baumzaehlen - Primeval Forests & Their Trees

©2016copyright christoph hase

Tarkine Wilderness, Tasmania, Australia

The majority of this great and valuable forested wilderness is unfortunately still formally unprotected and currently facing a new threat from mining1. It is mostly untouched and has never even been settled by aborigines2. In contrast to the warmer parts of Australia, the aborigines avoided rainforests in Tasmania3. Large areas of virgin temperate broadleaf forest are so rare on the global scale that the whole Tarkine Wilderness should be protected as a national park as soon as possible. To date, only Savage River National Park (180 km2) has achieved formal protection.


In contrast to southwestern Tasmania, fertile soils are common in Tarkine. Annual precipitation is 1600-2000 mm 4. Therefore, cool temperate rainforests are common and well developed. Their most important tree species are Opens internal link in current windowNothofagus cunninghamii (myrtle beech), Opens internal link in current windowAtherosperma moschatum (southern sassafras) and Opens internal link in current windowEucryphia lucida (leatherwood). The tallest of them is N. cunninghamii (the tallest measured specimen is 46.7 m 5); it is generally dominant on the fertile soils. In the Tarkine wilderness area, the only conifer is Opens internal link in current windowPhyllocladus aspleniifolius (celery-top pine)6; it is often a dominant of the rainforests on the poorest soils7 but on fertile soils it cannot compete with the angiosperms. A. moschatum is the only shade-tolerant tree species, but it is seldom able to gain dominance even with long time and on fertile soils8. Reasons include drought caused by slow root penetration of the soil by the young seedlings9 and vulnerability to herbivores8. On the patches of poorer soils Opens internal link in current windowAnodopetalum biglandulosum (horizontal) often occupies the understory forming an impenetrable tangle of twisted trunks. Tree species diversity is relatively low and most species are fairly easy to identify. Tarkine contains 1800 km2 of rainforest and additionally 400 km2 of Eucalyptus forest10 (especially Opens internal link in current windowE. obliqua (messmate stringybark) and Opens internal link in current windowE. nitida (Smithton peppermint)), which is not considered rainforest in Australia despite equal precipitation3. The undemanding and variable E. nitida, growing on poor soils as a shrub-like low tree, becomes a big tree on Tarkine´s fertile soils11.


There is almost no infrastructure, and marked trails exist only at the edges of the wilderness. If you intend to go off-trail hiking, you first have to find access to the area: many of the old forestry roads running to the edges of Tarkine are completely overgrown, and you also have to be able to find river crossings. Walking is easy in well developed rainforest on level terrain because the understory is open due to the dense canopy. However, there are also plenty of steep slopes and patches of more open forest.





2       Jackson, W. (2005): Palaeohistory of vegetation change: The last 2 million years. In Reid, B., Hill, R., Brown, M. & Hovenden, M. (eds.): Vegetation of Tasmania, pp. 64–88. Australian Government, Canberra.

3       Adam, P. (1992): Australian Rainforests. Oxford University Press.

4       Jackson, W. (2005): The Tasmanian Environment. In Reid, B., Hill, R., Brown, M. & Hovenden, M. (eds.): Vegetation of Tasmania, pp. 11–38. Australian Government, Canberra.

5       Forestry Tasmania, e-mail (2010).

6       Kirkpatrick, J. B. & Backhouse, S. (2004): Native Trees of Tasmania. Pandani Press.

7       Gibson, N., Barker, P. C. J., Cullen, P. J. & Shapcott, A. (1995): Conifers of Southern Australia. In Enright, N. J. & Hill, R. S.: Ecology of the Southern Conifers. Smithsonian Institution Press.

8       Read, J. 2005: Tasmanian Rainforest Ecology. In: Reid, B., Hill, R., Brown, M. & Hovenden, M. (eds.): Vegetation of Tasmania, pp. 160–197. Australian Government.

9       Read & Hill (1988): The Dynamics of Some Rainforest Associations in Tasmania. Journal of Ecology (1988), 76, 558–584.

10    Pullinger, P., Tarkine National Coalition, pers. comm. (2006)

11    Boland et al. (1985): Forest trees of Australia. CSIRO.


Video clip:




Nothofagus cunninghamii (myrtle beech) dominated forest. Also Atherosperma moschatum (southern sassafras) and Eucryphia lucida (leatherwood).
Nothofagus cunninghamii (myrtle beech), left; Atherosperma moschatum (southern sassafras) and Eucryphia lucida (leatherwood), smoothbarked trees in the background; Dicksonia antarctica (soft tree fern), right and background. Elev. 180 m.
Atherosperma moschatum (southern sassafras) dominated forest.
Stephens Rivulet. Nothofagus cunninghamii (myrtle beech), background; Dicksonia antarctica (soft tree fern), left; Anopterus glandulosus (Tasmanian laurel), extreme left.
Eastons Creek. Elev. 250 m. Acacia melanoxylon (Australian blackwood), centre, with round crown; Eucryphia lucida (leatherwood), with white flowers.
Blue Peak. Eucryphia lucida (leatherwood) foliage, left; Nothofagus cunninghamii (myrtle beech) foliage, right.
Dicksonia antarctica (soft tree fern).
Dicksonia antarctica (soft tree fern).
Nothofagus cunninghamii (myrtle beech), diameter 225 cm.
Nothofagus cunninghamii (myrtle beech).
Nothofagus cunninghamii (myrtle beech) crown; young Eucryphia lucida (leatherwood) trees with white flowers, left and right.
Group of approx. 25-metre Atherosperma moschatum (southern sassafras), right; also Nothofagus cunninghamii (myrtle beech), left.
Atherosperma moschatum (southern sassafras).
Approx. 25-metre Eucryphia lucida (leatherwood); Atherosperma moschatum (southern sassafras) foliage, right.
Eucryphia lucida (leatherwood).
Eucalyptus nitida (Smithton peppermint). Elev. 350 m.
Approx. 40-metre Eucalyptus obliqua (messmate stringybark); Anopterus glandulosus (Tasmanian laurel), thin stems immediately behind the E. obliqua; Nothofagus cunninghamii (myrtle beech), background.
Approx. 40-metre senescent Eucalyptus obliqua (messmate stringybark).
Leptospermum lanigerum (woolly tea-tree); Anopterus glandulosus (Tasmanian laurel) leaves, left; Eucryphia lucida (leatherwood) leaves, right.
Crown of approx. 20-metre Leptospermum lanigerum (woolly tea-tree); Atherosperma moschatum (southern sassafras) foliage, left; Eucryphia lucida (leatherwood) foliage, centre and bottom; Nothofagus cunninghamii (myrtle beech) foliage, top right.
Nematolepis squamea (lancewood) over Stephens Rivulet; Eucryphia lucida (leatherwood) foliage with white flowers, right.
Cenarrhenes nitida (Port Arthur plum), trunk and foliage with long leaves; also Anodopetalum biglandulosum (horizontal) foliage, small leaves.
Acacia melanoxylon (Australian blackwood).
Pomaderris apetala (dogwood).
Approx. 15-metre Phyllocladus aspleniifolius (celery-top pine).
Nothofagus cunninghamii (myrtle beech), tall dark crowns; Eucryphia lucida (leatherwood), with white flowers. Elev. approx. 300 m.
Some trees of Tarkine.