The timeless grandeur of rainforest giants, individually exceeding a thousand years old, form a primary canopy above, that excludes much of the sunlight, whilst a secondary canopy of fan palms, Licuala ramsayii forms a vaulted ceiling of green parasols under the shadow of the overarching big trees. Strength, beauty, eternity, spaciousness and diversity, have an order beyond belief. This is no jungle. This is an “old world rainforest”, a surviving relict from Gondwana, 170 million years in the making, hidden behind a thick barricade of pioneer plants that externally resemble a jungle.
In attempting to understand and explain the existence of rainforest with such incredible durability and resilience, we have started with what is evident, considered the morphological formation of mountains and streams, the evolutionary natural history published in books and on the web, ranging from Gondwana 350 million years ago (MYA), the fusion of continental plates into the supercontinent, Pangaea, the split into two land masses of Laurasia and Gondwana and subsequent fragmentation into the continents that exist today. We have also researched Aboriginal culture and beliefs. It is a beginning.
We commenced our deliberations in the heart of our rainforest, what we call our “Fan Palm Cathedral” where spectacular old-growth rainforest is solidly rooted. The primary canopy of huge rainforest trees is vaulted over a secondary canopy of Fan Palms, Licuala Ramsayi. Our forest is broadly described as complex mesophyll vine forest, type 1a. The fan palm galleries appear less complex and are categorised as type 3b, mesophyll vine forest. Both forest types are listed as extremely rare representatives within the complexity of 150 different rainforest assemblages that make up the Daintree. This includes 15 mangrove communities.
The complexity, biodiversity and rarity are clearly important to World Heritage values, but how significant are the fan palm rainforests in the Daintree? They display great natural beauty, thereby contributing to World Heritage criteria. Just walking into a fan palm gallery is inspirational and memorable. The species, Licuala ramsayi is endemic to North Queensland Wet Tropics, meeting another important to criteria for World Heritage. While the species itself is not listed as rare or threatened, “The Conservation Status of Queensland’ Regional Ecosystems” (Sattler and Williams, editors 1999) includes as endangered eco-systems:
RET 7.3.4 – Mesophyll Vine Foest dominated by the fan palm Licuala ramsayi on alluvial soils with seasonally impeded drainage
RET 7.3.10 –Complex Mesophyll Vine forest on alluvia
Both of which contain Licuala ramsayii and also contribute to the wealth of rarity and biodiversity in Daintree Rainforest. It seems to us, living among the Fan Palms in Daintree Rainforest, that the species, Licuala ramsayi makes significant contribution to the World Heritage values of Australia’s Wet Tropics and deserves greater consideration.