Most people think of Australian rainforest as coming in two varieties, the Daintree (tropical) and the Tarkine (cool temperate). The subtropical Gondwanan rainforest lies somewhere in the middle. Gondwana Rainforests of Australia is the name now given to the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserve Area, a World Heritage site. It consists of a string of disconnected forest reserves and state and national parks, running down the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range from Main Range National Park in SE Queensland to Mount Royal National Park in New South Wales. The reserve areas are a tiny fraction of great tracts of rainforest that was first of all plundered for its valuable timbers and then felled and burnt by settlers struggling to make a living by dairying or sheepfarming or growing citrus or bananas or any way they could. This is the fate that has befallen subtropical Gondwanan forest everywhere, from the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa to the Andes.
Before its separation from Gondwana Australian forest was dominated by southern beech and podocarps. Today the only southern beech is Nothofagus moorei which grows in small populations at higher elevations from Lamington National Park to the Barrington Tops. The Podocarps are represented by Podocarpus elatus, the Plum Pine. The only Araucarian is Araucaria cunninghamii var. cunninghamii, the Hoop Pine, which was all but logged out and is now mostly to be found either in plantations or naturalising outside them. Another, A. bidwillii, the bunya pine, occurs further north. A close relative, Wollemia nobilis, the Wollemi pine, occurs in a few gorges of the Blue Mountains, further south.
These forests are home to a select group of tree Proteaceae. Tallest among them is probably Floydia praealta which can be found at CCRRS growing as a rainforest emergent. Eidothea hardeniana, the Nightcap Oak, and Grevillea robusta, the Silky Oak, both grow to 40m. The Silky Oak was so heavily logged for its finely figured timber that by the beginning of the 20th century it was in danger of extinction; it is in fact a fast-growing pioneer with considerable weed potential. Another rainforest Grevillea, G. hilliana, is smaller and rather less common. The several subspecies of Banksia integrifolia that grow in the rainforest are unusual in that they do not require fire to release their seeds. Two species of Stenocarpus, as well as Orites excelsus and Alloxylon pinnatum, the Dorrigo Waratah, grow to 25m or so. The genus Macadamia is represented by two indistinct species, both of which grow only in a very restricted area, Macadamia tetraphylla from the Richmond and Tweed Valleys to the headwaters of the Nerang River, and M. integrifolia along the Queensland side of the Macpherson Range. Once common but now similarly restricted in its distribution is the Bopple Nut, Hicksbeachia pinnatifolia.

Comments are closed.