Monday, 29 September 2014

The Mangrove that Lives on Land

The stilt mangrove family, which has most of the world's mangroves, has even more members in the tropical rainforest.  So what do the relatives of the archetypal stilt mangrove look like?  In Australia, there is only one non-mangrove member of the family Rhizophoraceae, and it is called the forest mangrove.

Some saplings have distinctive plates of corky bark
A mature tree on in gallery forest on the high bank of the Wenlock River
Forest mangroves (Carallia brachiata) live in a wide variety of habitats.  In dry landscapes such as around Townsville and on lower Cape York Peninsula, forest mangroves live in gallery forests on the banks of streams and rivers.  In wet areas, they grow in springs and swamps and on hill sides in small patches of forest clustered around rocky outcrops.  Around Cairns, they are one of the most common plants in areas with rainforest regeneration.

Make me wet and I grow stilt roots
Perhaps the forest mangrove is like the ancestral mangrove.  Occasionally a forest mangrove will sprout stilt roots from its trunk although most of these will taper out before reaching the ground.    It has the ability to live in heavy mud and live in swamps that have prolonged flooding.  Forest mangrove foliage is very similar to stilt mangrove foliage.  The clearest difference is the small red fruit, which are most unlike the water dispersed 'droppers' of stilt mangroves.   A great variety of birds tuck into the fruit by day and bats eat them by night, making for a noisy fruiting season.  In aboriginal communities like Yarrabah, the kids also climb the trees and raid the fruit.
Fig bird eating a berry - see also the mangrove like leaves
Yellow oriole - which is actually green
A male koel, which is a very large and noisy cuckoo that lays eggs in willy-wagtail and pee wee nests.
A much smaller but similarly coloured shining starling.
Australia has five migratory fruit eaters (koels, shining starlings, Torres Strait pigeons, channel-billed cuckoos and rose-crowned fruit dove) which is more than any other continent and forest mangroves feed them all.

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