PLANTING RAINFOREST SPECIES
Published in The Nimbin Good Times, March 2005.
Quick Growing Species. The basic aim is to get up a good tree cover as quickly as possible. This is to shade out the weeds and allow slower, more sensitive trees to be planted under the emerging canopy. If there are established forests nearby, fast growing pioneer species will often come up of their own accord,. This includes Foambark, Guioa, Alphitonia, Macaranga, Cheesetree and so forth. Of the rainforest species, Cudgerie, Silky Oak, Native Frangipani, Brush Box and Deep Yellow Wood are excellent fast growing trees. Another of my favourites is Blue Quandong as it grows rapidly to 30m, if sited in a permanently moist (not wet) position. Hoop Pine and Kauri Pine can be quite fast growing after they have become established, but this may take several years. Direct sun can scorch the leaves of many young rainforest trees. For best results, plant the young trees in the light shade of a nursery crop, such as Wild Tobacco or Sweet Pittosporum.
In boggy sites, Pink Euodia (frost free areas) and Bangalow Palms (light frosts only) are suitable. These species are fast growing in wet soils and provide flowers and fruit for wildlife forage. The Cabbage Palm can also be used in these conditions, but it is slow when young and only moderately fast in maturity. In sites around swamps and springs, plant those species that like moist conditions and a high water table.
Along creeks, the following may be used: Small Leaved Lilly Pilly, Creek Lilly Pilly, Blue Quandong, Water Gum and, of course, River She Oak. These will hold the embankment against erosion and slow down the speed of rushing flood waters. Frost hardiness must always be considered in low lying areas along creeks. One couple, new to the valley, spent thousands creating an instant tropical paradise around their house, much of which died the ensuing winter. They were living in a frosty hollow on Goolmangar Creek and obviously were not aware of the problem.
Bush Food species could be considered for rainforest plantings and utilised in the long term as a food resource. We planted 600 Bunya Pine trees 20 years ago and are now just starting to get some nuts. Other species are Macadamia, Davidson Plum, some of the Lilly Pilly species, Finger Lime and so forth. From north east Queensland, there is Atherton Oak which apparently produces nuts that 'taste like smoked almonds'. Candle Nut is another option, but the nuts need to be processed to make them edible.
Endangered Species. It is highly desirable to plant threatened species and establish new populations where ever possible. This will help ensure the long term survival of the species. Burringbar Nursery have an excellent range of trees, including rare and endangered species not available elsewhere. Unfortunately they sell only at the Bangalow Market on every fourth Sunday of the month.
Exotic Species. We have planted exotic rainforest species in the past, but would not do it again for fear of creating yet another weed. Problems should not arise if you select species native to north east NSW and south east Queensland. Species from north east Queensland could present difficulties in our region, as illustrated by the experience with Cadaghi. Our Queensland Maple trees have now gone through several flowerings without producing any seedlings. Fortunately, it can never hybridise with the local Cudgerie because they flower at different times of the year. Species from north east Queensland should be avoided if they have weed potential ie: they are rapid growing and/or their viable seed is dispersed widely by wind or fauna. Unfortunately, a plant is only recognised as a weed after the problem has been created.
Weeds are another factor to consider. Lantana can be completely cleared, keeping those rainforest trees/seedlings already established. Another option is to create pathways through the lantana and plant fasting growing species along them. These paths must be kept clear of weeds to allow the young trees time to grow. The trees should be pruned to a single strong upright - to 2m before branching - to prevent the arching lantana branches climbing up and smothering the young tree. Good rains, slow release fertiliser, a few years growth and they will begin to shadow out the lantana. Other slower rainforest trees can then be included.
Camphor Laurel is a major problem. How do you get rid of so many big trees 25m high? Poisoning is one option, but the dead trees rot slowly, dropping huge branches in the process. We decided on a half way option. All the small camphors were killed and rainforest trees were planted between the remaining large trees. Hoop Pine, Queensland Kauri and Red Cedar seem to grow quite well in this situation. In the large Camphor Laurels, we planted various species of Strangling Figs, which will eventually kill the host trees and provide fruit for birds and fruit bats.
If strangling weed vines are present in your area, plant species that shed their bark (eg: Brush Box and Gums) on the periphery of your plantings. Vines cannot grow up these trees and they provide a buffer to protect the more susceptible rainforest trees.
You need to consider various additional factors, such as fire risk, overhead power lines, maintenance of views and so forth. So many people make mistakes, creating headaches later on. I planted a Nepalese Cedar in our house garden. The nursery man did not tell me that it was India's tallest tree and grew to 80m. Needless to say it had to come out. A friend tried growing a red cedar under power lines - it did not work. Another couple planted gums around their house, blocking out their magnificent views and creating a fire hazard. For best results with your rainforest plantings - do your research and take the advice of people who are experienced in this field. It could save you a lot of wasted time and money. Take it from me - I have been there.