Change of season
PINK clouds in the afternoon. Cooler nights. The strong but beautiful caramel smell of the weeping paperbark, or melaleuca. It’s definitely a change of season. Kathleen Walker, one of the Kuku Yalanji people from Wujal Wujal says that there are many indicators of the change - the fruit, the flowers, the diwan (or scrub turkey) coming down from the high country, the wukay (a type of yam) starting to be harvested and processed for food.
Soon the mullet will swim upstream to lay eggs and the baway (black bean) will ripen and fall to the ground.
The Torres Strait pigeons, metallic starlings and buff-breasted paradise kingfishers have migrated to New Guinea, to be replaced by the rainbow bee-eater which in turn has come to this region from the south of Australia.
The colder water means that crocodiles are much more visible, warming themselves on the river banks at low tide.
Flying foxes and rainbow lorikeets are having a field day among the fruits and nectar, and the free National Parks Boardwalk ( Marrdja Botanic Walk) between Cow Bay and Cape Trib is a great place to see some flying foxes close up.
A number have settled temporarily among the low mangroves at the far end of the walk, overlooking Noah’s Creek. It’s great spot to visit anytime.
At different places along the coast, an early morning stroll might take you alongside the barringtonia asiatica tree, with its especially beautiful flower.
The flowers are like radiating spikes of white stamens tipped with pink and yellow.
They open at night but by mid-morning, they’re usually on the ground.
Hence, they’re pollinated at night by large moths and nectar-feeding bats attracted by their heavy scent. You need to be up early to see them at their best.
It’s also called the bishop’s hat or bishop’s mitre, because the fruit has a typical lantern or bishop’s hat shape.
The seeds are light and can drift around the world’s oceans for up to two years. The seeds and other parts of the plant contains saponins, which are often used around the world as fish poisons.
Plants like this remind us that Australia is not alone. We are joined by the world’s oceans. Many seaside plants and mangroves especially are spread across islands and continents not just by the continental drift of Gondwana times, but by the ocean currents.