Pioneers of the rainforest

Anyone interested in tropical plants or plant ecology cannot help but encounter the concept of succession. Species that are characteristic of successional habitats or rainforest habitats recovering from disturbance (cyclone, deforestation, etc) are called pioneer or successional species. These species are often characterised by their shade intolerance, rapid growth and absence from mature rainforests. In reality however, and many successional species will persist long after mature rainforest returns, either in the understorey or as emergent species.

Far North Queensland had its own fair share of literature contributing to the science of successional species, and then later to a related topic – forest restoration. A number of authors (Hopkins et al. 1976; see Goosem & Tucker 2013) have proposed classifications of North Queensland successional species which I will list below (asterisks denote exotoc species) under a broad category of Pioneer and Early successional species. It might be noticed also that many successional species are species that occur on rainforest margins and tall (or giant) eucalypt forests.

Acacia celsa
Acacia cincinnata
Acacia mangium
Acacia melanoxylon
Aleurites moluccanus
Aleurites rockinghamensis
Alphitonia spp.
Alpinia caerulea
Alpinia arctiflora
Alstonia muelleriana
Alstonia scholaris
Archirhodomyrtus beckleri
Breynia stipitata
Bridelia insulana
Bridelia tomentosa
Callicarpa candicans
Callicarpa longifolia
Callicarpa pedunculata
Cananga odorata
Cayratia japonica
Chionanthus ramiflorus
Croton insularis
Croton triacros
Darlingia darlingiana
Dendrocnide cordifolia
Dendrocnide moroides
Dicranopteris linearis
Duboisia myoporoides
Elaeocarpus angustifolius
Embelia australiana
Endiandra discolor
Endospermum myrmecophilum
Eucalyptus grandis
Eupomatia laurina
Euroschinus falcatus
Ficus spp. (particularly F. congesta, F. septica, F. variegata)
Flindersia brayleyana
Gahnia aspera
Gahnia sieberiana
Glochidion harveyanum
Glochidion philippicum
Glochidion sumatranum
Guioa acutifolia
Guioa lasioneura
Homalanthus spp.
*Lantana camara
Litsea leefeana
Lophostemon suaveolens
Macaranga involucrata
Macaranga tanarius
Maclura cochinchinensis
Maesa dependens
Mallotus paniculatus
Mallotus philippensis
Melastoma malabathricum
Melia azedarach
Melicope elleryana
Mischocarpus lachnocarpus
Neolitsea brassii
Neolitsea dealbata
Merremia spp.
Pavetta australiensis
Pipturus argenteus
Polyscias australiana
Polyscias elegans
Polyscias murrayi
*Psidium cattleianum
Quintinia quatrefagesii
Rhodamnia sessiliflora
Rhodomyrtus canescens
Rhodomyrtus effusa
Rhodomyrtus pervagata
Rhodomyrtus sericea
Rhodomyrtus trineura
Rhus taitensis
Rubus alceifolius
Rubus moluccanus
Rubus queenslandicus
Schefflera actinophylla
Senecio bipinnatisectus
Sloanea langii
Solanum sp.
Synoum glandulosum
Tarenna dallachiana
Timonius timon
Trema aspera
Trema cannabina
Trema orientalis
Trema tomentosa
Trichospermum pleiostigma
*Triumfetta rhomboidea
Wikstroemia indica
Wilkiea pubescens

References

Goosem S, Tucker NJ. 2013. Repairing the Rainforest. 2nd ed. Wet Tropics Management Authority and Biotropica Australia Pty Ltd. Cairns

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Rubus alceifolius (Rosaceae)

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The Giant Bramble is one of a few species of brambles related to blackberries and raspberries. True to the reputation of being a bramble, this species is thorny and not fun to go walking through. It is often found growing on the edges of lowland and upland rainforest and has been regarded as a weed. Whether it is actually exotic to Australia is not clear. The leaves sometimes have splotchy patterns and the fruits are quite edible. It is very similar in appearance to Rubus moluccanus but larger.

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Posted in Edible plants, Habitat - Coastal forest, Habitat - Rain forest, Lifeform - Climbers, Non-Natives, Rosaceae (Rose family) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Ficus pleurocarpa (Moraceae)

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This endemic strangling fig tree, very descriptively named the banana fig, is one of FNQ’s more beautiful fig trees. The large and elongated (~5cm long) figs ripen into a nice dark red, and when you bite into one of them, the first thought that might occur to you is…”substantial”. Relatively tasty bush tucker as well, a far as wild figs go. The figs also arise in pairs per leaf axil – good things come in twos don’t they.

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The leaves are largish and have a beautiful bronze underside, and tri-nerved venation at the leaf base. Combined with the hairy stems, angled stipular scars and the long stipule, this native fig is quite distinctive.

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While they are strangler figs by nature, they seem to do just fine as stand-alone ornamental trees.

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Posted in Edible plants, Endemics, Lifeform - Trees & Shrubs, Moraceae (Fig family), Ornamental Plants, Traditional Plant Use | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Dysoxylum latifolium (Meliaceae)

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This native mahogany tree is not a particularly well known species, or at least it must be considered so dreary as to not deserve a common name.

In some respects, this species looks more like a member of the Sapindaceae due to it’s alternate leaflets and even a ‘leaflet extension spine’, making it one of those species that you’d probably ‘know when you know’. The leaflets are somewhat glossy green on the underside and a only bit lighter in shade compared to the upperside. The midrib is raised on top.

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The flowers some rather few. More on this when I espy some fruits

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Leaflet underside

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Leaf stalks swollen at point of attachment to stem

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Dysoxylum gaudichaudianum (Meliaceae)

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This native species of mahogany is known as the Ivory Mahogany, and it has one of the largest leaves (in terms of length) of the native mahoganies. They can be readily distinguished by the size of the compound leaf and the very conspicuously uneven bases.

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“Hairy armpits” at the nerve-midrib intersection

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Sapling leaves reach close to 2m in length.

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Dysoxylum pettigrewianum (Meliaceae)

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This huge tree is also known as the Spur Mahogany, because of the large buttrees shaped as spurs that form at the base of the trunk. Another feature is that the leaf rachis is shallowly winged to the first pair of leaflets.

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Fruits

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Leaflet underside

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

Dysoxylum alliaceum (Meliaceae)

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The leaves of D. alliaceum often do not have a terminal leaflet. When browken, the twigs have a somewhat garlic-like or onion-like smell.

Dysoxylum alliaceum

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