RED poincianas, mangoes, African tulips and cassias were planted on the Captain Cook Highway near Ellis Beach in 1934 to beautify the area and encourage tourists to take the scenic route to Mossman.
Research is underway by leading James Cook University historical geographer Dr Peter Griggs into how Europeans have changed the landscape of Queensland and while investigating he discovered there was a lot of non-native tree planting.
European settlers removed native vegetation and planted non-native species either for shade, beautification or as memorials to deceased soldiers around streets and public gardens.
“Queensland Main Roads Commissioner Sir John Kemp was interested in attracting tourists coming into Queensland and trying to give them a really pleasant experience on tourist drives and decided to beautify highways in Queensland,” Dr Griggs said.
“The three highways that were picked were Coolangatta to Brisbane, Brisbane to Toowoomba and Cairns to Mossman.
“I’ve driven along the highway trying to find evidence of this and certainly the mangoes are still there on parts and if you drive further up on the highway at the right time of the year you occasionally see a splash of red descendants of those poincianas planted alongside the road.”
Research into street planting is only a chapter in Dr Grigg’s broader study into clearing of forests by European settlers and changing the vegetation with tree planting.
“The landscape you see when you look out of the window has been created and isn’t natural, a lot of landscapes around Queensland are artificial and a lot of tropical trees were imported and not native,” he said.
“People think jacarandas are beautiful but they have actually been planted by Europeans and are not native at all, they were planted obviously for their colour but also to provide shade and make nice attractive surroundings.
“When you go through Mossman, there’s that really nice avenue of trees near the Anglican Church - there is evidence of tree planting everywhere and that’s what Kemp was trying to do in Queensland on a much larger scale.”
Dr Griggs will give an insight into his research tonight at a free public lecture in Crowther Theatre at James Cook University in Smithfield, refreshments are at 5.30pm and the lecture starts at 6pm.
BEAUTIFUL: A 1968 colour picture of the poincianas planted at Ellis Beach