Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lamington's Ancient Forest

Tree fern in Lamington's forest (Photo by Narca)

Lamington National Park's system of hiking trails penetrates the ancient, mossy Antarctic Beech forest, a relict from deeptime––from the misty, long-ago era of Gondwanaland. Antarctic Beech, a species of Nothofagus, is related to our oak trees, although they are no longer considered to be in the same family. The presence of Nothofagus species in Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, Argentina and Chile, plus Nothofagus fossils in Antarctica, gives us strong botanical evidence of the ancient fusion of these southern continents.

Giant Brush Box tree (Photo by Narca)

Jim and I hike a 10-mile circuit that immerses us in Lamington's immensely old Nothofagus forest, before dropping into a spectacular valley of waterfalls. The trail eventually loops past other giants at a lower elevation––1500-year-old Giant Brush Box trees, whose limbs reach high into the sunlit canopy. Along the trail, a female Paradise Riflebird (one of the birds of paradise) forages in a leaf cluster, high up in one of the forest giants. An irruption of bewildering sounds betrays the presence of an Albert's Lyrebird, digging for morsels behind a fallen log. Lyrebirds are among the world's finest mimics.

Glossy Black Cockatoo in Casuarina (Photo by Narca)

From the World Heritage Site of Lamington, we descend into the lowlands via Duck Creek, a route that puts our 4WD rental car through its paces. Along the way, a cooperative pair of Glossy Black Cockatoos dines on woody Casuarina fruits, one of their favorite foods.

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