Endangered plants on Lot 157 need your help!

Rare, endangered, and endemic, plants found on Lot 157 Cape Tribulation Road justify its immediate purchase and protection. 

Kristopher Kupsch surveying plants in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest

Before making a commitment to the purchase of land in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest we undertake a survey to confirm the natural values. We had ecologist Kristopher Kupsch conducted a vegetation survey of Lot 157 Cape Tribulation Road on the 9th and 10th of September 2020. He found 270 native species of plants on the 8.0937 hectares making this the most biodiverse property we've ever surveyed.

We've provided an outline of the report below including descriptions of the rare, endangered, and endemic plants found on the property.

There are two vegetation types identified on Lot 157 that reflect the two different soil types.

Much of the vegetation on Lot 157 is classified as RE 7.3.10a: Mesophyll vine forest of moderately to poorly-drained alluvial plains, of moderate fertility within the lowlands of the very wet and wet zone. This vegetation type occurs on the flatter eastern portions of the lot. Forest type RE 7.3.10a is listed as “Of Concern” under the Vegetation Management Act 1999. The Queensland government indicates a pre-clearing amount of 60,000 ha existed with 14,000 ha hectares remaining in 2017.

The Queensland government specifically states that this vegetation type has “Special Values” being: “Small areas on the very wet lowlands, especially between the Daintree River and Cape Tribulation, harbour plant species which are extremely restricted and uncommon. Many areas of this ecosystem are considered refugial in nature and are local centres of endemism. Many representatives of primitive families of flowering plants are present, including the monotypic family Idiospermaceae. The ecosystem is the habitat for many threatened plant species.”

Owing to the high diversity ~270 species and the presence of twelve species listed on a state conservation legislation and five species which are locally significant highlights the refugial endemism of the rainforest on Lot 157. 

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Lot 157 in the Daintree Rainforest: Photo by Steven Nowakowski 

The second vegetation type occurring in the western undulating portions of Lot 157 is RE 7.11.24c: Areas of mesophyll to notophyll vine forest suffering from extreme wind damage where at least half the canopy has been destroyed. Foothills of coastal metamorphic ranges (excluding amphibolite), often steep and exposed.

This forest type RE 7.11.24c is also listed as “Of Concern” under the Vegetation Management Act 1999. The Queensland government indicates a pre-clearing amount of 6,000 ha existed with 6,000 ha hectares remaining in 2017.   

The Queensland government specifically states that this vegetation type has “Special Values” being:

“Potential habitat for NCA listed species: Austromuellera trinervia, Endiandra microneura, Euodia pubifolia”.

Both A.trinervia and E.microneura were identified on the lot (Table 2).

The majority of the vegetation on Lot 157 is of Regional Ecosystem 7.3.10a having various lifeforms from ground-dwelling ferns, lianas, epiphytes, and very large trees, some reaching 35m with impressive buttress roots. Many examples of large canopy trees can be observed festooned with vines cascading from above. The Spur Mahogany tree (Dysoxylum pettigrewianum) and Fan Palm (Licuala ramsayi) is a characteristic feature of these forests. This vegetation type is the grandest and most archaic of all rainforests in Australia, possessing many primitive flowering plants that is one of the reasons the Wet Tropics was World Heritage-listed and it is this forest type that characterises the Daintree lowlands.

The Southern Cassowary was observed during the survey with a Male and two recently hatched chicks seen walking through the rainforest and across the access road near the gate. Many food plants for the Cassowary are present on the lot in the form of Laurels (Lauraceae), Mahogany (Meliaceae), and several species of Figs, Palms, and fleshy Myrtaceous plants. The vegetation of Lot 157 is mapped as Essential Cassowary habitat by the Queensland government.

Twelve species found on Lot 157 are listed on the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992 and one species is on both the State NCA and the National Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC).

Significant species found during the survey:

Austromuellera trinervia NCA 1992: Near Threatened

Mueller’s Oak is an ancient relative of modern-day Banksia and Dryandra. It is this linage of tree which Banksia & Dryandra evolved from rainforest descendants. The name of this tree honours one of Australia’s premier early botanists Ferdinand von Mueller (1825 – 1896). Whilst sometimes locally common it is found only in very wet rainforests between of the Bloomfield and Daintree areas and also around Boonjee and Topaz of the Atherton Tablelands. This tree was identified on the granite derived soils of the western portions of Lot 157 being absent from the more luxuriant taller forests of the eastern flatter areas.

Beilschmiedia castrisinensis NCA 1992: Near Threatened

The China Camp Laurel only grows in the Daintree Rainforests between the Daintree River and the Bloomfield River where it is locally common. This species has large fruits the size of tennis balls that are only dispersed by the Southern Cassowary and thus a symbiotic relationship (+/+) has evolved in which they rely on each other, more so the tree in fact. The species is common in the eastern portions of Lot 157 and several examples of historic Cassowary dispersal was noted in that a number of seedlings of even age class were observed in the same location. The species name ‘castrisinensis’ refers to China (sinensis) Camp (castris) to the west of Cape Tribulation where the species was first found.

Cheilocostus potierae NCA: Endangered

This Native Spiral Ginger is restricted to the area between Tully and the Daintree and again in the Torres Strait however is endemic to Queensland. It is a unique species in that many of its relatives are from Asia and has made its way into the tropical rainforests of the Wet Tropics over thousands of years through natural migration during favourable climatic conditions of the past or by chance long distance dispersal.

This species is present within gaps in the forest surrounding a stream that dissects the property. This Ginger was observed fruiting on Lot 157 and is food for the Southern Cassowary and several other bird species.  

Citrus inodora NCA: Vulnerable

This native Citrus is a shrub to 3m restricted to dense tropical lowland rainforests in two very small areas of the Wet Tropics of Queensland. One region is south of Cairns at the eastern foothills of the Bellenden-Ker range and the other in the Cow Bay Daintree lowlands. It is a relative of the better known Finger Lime of southern border districts. An interesting fact about the Russell River Lime is that “ínodora” refers to “no-smell” something that is usually highly characteristic of all Citrus species. It bears small spines along the stem and fruit reminiscent of small pale lemons.

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Citrus inodora

Dioclea hexandra NCA: Vulnerable

Dioclea is a large treetop vine that is only known from the Daintree with historic records from near coastal areas of Innisfail. It is also found in the Solomon Islands and New Guinea. The Australian populations are important to preserve and specimens of this vine were found on Lot 157 in proximity to the watercourse.

Endiandra cooperana NCA: Endangered, EPBC: Endangered

The Cooper Creek Walnut is a tree first identified just to the north of Lot 157. Many specimens of this Endangered species can be found on the property. Nearly all the records of this tree are from the surrounds of Cooper Creek in the lowlands of the Daintree. Its large yellow fruits are food for the equally Endangered Southern Cassowary. The preservation of Lot 157 is important to assist in the continued prosperity of this highly localised Walnut species.

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Endiandra grayi NCA: Vulnerable

Gray’s Walnut is a large growing Laurel tree only found between the Daintree River and Cape Tribulation in lowland rainforest below 40m asl. Its large seeds are dispersed solely by the Southern Cassowary. Just one individual was identified on Lot 157. As with all large fruiting Walnut species, it is food for the Southern Cassowary which is the sole disperser of its seeds. It is therefore important to preserve the habitat for both the tree and the bird.

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Endiandra microneura NCA: Near Threatened

Noahs Walnut is found on Lot 157 and once again its large yellow oblong shaped fruits are dispersed by the Southern Cassowary. This species is only found naturally within the Daintree rainforests predominately north of the Daintree River and south of Cape Tribulation. This tree is noticeable in the forest as it produces a vibrant display of limp red new leaves.

Freycinetia percostata NCA: Vulnerable

This Climbing Pandanus is abundant in many areas of the Daintree lowlands especially in wet swampy places. It is restricted mainly to the Daintree and again on Cape York at Iron Range and overseas in Papua New Guinea. This climbing grass-like plant possesses unique leaves that trap water and thus provide habitat for invertebrates and frogs. These microhabitats are termed Phytotelms and add to the vertical diversity of a rainforest thus providing niches in the canopy for various arboreal animals which in turn pollinate the flowers and disperse the fruits of this plant.

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Climbing Pandanus

Mesua larnachiana NCA: Vulnerable

The Daintree Mesua is restricted to the rainforests between Cape Tribulation and Mossman below 100m asl and is related to a group of Southeast Asian trees. 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 the Mesua in that the climate has remained stable to support this species, it can be likened to a biological time capsule. A number of these trees are found on Lot 157 and is quite common in the forest. It produces attractive pink pendulous new leaves.

Ryparosa kurrangii NCA: Near Threatened

The Daintree Ryparosa is a medium sized tree that occurs commonly throughout the Daintree in the remnant forests and is abundant on Lot 157. This species relies on the Southern Cassowary for seed dispersal and produces flowers and fruits directly from its trunk, a feature known as cauliflory. This is a benefit to such plants in a leafy rainforest as it allows animals to easily pollinate the flowers as well as find and consume the fruit without the leaves obstructing. This tree is only found in the Daintree lowlands with its closest relatives in New Guinea. There is evidence to suggest this tree has specialised symbiotic relationships with Ants. It produces food rewards from its leaves and branches that are presumably so the Ants protect the tree from leaf eating herbivorous insects and also help reduce leaf covering mosses, a tactic to preserve valuable leaves in a habitat which the limiting resource is light (energy) as this species is slow  growing in these gloomy conditions.

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Ryparosa kurrangii

Strongylodon lucidus NCA: Near Threatened

This legume vine is quite rare and rarely encountered in the forest being mainly found around the Daintree in luxuriant tropical rainforest close to the coast. It also occurs overseas in Pacific Islands and Malesia. Few botanists encounter this treetop vine in the wild and its occurrence on Lot 157 is the first for the field team during this project. It was encountered in just one small area on the property.  

Other significant Daintree endemics that occur on Lot 157:

Cleistanthus myrianthus

The Daintree Cleistanthus is a small tree only found between the Bloomfield and Daintree rivers in lowland rainforest and again overseas in Southeast Asia. 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 many thousands of kilometres in Asia. The species name Cleist-anthus refers to Cleist meaning closed and that the flower bud doesn’t entirely open and thus pollination occurs without the need of an insect/animal. Additionally, myri-anthus means many, derived from the word Myriad and Anthers referring to the male flowers which the tree produces in great numbers. This otherwise nondescript tree is common on Lot 157 and is another great wonder of the Daintree rainforests not found in other regions of the Wet Tropics however also overseas again suggesting the Daintree is a refugial region from previously wetter times when subequatorial rainforest was more widespread on Cape York Peninsula connecting the forests of Papua New Guinea with Asia.

Jagera madida

A small handful of Daintree Foambark’s are present on Lot 157. This species only occurs in the lowland rainforests between Julatten - Bloomfield and has its closest relatives in SE Asia being quite distinct to that of the other Australian Foambark species in being more slender, often a single trunk with a handful of branches. Until recently this tree was considered to be a species that also occurs in Java however closer analysis of its flowers, fruits, and leaf characteristics has shown it is an Australian endemic restricted to the refugial areas of the Daintree where it is relatively common. The species name madida refers to the trees fern-like foliage it possesses.

Polyalthia xanthocarpa

The Cooper Creek Haplostichanthus (Polyalthia xanthocarpa) is locally abundant on Lot 157. 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 common where it occurs but has a very restricted occurrence.

Syzygium monospermum

The locally common Daintree Satinash is a unique tree that has Ants which inhabit its trunk. This species is only found in lowland rainforests between Cape Tribulation and Julatten. The tree provides food for the Endangered Southern Cassowary and owing to the size of its large white fruit that it produces straight from the trunk, few other animals other than possibly Fruit bats would disperse it. Little is known of the reason why Ants colonise this trees trunk however it is known that the internal structure of the tree is a purpose-built network of tunnels which allow Ants to undertake their entire life cycle, what the tree benefits from this is little known and currently remains unstudied. This tree was only botanically named in 2003 and is relatively common on Lot 157.

Storckiella australiensis

This locally endemic leguminous large tree was identified on lot 157 in which it is a common element of the rainforest canopy. It is known only from the region between the Daintree River and Cape Tribulation and another smaller occurrence near Babinda south of Cairns.

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Other values of Lot 157:

Many large specimens of Hopes Cycad (Lepidozamia hopei) occurs on Lot 157. This species of Cycad is the largest growing in the world and was once utilised by Aboriginal people as a food source. It has evolutionary links dating back some 200 million years and along with other ancient species form some of the reasons why the Wet Tropics World Heritage area has been afforded protection within the National Parks estate.

The diversity of rainforest Laurels, an ancient linage of tree within the Beilschmiedia, Cryptocarya, Endiandra, Litsea and Neolitsea genera were a notable feature of Lot 157 containing 18 species, all which are food for the Southern Cassowary.

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  • Michael Shea
    commented 2020-11-28 10:24:47 +1100
    This property should be purchased by the federal government if it is of national significance
  • Kelvin Davies
    published this page in Latest News 2020-09-22 16:33:09 +1000