A trip down to the South Coast mountains today at the invite of friends. I have always wanted to poke around the area because of its proximity to Reidsdale which was originally a family holding. Today was all about Lilly Pillis. My friend studies native bush foods and I never miss the opportunity to go bush walking with him when I can.
The Lilli Pilli are a tree which produce a small, round, fleshy edible fruit which contains two small seeds. There are a few different types. It's bush tucker, an Aboriginal food but was used from the earliest European contact predominantly as a fruit for jam.
Joseph Banks first recorded the tree at Botany Bay. I tried a few and found them very astringent. For want of a better word I would call them 'tart'.
(update 11 pm Email from my knowledgeable friend...)
"The only Lilly Pilly that I can find endemic to the area that has white fruit and the shiny leaves is Acmena hemilampra. Good indoor plant grown from seed."
The tree can grow to 30m in the wild and is classed as a rain forest species and the Buckenbowra Wilderness is a rain forest. The walk is very scenic. Rolling rain forest gullies with almost magical little waterfalls one must cross above the falls. We were about two hours slow walk into the bush when I heard the strangest noise.
The noise was repetitive and seemed to have a sort of rhythm. A tapering drumming sound that was neither wood nor rock and was simply too repetitive to be the cracking of a falling tree. The sound was very close and I literally spent 5 minutes trying to locate where the sound was coming from and then we saw it...
Down in the creek gully, 20M up a tree was a lone Gang gang Cockatoo plucking Lilli pilli fruits. The intermittent fruits the bird dropped were falling and bouncing on palm tree leaves below... a repetitious bouncing rhythm. Mystery solved. I was hoping for better photos but the one above was the best I could capture.
The rain forest, particularly along the creek gullies, is lush. The forest was living up to its name with very light showers dampening everything down. As we discovered this brought dozens of tiny leeches out of wherever they hide and onto the sides of our boots where they seemed naturally programmed to inch their way slowly upwards.
Two of us survived unscathed... my learned friend ended with a trouser leg soaked in blood.
The whole scene was simply beautiful though and untouched apart from rampant pig diggings. Large areas uprooted killing or disturbing the understory vegetation. If the areas just off the very narrow trail were so disturbed I can only imagine how widespread the damage really is.
I also noted several trees nearly ring barked by pig-tusk scraping so there is no shortage of Boars showing off. Signage tells me there is a dog and fox problem as well.
A wet moss rock garden
One thing I can comment on in the area is the variety of habitats over short distances. Everywhere is lush but the gullies are lusher and filled with palms and tree ferns. The forest areas can be impenetrably dense with understory or a bit more open broken only by a sea of ancient tree ferns.
There are dozens of walking trails in the Monga National Park but the most popular would be the Corn trail (photo map). Originally the trail was forged by mule trains or some such in the 19th century. A stunning walk though which will take 6 hours one way and a reasonable degree of fitness.
I actually think there is still a lot left to discover in our ACT parks but I still enjoy visiting different National Parks because the variety is endless.