Ornamental Rainforest Trees

With an increasing growth of an environmental conscience in our community, Rainforest trees are being planted in larger and larger numbers both on the smaller property and on more extensive developers projects. Our native trees have considerable beauty in their own right and are equal to many of the imported exotics that have come to dominate our urban landscapes. Rainforest trees display an enormous diversity of appearance and their attraction is not necessarily restricted to their floral attributes but leaf form, new growth flushes and brightly coloured fruits are just as eye-catching. The seeds of many Rainforest plants are often distributed by birds and fruit bats rather than by wind dispersal and for this reason the fruit often shows brilliant colours or has succulent flesh. In more open garden situations, shrubs or trees usually develop a shorter denser more symmetrical appearance than they do in the forest situation where they are competing for light under a canopy. It is extremely difficult to state with certainty the mature size a tree will reach in a garden situation as there are so many variable climatic factors; and soil type is of great importance. As a general rule a tree grown in the open will seldom grow to more than one third the size of that same species in a more competitive ecosystem such as in a normal forest situation. Some Rainforest trees grows very rapidly, others have a more moderate rate of growth and a few are painfully slow. In the forest situation there is an understorey of trees that are adapted to completing their cycle in this situation and a large reserve group of trees waiting their chance to fill gaps in the canopy when one of their elders crashes to the ground. Anyone who has observed an area of Rainforest closely will be familiar with how dynamic a situation this environment actually is. There is a popular misconception that all rainforest trees are slow growers. Not the case at all. As soon as a break in the canopy appears there is a rush of competitive growth as each species seeks the goal of light from the sun for their photosynthetic processes. Planting a tree in a site without an overhead canopy is virtually the same situation so stand back and watch when you plant some species. I’ve known Quandongs (Elaeocarpus grandis) to grow over 5 metres in a little over a year in an open situation.

Australian Rainforest plants are often better suited to our relatively moist eastern seaboard gardens than the drier inland native plants that are often planted indiscriminately; simply because they are native. Another popular misconception is that all natives resent fertilisers. Unless very selective fertilisers are used this s often true for drier country plants but is certainly not the case with our Rainforest trees. They seem to respond to anything organic or inorganic in the way of commercial fertilisers so do not be afraid to use them during the growing season when there is ample moisture to facilitate the uptake of the minerals and trace elements provided.

Australian Rainforest trees are also being increasingly grown for their ability to attract birds and there is a growing interest in their use for attracting colourful butterflies. Remember that caterpillars feed on their host plants so expect to find chunks chopped out of the leaves. If you want the experience of butterflies flying through your garden resist the temptation of squashing the caterpillars and getting out the sprays. Experience has shown that the leaves of nearly everything we grow is eaten at some stage of the year so it seems pointless to try and maintain a perfect plant when all the other members of that species in the wild or over the back fence are providing salad for some form of wildlife. Local trees are adapted for being browsed upon so just be patient and wait for the cycle to change as the seasons change.

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