found in the rest
of north Queensland and the rest of Australia, others are only found on
the peninsula, or shared with Papua New Guinea - just like
some of our
Of course, there are so many plants in Cape York that there is no way I
was going to even try to list them all on this page.
And I doubt you would be interested.
But I will give you an idea of
some more obvious ones, and also the
different vegetation types found on the peninsula.
types of rainforest in far north Queensland - the so
called Wet Tropics rainforest, and the real Cape York rainforest.
in Daintree Rainforest.
Wet Tropics Rainforest
The Wet Tropics rainforest lies in the south, in the
coastal areas between Cooktown
in the north and roughly Cardwell in the south.
It is quite a large area, much more accessible
than the Cape York rainforest, and therefore also a lot more known and visited.
It does get more rain
than the real Cape York rainforest, and the vegetation is therefore
than in the rainforests of the real peninsula.
Most plants are of Gondwana origin, and there are less species of Papua New Guinea
than in the real Cape York rainforests.
in Iron Range.
Cape York Rainforest
The real Cape York rainforest on the other hand is on the real peninsula
(Cooktown and north).
There used to be a lot more of it, before Australia got as dry as it is
today, but now the real Cape York rainforest is only found in a few remaining
The largest ones
are McIllwraith Range and Iron
Range National Park and Lockerbie
Scrub, and there is also some in Jardine
Most plants are still of Gondwanan origin, but a larger amount are from Papua
New Guinea, from the time when it was connected to the tip
of Cape York peninsula by land bridges.
A strangler fig
in the rainforests near Kuranda.
There are a lot of amazing plants in the rainforest, and the species
numbers are higher than in any other ecosystem.
Some of the best ones you can watch out for are some impressive vines, epiphytes (plants
that live on trees - including ant
plants), and fig trees, particularly strangler fig, which
starts growing on large rainforest trees and finally strangles the host.
Dry open woodlands cover the majority of the peninsula, and one of
the most common trees here (once you are on the actual peninsula -
roughly Cooktown and north), is Darwin
Dry open woodland.
also many other
eucalypts, wattles, grevilleas, forest palms,
make it simple, the thrid group I called plants near water. Some
very common plants on the beaches
are beach pandanus, casuarinas (sheoak), and of course palm trees - the
native black palm, and the introduced coconut palm.
palms in Weipa.
The most typical plants around river
mouths are mangroves,
York is famous for its 30 species. That's how high that number gets in
Australia, down south
there are only two species.
near Punsand Bay.
While mangroves live in
in freshwater swamps
you find paperbark trees, also called melaleucas.
swamp in Ninian Bay.
And in some freshwater
lagoons you find a lot of water
lilies near Cooktown.
famous for its carnivorous
many strange plants in Cape York and ant plant is one of them.
It is a
of epiphyte that grows on certain species of trees.
Like on the photo below, the lower end of the stem of these plants is
thick, and it contains a network
chambers where ants like to live. (It is only cetrain
ants that do this).
Some of the chambers have smooth walls, where ants like to live. Others
have rough walls, where ants deposit their waste. The plant
advantage of the nutrients in the waste, while the ants get a place to
live without having to build and maintain a nest.
But it is more than that - there is a species of butterfly
The Apollo Jewel Butterfly lays its eggs near the plant of the species
When the eggs hatch, the ants bring the caterpillars into the nest,
knowing they extract a sweet substance that the ants like to eat.
caterpillars, in return, get protection in the nest, and they also get
to eat off the walls of the chambers and the leaves of the plant..
It is an interesting three-way
relationship between the ants, the plants and the butterflies.
aka grass tree, is a common plant in Cape York.
It is one
of them plants,
along with pandanus palm and kapok tree that you will see often on your
Cape York trip. While
kapok tree and
pandanus palm are found in the tropical northern Australia, blackboys
are also found in the southern parts of the country - they
There are 28 different
species of grass tree in Australia, some known by common
such as balga (in the south western WA) and yakka (in South Australia).
But the ones that are common in Cape
York - the Northern
Forest Grass Tree
common elsewhere in Queensland,
and in New
They are quite a common sight on the peninsula, and they tend to grow
where they all seem to be of the same age.
They are known for their slow
growth and often old
age - they can be
of years old.
Their flower stalks
on the other hand can grow really quickly. They attract many native insects,
were used as fishing
people. Their flowering can be
stimulated by bush fires.
pitcher plants are some of Cape York's most famous plants.
famous because they
are some of the very few carnivorous
that are found in Australia.
There are three species of them, and basically they are plants that eat meat.
On your travels in Cape York, if you know where to look, you can see
The pitchers are where
the plant catches insects. Some of them are reddish,
others are green. They have
parts such as nectar
glands whose purpose
is to attract insects.
Once an insect falls inside,
there is a
liquid that kills and digests
the insect. The purpose of lids is thought to be
protection from rain and possibly sometimes helping to keep the insect
thanks to their pitchers that are also quite easy to see.
Tropical pitcher plants
freshwater creeks and one of the best places to see them is the creek
crossings along the Old
The furthest south I have seen them is along Dulhunty River, have a
look on both river banks next to the crossing
and you will see them.
But they are also found on the banks of other creeks and
the rainforest, watch out for stinging tree!
true. Jellyfish are
not our only stingers. They are not even restricted to animals.
Australia has got its own very
painful stinging plant,
and while there are a few different species of it, the most painful one
lives (where else!) in the tropical rainforests of north Queensland.
Where Do They Grow?
them are tall trees, others are low shrubs, all live on the eastern coast of Australia,
Cape York to Victoria.
The smaller ones
less-than-a-metre-tall shrubs called Gympie
the most painful.
And these live in the tropical rainforests
of north Queensland, typical places being Daintree rainforests and
types of plants that colonise rainforest ground after disturbance.
An old tree may have fallen, a tropical
cyclone may have ripped up the canopy. Or park rangers have
That is exactly where they grow, because they live on the ground, they
are not climbers, but they obviously need the sunlight.
And that is why it is so easy for us to walk into them.
What Do They Look Like?
apparently grow up
to two metres tall although I have always happened to see them as small
plants on the ground.
The most distinctive are their 10-20cm heart
shaped leaves with toothed margins. They also have small
in the leave forks, that turn into clusters of red fruits.
And of course, the stinging
that cover the leaves, stems and even fruits.
tree on a rainforest walking track.
Sting and Toxicity
If you touch it, those tiny silicon hairs break off the plant and
penetrate your skin like tiny glass fibres.
the surface of the skin becomes red and swollen.
loaded with neurotoxin,
is released to your body.
It's the toxin that causes the pain, which peaks about half an hour
after touching the plant, but can last for days, weeks, even months..
And there is one recorded human death.
Stinging tree in botanical gardens.
There is no effective antidote known for
this stinging plant.
thing you can do is to get the hairs out of your skin. And that is not
an easy task considering they are so small that your skin may even
close over them.
The latest best method was found by a James Cook University student in
Cairns, and has since become official - pull them out using a wax
hair removal strip.
tree is a common tree in Cape York.
beautiful yellow flowers,
green fruits when not ripened, and later distinctive cotton bolls.
You can often see it in dry open schrub, particularly in rocky areas,
and in places it is so
common it is impossible to go unnoticed.
So in case you ever wondered, this
is kapok tree, sometimes also called cotton plant or cotton tree, Cochlospermum gillivraei. It is a very drought
tolerant plant, that drops it leaves to save water.
It is a beautiful tree, about 10 metres tall, with grey, smooth bark and bright yellow flowers.
After the flowering, the
fruits are first green.
The ripened fruit opens up and turns into a cotton boll that is
distinctive and easy to see in its surroundings.
are inside the fibre.
It grows on
and south of Cape York peninsula,
as well as the Top End of Northern Territory. You can particularly
often see in in the Lakefield area and central eastern Cape York.
Below are some more kapok
* There are some 20 species of Cochlospermum trees in the
world, Australia has four
species including Cochlospermum gillivraei.
refers to John McGillivray - the naturalist on the explorer ship HMS
Rattlesnake, which explored the northern Cape York area in around 1850.
* All the four species of Australia grow in the tropical north of
* One of them, Cochlospermum fraseri,
grows in Kakadu National Park.
Queensland, our native
kapok tree is known to be found as far south as Bowen.
* They lose their leaves
during the Dry Season, just before flowering.
* They flower just before the hottest build-up season in about August
* The kapok tree grows 100m above sea level, usually in dry rocky
country but it
does tolerate water as it survives our long wet seasons.
* Kapok tree roots are bush
tucker - traditionally dug up during the
wet season and roasted.
* The flowers are edible
raw and apparently a good source of vitamin
* The roots are also traditionally used as bush medicine.
* Kapok is the fluffy material in the seed pods, and it has been used
to stuff pillows and even life preservers during the WWII.
Get this 50 pages guide totally for FREE. It
contains information that helps you getting started with planning of your trip.
You get to make early-stages desicions such as when to go, how long time you
should take, how to get
there and get
to stay (general info), what
will it cost..
and a short insight to what is there to see and do in Cape York.
This complete 300 pages
travel guide is all you need before and during your trip. Besides the
background chapters on the peninsula's history and wildlife; and the comprehensive detail about all the places (down to prices, opening hours and full contact detail), it has invaluable information on at least 10 four wheel drive tracks, at least 30 guaranteed FREE camping spots on the Cape (and at least 150 on your way to the Cape), at least 40 best swimming holes, all mapped; as well as practical things - from fuel, roads, wireless internet and mobile phone reception, how to deal with the national parks booking rules; and Aboriginal land entrance and camping permits and alcohol restrictions - to vehicle preparation and accessories and necessary recovery gear by my partner Mark who is the recovery guy on northern Cape York and the Old Telegraph Track). Not to mention locals' tips on how to spot that croc and palm cockatoo ;-)
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