A Sandy Beach Almanac

You've landed at Sandy Beach, NSW, Australia: Lat. -30.15331, Long. 153.19960, UT +10:00 – local map & zoom Google map. I live in a cabin on this beach, 25 kilometres north of the traffic and shops of Coffs Harbour, 600 km north of Sydney. My intention is to post observations of Nature and life within 1 km (1,000 paces) of my South Pacific home.


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Tuesday, January 04, 2005

One, two, tree ferns

No matter what's going on in the world, and no matter what the politicians without vision do to our lives and our blue planet, the wheel of the year turns and the plants grow.

And doing very well on the other side of the two-metre-wide window across my desk, among a number of other plants in the shade of the big mango tree that over-arches my place, are two tree ferns.

They are of the Australian native species of tree fern (or treefern), Dicksonia antarctica, found in tropical and subtropical areas, including cool to temperate rainforest, and even down in sub-Antarctic islands, hence its name. One of their favourite habitats is cool mountain forests, but they seem well acclimatised here at sea level.

Dicksonia's large, green fronds were once popular in Australia as Christmas decorations (midsummer is not a great time for holly berries), as seen in the black and white illustration ('Christmas is Coming') by Sydney artist Julian Ashton of a flower girl selling fronds, published in the Illustrated Sydney News on December 20, 1879.

As with everything (without exeption, as far as I know), there is a political aspect to the tree fern:
"British gardeners may be contributing to the destruction of a popular Australian tree fern. Dicksonia antarctica is being "salvaged" from ancient forests that are being clear-cut for paper and packaging. Between 1994 and 1998, 44,660 tree ferns were exported from the state of Victoria, mostly to the UK. The profits from the fern-trade make Australia's woodchipping industry economically viable. Says Tim Cadman of Australia's Native Forest Network, 'Every time a British consumer buys an Australian tree fern, he or she is supporting the destruction of our old-growth forests and rainforests.'" Source: Earth Island Journal
The little one outside my window is less than two metres tall, and the big daddy is about three, but they can grow to four metres. Although these two have been planted by human hand, as have all the specimens in pots and gardens in Britain, America and elsewhere, Dicksonia is very common in the Australian bush if the conditions are right (they are happy in most moist climates but don't look their best where there are really high temperatures). In some places they almost form forests, where you might see a lyrebird and hear its mimickry of other birds, vehicles and even human tunes.

There are no lyrebirds in my garden, but there are a few others. More of those from me on another day at Sandy Beach, somewhere on the Australian coast.


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