This is one of the first places I visited in far north Queensland, back in 1997, long before I came to live here. The Curtain Fig tree — not far from Yungaburra, and a must-see on your day trip round the beautiful Atherton Tablelands. It’s one of the most amazing trees you’ll ever see.
It’s hundreds of years old, and has been dead for a very long time. But it’s still standing, inside the “curtain” of roots of a strangler fig that took over the tree long ago. They grow from the top down, taking over and eventually strangling the host tree. The strangler fig also goes by the name of Ficus Virens – and it’s a winner in the battle for survival in tropical rainforest, the contest to find sunlight in the dense cover of the rainforest canopy.
Instead of competing from the ground up, strangler figs get going from seeds dropped in bat or bird poo. With any luck, the seed lands up in the vegetation canopy and starts growing there, dropping roots down to ground level. That’s about a 15 metre journey in the case of the Curtain Fig tree near Yungaburra.
The tree is a short walk in from the road, into the Mabi forest that once dominated this area. There’s a boardwalk to make for an easy journey, and some really good information signs to help you understand what you’re seeing, and what you might see by way of wildlife – like tree kangaroos.
Listen to ABC wildlife correspondent Martin Cohen explain how the Curtain Fig came to be.