaf margins are toothed, particularly towards the tips, and the secondary nerves form rather clear loops well within the leaf margins.

Symplocos stawellii var. stawellii DSC_1065 (1)

As with many species of Symplocos, the leaf stalk color can be quite telling. In thisi species it has a dirty-yellow or creamish colour. (In the related S. cochinchinensis for example, the leaf stalks and midrib are purple!) ,

Symplocos stawellii var. stawellii DSC_1065 (5)

The white flowers that look a little like myrtle blossoms are borne on spikes that arise from the leaf axis.

Look out for Symplocos the next time you visit an upland forest in the region. But don’t lose your mind!

The species featured here, to the best of my ability to discern, is Symplocos stawellii var. stawellii. There is another variety, var. montana, which I have yet to encounter.

Posted in Habitat - Rain forest, Lifeform - Trees & Shrubs, Symplocaceae (Symplocos family) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Daphnandra repandula (Atherospermataceae)

Daphnandra repandula DSC_0618 (3)

People who live in North America may be well acquainted with the Sassafras tree (Sassafras albidum), which is a member of the Laurel family.

In the southern hemisphere however, the name sassafras is used to refer to a group of trees in the family Atherospermataceae, which is like the laurel family among one of the earlier lineages in the history of flowering land plants.

It is also one of the well-known families of plants that is associated with Gondwana, and thus members of this family is found in various southern hemisphere countries and continents that used to make up the huge landmass of Gondwana, such as New Zealand and South America.

Daphnandra repandula DSC_0618 (1)

In Far North Queensland, this endemic species known as Daphnandra repandula or commonly as the Northern Sassafras, is a common tree in rainforest, particular in upland areas.

The species may be quite non-dscript when not flowering, but there is one rather easy way to identify it if you have a sprig at hand. In many cases, trees have coopice shoots which are in easy reach.

Daphnandra repandula DSC_0674 (3)

The parts of these coppice shoots where smaller branches arise are often flattened.

This character is also quite conspicuous at the parts the leaves are attached to the stems.

The leaf attachment is also in an opposite fashion, and the leaves have toothed margins, and a longish ovate shape.

Another name for this tree is the Scentless Sassafras, but I have always found the species to have an aromatic scent when leaves are crushed.

Posted in Atherospermataceae (Southern Sassafras family), Endemics, Gondwanan plants, Habitat - Rain forest, Lifeform - Trees & Shrubs | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Anisomeles malabarica (Lamiaceae)

Anisomeles malabarica DSC_0726

Members of the mint family (Lamiaceae) feature prominently in the European pharmacopeia, and thus we know of peppermint, spearmint, catnip, melissa, sage, thyme and others.

Much less is known about the medicinal properties of species of Lamiaceae in Australia, but perhaps we should pay attention to our native Malabar Catmint, Anisomeles malabarica.

So far I only know of this plant occurring in tall open forests (what I have been calling giant eucalypt forests) which form the ecotones between rainforest and savanna.

This species is already well-known to be used medicinally in India where it also occurs. Some reported uses include the treatment of: convulsions, colic, cough, cold, boils, dyspepsia in intermittent fevers, tetanus, inflammation, stomachache, itches, and uterine affections.

It has even shown promise as a natural insecticide against some species of mosquitoes in the genus Anopheles.

Perhaps it is well worth exploring if there are any records of ethnobotanical uses of the species in Australia, and to use it more widely in Australian natural medicine. It could potentially make for a great pot herb or a great addition to gardens.

Or maybe explore further its potential use for natural mosquito control!  As far as I understand the Anopheles genus of mosquitos occurs in northern Australia.

Posted in Habitat - Eucalypt Forest, Habitat - Rain forest, Lamiaceae (Mint family), Lifeform - Herbs, Lifeform - Trees & Shrubs, Medicinal Plants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Macaranga tanarius (Euphorbiaceae)

Macaranga tanarius

David’s heart! I love this common name for this tree (for obvious reasons).

Other common (and very apt) names of this tree include: Parasol leaf tree, Blush Macaranga, Nasturtium tree, and Heart leaf.

Macaranga tanarius has large dinner-plate sized leaves (up to over 20cm across; thus “Parasol leaf tree”) and the stalk is very obviously attached near the center of the lower surface rather than the margin (botanically this is known as a peltate leaf). Thus the common name nasturtium tree due to this similarily in the leaf stalk insertion.

The branchlets are smooth, bluish grey with prominent leaf scars, and exudes a resin when cut.

The species is also is a pioneer shrub or bushy tree species favours regrowth environments and forest edges, but it can attain a stature of over 10 metres tall, with a stem diameter of up to 40 cm.

Macaranga tanarius

Macaranga tanarius

Found just about everywhere in the lowlands of Far North Queensland, this tree gets all the way down South into the state of New South Wales, and is also distributed widely in and Asia.

It makes for an attractive ornamental tree due to its form and large interesting leaves. Also well regarded by bush regenerators to provide shade for juvenile trees.

Might I wax lyrical to say that the “Heart of David” wishes exactly for this – to be a source of things beauty, and for the revival of the forest.

Posted in Euphorbiaceae (Spurge Family), Habitat - Rain forest, Lifeform - Trees & Shrubs, Ornamental Plants | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dictyoneura obtusa (Sapindaceae)

Dictyoneura obtusa DSC_0397
Not a well-known denizen of north Queensland’s tropical forests. At least not well-known enough to have a common name.

In fact, the whole genus of perhaps 2-3 species is proabably not too well-known and deserving of study.

This species occurs in lowland forest in Far North Queensland and Cape York. It supposedly also occurs in Papua New Guinea as well, but upon closer examination may turn out to be a different species.

Any taxonomists and biogeographers up to the challenge?

Yet, Dictyoneura works well as an ornamental tree, producing small orange fruits which split open to reveal contrasting black seeds.

The leaflets are smallish, maybe up to around 8-10cm each, and often there is conspicuous teeth towards the tips.

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