Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Grass Tree

Throughout our travels in Australia and Tasmania, we've seen some spectacular tree ferns.  Some of these ferns have been 20-30 feet tall.  This forest near the base of St. Columba falls was particularly impressive (above).  The tree ferns in this area are likely 100-200 years old.  The 'trunks' of these trees are actually dead plant matter left behind by each succession of fronds.  In the center of these trunks, the roots extend from the fronds above to the ground below.  Cutting off the tops of these tree ferns has been used to transplant them.  One nickname of these plants in Tasmania is the "Man Fern."

While we were hiking on the Freycinet peninsula, we came across a related plant called the Grass Tree.  Rather than fronds, this plant has long, thin, spiky leaves.  Like the Tree Fern, the Grass Tree grows very slowly and can be several hundred years old.  This plant often requires fire to stimulate it's reproduction, so it's rarely seen flowering.  Our picture below shows a blackened trunk from previous fires.

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