THE VEGETATION AND FLORA OF BRISBANE FOREST PARK
Reproduced, with permission, from the Brisbane Rainforest Action & Information Network website (
Prepared by Bruce Noble in 1982 from a vegetation survey carried out by Peter Young in the early 1980's and a BFP booklet on the botany of the park (written also by Peter Young). Peter Young works with the Department of Environment and has carried out further work since the original survey.
The vegetation map is currently being updated with the help of Peter Young and should be available some time this year. It is hoped the vegetation survey can also be updated in the near future, using recent data collected by Peter. It is interesting to note the significance that Hoop Pine scrubs played in aboriginal culture and European settlement. The decline in abundance of these forests is a catastrophe for all Australians.
- Bruce Noble
A vegetation survey of BFP was undertaken in 1982. The study had several major objectives. These were:
* Provision of a vegetation map;
* Inventory of flora and vegetation;
* Identification of plant species and vegetation of outstanding biological significance
* Generate hypotheses about the relationships between vegetation composition and environment that might be useful in maintaining or enhancing the natural landscape of BFP;
* Identification of topics or specific problems for future research.
Thus, in addition to more mundane description such as preparation of flora checklists, the collection and analysis of large amounts of information were envisaged. Consideration was also given to collection of data that could be readily incorporated into a computerized information base and there has been input into a fauna survey and proposed soil/geological survey.
Despite ad hoc plant collections, specialized botanical investigations and vegetation survey and mapping of parts of BFP, even the most basic information such as Herbarium records of the larger plant species was lacking for much of the area prior to the survey. The investigation was approached, therefore as a primary survey. It was anticipated that as well as aiding in longer-term management of BFP, the survey would also benefit students and others who enjoy field botany in the vicinity of Brisbane.
A brief botanical history of BFP and adjacent lands
Standing on the summit of Mt. Coot-tha in 1828, Cunningham and Fraser described the view to the north and west as, "É a tract of lofty and forest covered hills interspersed with extensive districts of Araucaria (Araucaria cunninghami - Hoop Pine) of which the sombre green colour forms a striking contrast to the brownish hue of the gum trees ". (Steele 1972). Away from Brisbane's sprawl along the coastal plain 150 years later, the view remains essentially the same. The hills that have provided the city with a portion of its timber and water have, as well, provided botanists, nature lovers, students and picnickers with a rich source of study and recreation.
Time has changed this person's scope rather than the vegetation; whereas a bush walking trip at the turn of the century constituted a sulky ride to the wilds of Gold or Enoggera creeks, Mt. Glorious today is only a 45 minute car ride from the city.
Early human impact
Although white man has been the potent agent of modification of vegetation in BFP, the activities of aborigines cannot be overlooked. Their impact was through:-
Removal and disfigurement of trees and shrubs for construction of shelters, weapons, preparation of fibres (e.g. Fish nets), food and medicines.
Fig trees (Ficus spp.), Shiny-leaved Stinging Tree (Dendrocnide photinophylla ), Bat's-wing Coral Tree (Erythrina verspertilio ), Hoop Pine (Araucaria cunninghamii ) and Red Cedar (Toona australis ) all native to the park, were used in construction of light shields, and various hardwoods in the construction of heavy shields (Meston 1895) . Spears were made from ironbarks (e.g. Eucalyptus crebra) and Hopbush (Dodonaea triquetra ) (Watkins 1891). It is interesting to note that aborigines in the east Moreton district also used spears made of Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla ), bartered from the tribe in the Rosewood Scrub west of Ipswich (Meston 1895). Hand and water bags and fishing nets were made from the inner bark of Hibiscus heterophyllus, Kurrajong (Brachychiton populneus ), the outer bark of wattles (Acacia spp.) and palm leaves. Traill (1902) notes that Mt. Coot-tha was abundant in honey produced by native bees and presumably extraction of honey entailed felling trees. Several species of vine from the the family MENISPERMACEAE provided poisons useful against fish.
The controlled use of fire by aborigines to burn vegetation is described for many parts of Australia (e.g. Jones 1975, Harris 1977). Although no direct reports of such use could be found for the Moreton district, Flinders noticed smoke in the vicinity of the D'Aguilar Range in July 1799 (Steele 1972). Oxley on his first trip on the Brisbane River in 1823 observed "sides of hills thinly studded with wood and well covered with grass," between the river and Glenmorriston's Range (Taylor Range) and upstream from Canoe Creek (Oxley Creek), that he considered "good, open grazing country " (Steele 1972). This observation suggests regular burning, as it is a most important requirement for the maintenance of this type of forest or woodland in higher rainfall parts of southern Queensland.
However as Nicholson (1981) points out there is no way of knowing that such fires were deliberately lit by aborigines or furthermore, whether or not the grasslands actually developed as a result of aboriginal fires.
The arrival of white man
Many explorers of Australia examined and noted vegetation or were actually accompanied by a botanist. Explorers of Moreton bay and hinterland were no exception. Oxley in 1823 was greatly impressed by Hoop Pine, which he first observed on the Pine River near Petrie (Steele 1972). He described the species as, " a magnificent species of pine - the monarch of these woods". Oxley suspected the species belonged to the genus Araucaria previously recorded from Chile, Brazil and Norfolk Island. Fine stands of Hoop Pine, were observed along the Brisbane River upstream to the vicinity of Pine Mountain - Sapling Pocket, where Oxley and his party entered a patch of rainforest. A pine-clad hill in this vicinity, probably Goat Mountain, was named Mt. Araucaria. It is later recorded on Hodgkinson's (1845) map of the coastal lands from Port Macquarie to Moreton Bay.
Hoop Pine attracted a great deal of attention from early explorers. In 1824 Oxley, accompanied by Alan Cunningham, a collector from the Royal Gardens at Kew, observed some large specimens of pine in the vicinity of Pine Mountain. One tree, three metres in diameter, stood over 45 metres high. Cunningham gave the species the vernacular "Brisbane Pine" as being first discovered on the banks of the river of the same name (Steele 1972).
Cunningham compiled the first ever species list for a locality in the Moreton district, from a stand of rainforest on the Brisbane River in the vicinity of Goodna. Although familiar with many species after eight years of botanical collection along the east coast of Australia and sub-coastal New South Wales (Bailey 1891, Meston 1895), many infertile plants defied classification, even to Family, so strange and new was the flora. Even the life form of trees presented problems. For example, Cunningham correctly identified one of the more common trees along the Brisbane River (he felled a fruiting specimen thirty metres tall) as Crow's Ash (Flindersia australis) first collected ( and later described ) by Robert Brown at Broadsound in 1802. At Broadsound, however, Brown described the species as a small tree, six metres tall.
In 1824 Governor Brisbane, greatly impressed by the trees along the river, sent several logs to England for assessment. The explorer Lockyer also reported that the pine was well adapted for masts and spars and his log of 1825 notes that the first export from Brisbane Town to England consisted of pine logs (Steele 1972). Thus the death knell was sounded for the majestic stands of timber along the Brisbane River and its tributaries.
The site of Brisbane Town became a focus for botanical collection. In the winter of 1828 Charles Fraser, the Colonial Botanist, travelled to Brisbane to establish a public gardens. Fraser and Cunningham visited Breakfast Creek, Mt. Coot-tha and the Brisbane River, collecting plants and taking notes. Breakfast Creek was noted for its huge strangler figs on old ironbark trees. Several Eucalyptus open forest species are noted from the summit of Mt. Coot-tha, including some ground orchids. The low hills between the Brisbane River and Mt. Coot-tha were dismissed as, "sterile and devoid of interest " (Steele 1972).
The Brisbane River and its valley provided access to the Lockyer and Fassifern Valleys and the lands beyond. Ironically, while country between Ipswich and the Border Ranges and the Brisbane Valley were explored thoroughly in 1828 and 1829, the D'Aguilar Range presented a barrier that Cunningham described as " very formidable, the summits of which (rise) in abrupt and apparently rocky heads of considerable elevation" (Steele 1972). Thus it was inaccessibility, coupled with the paucity of land suitable for agriculture, that preserved the natural state of the D'Aguilar Range until well into this century. It is astounding that Mt. Nebo, 25 kilometres from the city, did not have direct road access to Brisbane until 1934 (Hegarty1980) 77 years after free settlement.
THE VEGETATION AND FLORA OF BRISBANE FOREST PARK - PART 2
With settlement came learned men, few of whom were strictly botanists, butrather, to whom botany represented only one branch of their scientific endeavours. Apart from Walter Hill, first Colonial Botanist of Queensland and the Director of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, early collectors of the Brisbane district include a Quaker, Backhouse, Doctors of Medicine; Lauterer, Bancroft, Beckler and a citizen, J.T. Bidwill.
Construction of the Enoggera Reservoir in 1864 and discovery of gold upstream in 1875, provided access to the Enoggera Creek catchment. Plant collections by F.M. Bailey, the Government Botanist who succeeded Hill, from this area dated from 1875, are lodged in the Queensland Herbarium.
Bailey and Reverend Tenison Woods (1880) published a comprehensive census of the flora of Brisbane. A total of 1228 species from 123 families are listed. The census included country within 40 kilometres of Brisbane and species/locality records suggest that the authors had collected as far west as the headwaters of Enoggera Creek, near Mt. Nebo. An accompanying paper by Tenison Woods (1880) is of further significance. Noting that the publication of "Flora Australienensis" - (Bentham 1863-1878) provided a comprehensive catalogue of the Australian flora, Tenison Woods states, "preparation of local floras will now be the first care of Australian Botanists," and, "the geographical distribution (of species) has hardly been touched upon." He then proceeds, in the tradition of classical plant geography (which at the time was still in its infancy) to examine the flora of Brisbane in terms of species distributions and regional floristic elements and affinities. Mt. Tenison Woods, within Brisbane Forest Park is a tribute to this great scholar.
In 1880 Mt. Coot-tha was placed in the charge of trustees as a reserve for public recreation (Traill 1902). At this time regrowth of saplings grew on much of the Taylor Range, as heavy clearing had been undertaken by convicts under Logan. Remnant patches of forest on Mt. Coot-tha and stands of rainforest along Enoggera and Gold Creeks became popular areas to visit. Particularly active were members of the Field Naturalists Club who were often accompanied by the Government Botanist (Simmonds 1888, 1889, Shirley 1887).
The Twentieth Century
The Field Naturalists Club under the botanical guidance of Bailey, and later, C.T. White, continued to actively collect in areas to the west of Brisbane (Barker 1910, Wedd 1911, White 1916). However, for the first time the adverse effects of man's activities upon more picturesque and botanically interesting localities close to the city are commented upon. At Gold Creek in 1909 for example, Lantana (Lantana camara) was abundant along roadsides and most Hoop pine removed, "save for one or two straggly specimens" (Barker 1910). Of the well-collected Three Mile Scrub on Enoggera Creek at Newmarket, Wedd (1911) comments, "its glory has to some extent departed ... the depredations of wood-getters will soon mean demise of the scrub altogether."
Partly as a consequence of timber-getting and partly due to the advent of the motor car, new areas were visited by botanists. The earliest Herbarium collections from Mt. Glorious appear to be those of White, dated 1920 (from a Field Naturalists Club excursion). Collections concentrated upon the rainforests and rainforest margins, and the Eucalyptus open forests of the lower slopes and foothills remained, in general, poorly collected. The notable exception was Taylor Range - Mt. Coot-tha (e.g. early Queensland Herbarium records from this locality include C.T. White 1907, 1916/17, S.T. Blake 1932, C.E. Hubbard 1930).
The history of collection of two plant species illustrates the paucity of collection and inaccessibility of parts of Brisbane Forest Park until well into this century. The species are a sedge Cyperus semifertilus recorded from Mt. Glorious and Mt. Tamborine, and the rainforest shrub Austromytus inophloia recorded from Mt. Glorious, Eumundi, Blackall Range and Peachester. The latter, although described in 1916 was not collected from Mt. Glorious until 1943 (White) and 1945 (Mrs. M. Clemens). Blake first collected C. semifertilus on Mt. Tamborine in 1937 and did not discover the species on Mt. Glorious until two years later.
White and his assistant, W.D. Francis, collected the lower Enoggera Creek catchment and other near Brisbane areas in the 1920's, concentrating largely upon rainforest species. Some interesting early records are Atalaya multiflora (Samford, Francis 1925), Hauer (Dissiliaria baloghioides, Kelvin Grove, White and Francis 1920), Choricarpia leptopetala (Enoggera Creek, White and Francis 1920).
The first edition of "Rainforest Trees of Australia", (Francis 1929) contains photographs of Silky oak (Grevillea robusta) and Weeping myrtle (Waterhousea myrtifolia) on Enoggera Creek. Other localities within Brisbane Forest Park are also cited.
These include: -
* Mt. Glorious - Acronychia pauciflora, Black water gum (Syzygium crebrinerve)
* "scrubs" around Brisbane - Socketwood (Daphnandra micrantha), Hauer (Dissiliaria baloghioides)
* D'Aguilar Range - Brown beech (Pennantia cunninghamii), Black jack (Argyrodendron actinophyllum)
* Brisbane River - Alectryon connatus.
The collection of material of Eucalyptus was sometimes undertaken by foresters, who, in addition to requiring positive identification of timber species, had the advantage of travelling widely throughout the State Forests. Eucalyptus henryi (type material collected in 1956) for example, a species closely related to Spotted gum (Eucalyptus maculata) is named after a forester, N.B. Henry, who drew the attention of this species to botanists.
Further comprehensive collections and species lists of rainforest stands in S.F. 309 Enoggera and at Mt. Glorious were made in the 1960's and early 1970's by the C.S.I.R.O. researchers L.J. Webb, J.G. Tracey and V.K. Moriarty. The work of Moriarty, part of a phytochemical survey, includes an extensive collection of rainforest lianas. [Editor: See Borschmann's 2000 oral history book The People's Forest, for an interesting article by Webb's offsider John Tracey during the phytochemicval survey, describing how Webb became more and more interested in rainforests and their classification during this survey, finally abandoning it to make time to dedicate to the classifiaction of Australian rainforests for which he is now famous. See also Part 4.]
More recently, comprehensive species lists have been compiled for many parts of Brisbane Forest Park and adjacent lands. However, until this survey, it appears that high country to the west and south of Mt. Nebo - Mt. Glorious has seldom, if ever been systematically collected by a botanist.
THE VEGETATION AND FLORA OF BRISBANE FOREST PARK - PART 3
Peter Young covered settlement and the twentieth century in the last issue. Part 3 sees National Parks and Forestry getting a look in ...
Forestry and National Parks
Information for this part of the discussion was taken from files kindly supplied by the Department of Forestry (Qld. Forest Service) and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (Dept. of Environment).
Despite the removal of most pine and millable hardwood close to Brisbane by the turn of the century, extensive logging of hardwoods in the D'Aguilar Range did not take place until immediately after World War II. In some instances, this was prior to reservation as State Forest. In S.F. 309 (running through the Enoggera and Gold Creek catchments from The Gap towards Mt. Nebo), however, Hoop pine was removed much earlier.
Since World War II, all reserves within the park have been heavily cut with the exception of small areas that are too poor or inaccessible. Logging in S.F. 309 ceased in 1956 following a request from the Brisbane City Council because of the risk of pollution to the waters of the Enoggera Reservoir. Permanent inventory plots (F.I.S.) were established in the 1960's in all reserves using one acre permanent plots located at 30 x 30 chain intervals. Forest "type" maps were also prepared.
Sustained yield or second cycle cut estimates are generally low, reflecting the heavy over cutting in the past. Better sites, though, are considered to be well stocked with below merchantable size trees.
Serious bushfires have swept patches of rainforest and very tall open forest (e.g. at Mt. Nebo in 1936, 1939, 1951, 1957, 1968: Ridley and Gardener 1961, Hegarty 1980) during intervals of extreme fire weather. Ridley and Gardener (1961) described the formation of treeless lantana thickets following fires in rainforest (parts of S.F. 309). They suggest that the general lack of recognition by botanists, that these thickets follow wildfires in rainforest, is probably due to their similarity to other thickets that appear on abandoned cultivations once occupied by rainforests.
Early forestry fire control measures included "two chain green breaks" located along ridges. These breaks were kept clear of dead vegetation and undergrowth. The current prescribed burn programmes (in the 1980's), undertaken on a three to four year cycle tend to prevent regeneration in these areas, so that the green breaks are still evident today. (A good example can be found along Mt. Nebo road from the Park headquarters at The Gap towards McAfees lookout).
A Scientific Purpose Area was reserved in S.F. 309 in 1974. Such areas were originally set aside to preserve stands of Hoop pine representative of the original vegetation on Hoop pine plantation sites, and to preserve a valuable gene pool for future tree breeding work (Fisher 1978). S.P.A. 2 in S.F. 309 is also actively used by university researchers.
The gazettal of N.P. 796 Maiala in 1930 provided the first National Park in the area. Consequently additional reserves were declared or added to (Jolly's Lookout 1938, Manorina 1949, 1965, Boombana 1959). In 1973 Mt. Nebo residents prepared a submission to make Mt. Nebo - Mt. Glorious a continuous National Park. [Editor: National Park or Conservation Park status is finally likely to be declared over this area in 2003.]
A report prepared by the Queensland Museum (1975) concluded that the wilderness value of National Parks in the D'Aguilar Range is seriously impaired by overuse for recreation. However on the positive side, the recreational use of the area was considered to be extended by the presence of the State Forests which provide a buffer zone that enhances the conservation status of the National Parks.
THE VEGETATION AND FLORA OF BRISBANE FOREST PARK - PART 4
A quick look by Peter Young at the scientific investigations in Brisbane Forest Park.
Along with other popular research centres in southern Queensland such as Stradbroke Island and Cooloola, small parts of Brisbane Forest Park remain some of the most intensively studied areas of the state. In particular, intensive research by botanists, ecologists and plant geographers has been carried out at Mt. Coot-tha, Mt. Nebo and Mt. Glorious since the 1950's.
A milestone in ecological studies into Queensland rainforests was the thesis of Webb (1956). Stands of rainforest between Brisbane, Mt. Glorious and west to Pine Mountain were included in this investigation. A classification scheme using structural features was subsequently developed (Webb 1959), and relationships between structural types of rainforest and environmental factors established (Webb 1968). Though not entirely unchallenged (e.g. Ridley 1961 p.54) this general work laid the foundations for a series of more critical studies. In 1957, a small patch of rainforest at Mt. Glorious was experimentally cleared for study of rainforest succession (Williams et al. 1969) and regeneration (Webb et al. 1972). These were the first Australian studies of rainforest succession and regeneration where the researchers had access to a computer capable of analysing large amounts of data using different methods - i.e. as well as elucidating the processes of succession and regeneration. Different ways of doing this were also explored. A further methodological study utilised sites from Mt. Glorious and Upper Brookfield (Webb et al. 1971) while rainforest sites from Mt. Glorious and S.F. 309 Enoggera near Mt. Nebo were included in a phytogeographical study of Australian rainforests (Webb and Tracey 1981). Students of botany from the University of Queensland also visit parts of the
Park on field trips, while a rainforest school, organised by staff from Kelvin Grove College of Advanced Education is held annually.
At present (1982) a large volume of research is being undertaken within Brisbane Forest Park, principally by post-graduate students from the University of Queensland Botany Department. This popularity, due in part to the ready availability of large areas amenable to scientific research, also fulfills one of the stated objectives of the Park Administration Authority.