The Garden Of Eden
For the amateur botanists and plant lovers we can offer you a wonderful world of tropical plants.
We are surrounded by the natural beauty of National Parks and it continually surprises and enthralls. Rainforest and ocean. The walking tracks allow you to get back to nature, and experience our rainforest and secluded coves with stunning uninterrupted views of the ocean.
Bedarra Island lies in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, which stretches between Townsville and Cooktown on the north-east coast of Queensland. The wet tropics are home to 13 mammal species which are found nowhere else in the world. As well, platypus and wallaby are common species on the main land. It is also home to a quarter of Australia's frogs, a third of the country's freshwater fish and almost half of Australia's birds - approximately 6370 species. Listen to the varied chant of happy frogs after rain.
Monsoonal wet season is from December till April. As you can see we live in the wet tropics and have a large rainfall. Lucky us!
In particular there are some of the largest remaining tracts of coastal lowland rainforest in North Queensland with many species of plants that are very interesting and enticing. We have listed a few of the beach loving plants that you will come across on Bedarra Island.
Coconut or Tree of HeavenCocos nucifera
The distribution of the coconut palm is between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, so it is regarded as a typical tropical economic and also ornamental plant. There is a saying that there are as many uses for the coconut as there are days in a year. Its fruits have been used for 4000 years as an indispensable source of nourishment by the inhabitants of the South Seas and southern Asia. Since 1740 it has been systematically cultivated by the Dutch and the Portuguese.
The home of the coconut palm is thought to be Polynesia, though some authorities argue that it originates from South America. It is often the first glimpse of the tropics for the traveler as it is almost entirely restricted to coastal regions. Its buoyant fruits have been proven to drift up to 4500 km with the help of ocean currents and still remain viable.
The fibrous layer lying between the shell and the smooth hard outer skin of the fruit is sold as 'coir' for making ropes and coconut matting. The seed is situated inside the kernel, and consists of a small embryo and a white, fleshy layer, the endosperm, which, when ripe, forms the inner wall of the kernel and is known as the 'meat'. The hollow centre is partially filled by coconut milk, a clear liquid which oozes from the endosperm as it changes from a liquid to a solid substance. The embryo is only a few millimeters long and is embedded in the solid tissue at the end of the fruit under one of the three 'eyes'. This remains soft and is easily penetrable, while the other eyes become hard and woody. Copra is made from extracting and drying coconut flesh (kernel) in the sun.
I was told by an ex navy veteran that during WWII they would collect some coconuts and drill a hole in one of the eyes and put several raisins in the coconut, seal it up and wait a while as this would ferment and become alcoholic.
Also that the water from fresh coconuts is sterile, and was used during WWII to replace blood serum for transfusions.
Centuries ago Tahitian healers used a piece of coconut shell to repair skull fractures.
And for the "foodies" did you know that the heart of the coconut palm has a flavour resembling fresh hazelnut and is eaten under the name of "millionaire's salad"? Who other than a millionaire would kill a coconut palm for just one meal?
The species you will see on Bedarra is Pandanus tectorius, occasionally Pandanus Aquaticus like on the Brook Islands and a few Pandanus Odoratissimus.
The screw Pine owes its name to the spirally tufted leaves. These are often found as ornamental plants near beaches. The natural distribution of the genus extends from Africa and Madagascar, through S.E. Asia and Australia to the Pacific Islands. They are recognizable by stilt-like roots, and pineapple-like fruit that grow on advanced aged trees.
Brought to the coast centuries ago by Polynesian seafarers, it has been revered, utilized and loved for centuries by Pacific people. Even on tiny atolls too dry for coconut palms, pandanus can survive; its hardy wave tossed seeds can germinate on hot beaches. Today it still contributes to the daily life on islands far removed from regular shipping routes. Every part of the tree provides materials for housing, food, medicine, ornaments, fishing, religion and folklore. Along with coconut palms, it is a true vestige of former civilizations that depended heavily on the bounties of land and sea.
A word of warning if you receive a cluster of tiny fragrant pandanus flowers surrounded by white bracts, beware! This is reputedly a powerful aphrodisiac. Hawaiian maidens lured young men either by chasing them with dangling flower clusters or by adding pandanus pollen to coconut oil. They rubbed the fragrant oil on their bodies or casually sprinkled it on sleeping sheets of bark cloth.
The aborigines would grind and make flour from the fruit.
Beach CalophyllumCallophyllum inophyllum
It is one of the most memorable trees along North Queenslands' coastline. Its short massive trunk stands just above high water mark with the low, spreading branches over hanging the beach. Calophyllum means beautiful leaf. The large glossy dark green elliptical leaves contrast strikingly with masses of delicately perfumed flowers with yellow stamens. These mature into bright green spherical fruits the size of golf balls, which hang on long stems before finishing up as beach flotsam.
Hernandia peltataSea Hearse
It is a big coast loving tree and has broad heart shaped leaves and small flowers. A false outer, waxy cup shaped fruit shrouds the inner black ribbed fruit, revealed through a circular opening, suggesting its common name Sea Hearse to the Malaysians, who thought it resembled a carved black coffin covered with a pale shroud.
A lowland rainforest native that can be found in NE Queensland, also NT, the Pacific, SE Asia, India and East Africa. The fruit is non edible.
Coastal sheoakCasuarina equisetfolia
The extremely tough timber reminded early English settlers of their oak, the "she" prefix simply denoting that it was not quite the real thing. The botanical name Casuarina derives from an imagined resemblance of weeping foliage of long needles to the plumage of the Cassowary (Casuarius), the large flightless bird of the mainland rainforests.
Banfield had much to say about the whispering and sighing Casuarinas, which he thought were nature's clever first line of defense against a cyclone, the flexible branches streaming unbroken in a howling wind, a stalwart bastion against beach erosion, and protection for plants that are farther back on the coast.
Native Hibiscus or CottonwoodHibiscus tiliaceus
It is often associated with mangroves as it is often found on the landward edge of wet tropical mangrove forests, often growing along the high tide mark. Can grow to 10 m tall. Yellow orange flowers (looks like a hibiscus flower) with heart shaped leaves. The flowers can be seen floating on rivers in around our area.
After the banana, the mango is the most important fruit in the tropics. Its home is in the mountains of central Burma and in the foothills of the Himalaya in eastern India. The mango was mentioned as a cultivated plant in Sanskrit writings of 4000 years ago, and by 500BC it had spread from India to Malaysia and the eastern Asiatic islands. During the time of the voyages of discovery Portuguese seafarers brought the tree to West Africa and Brazil, and quite independently, Spanish ships transported mango seedlings from the Philippines to Mexico. The plant first reached the West Indian islands about 1740.
Pollination is carried out by flies rather than bees. The Chinese miners and veggie farmers planted hundreds of them during the gold rush and mining days in Queensland - mostly 'commons' and very fibrous. Today mangoes can be green, yellow, orange, red or all of the above. They can be elongated, round, or flat, sweet, boring or turpentine, with lots of fiber or smooth as pawpaw flesh. Many gardens on Bedarra have a mango tree growing and some are very old and usually the 'common' variety or the 'Bowen' which is stringless and very juicy.
Try the very sweet miniature mango from the tree that is growing on the beach at Coomool Bay, think it could be a Palmer.
These days Kensington Pride is the most popular variety grown in Australia, making up 80% of all trees planted. One of the production areas in Queensland is the Atherton Tablelands.
The variety was first discovered in Bowen, north Queensland, but is thought to have originated as a seed imported on a shipping line from India. Kensington Pride has been known under several different names such as Bowen, Bowen Special or Kensington. It is our most popular variety; however it is not grown commercially overseas.