If Vivaldi had lived in far north Queensland, his best known musical work would have been The Two Seasons. Wet and dry. It’s rarely what a southerner would call cold, and we don’t have autumn or spring. But there are subtle changes in the shift between the two ends of our climatic spectrum that led indigenous people to describe several other “seasons”.
Plants fruit or flower at different times up here, and some species might flower several times a year. Right now, we’re at the end of the wet season. The monsoon is gone, retreating back towards the equator. It’s a time when food for our wildlife should be abundant, but the critters would usually have endured some tough times during the wet with storms or cyclones. Not so this year. But at the end of the wet, bats, birds and insects get a treat – the melaleuca trees are flowering and that blossom is a tasty & nutritious treat.
The melaleuca leucadendra is a common sight around far north Queensland. It’s also known as the white paperbark – a large hardy tree that occurs all around Australia’s tropical north. It has dense thin leaves, and the bark comes off the trunk in large sheets – the bark protects the tree during fires. It produces sweet smelling white flowers – if you stand close to one in flower you’ll get a strong scent of someone cooking with honey. While you’re there, have a look at the variety of creatures that come to feast on melaleuca blossom.
Listen to ABC Far North Wildlife Correspondent Martin Cohen talk about melaleuca trees and the critters that feed on their flowers.
Martin Cohen has been ABC Far North wildlife correspondent since 2006. He is on the radio Wednesday afternoons at 4:45. You can read more about Martin at http://www.wildaboutaustralia.com/