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Antarctic Beeches, Springbrook National Park
Come, follow me for a visit to a hidden spot that is full of wonder.
Drive up from the low lying Queensland Gold Coast into the cool mountains of the Hinterland rainforest. This is the home of the Springbrook World Heritage National Park. The park is quite large and runs along part of the border between Queensland and New South Wales.
Change the view of the map below to 'terrain.' Now you can see the mountains and valleys and where the border runs.
- Firstly, we reach the small township of Springbrook on the edge of the park (see balloon A on the map below).
- Then follow the signposts seven kilometres to a car park at the top end of Repeater Station Road ( see balloon B on the map below).
- From here, take the walking track that follows the caldera of an ancient volcano. It leads to The Best of All Lookout (see balloon C on the map below).
Halfway along the track to the Lookout is a true wonder of the modern natural world.
Antarctic Beech Trees
They are the ancient Antarctic Beech Trees. It is certainly worth doing the short walk, only about 200 metres along an easy track to the Lookout, just to see these amazing trees.
Talk about an anachronism! The beeches are descended from forests of these trees that clad large areas of Australia when it was part of Gondwana and was joined to Antarctica, New Zealand and South America about 50 million years ago, so I have been told. I believe that they grow as far north as the mountains of Papua New Guinea, but are not found in the northern hemisphere, except as fossils.
It is interesting that I have never heard or read of Antarctic beeches in Southern Africa and yet some of our flora, such as our Waratah, and fauna, such as the Sunbird, are said to be related to those of Southern Africa through our being joined as part of Gondwana.
In comparison, these beeches are only about 2,000 years old.
Imagine that! When Jesus was on the earth, these trees were in their infancy and already growing here.
Link to Ancient Times
The information board near some of the beeches is very useful and explains how they are a link to ancient times. Unfortunately, my photograph is not very clear, but from it we can see the shape of the leaves, small flowers and the seeds.
Naturally, the trees are protected within the World Heritage area and are cared for by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.
Bushfires are a problem as if a fire swept through this area it would be devastating for these majestic trees. They are very slow to recover from fire.
A Magic Circle
As the climate changed, the trees died out in lower areas and grew only in the higher, cooler areas. Many of the prehistoric creatures died out, too, and we only know about them from the fossils that have been preserved. Some of these animals and birds had helped to spread their seeds.
Now there are a few birds that may continue the process, so it is usually through coppicing that these ancient beeches continue to survive. This means that new stems and branches have sprung up from the widespread roots and appear to be new trees, while some have died. The result is like the formation of a magic circle as the central trunk has rotted away while the others on the outside remain.
It is believed that the bottom part of the trees was once in the soil, but over hundreds of years that has been eroded away by the weather. Now that part of the beeches is beautifully clad in a variety of mosses.