Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Daintree Giant

The Daintree rainforest of north Queensland, Australia is a primordial place populated by huge flightless helmeted birds (cassowaries) and primitive mammals like tree kangaroos. As such it is the perfect location for a population of huge, ancient cycads. These are Lepidozamia hopei, the tallest of all cycads with many ancient individuals putting on trunks over 20 metres high.

lepidozamia hopeii2

The specimen below will not do that - some past trauma has produced a double headed plant which will forever have a weakness where the trunks split.

lepidozamia hopeii3

This is in all respects a big plant and its interesting to note that its seeds, though toxic, were used by aboriginal peoples for food having been treated by a lengthy process. Some of the biggest wild plants are marked by foot and holds hacked into the trunks to allow people to climb to the head of the plant and collect seed cones for food.

lepidozamia hopeii6

This plant is a female and you can see the female cone emerging at the top. As this is a cultivated plant in a botanical garden with one of the world's best cycad collections, this cone's seeds are destined for cultivation not the dinner table; L. hopei is less common in gardens than its sister species L. perrofskyana but this is changing.

lepidozamia hopeii7

In about a years time there should be a few more too.

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