Daintree flora survey finds 178 plants and five Threatened species

The Daintree Lowland Rainforest is the oldest rainforests on Earth and contains exceptionally high biodiversity. This was confirmed once again by ecologist Kristopher Kupsch as he surveyed Lot 330 Cape Tribulation Road to ensure it was a priority for purchase and inclusion in the Daintree National Park. 

The flora survey was undertaken on the 22nd of February 2020 and 178 species of native plants were identified including ten species of importance to conservation. 

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Kristopher Kupsch

Kristopher Kupsch surveying plants in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest 

Species of conservation importance which occur on Lot 330 Cape Tribulation Road include:

Threatened plant species: Five species listed on the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Table 2).

The Near Threatened China Camp Laurel (Beilschmiedia castrisinensis) was identified on lot 330 by a single specimen. This species is locally common in the district however is only found in the Daintree Rainforests north of the Daintree River and south of the Bloomfield River. This species has large fruits the size of tennis balls and its fruits are only dispersed by the Southern Cassowary and thus a symbiotic relationship (+/+) has evolved.

The Near Threatened Thornton Aspen (Acronychia acuminata) is found on lot 330 as a single individual within the 1 hectare. This species is restricted to the Daintree rainforests however is locally common. Being a nondescript species, it is likely overlooked. These fruits are attractive to birds including the Southern Cassowary and rainforest pigeons.

Thornton Aspen (Acronychia acuminata)

Thornton Aspen (Acronychia acuminata)

Noah’s Walnut (Endiandra microneura) is found on lot 330 and is listed as Near Threatened. This species is only found naturally within the Daintree rainforests predominately north of the Daintree River and south of Cape Tribulation.

The Vulnerable Daintree Mesua (Mesua lanarchiana) was identified from lot 330. This species is restricted to the Daintree rainforests. There is one additional currently botanically undescribed species of Mesua in the Wet Tropics, however, all other Mesua species are in South-east Asia. This suggests an ancient dispersal event from the north and owing to the absence of this group of plants from Cape York, that the Daintree is a refugial region for subequatorial species such as Mesua.

The Vulnerable Climbing Pandanus (Freycinetia percostata) was identified on lot 330. It is restricted mainly to the Daintree lowlands and again on Cape York at Iron Range and overseas in Papua New Guinea. This species is however very common throughout the region from the Daintree Ferry to Cape Tribulation however not elsewhere in the Wet Tropics.

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Climbing Pandanus (Freycinetia percostata)

Kelvin Davies with Climbing Pandanus (Freycinetia percostata)

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Local endemic plant species: Five species found in the Daintree Lowland Daintree or otherwise restricted distribution. 

The local endemic Daintree Foambark (Jagera madida) is present on lot 330. It is a slender tree with large furry leaves and red new growth. It has close relatives in Asia and was once believed to be a subspecies of a Southeast Asian Foambark however in 2006 was described as a separate species endemic to the Daintree rainforests.

The local endemic Daintree Cleistanthus (Cleistanthus myrianthus) was identified on lot 330. This species of small tree also occurs in South East Asia however in Australia is only found between the Bloomfield and Daintree rivers in lowland rainforest. Its seeds are dispersed by gravity which allows independence from an animal vector however the trade-off is limited dispersal from the parent tree and poses the question how the species also occurs thousands of kilometres to the north but not in between on Cape York.

The local endemic Cooper Creek Haplostichanthus (Polyalthia xanthocarpa) were identified on lot 330. This is an understorey shrub to 3m in height and is restricted to the rainforests of the Daintree lowlands, albeit found as far south as the Daintree village, the large majority of records come from the vicinity of the Cow Bay - Cape Tribulation area. It is a recently described species formally recognised in 2007 as Haplostichanthus ramiflorus and then redescribed as Polyalthia xanthocarpa in 2012. It is very common where it occurs but has a very restricted occurrence. It produces clusters of small but bright yellow fruits that are attractive to birds.

Kelvin Davies with a Zamia Fern (a species of Cycad) 

Another local endemic however locally common plant identified on lot 330 was the myrtle Rhodomyrtus effusa which only occurs between Julatten and the Bloomfield River. In recent years this species has suffered as a result of the exotic pathogen Myrtle Rust, thus preserving known populations of this species helps safeguard it from further decline.

The Daintree Satinash (Syzygium monospermum) a local endemic species was found on lot 330. It has a symbiotic relationship with Ants that inhabit the trunk of the tree. This species is only found in lowland rainforests between Cape Tribulation and Julatten. The Daintree Satinash also provides food for the Endangered Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) and owing to the size of its large white fruit, few other animals would disperse its fruits, other than possibly Fruit bats.

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Lot 330 Cape Tribulation Road in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest is covered in Lowland Tropical Rainforest and the Queensland Government has classified the vegetation as Simple-complex mesophyll vine forest  - Regional Ecosystem 7.3.10a. This is listed as “Of Concern” under the Vegetation Management Act 1999. They indicate a pre-clearing extent of 60,000 hectares of this vegetation type and that today 14,000 ha remains.  

Plants are not the only Threatened species found in Lot 330 Cape Tribulation Road, it also provides habitat for the Southern Cassowary which is listed as Endangered under Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Commonwealth) and ‘threatened’ by the Queensland Government (Nature Conserfvatin Act, 1992). Protection and conservation management of the habitat of this species is important for their survival in the wild.

Lot 330 Cape Tribulation Road in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest

Lot 330 Cape Tribulation Road in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest

To help continue Daintree land buyback, please make a donation now online.

Every $2.50 you donate will save one square metre of the Daintree. If you donate $25 you will save ten square meters of essential Cassowary habitat! A donation of $50 will save 20 square meters and $100 will save forty square meters of the World Heritage value Daintree Rainforest.

 

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  • Susan Thompson
    followed this page 2020-06-09 16:50:23 +1000

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