Wanted! Pine Imposter with Massive Nuts! Tends to "Drop 'em" in Mid-Summer!
Relax, why don't you! This bad boy's not going anywhere, because he's rooted to the spot.
I refer, of course, to the giant Bunya Pine, still found in parts of Eastern Australia and which is not a real pine tree at all but a conifer. This old man of the forest, however, often attaining a height of 50m (approx 150ft) and appearing at times to look disparagingly down on the surrounding canopy of rainforest trees and vines, is not to be toyed with, particularly in mid-summer, when large 'head-sized' bunya nuts (typically weighing 8kg to 10kg, or 18lb to 22lb) come tumbling down from the upper branches, often bringing smaller lower branches down with them, as the latter pay the ultimate price for damping gravity’s downward force of collision.
I had been looking forward to this trip for many weeks, ever since finding out that the Bunya Mountains National Park, located some 250km (150 miles) north-west of Brisbane, has one of the largest stands of Bunya Pines in Australia, and indeed, the world. We stayed overnight at Toowoomba (home of the annual Floral Festival floral-fest-for-the-inner-west ) to permit a shorter drive the next morning along the elevated Western Downs, before our steep, narrow and winding ascent to the park.
We stopped at Munros camp near Mt Mowbullan, the southern entrance to the park, where two solemn Bunya sentinels, staunch representatives of their Araucaria Bidwilli species, stood on guard, one on either side of the bituminous seal, heralding the wonders to be found behind, such as hoards of Hoop and Cypress Pines, which, like the Bunya, are not pines at all but conifers. Then there's the red cedar, blackwood, ironbark, bloodwood and a variety of other eucalypts, grass trees, bottle trees and the odd, though spectacular, mature strangler fig, all stretching up to form the forest canopy; but the highest of them all, forming protruding guard towers of conical shade, are the Bunya.
In the tiny village of Dundabah, located within the southern part of the park, we were fortunate enough to find a ranger in residence, who took delight in describing to us what we might encounter on some of the walking tracks, and which of these were best to consider taking, in order to fill out the remainder of our day. He also cautioned us that some of the tracks were currently closed for regular maintenance and indicated, on a well thumbed hand-out, the stinging trees and shrubs to avoid. As we headed off into the green beyond, along one of the more popular circuits, we noted how the forest floor was covered with an assortment of ferns, grasses and shrubs, whose existence and sustenance depends upon how much light filters through the changing overhead canopy.
Not far into the trail we encountered a fine example of the infamous strangler fig (in fact we couldn't avoid it as the path goes right through the middle of it).
Being a few hundred years old, this specimen initially grew downwards from a seedling, high on the branches of its host tree, until it reached the forest floor beneath. Over a period of time it eventually enclosed the host tree, restricting sap flow and blocking out sunlight, until nothing more remained of its former crutch, now represented by the hollows between the pedestal of fig roots.
We also encountered a host of other vines dangling downwards (as though awaiting Tarzan's imminent treetop passage) and epiphyte ferns, perched high on host trees, taking advantage of improved sunlight and of elevated leaf and other nutrient debris.
But every so often, we'd come across a majestic specimen of the Bunya and just couldn't resist looking upwards, ever thankful that it wasn't as yet mid-summer and hence nut dropping season.
The forest here is a haven for a variety of wildlife, including possum, skink, the rare great barred frog, the sooty owl and a host of interesting and colourful birds. In spite of maintaining a relatively quiet passage through the winding forest track, we had almost lost hope of having a 'close encounter' with anything other than a fellow afternoon stroller, when suddenly, about 10m away, there was this gorgeous king parrot, right in the middle of the path in front of us. Edging ever closer, one tentative step at a time, we not only succeeded in getting close enough to take photos, but were rewarded by this scarlet red-headed cheeky chappy actually coming up virtually to my boot laces (top left photo below).
Later, however, back at the car park, general store and coffee shop, we saw many more of these male king parrots, on and around various trays of seed left specially to attract them, and also, doubtless, to net a string of potential customers, to the human 'feeding zoo'. We also saw an occasional though much shyer crimson rosella (too shy to let me take its pic), along with the ever present brush turkey, and, in a nearby cleared paddock, a mob of wallabies.
But before the sun was to set on our first of, hopefully, several visits to this tree-mendous natural asset, we drove to the northern section of the park to catch a glimpse of the iconic grass trees near Burtons Well. Here we saw several worthy specimens in the camp ground just off the road, a fitting end to our bountiful day in the Bunya.
What's that you say?
"What about that steely hand and tattooed arm in my title photo?"
Well, I'm glad you asked. This is a magnificent sculpture at Dandabah by Luke and Kim Duff, made in "hand beaten sheet steel with heavy pipe work and zinc copper patina finish".
"The buttress root base is a reminder of bygone logging days while fungi and vines represent nature reclaiming the forest. The hand reaching to the heavens demonstrates the eternal struggle within the rainforest to reach the life giving sunlight above the canopy. It also symbolises humans caring for the Bunya Mountains."
So there you go. 🤗
The author of the above, Ken Boddie, besides being a sometime poet and occasional writer, is an enthusiastic photographer, rarely leisure-travelling without his Canon, and loves to interact with other like-minded people with diverse interests.
Ken's three day work week (part time commitment) as a consulting engineer allows him to follow his photography interests, and to plan trips to an ever increasing list of countries and places of scenic beauty and cultural diversity.